Conference : Methods and Models: Experimental Education

October 18, 2012 from 11:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Bard College is home to a variety of academic models that implicitly question the boundaries and purposes of liberal arts education at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Many of its programs take an active role in redefining their object of study. But these programs, including Human Rights, Literature, and the new Experimental Humanities concentration, rarely engage in public conversation about their methodologies, and though they often work across disciplines, their shared stakes and interests are not always visible on campus. 

Curatorial Studies is an especially interesting case in this sense: it is an increasingly common graduate degree, setting itself apart from both art history and studio practices, yet it is also one of the newest additions to the humanities, and its disciplinary parameters are still in flux. CCS hopes to engage students in an investigation of the various ways of teaching and learning, including relationships between education, experimentation, progress, and responsibility to both the traditions of our fields of study and the needs of current students. This broad conversation invites faculty and program directors at Bard who have initiated or supported new academic models to speak in depth – and in active conversation with students – about their pedagogical positions.


11:00am – 11:15am – Introduction

11:15 – 11:45am

Joan Retallack :Language & Thinking in Palestine, a Poethical Wager: Experiments in Conversation / Humanity and Its Other

Retallack will discuss her work in Palestine with intertextual experiments juxtaposing poetry and essay texts.  These experiments were developed over the 10 years she directed the Language & Thinking Program at Bard. Retallack will give examples that came from this approach, following workshops and working seminars she recently led in London (during a Poetry & Revolution conference) and at Al Quds University in Palestine, using these practices. 

11:45  – 12:15pm

Tom Keenan: “You Teach People to Criticize Human Rights?”

Keenan will explain some of the thinking, and rethinking, behind the development of the human rights curriculum at Bard, and its relationship to close attention to texts and images, on the one hand, and critical theory on the other. 

12:15 – 12:45pm – Student respondents / Audience conversation

1:00-2:00pm – Break

2:00 – 2:30pm
Maria Sachiko Cecire: “Experimental Humanities: Where Are We Going, and Where Have We Been?”

Recent shifts in how we gather information, disseminate scholarship, and designate what constitute humanistic texts are changing the face of the humanities. I will discuss how the Experimental Humanities concentration, which launched this Fall, seeks to make sense and use of these changes: grounding students in traditional methodologies of humanistic inquiry, exposing them to the possibilities of the current moment, and encouraging them to consider how the “old” and “new” have and can continue to come into productive relation.

2:30 – 2:45 student respondents / Audience conversation

2:45 -3:15

Tirdad Zolghadr: “Babes in the Woods: several hypotheses and two questions regarding the figure of the Curator-Teacher”

If both “academic teaching” and “artist workshops” have a strong heritage to fall back on, complete with a historical canon, a colorful mythology, and a pedagogical toolkit, “curator teachers” in many ways remain unchartered territory. 

3:15 – 3:30 Break

3:30 – 4:00pm – Johanna Burton: “The Shape of Curating: a.k.a. in the Field”

Burton will address curating’s liminal status. On the periphery of “properly” academic fields such as art history; anxiety-provokingly close to creative disciplines including art-making and fiction writing; yet also possessed of a status all its own, curating-and its attendant histories, theories methodologies, and practices-will be discussed as an ontological entity. Considering the distinct features of how curating enters not only education but also the public imagination, this talk will speculate on the promises and perils of curating as it assumes various contours.

4:00-4:30pm CCS Bard student response (roundtable)

4:30 – 5:00pm Open conversation

5:00-7:00pm Reception


Speaker Bios:

Johanna Burton was appointed Director of the Graduate Program at The Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College in July 2010; she is a New York-based art historian and critic and has written extensively on postwar and contemporary art for numerous publications, including ArtforumParkett, and Texte zur Kunst; and she is the editor of Cindy Sherman (2006), a collection of critical essays on the artist for MIT Press’s October Files series. Burton’s other writings include texts on the women-only art magazine Eau de Cologne (published in Witness to Her Art, eds. Rhea Anastas and Michael Brenson, Center for Curatorial Studies, 2006) and Lee Lozano (on the occasion of the artist’s inclusion in an exhibition curated by Helen Molesworth at the Wexner Center in Columbus, Ohio, in Spring 2008); and she has written catalogue essays for recent career survey exhibitions of Dara Birnbaum, Mel Bochner, and Mary Heilmann. Recent publications include a major essay on Cindy Sherman for that artist’s retrospective at MoMA in 2012; a text surveying theories of identity in relation to art practices of the 1980s for Helen Molesworth’s exhibition, This Will Have Been: Art, Love, and Politics in the 1980s, which opened at the MCA Chicago in February 2012. Burton was co-curator (with Elisabeth Sussman) for the Whitney Museum’s survey exhibition of Sherrie Levine, Fall 2011; and she is working on an exhibition around legacies of institutional critique with Anne Ellegood, to open at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles in Spring 2014. She was Associate Director and Senior Faculty Member at the Whitney Independent Study Program in New York from June 2008-July 2010.

Maria Sachiko Cecire is an Assistant Professor of Literature and the founding director of the Experimental Humanities concentration. She teaches courses on media studies, medieval literature and its reception, and children’s literature, among others. Her publications include essays in Anglo-Saxon Culture and the Modern Imagination (2010) and The Disney Middle Ages (forthcoming 2012) and articles in The Journal of Children’s Literature Studies (2008) and Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism (2009). Her most recent media projects are short documentary films about new stagings of institutional dramas from the medieval and early modern periods. She received her DPhil from Oxford University in 2011 and has been at Bard since 2010.

Thomas Keenan teaches literary theory and human rights at Bard College, where he directs the Human Rights Project. He is the author of Fables of Responsibility: Abberations and Predicaments in Ethics and Politics (Stanford University Press, 1997) and co-editor, with Wendy Chun, of New Media, Old Media: A History and Theory Reader (Routledge, 2006). He recently published, with Eyal Weizman, Mengele’s Skull (Sternberg, 2012). The exhibition Antiphotojournalism, which he curated with Carles Guerra, was on display at La Virreina in Barcelona and FOAM in Amsterdam in 2010–11; he also curated  Aid and Abet, a project featuring photographers from VII Photo Agency, for the Zoom festival in Quebec in 2011.

Joan Retallack is the author of eight books of poetry and a number of critical volumes including The Poethical Wager and Poetry & Pedagogy: The Challenge of the Contemporary. Her most recent volume of poetry—Procedural Elegies  / Western Civ Cont’d / — was  an ARTFORUM Best Book of 2010. She is also the author of MUSICAGE: John Cage in Conversation with Joan Retallack. Her writing on Cage, and Gertrude Stein, gives particular attention to their relation to the experimental attitude to 20th century science, poetics, utopian aesthetics, and global socio-politics. Retallack is John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Professor of Humanities at Bard.

Tirdad Zolghadr is a writer/curator teaching at the Center for Curatorial Studies.


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