We are very proud to announce the teams chosen to participate in the two-year Network Analysis + Digital Art History Workshop, generously funded by the funded by the Getty Foundation through its Digital Art History initiative.
For more information about the scope of the workshop, please visit the “About the Workshop” link above. Further details on the first convening, entitled “Digital Art History + Network Science Institute,” scheduled to take place from Monday, July 29–Friday, August 2, 2019, can also be found there.
1. Project Cornelia (updated June 2019)
Project Cornelia is a multidisciplinary research project developed at the History of Art Department of the University of Leuven (KU Leuven) in close collaboration with the University’s Computer Science Department. It is funded by the University of Leuven and the Flemish Fund for Scientific Research–Belgium (FWO-Vlaanderen). Project Cornelia’s PI is Koenraad Brosens, research professor in and chair of Art History. Co-directors are professor Fred Truyen, head of the Digital Humanities program, and professor Katrien Verbert who leads the AugmentHCI research group. Core members of the Project Cornelia team are three PhD students: Rudy Jos Beerens (Art History), Inez De Prekel (Art History) and Houda Lamqaddam (Computer Science). They are joined on an ad hoc basis by postdoc researcher Bruno Cardoso (Computer Science) and professor Katlijne Van der Stighelen (Art History).
Taking its impetus from Howard Becker’s Art Worlds (1982), in which he argued that “works of art … are not the products of individual makers … they are, rather, joint products of all the people who cooperate via an art world’s characteristic conventions”, Project Cornelia tries to reconstruct and understand the interplay between artistic (iconographic and stylistic) developments in 17th-century Antwerp and Brussels painting and tapestry on the one hand, and the dynamics and governance of the family, social and professional networks underpinning the creative communities on the other.
Seeing that we want to study “all the people who cooperate via an art world’s characteristic conventions,” Project Cornelia is data-driven. We collect a wide array of attribution and relational archival data on the inhabitants of 17th-century Antwerp and Brussels art worlds. The most important archival collections are parish, notarial and guild records which are both rich and complex. At the heart of Cornelia sits a MySQL database that includes more than 11,000 archival entries, 12,000 actors and 320,000 time-dependent edges – and the dataset is still growing. By working with existing digital tools and by developing new ones, we not only address Cornelia’s art historical research questions. We also try to gain better understanding of how the digital can or should be used by art historians addressing traditional and new questions that are fueled by complex and quite substantial (‘biggish’) archival data.
As we handle a myriad of sources and include all of their actors producing one or more events and playing one or more roles that can link them to one or more actors; groups (i.e., cultural, economic, political, social and/ or religious bodies); places (i.e., countries, town, parishes, streets, and/ or houses); and/ or works of art, feeding the database is a slow process. One baptism record, for example, gives us five actors producing one event and playing five different roles that link them to each other (in ten different ways) and to a place (i.e. a parish in a town). We always include all elements and make sure to link them tightly to their source. We keep or have online access to digital images of all sources that we process. Thus, data provenance, data checking and (iterative) data cleaning will never present problems.
This of course is not to say that we do not face data issues. Missing data poses a major threat to our ambition to study the ever-changing networks. If, for example, too much biographical data is missing, we cannot pinpoint when nodes (dis)appear, nor when relationships were established, changed, and terminated. We tried multiple imputation (MI) to address this issue. Our first attempts generated predictions that were both slightly off the mark and highly accurate. As the quality of the predictions will get better as the data set grows, we intend to refine and develop our use of MI in the near future – though we understand that the complexity of the data will always loom large.
Ambiguous data presents another major issue. For example, as more actors find their way to Cornelia, the inconsistencies in the spelling of names and the fact that many people had the same or very similar names make the phase of data cleaning more and more complex and time-consuming.
- Koenraad (Koen) Brosens is a research professor in and chair of the Art History Department, KU Leuven. He has published widely on early modern Flemish and French tapestry. As PI of Project Cornelia, he is interested in the use of computational approaches and tools to address old and new art historical questions.
- Frederik (Fred) Truyen is professor in the Cultural Studies Department, KU Leuven. He publishes on Digitization, Photography, E-Learning, ICT Education and Epistemology. He directs the mediaLab CS Digital. Fred is president of Photoconsortium and treasurer of Europeana’s Network Association Management Board.
- Katrien Verbert is professor in the Computer Science Department, KU Leuven. Her research interests include interactive recommender systems, context-aware recommendation, visual analytics and applications in learning analytics, healthcare, precision agriculture, media consumption and digital humanities.
