Nabokov’s Idioms: Translating Foreignness

Co-Organizer: Sven Spieker (with Sara Weld). One-day conference at UC Santa Barbara (February 19, 2016). This this one-day symposium investigated Nabokov’s writerly practice as a broadly conceived effort of translation. An émigré writer whose works were translated into many languages, Nabokov was himself a notorious translator. Yet translation, in his work, is much more than the mere transposition of a literary text from one language into another – it is a creative principle.

In this we proposed to investigate what we saw as Nabokov’s translational poetics – a comprehensive effort to relate to foreignness and the ‘Other’ that is, as such, also a powerful contribution to literary modernism, its media, and its critique.

The Office in the Studio. The Administration of Modernism

Co-Organizer: Sven Spieker (with Hans-Christian von Herrmann). Two-day conference at Jena University (January 23-24, 2009). This interdisciplinary conference was devoted to the way the office and its administrative practices figure in 20th-century art. A space for the production, administration, and display of knowledge, the modern office – which may redouble as an artist’s studio – is one of the crucibles of 20th-century modernism.

Video After Video in the Post-Media Age

Organizer: Sven Spieker. Symposium on the state of current video art. UCSB, May 14, 2008. Participants: Jenny Schlenzka (MoMA); Rudolf Frieling (SFMOMA); Terrence Handscomb (Santa Barbara); Erika Suderburg (UCR); Darrin Martin (UCD); René Daalder (L.A.); Clemens von Wedemeyer (Berlin). Moderators: Sven Spieker (UCSB); Laurie Monahan (UCSB). The symposium coincided with video-artist Clemens von Wedemeyer’s residency on campus (curated by Sven Spieker).

Science as Navigation: Leonhard Euler’s Journeys. Symposium on the Occasion of Euler’s 300th birthday

Organizer: Sven Spieker. A symposium on the occasion of Euler’s 300th birthday. UCSB, November 30, 2007. The conference investigated the central role played, in the life and work of the Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler (1707-1783), by the description, calculation and analysis of sites or places (topoi). The one-day conference, which included a lecture by Vladimir Welminsky, looked at Euler’s activities in a multitude of disciplines as building blocks for a comprehensive topology of culture founded on exact science and the ideals of the Enlightenment.

Eye or Ear: Walter Benjamin on Optical and Acoustical Media

Co-Organizer: Sven Spieker (with Elisabeth Weber and Wolf Kittler). UCSB, December 1, 2006. This one-day international conference investigated the relationship between three aspects of Benjamin’s work: his language theory, his media theory, and his radio praxis. Since the essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” is predominantly focused on painting, photography and film, much more is known about Benjamin’s understanding of these optical media than about his approach to such acoustic devices as the telephone, the wireless telegraph, radio, and sound film. The conference addressed this critical gap in Benjamin scholarship.

Calculating Images. Representation by Algorithm in Science and Art

Organizer: Sven Spieker. Calculating Images. This international conference (held at UCSB March 4-5, 2005) investigated the digital image at the interstice of art and the sciences. Since the beginning of the 1990s, when researchers focused on digital photography, the digital image has not found the attention it deserves. We therefore want to begin with a series of basic questions that place the digital image in the context of other digital and non-digital imaging technologies.

On Computable Texts and Images: Markov’s Bequests

Co-Organizer: Sven Spieker (with Philipp v. Hilgers and Wladimir Velminski). Conference at the Helmholtz-Zentrum für Kulturtechnik at Humboldt-Universität, Berlin (April 2003). In 1913 the Saint Petersburg (Russia) mathematician Andrei Andreevich Markov (1856-1922) published a short treatise that was nothing short of revolutionary (“An example of statistical study on the text of `Eugene Onegin’ illustrating the linking of events to a chain”). In his treatise Markov presented a method for using probability in the analysis of texts. Markov’s method consisted in viewing random series of numbers as “chains” that are temporally dependent on each other. Today this method is called Markov Process and can be found in many computer-based applications in the areas of science, art, and the economy. The fact that Markov put his theories to the test by using literary texts is far from coincidental. Already in the 1920s Markovs analytical methods were adopted by linguists such as Roman Jakobson and in this way they entered the realm of culture and aesthetics at an early stage.

In this context, the symposium addressed the question as to what extent the members of the Russian avant-garde assimilated Markov’s advanced mathematics. Beyond that, the symposium’s objective was to elucidate the process that led to the subordination of literary texts and the traditional arts to mathematical calculation.

Packrats and Bureaucrats: Study in the Archive

Organizer: Sven Spieker. Interdisciplinary Humanities Center, UC Santa Barbara, February 5-6, 2001. The phenomenon of collecting, in various institutional contexts, has generated enormous scholarly interest across a variety of disciplines in recent years, especially in philosophy, mediastudies, and in art history. Despite this interest, the archive, its specific histories and media or institutional contexts are all too often taken for granted, insufficiently contextualized, or assumed to cover any activity of collecting. Archives are not, or not simply, collections, and their historical specificity, means of storage, and reproductive (mnemonic) strategies have to be carefully evaluated. Held in conjunction with Ilya Kabakov’s residence at UCSB.