Aesthetic theory, new media to be examined at forum

Lecture by Olafur Eliasson March 30

A lecture by Scandinavian artist Olafur Eliasson will kick off a symposium on aesthetics and new media March 30-April 1 on the Hilltop Campus.

Eliasson is one of the most celebrated artists of his generation, known for combining natural phenomena such as water, light, wind and temperature with new and innovative technologies. His large, room-filling installations have been featured at major museums around the world.

Eliasson will speak on “Modelmania” at 6 p.m. March 30 in Steinberg Auditorium.

The talk is the first event in “After the Digital Divide: German Aesthetic Theory in the Age of New Media,” a symposium sponsored by the Department of Germanic Languages & Literatures in Arts & Sciences. It is also the final event of “Unsettled Ground: Nature, Landscape, and Ecology Now!” a yearlong series co-sponsored by the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts and the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts.

Additional symposium sessions will take place March 31 and April 1 in Simon Hall, Room 112.

“After the Digital Divide” will feature presentations and discussions by more than 20 artists, art historians, museum professionals and new-media experts from across the United States and Germany. Topics will highlight the aesthetic implications of electronic media as well as related technical and logistical issues, such as how digitization changes the distribution and storage of art works.

“The place of art and of the aesthetic has undergone dramatic changes,” said Lutz Koepnick, Ph.D., professor of Germanic languages & literatures and of Film and Media Studies in Arts & Sciences, who organized the symposium with Erin McGlothlin, Ph.D., assistant professor of Germanic language & literatures.

“While contemporary artists avail themselves of highly sophisticated electronic means, their work often explicitly disputes what earlier generations considered the tasks and boundaries of artistic expression,” Koepnick said. “The recent surge of Web and SMS art, digital photography and networked writing — and electronically expanded installation projects and musical composition practices — not only reveals the impact of new sources of creativity, but also changes the entire practice of art and how we should think about it.”

Yet Koepnick added that the symposium also aims to question the “technological triumphalism” that often surrounds writing about new media.

“Rather than to play out the new against the old, the speakers of this conference are challenged to think about the past, present and future of the aesthetic as structured by critical differences, complex transactions, and meaningful alternatives.”

Olafur Eliasson

Born in Copenhagen in 1967, Eliasson studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Art and divides his time between Copenhagen and Berlin.

Eliasson is perhaps best-known for his Weather Project, which drew 2.3 million visitors to the Tate Modern in London in 2003.

Using humidifiers, Eliasson filled the museum’s vast, 35,000-square-foot Turbine Hall with a fine mist, created from a mixture of sugar and water. Hundreds of mono-frequency lamps then emitted light at such a narrow frequency that only the colors yellow and black were visible, thus replicating the radiant effects of the sun.

Eliasson has also created installations for the ARoS Kunstmuseum in Arhus, Denmark (2004); the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg in Germany (2004); and the 2003 Venice Biennale, among many others.

In 2004, he designed chandeliers for the new Copenhagen Opera House and a dramatic 9.3-meter-tall spiral staircase for the Munich headquarters of global accounting firm KPMG.

All events are free and open to the public. For more information or a complete schedule, call 935-5106; e-mail; or go online to