The Digital Mass Ornament: Found Collectivities in Contemporary Art and Culture

Workshop with Natalie Bookchin, June 29, 15.00-18.00

Organized by Noortje de Leij and Daniel de Zeeuw

“The position that an epoch occupies in the historical process can be determined more strikingly from an analysis of its inconspicuous surface-level expressions than from the epoch’s judgements about itself”. (Siegfried Kracauer, ‘The Mass Ornament’).

In her art practice, Natalie Bookchin interrogates our contemporary digital surface in order to reveal the social realities that lie beneath. Documenting a history of the present, Bookchin’s video montages collect and rearrange found video material from platforms such as Youtube in order to lay bare a complex dialectics between the isolated frames of digital representation and the resulting regulated patterns of generalized bodies (mass ornaments); between the intimate and singular and the public and collective, and between the standardization of expression and the possibility of a common voice.

On June 28, Bookchin will speak about her work and show her latest film Now he’s out in public and everyone can see. On June 29, we will have the opportunity to dive deeper into Bookchin’s work and the issues she addresses. Karen Archey (Stedelijk museum), Zachary Formwalt (artist and filmmaker), Johan Hartle (Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design), and Daniel de Zeeuw (University of Amsterdam) will engage with Bookchin’s work and the larger themes it addresses to provide a starting point for discussion. Particularly, we will focus on

  • The collective contestation of identity online;
  • Individual, mass and collectivity in the digital age;
  • Mediatization and representation of self and social collectives;
  • The aesthetics of Post-fordist labor conditions.
  • Fractured masses and the semblance of unity

The workshop will be in English and is open to everyone. We particularly encourage ResMa, PhD students, and postdocs to participate.

Natalie Bookchin is a professor of Media and Graduate Director in the Department of Art and Design at Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University. Her critically acclaimed films and installations have shown around the world at museums, galleries, theaters, and festivals, including at MoMA, LACMA, PS1, Mass MOCA, the Walker Art Center, the Pompidou Centre, MOCA LA, the Whitney Museum, the Tate, and Creative Time.

Karen Archey is an American art critic and curator based in New York City and Amsterdam. She is the former editor of e-flux Conversations and current Curator of Contemporary Art for Time-Based Media at Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam

Zachary Formwalt is an artist and filmmaker based in Amsterdam. He has presented solo projects at the Salon of the Museum of Contemporary Art Belgrade (2015); Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam (2014); VOX Centre de l’image contemporaine, Montreal (2013); Wexner Center for the Arts: The Box, Columbus, OH (2010); and Kunsthalle Basel (2009). In 2013, his film, Unsupported Transit, received a Tiger Award for Short Films at the International Film Festival Rotterdam (NL). In his films and photos, he attempts to capture the imperceptible changes in society that impact deeply on everyone’s lives.

Johan F. Hartle is currently acting director at the Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design (HfG), where he teaches political aesthetics. His general field of research are Marxism, institutional theories of art and the aesthetic-political. Recent publications include Aesthetic Marx (London: 2017) and The Spell of Capital (Amsterdam 2017) both co-edited with Samir Gandesha.

Daniel de Zeeuw is a PhD-candidate at the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (University of Amsterdam). He is also co-editor of Krisis: Journal for contemporary philosophy and affiliated researcher at the Institute of Network Cultures. His research explores the politics and aesthetics of contemporary digital culture, art and activism.

Please register beforehand by sending an email to Noortje de Leij,

Location: Belle van Zuylenzaal, University Library, Singel 425, Amsterdam

Date and time: June 29, 15.00-18.00h.




28 June, 19.00-21.00, Lab 111

On June 28 the internationally acclaimed American artist Natalie Bookchin will give a talk about her work, followed by a screening of her latest film Now he’s out in public and everyone can see.

In her practice, Bookchin interrogates the social realities underlying the seemingly trivial surface phenomena of contemporary digital culture. Particularly, she addresses how the digital has transformed notions of publicness, identity, mass, community and self, and what does or does not count as political speech. Her more recent work reveals how forms of expression on platforms such at Youtube on the one hand perpetuate sameness, echo chambers and social isolation, but also allows us to see possible signs of hope in the intersections between the singular and the collective, the private and the public.

