Rebekah Modrak was selected as the Helmut F. Stern Faculty Fellow at the Institute for the Humanities for the 2021-22 academic year. The Institute promotes interdisciplinary research and discourse in the humanities and the arts. The central function of the institute is to form an intellectual community of faculty and graduate student fellows who spend an academic year in residence in the institute, pursuing their research and participating in a cross-disciplinary, weekly seminar.
Throughout the year, Rebekah is working with Italy-based collaborator and curator Marialaura Ghidini to create an extensive net-based artwork challenging the logic of current digital technologies that preference productivity and efficiency over our human nature to be complicated and contradictory. Titled UnProductiveSolutions (UnPro), the artwork presents as a “company” whose mission is to disrupt and challenge assumptions of existing technologies. UnPro will find form as a company website of imagined e-products. Ultimately, UnPro asks: what would technology look like if it supported our right to “complex personhood.”
Thrilled to share that the Boston Review has published an essay from the book Radical Humility: Essays on Ordinary Acts, (Rebekah Modrak and Jamie Vander Broek, editors). The essay “Against Persuasion” by Agnes Callard (Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of Chicago) explores the value of being inquisitive and the collaborative nature of knowledge through Socrates’ conversations with other people who claimed to have knowledge. Radical Humility was published by Belt Publishing in March 2021. In the book, Callard’s essay appears as “Loving Knowledge Together: Socratic Humility.”
Radical Humility is a collection of essays by philosophers, artists, a lawyer, a journalist, a cook, a columnist, psychologists, educators, consumer culture and race scholars, and others about the value of humility, and the harms of arrogance, from personal, political, and institutional perspectives.
Rebekah Modrak is the recipient of an Arts Integrative Faculty Research Grant from ArtsEngine for her and collaborator Marialaura Ghidini’s project, UnProductive Solutions. Arts Integrative Interdisciplinary Faculty Research Grants support faculty research projects that integrate the arts or design with other disciplines, especially those in engineering and the sciences. UnProductiveSolutions is an extensive net-based artwork challenging the logic of current digital technologies that preference productivity and efficiency at the expense of encouraging humans to be complicated and contradictory. This project considers technology from the perspectives of sociology, critical digital studies, psychology, economics, information and digital studies, and the care industry, among other disciplines.
I created the UM Careers for Sex Offenders in response to the University of Michigan’s failure to protect targets and victims from sexual predators on campus. This work responds to a devastating series of offenses, including Dr. Robert Anderson‘s molestation of more than 800 men, former Provost Martin Philbert‘s sexual harassment of graduate students and staff, and Lecturer Bruce Conforth‘s manipulation and sexual abuse of female students, David Daniels’ solicitations of student sex, among other offenders.
A common theme in these case is the university’s failure to sanction or fire the offender, the Office of Institutional Equity’s failure to properly investigate and to find violations, and the Board of Regents’ failure to hold administrators accountable. The OIE Director continues to insist on maintaining the faulty single-investigator model in which one investigator identifies interviewees, conducts interviews, reviews the findings, and makes the judgment. As a member of the Academic Affairs Advisory Committee (AAAC) that advises the provost, I’ve had a front-row seat to Provost Philbert’s overseeing the sexual misconduct umbrella policy during which he defended OIE’s deplorable record, and OIE Director Strickman’s refusal to consider alternative models.
UM Careers for Sex Offenders promotes the University of Michigan campus as a protective environment for sex offenders. It’s email address is “CareersForSexOffenders@umich.edu”
Rebekah Modrak partnered with Roland L. Leak, Associate Professor of Marketing in the College of Business and Economics at North Carolina A&T State University to curate a series of essays on “The Intersection of Power, Race, and Commerce” for Spark magazine, a publication of the National Center for Institutional Diversity (NCID). The series was published on June 3, 2021.
The series contains a collection of five invited submissions from diversity scholars whose scholarship speaks to the relationships between commerce, power, and race in light of shifting opinions and epiphanies about racial justice, in the wake of massive racial protests over the past year. Essays survey the impact of whiteness and white management on sports culture; question whether progressive representations in Nike ads actually translates into racial justice; critique the ways that universities’ exhibitions of diversity in their marketing materials misleads prospective students into thinking that an aspirational identity has already been achieved; examine the history of Wedgwood decorative porcelain being founded on a singular act of looting “White Earth” from South Carolina Cherokees; and analyze advertisers’ use of skin as a commodity, signal of brand meaning, and subject of fetishism.