- Rudy Jos Beerens is a PhD student in the Art History Department, KU Leuven. His research aims to enrich qualitative archival research with quantitative analysis and data visualization in order to develop a new inclusive view on early modern painting and tapestry in seventeenth-century Brussels.
- Inez De Prekel is a PhD student in the Art History Department, KU Leuven. Her research aims to reveal diversity within the Antwerp creative community and its artistic output, as well as to analyze social, professional and family ties between artists. Focusing on Antwerp tenebrist painters, her study wants to link traditional archival research and connoisseurship with digital methods.
- Houda Lamqaddam is a PhD student in the Human-Computer-Interaction and Art History Departments, KU Leuven. Her interests are usability, perception and user psychology, particularly within the digital humanities.
2. Reframing Art: Opening up Art Dealers’ Archives to Multi-Disciplinary Research (updated June 2019)
“Reframing Art” is a multi-disciplinary research project centered on a collaboration between the Department of Digital Humanities at King’s College London and the National Gallery, funded by the Cultural Institute at King’s. The focus of our project, which builds on several strands of existing work in digital art history carried out by the team, is the relationship between the circulation of works of art and their archival information, and how these relationships can be explored and enhanced using digital analysis. Our project addresses and expands this investigation by researching archives as multivariate networks of information.
This project stems from work we have already done together. The pilot of Reframing Art was a collaboration between the Department of Digital Humanities at King’s College London and the National Gallery, funded by the Cultural Institute at King’s. In this, three members of the team, Stuart Dunn, Barbara Pezzini and Alan Crookham (with the collaboration of King’s College Digital Lab) established a proof of concept based on the stock books of Thos. Agnew and Sons (Agnew’s).
Agnew’s were a principal firm of London art dealers who held some of the most significant European pictures, such as Velazquez’s Rokeby Venus (London, National Gallery) and Rembrandt’s Nicolaes Ruts (New York, Frick Collection). Their stock books (held at the National Gallery archive), contain much detailed information about the works of art and their sales. A sample of the stock books of the years 1894 and 1895 was digitized and turned into structured data in a Django framework and enhanced with biographical and geographical research. A preliminary article recently published in British Art Studies, by Alan Crookham and Barbara Pezzini, focuses on the econometrics of Agnew’s activities and their trade with the United States of America. Reframing Art has revealed a wealth of geographical, social and personal relationships between the dealers and their buyers and sellers, and formal network analysis is a fitting methodological development to enhance and interpret the data collected.
At this new stage of Reframing Art, we will use network methods to broaden up our data bank beyond the years 1894 and 1895 to sampling the early years of the twentieth century. We shall also access other sources of data, and compare and contrast Agnew’s records with museum collections inventories such as the National Gallery in London, the Frick Collection and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh. We also aim to compare our records with other dealers’ archives which have already been digitised and transposed in csv form, such as Knoedler and Goupil’s.
With this new data, we aim to explore these three strands research questions in greater depth.
- Firstly, how effective are the categories which we established in the pilot project? These categories developed information explicit in the stock books themselves such as artist, purchaser, date of sale, type and location of seller, etc. Can we, however, develop more implicit concepts, such as subject and genre? Could we transpose to stock books data other analytical categories, for example these related to connoisseurship (the ability to identify authorship through visual analysis), as quantified in Giovanni Morelli’s tables (Morelli, 1880)? What kind of geographies and networks can be evinced, for instance, if looking at the subjects of the works of art?
- Secondly, we wish to explore the cross-collection networks and subnetworks that are implicit in such categories. In other words, what invisible links and patterns can we elucidate from such collections when underlying records, such as the Agnew stock books, are rendered into digital and searchable form. What research questions can this provoke? In this aspect, the project will draw upon and expand studies such as Pamela Fletcher and Anne Helmreich, using established methodologies and vocabularies such as those described by Graham to explore possibilities such as this, which our existing collaboration has opened up.
- Thirdly, we will also investigate how novel approaches to documents can guide the context and construction of the digital visitor experience. We will explore, through social media analysis, what significance the works of art under examination have in the contemporary digital world and how visitors interpret them. How much of their current interpretation has been influenced by the past geographies and networks we will investigate? This relates particularly to the doctoral research of new team member Vavassori, who investigates the role of digital narratives in building audience’s experiences.
Reframing Art aims to explore the potential of digital networks analysis, whilst at the same time being mindful that, as Bruno Latour (2007) contended, networks are not permanent or even semi-permanent entities, but constantly shifting relationships and connections that assemble together only fleetingly. As Latour puts it, ‘there is no group, only group formation’.
- Alan Crookham is the Research Centre Manager at the National Gallery, London. A professional archivist with previous positions at the University of Warwick and Tate, he joined the staff of the National Gallery in 2005. His research interests include the history of the National Gallery and the relationship between archives and art works. Crookham has published extensively on digital art historical and archival matters; recent works include ‘Curatorial constructs: archives in fine art exhibitions’ in Archives and Records: The Journal of the Archives and Records Association (2015) and ‘Art or Document? Layard’s Legacy and Bellini’s Sultan’ in Museum History Journal (2015).
- Dr. Stuart Dunn, Senior Lecturer in Digital Humanities at King’s, and Deputy Head of the Department of Digital Humanities, one of the largest and most prestigious Digital Humanities centres in the world. He worked with Alan Crookham and Barbara Pezzini on the design of the Reframing Art proof of concept, and helped them supervise the King’s Digital Lab to implement it. The proposed project closely relates to his research in other areas, which includes the Getty Foundation-funded Advanced Institute on Digital Art History entitled “Ancient Itineraries: the Digital Lives of Art History”, of which he is director.
- Dr. Barbara Pezzini, currently working on the research, catalogue and digitisation of sculpture for the British organisation ArtUK, is an art historian with subject specialism in nineteenth century British art and its relationship with the European Old Masters. Pezzini’s recent publications include ‘Inter/national art: the London old-master market and modern British art’ in Art Crossing Borders: The Birth of an Integrated Art Market in the Age of Nation States (Brill, 2019) and Old Masters Worldwide: Markets, Movements and Museums (Bloomsbury, forthcoming, 2020). Pezzini is Editor-in-Chief of the journal Visual Resources, a journal that has been one of the pioneers in promoting digital art history.
- Valentina Vavassori is a PhD student in Digital Humanities at King’s College London, where she is working with Dunn. She is currently researching the use of contextual technologies in museums and their role in constructing visitors experience, focusing on two case studies in Milan: the Di Casa in Casa chatbot and the Museum of Augmented Urban Art. She has a background in Art History and worked as a museum educator and freelance curator in Italy and United Kingdom. Between 2014 and 2016 she was Content Manager and Co-Founder of the start-up PopApp Tour, specialised in Heritage Geolocation.
3. Knowledge Practices between Judgement and Innovation: Experts and Building Expertise in Paris, 1690-1790 (updated June 2019)
Since the Middle Ages, public authorities entrusted to persons whom they considered qualified and accredited the action of issuing an opinion based on technical and/or scientific knowledge, either in the gracious domain or in litigation. In the case of litigation, a judge often called an expert during a trial. An exceptional archive – preserved in the National Archives of France under the subseries Z1J – which keeps all the minutes of expertise for Parisian building from 1643 to 1792–allows us to launch a large-scale multidisciplinary investigation (legal, economic and architectural) on the question of expertise. The project will focus on the period between 1690 and 1790 because 1690 was a particular turning point; it is the date when experts were divided into two different branches: architects and contractors (entrepreneurs). These two branches performed competing, and sometimes complementary, activities.
This multidisciplinary research aims to examine, from a major economic sector – that of building in the modern era – the key mechanism of expertise: how and why the technical and regulatory language of experts is essential to society, and how and why their technical competence is converted into authority, sometimes even into “abuse of authority”. The project team comprises a historian of law, historians of architecture and technology, an economic historian and integrates technical expertise in architectural history and digital humanities. The project has just received five years of funding from the National Research Agency in France. It is part of the international field of the history of construction.
An important part of our work will comprise establishing two parallel corpora: on the one hand, the establishment of a prosopographic dictionary of the 268 experts (for half architects and contractors or “entrepreneurs” in French) working from 1690 to 1790 drawn from various sources (handwritten and printed); on the other hand, the inventory and the analysis of the minutes of expertise over the same period. Given the immensity of the sources, we plan to work on a group of nearly 10,000 expertises through a sampling of ten years between 1696 and 1786. Each expertise will be inventoried, indexed, digitized and analysed in detail. The corpus will be the subject of a serial study on the whole century, with thorough analysis of its contents.
This analysis will shed light on the complex networks (or insular positions) woven between the members of these offices in charge of the expertise in the capital, holders of knowledge and power to advocate solutions to technical, legal, and economical issues in the field of building construction. What are the criteria that allowed contractors (entrepreneurs) to get closer to architects and vice versa, or to move away from them? How does one explain the network operation of different experts in relation to the types of expertise requested? Did the experts create networks of customers while fulfilling their mission?
To this end, the project deploys IT developments in order to conduct network analysis based on the cases processed (via chronology and topography) and the gathered prosopographic information (via sponsorship links, transmission and acquisition of offices, clientele, addresses). This involves highlighting the differentiated professional trajectories of the two branches of expertise (architects and contractors) as well as the interweaving of the two professions. In doing so, the analysis will help to position the various actors within the professional field according to the intensity of their activity, their personal or professional links, and their place of intervention in the Parisian space.
- Emmanuel Château-Dutier is Assistant professor in digital museology, Université de Montréal (Centre de recherche interuniversitaire en humanités numériques CRIHN). Architectural historian, his research focuses on the administration of public architecture, the architectural profession and the relationship between owners, architects, and general contractors. His work also integrates museology and digital art history with a specialisation in cultural metadata, digital edition and Linked Open Data.https://histart.umontreal.ca/repertoire-departement/vue/chateau-dutier-emmanuel/
- Josselin Morvan is Technical engineer (CNRS, ANR Experts). After an initial training in art history and digital humanities with a Master’s degree in digital technology applied to the history of the École nationale des chartes, Josselin Morvan has been involved for more than two years in research projects in the Digital Humanities field. He has already used his skills in the field of critical editing with the Text Encoding Initiative TEI and the use of XSLT and XQuery programming languages.
- Robert Carvais is historian of law, Emeritus Senior researsher at the CNRS (UMR 7074, Centre de théorie et analyse du droit, Université Paris-Nanterre) his main field of research is the interaction between the history of law and the history of science and technology. In his research, he reconsiders the establishment of different branches of law through theoretical sources and practical norms. He is the President of the Francophone Association on Construction History.https://univ-droit.fr/universitaires/25914-robert-carvais
4. Freer’s Photographs, Diaries, and Objects: Networking a National Collection (updated June 2019)
Past decades have seen a growing interest in the formation of museum collections and the role collectors, dealers, and curators play in acquiring, exhibiting, and hence shaping art historical scholarship. Pioneering nineteenth-century American collector of Asian art, Charles Lang Freer traveled extensively in Asia and bequeathed his collection to the Smithsonian as the nation’s museum of Asian art. Freer presents a unique research opportunity to understand the circumstances of art collecting in his era due to his detailed and prolific record keeping. Therefore, this project will examine key developments in his collecting that eventually led to the formation of a national museum.
We aim to investigate how Freer’s travel routes and photographs he collected differentiated him from the other contemporaneous collectors interested in the Near East and South Asia. By overlaying this information with his diary entries and object purchase records, we hope to understand how Freer’s firsthand engagement with the region and his social contacts impacted his aesthetic taste and collecting priorities.
The first phase of this project consists of identifying sources of data for Freer’s social network of dealers, scholars, and other collectors. In addition to these, database event records are being created for Freer’s travels in Asia and related significant acquisitions. Leading up to the first Network Analysis workshop in July, we are focusing on Freer’s first three tours of Asia spanning from 1894 to 1908.
Currently, we have identified 56 of Freer’s acquisition sources (dealers, collectors, etc.) which are linked to 338 objects of Ancient Near Eastern, Islamic, or South Asian origin in the collection. The Freer|Sackler Archives has over 130 photographs acquired by Freer during his travels in India, Egypt, and Syria, and over 110 pages of related purchase correspondence, and shipping records. 16 event records have so far been created from initial research.
Building upon practices established for ongoing provenance research at the Freer|Sackler, we are continuing to expand our database (The Museum System, TMS) records and are linking them to archival resources. Rather than work with separate spreadsheets, we decided to record the fundamental elements for our project within TMS. This will ensure that this structure can be built upon in the future, and allows us to work collaboratively with the same sources.
We are creating new TMS Constituent records for significant individuals and relating them to each other with a series of relationships and roles. In addition, we are creating new TMS Event records for each transaction between Freer and the acquisition sources. Event records are also being created for each of Freer’s Asian tours, and significant meetings along the way. When possible, these records are being linked to TMS media “hyperlink” records, with a URL for each online digitized archival resource. Combined with the data for Freer’s photographic purchases, the dates, people, and geography of these acquisition events will form the basis for the project’s data. Harvesting the TMS data will be accomplished via SQL queries, scraping F|S archival resources from the Smithsonian’s collection site, or culling them directly from its datasource. We hope to disseminate our final research results as a digital resource.
