MAT 595M Seminar Series

Alternative Nows and Thens to Be: Photography, New Media, and Art Historical Revision

February 21, 2012
5:30 pmto7:00 pm

Speaker: Edward A. Shanken, Professor, Department of Media Studies, University of Amsterdam


The malleability of history is demonstrated by the many ways the canon of art history has been written and rewritten from the perspectives of ever-changing presents. But this is also a two way street. Just as every “now” arguably constructs an alternative “then,” so every “then” constructs an alternative “now.” Moreover, every alternative “now” and “then” establishes a particular foundation for imagining the future. This inevitably impacts the “nows” and “thens” to be; those that are yet to come. My talk will explore the relationship between history and the future in the narratives of art. I will share some examples from my work on the history of art and technology and from my current research on bridging the gap between mainstream contemporary art and new media art.


Edward A. Shanken writes and teaches about the entwinement of art, science, and technology with a focus on interdisciplinary practices involving new media. He is a researcher at Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis at the University of Amsterdam (UvA) and a member of the Media Art History faculty at the Donau University in Krems, Austria. He was formerly Universitair Docent of New Media at UvA, Executive Director of the Information Science + Information Studies program at Duke University, and Professor of Art History and Media Theory at Savannah College of Art and Design. Recent and forthcoming publications include essays on art and software in the 1960s; sound art and ecology; art historiography; and bridging the gap between new media and contemporary art. His forthcoming book, Inventing the Future: Art, Electricity, New Media will be published in Spanish and Chinese in paper and e-text. He edited and wrote the introduction to a collection of essays by Roy Ascott, Telematic Embrace: Visionary Theories of Art, Technology and Consciousness (University of California Press, 2003). His critically praised survey, Art and Electronic Media (Phaidon Press, 2009) has been expanded with an extensive, multimedia Online Companion: Personal website: