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. 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.

Please register beforehand by sending an e-mail to Noortje de Leij,

RMA Students can acquire 1 EC if they attend both the talk and workshop, complete the preparatory readings and submit two questions in advance of the workshop.

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.

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

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