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.

Soapbox: Practices of Listening

Call for papers – ​Soapbox: Journal for Cultural Analysis​ 1.1 “Practices of Listening”

For the first issue of ​Soapbox​, a graduate journal for cultural analysis, we invite submissions that explore listening as a critical practice. With this topic, we aim to bring together accounts of listening as both a method and object of analysis, including everyday practices and new modes of research that articulate who or what can listen and who or what can be heard.

In an age characterised by overabundant information and a cacophony of voices, attention is increasingly a matter of selection inseparable from politics. Traditional structures that amplify dominant expressions are being contested by the rise of large-scale communication platforms, which complicates the distribution of heard voices. Listening critically, therefore, calls for an examination of the spaces – digital, urban, or discursive – in which the voices of minorities are either muted or amplified.

An attentiveness to the practices of listening also takes seriously the idea that epistemological agency is not limited to the human subject, but extends across biological, technical, and inorganic bodies. By listening to the polyphonic assemblage of humans and non-humans alike, this issue aims to politicise listening not only in the sense of interpersonal communication but also as a broader cultural logic that creates platforms for some and silences others.

We invite students, PhD candidates, and young researchers to submit proposals that discuss practices of listening directed towards, but not limited to, the following themes:

– Methodologies of cultural analysis: listening in/as analysis
– Listening as extending pedagogy beyond the privileged space of the classroom
– Zoopoetics and attentiveness to practices of listening of the non-human animal
– Listening to or with inorganic matter
– Listening and the primacy of language: signs and semiotics
– Contemporary protest voices
– Delistening to dominant voices in contemporary politics
– Listening as alternative to globalized, market-oriented educational discourse
– Prosthetic listening and listening technologies
– Decolonising practices of listening
– Listening and practices of care, able-bodiedness, and hearing loss
– Active or passive listening, listening as labour or consumption
– The body, synaesthesia, the sensory; audiovisual and tactile listening
– Listening to the dead: history, spectrality, occultism and hauntology

Please submit your abstract (max 300 words) to by May 30. The full papers (3000-5000 words) are due August 27. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions.

We also welcome submissions to our website, where a variety of styles and formats is encouraged. Please get in touch to pitch new ideas or existing projects for us to feature there.

Politics of Boredom

20-21 September 2018, University of Amsterdam
Organized by Aylin Kuryel, Adam Gisborne, Helen Weeres

Call for Papers

Confirmed keynote speakers
Mieke Bal (University of Amsterdam)
Michael E. Gardiner (University of Western Ontario)

The white suburban middle class housewives of the 1950s and 60s, confined to the home, were overcome with a strong sense of boredom. The punk youth of the 70s, with no prospect on a future, but with a fiery desire to reject, shouted “London’s burning with boredom” in unison with the Clash song. In the 2000s, the Apple factory claimed that the workers in China committed suicide “out of boredom”, even though their working conditions were “just fine.” The phones produced by these workers began to be considered the remedy eliminating boredom in their users. Boredom is a pervasive experience and theories about its causes and symptoms are as numerous as they are diverse.

In psychology, for instance, boredom has often been seen as resulting from a lack of stimuli and being stuck in routines, as a case that can be “treated” scientifically. It has been studied in various contexts, including the home, the factory, the university and the military. In philosophy and sociology, boredom is associated, at times, with depression, loneliness, and lack of inspiration. At other times, it is associated with artistic creativity or the will to venture out into new experiences and practices. Furthermore, boredom has been widely discussed as a defining feature of modernity and the modern urban experience, no longer confined to the lives of the rich with their abundance of leisure time. More recently, boredom has been revisited as one of the manifestations of marginalization and precarization in the aftermath of the global financial crisis.

Such diverse interpretations reveal the productivity and versatility of boredom as a conceptual framework to unpack social critique. The workshop Politics of Boredom attempts to approach boredom as a travelling concept across different fields and contexts, aiming for an interdisciplinary analysis including media, feminist and literary studies, and affect and political theory. One of the aims of this workshop is to explore the cultural, political and affective environments that boredom is situated in and distributed accordingly. Another goal is to ask whether boredom may also trigger reorganizations of everyday life: Can it work as a collective force for creativity? Can it be an affective entry point to build new political subjectivities?

We invite papers and artistic projects that can help us to better understand different manifestations of boredom and to critically examine how we conceptualize it. Themes may include, but are not limited to:

  • Different conceptions of boredom in history
  • Boredom as a gendered, classed, racialized, sexualized, and/or affective state
  • Critiques of boredom and the critical potential of boredom
  • Boredom as counter-revolutionary
  • Economies of boredom – its relation to production, consumption and leisure time
  • Boredom as a luxury or as a symptom of precarization
  • Aesthetics of boredom: visual, literary, filmic, musical treatments of boredom
  • Boredom in relation to theories of anxiety, community and/or everyday life
  • Boredom in literature, literary boredom, boring literature

Participants are welcome to submit formal academic-style papers or to experiment with the form of presentation. We also welcome artistic responses to be displayed alongside the workshop. The workshop will be held in English. Please email an abstract of no more than 300 words and a short biographical note (100 words maximum) to by June 10, 2018.


University of Amsterdam
Literary and Cultural Analysis Department