Jump to content

MCA Talk: The City Between Image and Fact


A black-and-white photo of the Chicago skyline from the north shore of Lake Michigan is overlaid with rectangular color image fragments of the same view. The color images add and subtract people from the lakefront view.

Kenneth Josephson, Chicago, 1972. Gelatin silver print and postcard collage; 4 3/4 x 7 in. (12.1 x 17.8 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of the Foster Charitable Trust in memory of Reuben A. Foster, 1983.37. © Kenneth Josephson

Photo: Nathan Keay © MCA Chicago

event description

Implicit in artists’ and designers’ proposals for representing the mid-century city was the constructive possibility of disciplining audiences to adopt visual habits and finely tuned mental images that would impose a coherent order on the city. Subsequently, the impulse to image the environment, or to project an orderly system onto a disordered world, was criticized for substituting high modernist images for the facts. In opposition to earlier image-centered proposals, artists and designers aimed to “dead pan” (to borrow a term from Denise Scott Brown) or objectively represent the city. Yet, as air tight as these competing positions once seemed, we can now deduce more supple intersections where the city is irreducibly suspended between image and fact. As the first in a two-part panel discussion, this roundtable introduces examples from photography, film, advertising, and art that examine the city as a point of overlaps and interactions between imageability and facticity.

The talk includes a discussion with Amy Beste, director of public programming for the department of Film, Video, New Media, and Animation at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago; Greg Foster-Rice, associate professor of photography at Columbia College Chicago; and Orit Halpern, Associate Professor of Strategic Hire in Interactive Design in the department of Sociology and Anthropology at Concordia University, Montreal. Moderating the discussion is Michael Golec, chair of the Art History, Theory, and Criticism department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

This event is held in Kanter Meeting Center on the first floor. Reception to follow

About the Speakers

Amy Beste researches Chicago's moving-image industry and the work of independent filmmakers in the city, both in the artistic and more commercial realm. This includes a focus on the School of Design–trained Morton and Mildred Goldsholl of Goldsholl Design Associates, a prominent design firm in the 1950s and 1960s. Beste has organized moving-image exhibitions for the MCA; Chicago Underground Film Festival; WTTW Channel 11, Chicago; and Anthology Film Archives, New York. She also curates the visiting artist and screening series “Conversations at the Edge” at the Gene Siskel Film Center, Chicago.

Greg Foster-Rice teaches the history, theory, and criticism of photography. He cocurated the exhibition The City Lost and Found: Capturing New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, 1960-1980 at the Art Institute of Chicago (2014) and Princeton University Art Museum (2015). Recent publications include the catalogue for The City Lost and Found(2014), an essay for the catalogue Black Is, Black Ain’t(2013), and the anthology Reframing the New Topographics(2011), which he coedited and coauthored. He is currently researching the Chicago collage artist Ralph Arnold for a forthcoming book and exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Photography. His past research has received numerous grants, including the Terra Foundation for American Art/Lloyd Lewis Fellowship in American Art History at the Newberry Library, Chicago.

Orit Halpern's work explores a history of cybernetics and interactivity, as is the subject of her recent book Beautiful Data: A History of Vision and Reason Since 1945(2015), published as part of Duke University Press's Experimental Futures series. In this text she investigates the impact of communicative objectivity on the sciences, design, and art, as well as the development of vision and cognition in the latter part of the 20th century. Halpern has contributed to numerous journals, including Post-Modern Culture, Public Culture, and the Journal of Visual Culture. She will conduct a workshop on digital space at the 5th International Forum for Sustainable Construction held in Detroit in April 2016.

Michael Golec researches the history of design, focusing on graphic visualization, technical images, and typography. His publications include Brillo Box Archive: Aesthetics, Design, and Art(2008) and his coedited Relearning from Las Vegas(2008). He has contributed to numerous publications and journals, including Chicago Makes Modern: How Creative Minds Changed Society and The Educated Eye: Visual Culture and Pedagogy in the Life Sciences. Golec is currently working on two books, Pictographies: Anthropology, Statistics, and Graphic Visualization in the United States and Sense and Census: The Bio-Politics of the Visualization of Data in the Statistical Atlases of the United States.


The City Between Image and Fact is made possible by support from the Terra Foundation for American Art.