Walker Downey

Banner Image: Earle Brown, "Calder Piece," performed November 14–15, 1981, Neuberger Museum, SUNY Purchase on the occasion of SOUNDINGS, September 20–December 23, 1981.

Walker Downey is a historian of modern and contemporary art and a PhD candidate in the History, Theory and Criticism of Architecture and Art program at MIT. Focused on the postwar United States, Walker’s research explores the seams between experimental music and the expanded arts, the entry of sound art into the museum, and artistic experimentation with tape, radio, and DIY electronics. Walker is also interested in the history of modern acoustics, and the politics of noise and noise pollution as issues of public health. 

Selected Publications

"In the Free Field: Doug Wheeler’s PSAD Synthetic Desert III and Anechoic Histories," Art Journal OPEN, August 30, 2018,

ed., with Sarah Rifky, Thresholds 47 (2019).

Selected Conferences, Lectures, and Symposia

Presenter, “Sounding the Security State: Christina Kubisch’s Electrical Walks,” 45th-annual Cleveland Symposium: “Visualizing Sound & Silence in Art & Architecture,” Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Museum of Art, October 25, 2019.

Presenter, "'Always Already Confined': Tony Conrad's Politics of Roleplay and Improvisation," MIT List Visual Arts Center, November 29, 2018. In conjunction with "Introducing Tony Conrad: A Retrospective," October 18, 2018–January 6, 2018.

Presenter, "Sound and Sedimentation: Walter De Maria's Eco-Critical Resonance," UCSD 11th Annual Graduate Visual Arts Symposium: "Sensory Disruptions," UC San Diego, March 3, 2018.

Presenter and Co-organizer, with Ian Condry (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Jan St. Werner (Academy of Fine Arts, Nuremberg), Rekha Malhotra (MIT Comparative Media Studies), and Nicole L’Huillier (MIT Media Lab), “Dissolve Music,” Massachusetts Institute of Technology, March 7–9, 2018.
Keynote Speakers: Diana Deutsch, Thomas F. DeFrantz

Organizer, with Leah Aronowsky and Brad Bolman (Department of the History of Science, Harvard University), “Technical Landscapes: Aesthetics and the Environment in the History of Science and Art," Harvard University, April 6–8, 2017.
Keynote speakers: Caroline A. Jones, Peter L. Galison, Rebecca K. Uchill

Presenter, “Rebirth of White Noise: David Tudor’s Retuning of ‘9 Evenings: Theatre and Engineering,’” 20th Annual Graduate Art History Symposium, Williams College and the Clark Art Institute, June 5, 2015.

Areas of Interest
American Art, Art and Technology, Climate Change, Landscape, Public Art, Theory of Art


2009 - 2013
Bachelor of Arts, Wheaton College (MA)
2013 - 2015
Master of Arts, Williams College