We are also looking into Freer’s social networks through his correspondence and diaries. We are cross-checking references with historical records and within other secondary sources. While researching Freer’s routes and the development of his aesthetic taste, we are capturing information from a variety of published sources about other people tangential to his immediate network. These include ‘influencers’, other collectors, curators and scholars who were simultaneously acquiring similar material. Initial research has already demonstrated a correlation between the number of Freer’s acquisitions from the Near East and his growing social network.
Challenges so far include: structuring data that contains multiple one-two-many relationships and finding the best format to transfer this data for our workshop; prioritizing the relevant information as we sort through Freer’s very detailed records; ascertaining exact dates and distribution of object acquisitions; confirming the identity of individuals mentioned; finding the most efficient methods to gather and collate this large and diverse body of data.
- Nancy Micklewright, Head, Public and Scholarly Engagement, Freer|Sackler, Smithsonian Institution. Nancy Micklewright is an expert on the history of photography in the Islamic world and has worked extensively with travel literature from the 19th and early 20th century Middle East. As the Head of Public and Scholarly Engagement at the Freer|Sackler, she advocates for the importance of digital humanities in shaping new research in museum contexts.
- Sana Mirza, Education Specialist, Freer|Sackler, Smithsonian Institution. Sana Mirza is an education specialist at the Freer|Sackler where she manages cross-departmental digital projects, including online exhibitions and web-based interpretive resources. Sana is also a doctoral candidate at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University.
- Zeynep Simavi, Program Specialist, Freer|Sackler, Smithsonian Institution. Zeynep Simavi is a program specialist for Scholarly Programs and Publications. As the managing editor of the Freer|Sackler’s scholarly publications, she has been involved in multiple digital publications projects. She is a PhD candidate in art history at Istanbul Technical University.
- Jeffrey Smith, Assistant Registrar for Collections Information, Freer|Sackler, Smithsonian Institution. Jeffrey Smith is the Assistant Registrar for Collections Information at the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler Galleries. As both a Registrar and the System Administrator for the galleries’ collections database, he is responsible for all aspects of collections information used within the museum and shared externally. Jeffrey has shared his experience with enhancing data and developing features of the collections management The Museum System for expanded public access and online catalogues in presentations given in the United States, Europe, and Israel.
5. The Chinese Iconography Thesaurus (updated July 2019)
The Chinese Iconography Thesaurus (CIT) is a multidisciplinary project that brings together sinology, art history, and information studies to provide a research tool and resource that will enhance the accessibility and understanding of Chinese iconography. The project was launched in autumn 2016 thanks to a research grant provided by the UK’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and the CIT team is based in the Asian Department at the V&A Museum.
Context: While libraries have a tradition of cataloguing the subjects of textual materials, in the past few museums or image repositories recorded the subject matter of the individual visual items in their collections. To address this issue, in recent years many collections have begun to develop subject-indexing capacity with the help of controlled vocabularies developed by art historians in the 20th century (e.g. ICONCLASS). At the same time, there has also been a burgeoning development of specialist iconographic databases comprising images across collections (e.g. Brill’s Arkyves, Warburg Institute’s Iconographic Database, Princeton’s Digital Image Collections). However, so far, existing image collections deal primarily with western visual materials, and their related controlled vocabularies are inadequate to describe non-western objects. In order to make non-Western visual resources more accessible, therefore, it is essential to build a series of non-western image databases underpinned by controlled vocabularies which are rooted in the specificity of local visual cultures. The CIT project aims to build a digital database of Chinese iconography, a dynamic and open-ended research tool that enables a wide spectrum of users to explore the contents of, and connections between, individual works of art produced in China. The essential part of the database building is to create a controlled vocabulary as a standard that ensures interoperability of the digital images across collections.
Currently, we are approaching the end of a three-year pilot study. The image database contains images of approximately 2700 objects selected from three museum collections, i.e. the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the National Palace Museum, and its terminology includes approximately 10,000 term records. The main body of the terms are extracted from a selected group of pre-1900 Chinese sources, especially Shiqu Baoji and Midian Zhulin, a series of catalogues documenting more than 10,000 pieces (or groups) of religious and secular painting and calligraphy produced during the periods from the 10th to the early 19th century and found in the Qing Imperial collections. Arguably the largest cataloguing project in Chinese history, the Shiqu and Midian catalogues were commissioned by Emperor Qianlong and his successor Emperor Jiaqing during the period from 1744 to 1816.
