Image of Ward family taken by photographer Lou Jones, with words "Descendants: An Exhibition by Lou Jones"

Higgins School of Humanities spring symposium opens

January 31, 2018

The Clark University Higgins School of Humanities’ spring symposium opens Thursday, Feb. 1, with the theme of “Analog and Digital Conversations,” addressing the ongoing conversation between analog and digital technologies.

“Analog processes convey a sense of craft and authenticity, suggesting a more direct relationship between maker, artifact and beholder, but they may also be perceived as quaint and fetishized, rarified precisely because of labor intensive exclusivity,” says Meredith Neuman, director of the Higgins School of Humanities. “By contrast, digital processes can simultaneously appear efficient and overwhelming, progressive and impersonal, radically accessible and avariciously monetized.”

The series kicks off at 7 p.m. Thursday with a conversation and opening reception featuring the work of Boston-based photographer Lou Jones. In this new series of African-American portraiture, Jones highlights the descendants of Worcester residents photographed by William Bullard from 1894 to 1917. Bullard’s formal portraits are on display through Feb. 25 as part of the Worcester Art Museum’s exhibition, “Rediscovering an American Community of Color: The Photographs of William Bullard.”

Last fall, Jones was on hand to document the gathering of descendants at the Bullard exhibition. Now, his work will be on display in “Descendants: An Exhibition by Lou Jones,” running through May 20 in Dana Commons’ Higgins Lounge. The exhibition commemorates the reunion not only of families but also of analog and digital technologies, evolving photographic aesthetics, and a historic Worcester community.

Undergraduates in Problems of Practice (POP) courses at Clark have been involved with both the Bullard and Jones exhibitions. Students in a spring 2017 POP course, “Public History: Race, Photography and Community," taught by Janette Greenwood, professor of history, worked with descendants to research their family histories; the students wrote labels accompanying photographs in the Bullard exhibition. This spring, students in a “Gallery Culture and Practice” POP class, taught by Elli Crocker, professor of studio art, designed the exhibition and hung Jones’ photographs.

The remaining events in the “Analog and Digital Conversations” series — all in Dana Commons’ Higgins Lounge — include:

  • Poetry reading: “Reaper: Poems on Technology and Humanity,” with writer Jill McDonough, author of “Reaper,” Wednesday, Feb. 7, 7 p.m. A book signing will follow.
  • Community conversation: “The Worlds We Live In,” Thursday, Feb. 15, 7 p.m., with Professors Hugh Manon (Screen Studies; Media, Culture and the Arts) and Meredith Neuman (English; Higgins School), who will consider the continuities in making and knowing, experiencing and exploring across the analog and digital divide.
  • Lecture: “Is Technology Good for Voting?,” Tuesday, Feb. 27, at 7 p.m. Charles Stewart III, Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor of Political Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the founding director of the MIT Election Data and Science Lab, will explore why America relies so heavily on voting technologies, and how this dependence has been largely beneficial. He then will consider whether, in light of the 2016 presidential election, there are compelling reasons to be skeptical about voting technologies.
  • Lecture: “Shaping Critical Narratives in Photography in the African-American Community,” Tuesday, March 20, at 7 p.m. Deborah Willis, professor and chair of photography and imaging at New York University, will mediate between the objectification and (re)presentation of the black body in the work of Bullard and other photographers who transformed the course of art history and fundamentally imaged the black in Western art.
  • Public forum: “After Maria,” Wednesday, March 28, at 7 p.m. Panelists from across the Clark community will share stories of unimaginable transformations in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and other places forever altered by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Professor María Acosta Cruz (Language, Literature and Culture), author of “Dream Nation: Puerto Rican Culture and the Fictions of Independence” (2014), will lead this interactive forum.
  • Lecture: “Capturing and Eroding the Self: From Self-Portraiture to the Selfie,” Wednesday, April 4, 4:30 p.m. Professor John Garton (Visual and Performing Arts) will examine how the tradition pioneered in the Renaissance and other early modern epochs is being renovated today. Professor Esteban Cardemil (Psychology) will offer commentary.
  • Lecture: “Undividing Digital and Analog: The Promise of Hybridity,” Monday, April 9, 7 p.m., by Rick Prelinger, founder of Prelinger Archives, a collection of 60,000 ephemeral films acquired by the Library of Congress in 2002. Prelinger will explore how strategies that look beyond physical/virtual binaries can aspire to redistribute power and heal digital wounds.

For more information and a list of sponsors for the events, visit the Higgins School’s website.