Now he’s out in Public and everyone can see (2017) constructs an account of an unnamed man whose racial identity is repeatedly redrawn and contested by masses of impassioned vloggers. This deeply political film explores our new social landscape where cascades of disinformation, rumors, and insinuations spread wildly across electronic networks, aggravated by racist mobs and algorithms that favor scandals, conflict, and conspiracy theories.

Organised by ASCA, NICA and Li-Ma

Location: Lab111, Arie Biemondstraat 111, Amsterdam

Admission is free (no reservation required)

The event will be in English

PhD Work in Progress 2018

Dear NICA members,

Please join us for our annual ‘PhD Work in Progress’ meeting on Friday, June 15, 15:00-17:00, at the Oudemanhuispoort (room E1.08) in Amsterdam. Everyone’s welcome! Our PhD fellows Tingting Hui, Paris Cameron-Gardos, and David Gauthier will share samples of their current work in progress, with joint discussion (and drinks) to follow. How to justify a topic seemingly outside your discipline? How to deal with a rich but challenging case? And how to bring discordant elements together in the introduction? See below for brief descriptions of the topics at stake.

All best!
Eloe and Murat

Tingting Hui
Accented Tongues: On Literature and Language as Bodily Styles
Accent is a research topic predominantly rooted and nourished in linguistic studies, and I, as a literary scholar, often find myself put in a position to “justify” my fascination with accent. For me, accent serves as a focal point that allows me to rethink terms and concepts such as body and foreignness, and to analyse  literary, social, and cultural phenomena. In this presentation, I will give a brief introduction to my PhD project in terms of its scope, the layout of the chapters, and the methodology.

David Gauthier
Following a war machine: On the notion of execution in Louis Ferdinand Céline’s Casse-Pipe
I’d like to present and reflect on a section of my dissertation that focuses on Louis Ferdinand Celine’s novel Casse-Pipe. This section follows a chapter which introduces the notion of software execution (machine execution) and its relation to law and violence, and here I’m trying to expose/work the concept with Céline’s novel (military execution). There is a fair amount of literary theory (Barthes, Deleuze) which I’d like to discuss and a few options/choices I’m still wrestling with in the text and its context.

Paris Cameron-Gardos
The Introduction: Making “Out” a Reality
Writing, and now revising, the introduction to my thesis has presented a number of challenges. In particular, I have frequently asked the question: how is possible to address a topic that encompasses Queer Theory, Film Studies, and Cultural Analysis? Just as importantly, I wanted my writing to follow the lead of Mieke Bal through the personalization of the topics. To do so, I needed to include anecdotes that helped illustrated the struggle with concepts and theory. The process of working through, and with, these sometimes discordant elements has been essential to the creation of this part of the thesis. Just as importantly, the challenges of synthesis resulted in a significant expansion of the whole document during the writing process.

Juklia Kursell (UvA) & Jonathan Sterne (McGill)

NICA Public Lectures

13 and 14 January 2014, University of Amsterdam

Organized by Carolyn Birdsall (UvA), Myles Jackson (NYU), Mara Mills (NYU) and Viktoria Tkaczyk (University of Amsterdam)
Julia Kursell (UvA)

Motor Media: On Aural Feedback in the History of Musical Instrument Playing

Julia Kursell is professor of musicology at the University of Amsterdam. Before coming to Amsterdam, she worked as a research fellow at Bauhaus University in Weimar and at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin. Her research interests include the history of the physiology and psychology of hearing, as well as the relation between music, media and technology in Western composition after 1945. She has published widely in these areas in journals such as Configurations, Greyroom, and OASE. Most recently, the volume Music, Sound, and the Laboratory, co-edited with Alexandra E. Hui and Myles W. Jackson, has come out with Chicago University Press. 

Public Lecture: 

Date: Monday 13 January 2014
 Doelenzaal, University Library, Singel 425, Amsterdam
The lecture is free and open to the public. No registration is required.


Jonathan Sterne (McGill)

The Stereophonic Spaces of Soundscape

Jonathan Sterne teaches in the Department of Art History and Communication Studies and the History and Philosophy of Science Program at McGill University. He is author of MP3: The Meaning of a Format (Duke 2012), The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction (Duke, 2003); and numerous articles on media, technologies and the politics of culture. He is also editor of The Sound Studies Reader (Routledge, 2012). Visit his website at

Public Lecture: 

Date: Tuesday 14 January 2014
 Doelenzaal, University Library, Singel 425, Amsterdam
The lecture is free and open to the public. No registration is required.