The CIT terminology has been built within the V&A collection management system via its application MuseumIndex+. Within its terminology modular, the record form contains multiple fields, e.g., ‘term’, ‘use for’, ‘scope note’, ‘source’, ‘alternative term’, ‘broader term’, and ‘related term’. In building the CIT, each term is expressed in traditional Chinese character(s), and has synonyms, unfactored forms of compound terms and lexical variants in the field of ‘use for’, definition in ‘scope note’, literary sources in ‘sources’, English translation(s), and romanization of Chinese character(s) (i.e. pinyin) in ‘alternative term’. The terms are placed into a multilevel hierarchical structure, and the top level of the hierarchy has seven broad categories, i.e. Nature, Human Being, Society and Culture, Religion, Myths and Legends, Literary Works, and History and Geography. In establishing the hierarchical structure of the terminology, the methodology of the project is greatly influenced by ICONCLASS, though with significant modifications. At the moment, the project team are adding the associative relationship between the terms belonging to the same or different categories.
Research design: Based on the completed work, the CIT team, with the support from Brill’s digital team, are keen to use network analysis to gain new insights about the CIT terminology and the image database. We will be focusing on three potential avenues of research which will involve extracting network nodes and constructing network edges:
- We wish to use network analysis to visualise the associative relationship between the terms that is being created in the dataset. Such relationships can be directly visualised via network analysis whereby nodes can represent the related terms weighted by the number of other terms with which they have relationships, which we hope will lead to some significant art historical research questions. For example, would a term that related to more other terms signify the popularity of subject matter or theme it represents?
- Such networks of associative relationships can be further characterised by attributes, such as types of associative relationship (whole-parts, instances, agent’s action – its patient, index, sign, symbol, metaphor, personification, pun, and rebus) and associated dating. Associating terms with dates would provide longitudinal insights. The earliest date is currently not available in the CIT dataset, but can be retrieved from the image collections metadata.
- The terms annotated in the image collections can be regarded as nodes, and their co-occurrence relations can form edges of a network. The long-term conclusions of such analyses, however, are completely dependent upon the quality and nature of the image collections.
- Hongxing Zhang, Senior Curator, Victoria & Albert Museum. Hongxing is the Director and Chief Editor of the CIT project. He initiates and develops the CIT project’s concept, intellectual framework, and methodology. He designs the CIT’s objectives, overall schedule, and the model of collaboration with the V&A’s collection database and web teams and with partner institutions.
- Jin Gao, Project Coordinator and Data Standard Editor-Knowledge Organisation, Victoria & Albert Museum. Jin provides technical support in the team and liaises between the web team, collection management team, art historians and sinologists. In addition, Jin is finishing her PhD in digital humanities at the UCL Centre for Digital Humanities, and her research focuses on bibliometric and social network analysis in the digital humanities.
- Etienne Posthumus, Digital Publishing Specialist, Brill Publishing. Etienne studied computer science at the University of Johannesburg and Book history and Manuscript Studies at the University of Amsterdam. At Brill he is also helping to set up the Digital Humanities Program. In the CIT project he is creating the web application and providing software development support services to the project team. He created and maintains the online version of the Iconclass classification system and Arkyves Cultural Heritage Database, on which the technical infrastructure of the CIT is based.
6. Mapping Exhibition Networks: Current Histories of Biennales (updated June 2019)
No more than ten in number around the early 1990s, today hundreds of biennials take place more or less regularly around the world, becoming the standard format for producing and displaying contemporary art. These periodic art exhibitions are usually thematic, as well as conceptual and socially interventionist. Their significant increase in number and geographical dispersal is a phenomenon that fully partakes in the global flows of objects, discourses and people, the expansion of neoliberal economic structures as well as urban development, social engineering, and city branding. The growing literature around the ‘biennial phenomenon’ mainly advances a double-edged approach, describing these mega-shows as both empowering platforms of visibility for local contexts and as responsible for diffusing the Euro-centric canon and reproducing cultural imperialism. While investigations have speculatively explored the empowering or disempowering dynamics of biennials for local contexts, there are no concrete studies yet studying this phenomenon and the worldviews it suggests in a more systematic manner. A number of studies, based often on individual cases, focus mainly on curatorial practices and discourses ─or the discrepancies between discourses and practices ─but more empirical approaches regarding the involved actors, issues of connectivity, modes of access to what Pierre Bourdieu describes as ‘sub-field of restricted production’ that international exhibitions represent, work ethics and public reception are still rare. The study of internationally active artistic and curatorial networks has not yet been systematically pursued. This inquiry seeks to contribute in this direction, by surveying current exhibition networks.
