As a scholar of modern and contemporary art, I seek to critically examine the archive of European art by attending to the gendered, eurocentric, and institutional assumptions that inform its historiography. My approach brings together careful archival research and close-looking with contemporary critical theory. Current research and teaching focus on performance and body art, textile arts, public sculpture and memory culture, art and the critique of violence, and kitsch.
My first book, In-action: Viennese Actionism and the Passivities of Performance Art, intervenes in the prevailing narrative of performance art history by telling a new story about Viennese performance art. While histories of performance art typically focus on the graphic displays of violence associated with Viennese Actionism, I consider a broader field of practices, from the domestic performances of Anna and Günter Brus to the tapestry collaborations of Ingrid Wiener. Doing so reveals a curious occlusion: far from being actionist, Viennese performance art persistently explores conditions of withdrawal, vulnerability, and dependence in gestures of in-action. In dialogue with queer theory and feminist thought, In-action offers an approach for thinking about forms of artistic and political engagement that trouble the entrenched paradigm of performance as emancipatory action.
My next book project takes up Hannah Wilke’s ambivalent performance statement “I Object” and has the working subtitle Duchamp’s Painting, Picasso’s Body Art. I consider how disparate feminist artists – Renate Bertlmann, Yayoi Kusama, Faith Ringgold, Alina Szapocznikow, and Wilke, among others – responded to the art historical hegemony of Duchamp and Picasso. Against the received narrative celebrating Duchamp as inventor of the ready-made and Picasso as epitome of the abstract painter, their “objections” expose a preoccupation with abject and ambiguously sexualized bodies that the two artists share with their feminist critics. An indication of the stakes of this project can be found in my recent essays “Duchamp Effects” for Art History and “Terrestrial Passage: Duchamp after Szapocznikow” for Texte zur Kunst. I am also working on a book that excavates the performativity of concrete poetry. Titled Graphic, the book examines explicit intersections of the body and language in works by VALIE EXPORT, Dieter Roth, and the Vienna Group. This project draws on research for the exhibition of artists’ books I curated in 2017, Concrete Poetry / Concrete Book. In addition to curating, I enjoy writing art criticism alongside my scholarly work. I am particularly interested in the challenges of curating modern art today and have written about “Caring for Art History in Vienna” for Art Journal and recent activations of the textile works of Franz Erhard Walther for Artforum.
Having been fortunate to study and work on both sides of the Atlantic, I embrace the position of openness that living and teaching in a different language and intellectual culture affords. Before joining the faculty at Johns Hopkins, I was Guest Professor of Art History, Art Theory, and Aesthetics at the Berlin University of the Arts (UdK) and taught for several years in the Department of Art History at the University of Vienna. I earned my PhD in Art History from University of Chicago, MA in Kulturwissenschaft (Cultural Theory & History) from the Humboldt University of Berlin, and BA in the History of Art and German from Harvard University. My research has been supported by institutions including Getty/ACLS, the Berlin Program at the Freie Universität, the Getty Research Institute, Fulbright-Austria and the IFK Vienna, and the DAAD.