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The Room Where It Happens: On the Agency of Interior Spaces


Harvard Art Museums, 32 Quincy Street
Cambridge MA

This event was recorded. Please view part one, part two, and part three.

This symposium explores the spaces of artistic, artisanal, and intellectual production. From the artist’s studio to the alchemist’s lab, the stateroom to the secret chamber, the brick-and-mortar hall to the winding corridors of cyberspace, rooms and their contents have long influenced history and transformed their inhabitants. Held in conjunction with the special exhibition The Philosophy Chamber: Art and Science in Harvard’s Teaching Cabinet, 1766–1820 (May 19–December 31, 2017), this symposium brings together artists, architects, and historians to consider the spaces where objects and ideas are generated.

Keynote Lecture (October 13)
Making Room: Cartography, Collecting, and the Construction of Empire
Louis Nelson, Professor of Architectural History and the Associate Dean, School of Architecture, University of Virginia

Presentations (October 14)
Each group of presentations will be followed by a discussion.

Rooms for Looking: Parlor/Museum/Studio

“‘No One Could Prevent Us Making Good Use of Our Eyes’: Enslaved Spectators and Southern Plantation Spaces”
Jennifer Van Horn, Assistant Professor of Art History and History, University of Delaware

“The Room of Broken Bodies: Civil War Wounds, the Army Medical Museum, and Perceiving Re-Unification”
Julia B. Rosenbaum, Associate Professor and Chair, Art History, Bard College and Director of Research and Publications, The Olana Partnership, Olana State Historic Site

“The Symposium on Habitability: Robert Irwin, NASA, and the Case of the Artist as a Meta-Scholar”
Boris Oicherman, Cindy and Jay Ihlenfeld Curator for Creative Collaborations, Weisman Art Museum, University of Minnesota

Rooms for Making: Library/Laboratory/Model

“‘A Scene in a Library’: Inventing and Destroying Enlightenment Photography at Soho House”
Matthew Hunter, Associate Professor, Department of Art History & Communication Studies, McGill University

“Connected Interiors: Learning Architecture and Observation in Meiji Japan”
Matthew Mullane, Ph.D. candidate, School of Architecture, Princeton University

“Interior as Microcosm: The Production of Epistemologies, Ethics, and Identities at Biosphere 2, 1991–1994”
Meredith Sattler, Assistant Professor of Architecture, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

Virtual Rooms: Theater/Period Room/Cockpit

“A Machine of Visibility: Paul Nelson’s Surgical Theater at the Cité Hospitalière de Lille”
Nicholas Robbins, Ph.D. candidate, Department of the History of Art, Yale University

“Visiting Mrs. M.—’s Cabinet: Period Room as Pedagogy”
Sarah Anne Carter, Curator and Director of Research, The Chipstone Foundation

“Bedroom Aviators—Flight Simulation and the Domestic Realm”
Chad Randl, Visiting Lecturer in Architecture, Cornell University

“Follies and Wonder Rooms”
Mark Dion, conceptual artist, with an introduction by Ruth Erickson, Mannion Family Curator, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston

All symposium events will take place in Menschel Hall, Lower Level. Please enter the museums via the entrance on Broadway. Doors will open at 9:30 am.

The symposium is presented as part of HUBweek 2017 (October 10–15). The program is free and open to the public, but seating is limited and registration is required. Please register here.

This project is supported in part by major grants from the Terra Foundation for American Art and the Henry Luce Foundation.

The exhibition and catalogue were also supported in part by the following endowed funds: the Bolton Fund for American Art, Gift of the Payne Fund; the Henry Luce Foundation Fund for the American Art Department; the William Amory Fund; and the Andrew W. Mellon Publication Funds, including the Henry P. McIlhenny Fund.