We anchor our interdisciplinary research in art history, social sciences and computer sciences. We are taking a mixed-method approach in the development of our research design integrating qualitative and quantitative analysis. The field that we are describing is the global art world that carries the concept of the ‘contemporary’ as a time concept, meaning, as David Joselit explains, ‘with time’, suggesting flow and a temporary quality. Museums and exhibitions in our time participate in a global exchange of art works. Boris Groys states: “Today’s artistic events cannot be preserved and contemplated like traditional artworks. However, they can be documented, ‘covered’, narrated and commented on. Traditional art produced art objects. Contemporary art produces information about art events.” One of these events is the biennial, an event that is immersed into a global flow of art and shows a certain pulse of time, space, discourse and materiality. Tracing these dimensions of biennials is the goal of this study. What kind of accelerations and deepenings does the specific biennial “pulse” involve and how does it relate to broader spatial and temporal connectivities of the global artistic field?
We reference Actor-Network Theory as a methodological framework to uncover relationships, or, as Bruno Latour coins it, to ‘trace a network.’ Network analysis will be applied in different scales and objects in order to explore the various types of correlations among involved entities/actors, for instance, the associations between exhibiting artists, curators and discourses, or the patterns of connectivity between participating artists and funding bodies. Our networks take into account both human and non-human actors and pay particular attention to the often neglected agency of the artworks themselves; for example, we do not only consider curators as decision-makers in an exhibition network, but we also regard materialities and media as driving forces in the making of an exhibition. A further focus will be to study the categories applied in the presentation of artists and artworks in biennials (nationality, genre, media), while we are also interested in documenting which types of institutional collaborations and affiliations are made visible in the discursive production and self-image that each biennial produces. Network analysis will also apply to specific discursive constellations in curatorial statements, regarding the rhetoric of inclusion, the emphasis on collectivity, collective authorship and the social, interventionist potential of art.
Qualifying biennial actors is a key step of our inquiry. Biennial data often reveal fixed configurations of actors and it is necessary to expand our knowledge of the context and trajectories through which these actors come together. Based on the concept of Sequence Analysis (SA) introduced by Andrew Abbott, we seek to describe biennials through the lens of their actors’ trajectories in order to reassess the alleged inclusivity and diversity of biennial culture against the actual self-regulating connectivity of the art world.
Our data collection draws on diverse sources that, on one hand, offer us an overview and a contextualization of the art world at large and, on the other hand, provide us with two case studies, the documenta 14 (2017) and the 10th Berlin Biennale (2018). The collected data is stored in two different databases, a SQLite relational database and a Neo4J graph database.
- William Diakité is an embedded system engineer graduated from the ENSIM and is currently a PhD student in Arts and Digital Humanities at the University of Rennes 2. Under the supervision of Arts and Aesthetics Professor Nicolas Thély, he studies the research practices involved in the use of textual archives in order to discuss the influence of aesthetic experience on reading and interpretative activities. He also designs corpus-building tools based on NLP techniques.
- Dr. Anne Luther is a researcher, curator, and software developer whose work examines art markets and digital provenance. She received her PhD from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, London, and is currently a researcher at the Department for Modern Art History at the Institute of Art Studies and Historical Urban Studies at Technische Universität Berlin and at The Center for Data Arts at The New School in New York. Her research is grounded in cultural studies, ethnography, and art theory, bridging an interdisciplinary approach to computer sciences, IT, and design. Anne worked in several arts institutions internationally. She is the co-founder of The International Art Market Association Sub-Committee in Berlin.
- Dr. Ji Young Park is a postdoctoral researcher of the “Translocations” cluster at Technische Universität Berlin, Germany, and studies the displacement of cultural assets in East Asia. She holds a PhD in Museum studies from Ecole du Louvre in Paris, Université d’Avignon and Université du Québec à Montréal. Her research interests focus on exhibition analysis in terms of art historical knowledge production and communication in the public sphere.
- Prof. Dr. Eleonora Vratskidou is a visiting professor of Modern Art History at the Department of Art History and Historical Urban Studies, Technische Universität Berlin. She studied art history, archaeology and cultural studies at the École des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris, and has been a research fellow at Princeton University, Freie Universität Berlin, and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. She is a specialist of modern Greek art and cultural history, while her current research interests concern the history of art history, with a particular focus on the role of art practitioners in the shaping of the discipline as well as contemporary art biennials and exhibition networks.
