Technical Landscapes: A Graduate Conference at Harvard University, April 6–8, 2017

Walker Downey worked with Leah Aronowsky and Brad Bolman (both of the Department of History of Science, Harvard University) to organize the Mahindra Humanities Center's 2016–17 Interdisciplinary Graduate Student Conference; titled "Technical Landscapes: Aesthetics and the Environment in the History of Science and Art," the event sought to critically interrogate the current place of "landscape" as a conceptual category, focusing on exemplary sites and spaces where human intervention—whether scientific, industrial, or artistic—has led to a breakdown of the "natural" and "cultural" as conventionally defined.

A keynote panel featuring Peter L. Galison (Joseph Pellegrino University Professor, Harvard University), Caroline A. Jones (Professor, Associate Department Head, History, Theory and Criticism of Architecture and Art, MIT), and Rebecca K. Uchill (Lecturer, History, Theory and Criticism of Architecture and Art, MIT) opened the proceedings on April 6th, 2017; eighteen graduate presentations were delivered over the course of the following two days, with more artistically oriented performances serving as counterpoints to traditional papers. Peter Galison, Caroline A. Jones, Kirsten Swenson (Assistant Professor of Art History, University of Massachusetts, Lowell), and Sonja Dümpelmann (Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture, Harvard University Graduate School of Design), served as panel commentators. 

In the spirit of the conference's focus on land and landscape, several field trips across the Boston and Cambridge area punctuated the graduate panels. On Friday, April 7th, the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts hosted both an interactive workshop held by Rebecca Uchill and Tania Bruguera (Elizabeth S. and Richard M. Cashin Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study) and a screening of filmmaker Gregg Mitman's The Land Beneath our Feet (Mitman and Siegal, 60 min., 2016) organized by Hanna Rose Shell (Associate Professor, MIT Program in Science, Technology, and Society) and bracketed by a director Q+A; on the final day of the conference, participants traveled to the Boston Fens to experience an app-based listening walk (Fens, 2017) developed by artists and scholars Teri Rueb and Ernst Karel, and finally to the Metropolitan Waterworks Museum (Chestnut Hill, MA) for a screening of short films Ah humanity! (Ernst Karel, Véréna Paravel, and Lucien Castaing-Taylor, dirs., 2015) and TERATOGENESIS (Magnus Pind and Jonathan Beilin, Parsons School of Design, 2016).

For additional details, please visit the below:

Official Website
Mahindra Humanities Center


The conference and related events are sponsored by the Mahindra Humanities Center at Harvard University, in cooperation with the Harvard History of Science Department, the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, and the Waterworks Museum. 

Image credit: The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection, The New York Public Library. (1898 - 1931). Marconi Wireless Station, So. Wellfleet, Mass.