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M+M Doctoral Colloquium: Ashley Lazevnick + Ignacio G. Galán

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Doctoral Colloquium 2015

East Pyne 205, 5:00pm

Ashley Lazevnick (Art & Archaeology)
Advisor: Rachel DeLue
“Precisionism in the Long 1920s”

Ignacio G. Galán (School of Architecture)
Advisors: Beatriz Colomina, Lucia Allais
“Furnishing Filmic Simultaneities in Fascist Italy”

Ashley Lazevnick is a PhD Candidate in the Art & Archaeology department at Princeton University, where she studies twentieth-century art under Professor Rachael DeLue. She received a B.A. in art history and English from Colgate University in 2010 and an M.A. in the history of art from Williams College in 2012. Her dissertation Precisionism in the Long 1920s reassesses the work of a group of visual artists and poets through an archaeology of the term “precision” in American intellectual culture. Her related research includes investigations of New York Dada, machine aestheticism between the wars, and modernist poetry. In the past year at Princeton, she co-organized a series of workshops and panel discussion titled The Matter of Writing with fellow Art & Archaeology student Sonia DeLaforcade.

"In my dissertation Precisionism in the Long 1920s, I consider a world of figures obsessed with the values of precision. At the same time that the terms “precision-built” and “precision-made” first came into use, painters such as Charles Sheeler, Georgia O’Keeffe, Elsie Driggs, Preston Dickinson, Stefan Hirsch, Louis Lozowick, and George Ault began making pictures of factories, skyscrapers, and machine parts. It has long been argued that such artists —later called Precisionists—were trying to mimic factory production. Historians have typically considered their work in light of the changing conditions in industry and labor. I argue that this is only one possible understanding of the term “precision.” Those same artists also depicted bowls of fruit, country barns, and Shaker chairs. Their style was rarely consistent and they used watercolor, pencil, and oil alongside photography and film. Whereas art historians have recently addressed this paradox by focusing on a single artist or by reshuffling the Precisionists among the Société Anonyme and Stieglitz circle members, I insist that Precisionism should be considered a distinct movement and that precision was the appropriate term for that movement. To do so, I explore analternative definition of precision by relating their art to theories developed by contemporary poets and Pragmatist philosophers, such as William James and Charles S. Peirce. I use these theories alongside a historical reconstruction of Precisionist exhibitions in the 1920s and 1930s in order to offer a richer, more complex narrative of Precisionist art. Along the way, I want to redefine what it means to be a movement. I aim to weave together a world, to constellate a group of figures who share a set of beliefs about artistic creation, experience, and communication.

For the Media and Modernity Colloquium, I will present on the third chapter of my project, which focuses on the concept of “poetic precision,” a crucial component to literary modernism during the 1920s and 1930s. Marianne Moore proclaimed “we are precisians” as early as 1923 and the engineer John Riordan composed the essay “The Theory and Practice of Precision Poetry” (1926) following regular correspondence with William Carlos Williams. Along with Ezra Pound’s Imagist demand to find the “exact word,” their poetry is considered concise and economic. Moore used images of coiled shells, snails, and armored animals to illustrate her theory of condensation of poetic energy. Precision for her always operated in relation to “feeling” or “gusto” to produce art that was both economical and passionate. Only then could a poem or a painting express “maximum force;” only then could it produce an impact that was “galvanized against inertia.” Such poets demonstrate a twofold engagement in precision: first, as a quality of aesthetic criticism, precision was their ideal aim of modernist innovation and, second, in their verse itself precision emerges as a formal quality and a stubborn preoccupation. How to achieve precision met no final consensus, however, and their differences in approach will be an essential part of the story I wish to tell."

Ignacio G. Galán is an architect and historian, currently a PhD Candidate at Princeton University. He studied architecture in Madrid and Delft before he obtained his MArchII with distinction at Harvard GSD as a Fulbright Scholar. He has been a Fellow at the Royal Spanish Academy in Rome during the year 2013-14. He is active as a writer, curator and educator in diverse platforms, having most recently taught at Columbia GSAPP. His work is concerned with architecture's role in the formation of society, particularly considering its relation to liberal economies, information technologies, and population transience, among other processes of circulation. His research has been included in different publications and has recently been featured at the 2014 Biennale di Venezia, with the installation Cinecittà Occupata. Additionally, he is the Chief Curator of the Oslo Architecture Triennale 2016 together with the After Belonging Agency. He is also a member of the on-going research project Radical Pedagogies, led by Beatriz Colomina at Princeton SOA, and has co-curated its exhibition at the 2013 Lisbon Architecture Triennale and at the 2014 Biennale di Venezia. He has an independent architecture practice (ignaciogalan.com), which has been awarded in international competitions, and he was part of the team winning the First Prize for the construction of the New Velodrome in Medellín.

"Throughout the 1930s, the fascist regime refashioned the fictions of the empire both with newly built monumental architectures and propaganda films. However, as both architecture and film consolidated their role as official forms of representation, the representation of architecture in film brought alternative fictions to the Italian population. Outward looking monuments were substituted for filmed interior settings and newly opened avenues for circulation technologies. A new way of bringing people together was articulated not in the shared spaces of stable architectures and fix urban spaces, but through the new simultaneities built by circulation technologies, most importantly including telephones and films. Simultaneity, in this paper, brings together the film technique elaborated by Vsevolod Illiarionovich Pudovchin, and explained to the Italian cinematographers by Rudolf Arnheim, and to the ways of articulating society within national frameworks as theorized by Benedict Anderson.

In this paper I will explore the spatial diagrams articulated through the relationship architecture and film for the Italian population, and the ways they became effective in the management of population in forms alternative to direct propaganda. I will discuss how this spatial diagrams defined around interior settings significantly included that of the nation. Starting with the new architecture for film production built in Rome, Cinecittà, I will consider the popular film genre of romantic dramas and comedies Cinema dei telephoni bianchi as well as the contemporaneous conceptualizations of the relationship between architecture and film by Edoardo Persico, Carlo Enrico Rava and Carlo Levi."


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