7. Modeling Networks of Artistic Contact in French Gothic Manuscripts, 1260-1320 (updated June 2019)
Between about 1250 and 1350, commercial production of deluxe illuminated manuscripts expanded to serve royal and aristocratic patrons across northern Europe. Our project, “Modeling Networks in Gothic Manuscripts, 1250-1350,” adopts a network-based approach to contextualize trends in metropolitan and provincial European manuscript workshops. It utilizes the structured data published in two print catalogs—a catalog of manuscripts produced in Gothic France and a catalog of images in the margins of French, Flemish, and English Gothic manuscripts—and one online database. Drawing on Damon Centola’s research on the diffusion of ideas within networks, we will systematically trace various forms of contact between manuscript workshops and analyze where and how contact led to changes in the style and iconography of manuscripts. These manuscripts also offer exciting possibilities for geographic network analysis.
Our data is drawn from two published sources and from one digital database. The first published source, the four-volume catalog Gothic Manuscripts: 1260-1320, was researched and written by Alison Stones over the course of decades. Her systematic connoisseurship discerned evidence of artistic contact and collaboration in hundreds of illustrated manuscripts. We use this work as the starting point for a diachronic analysis of contact between manuscript workshops. The second, Lilian M. C. Randall’s 1966 catalog Images in the Margins of Gothic Manuscripts, allows us to trace connections illuminated by iconography in the idiosyncratic, but still highly conventional, space of the margins of the illuminated manuscript page. Randall’s work allows us to consider the rich connections between France and England in the Gothic period; it also expands the dates of our study to 1250-1350. A third dataset will come from the Index of Medieval Art at Princeton University, whose expansive digital database of medieval art and iconography is the current iteration of a project begun over a century ago. The Index has generously agreed to share data on manuscripts in their database (mostly from Europe) dating between 1200 and 1400.
Our study addresses three specific questions regarding manuscript production, which each approach the question of regionality and style from different perspectives and at different scales. The first concerns the emergence and spread of a distinct style associated with the region of Reims, which occupied an important position mediating between trends in both Paris and Metz. The second question focuses on networks of similarity derived from figural marginalia, looking primarily at manuscripts produced in France and England. The third question examines how French manuscript workshops fit into larger European visual cultures of the book using the migration of iconographic motifs as proxies. The three different sources for our data, each of which is a standard reference within art historical studies of late medieval European manuscripts, also add a historiographic dimension to our study.
This project builds on work that we have already done using a variety of temporal network analysis approaches to visualize and quantify developments in contact between manuscript workshops over time. We have presented preliminary methodological reflections and findings at the International Medieval Congress at Leeds University on a panel about Technology and Memory sponsored by the Index of Medieval Art, and Alex Brey has contributed a tutorial about temporal network analysis with R to The Programming Historian. The Advanced Workshop on Network Analysis will allow us to expand on this preliminary groundwork and encourage us to approach it from new perspectives.
- Alexander Brey is Assistant Professor of Islamic Art at Wellesley College. His research on Islamic, Byzantine and European Medieval Art embraces a wide range of digital methods including temporal network analysis, statistical stylometry, and 3D reconstruction. He received his PhD from Bryn Mawr College in 2018 with a dissertation entitled “The Caliph’s Prey: Hunting in the Visual Arts of the Umayyad Empire.” Currently, he is expanding and revising his dissertation on the socio-political mechanisms of mobility and adaptation that shaped hunting imagery throughout the Umayyad caliphate, ca. 661-750 CE. His work on digital methods for analyzing ornamental elements of medieval Qurʾan manuscripts has appeared in The Digital Humanities and Islamic & Middle Eastern Studies.
- Maeve Doyle is Assistant Professor of Art History at Eastern Connecticut State University. Her research addresses the visual and material culture of late medieval Europe, with a special focus on the arts of the book, gender and the body, and reception aesthetics. Dr. Doyle earned her PhD from Bryn Mawr College with a dissertation entitled, “The Portrait Potential: Gender, Identity, and Devotion in Manuscript Owner Portraits, 1230–1320.” She has received grants from the Fulbright Commission and the Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation. She has presented her research at the Centre d’études supérieures de civilisation médiévale at the Université de Poitiers, the International Congress on Medieval Studies at Kalamazoo, and the Feminist Art History Conference at American University, among others. Her work has appeared in the edited volume Pleasure in the Middle Ages and in Essays in Medieval Studies.