The Institute for the Humanities at U-M has awarded fellowships for the 2021-22 academic year to eight faculty members, including Stamps professor Rebekah Modrak.
The Faculty Fellowship Program at the Institute for the Humanities provides faculty members with a release from teaching and service duties to pursue their research interests. Fellows are in residence at the Institute for the full academic year, becoming members of an interdisciplinary community of creators, scholars, and researchers.
During the 2021-22 academic year, Rebekah will focus on her project, “UnProductiveSolutions: Humanizing Technology.”
Silke-Maria Weineck, professor of Germanic Studies and Comparative Literature at the University of Michigan, and I devised an intervention renaming Weiser Hall the “Weiser Center for Voter Suppression, Political Assassination, and Witch Burning.”
On Saturday, April 3, 3pm, we invited faculty, staff and students for a ceremonial renaming service. The building’s new name became visible as free-standing identification signs in PMS 282 blue at the east and west sides of the building, as well as in stenciled lettering, collectively sprayed by students and faculty, on the southern promenade and surrounding grounds of the building.
In an ideal world, we would name our buildings after individuals who represent the public values of our institution and the diversity of our community. Ronald Weiser’s attempts to suppress the vote, and his recent comments that three female elected officials are “witches” to be “burned at the stake” and that those (shockingly few) Republicans who refused to support the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6 should be “assassinated,” disqualify him from this honor. We created this action to urge the university to quickly begin the process of removing Weiser’s name from all university-affiliated buildings and institutions, as no member of our community should be forced into symbolic association with a man who advocates misogyny, violence, and anti-democratic intent.
Literati Bookstore hosts Radical Humility. Tuesday, March 16, 2021, 7-8pm. Link to event at Literati Bookstore.
Join us virtually to celebrate the publication of Radical Humility: Essays on Ordinary Acts (edited by Rebekah Modrak and Jamie Vander Broek), a collection of essays considering the value of humility in an age of golden escalators and billionaire entrepreneurs. Readings by contributors Ruth Nicole Brown (artist-scholar whose life work is dedicated to the celebration of Black girlhood), Lynette Clemetson (longtime journalist and director of the Knight-Wallace Fellowships at the U. of Michigan), Mickey Duzyj (creator/director of the Netflix documentary series Losers), and Jennifer Cole Wright (a psychologist-scholar who studies why we care about being “good people” and how we become them).
Rebekah Modrak’s latest essay ““My Work is Yours to Do What I Want” was published in “Forking Paths in New Media Art Practices: Investigating Remix,” a special issue for Media-N, a peer-reviewed, open-access journal from the New Media Caucus, dedicated to critical dialogue on new media art. This special issue of Media-N on contemporary approaches to remix was inspired by Jorge Luis Borges’s short story, “The Garden of Forking Paths,” a recurring point of reference in the development of media culture. Borges’s narrative exploration of remix was a means of reflecting on the possibility of multiple simultaneous realities with no clear beginning or end. His imaginings offered a literary and philosophical model for creative uses of emerging technology throughout the twentieth century.
“My Work is Yours to Do What I Want” relies on remix to tell the story of Peter Buchanan-Smith and Peter Smith-Buchanan. In this truthful story that often reads as fiction, a cast of characters, including wagyu beef, Professor Skiller’s forgotten payment, and the law firm of Ellenoff Grossman & Schole LLP, are entwined in acts of manipulation, machismo, and disturbances of consumer culture.
The exhibition, curated by Peter Sämann of the Research Association for Artist Publications and Anne Thurmann-Jajes, director of the Centre for Artists’ Publications, is about artworks using digital methods of production, presentation, and distribution. The show consists of both purely digital works and works that appear both as real objects and in electronic form.
The digital forms of artists’ artworks include digital artists’ books and newspapers, social media and e-mails, multimedia editions, as well as works of net art and ASCII art.
Other participating artists include Heman Chong, Jean-François Guiton, Jenny Holzer, Miroslav Klivar, Frieder Nake, Lim Shengen, Jan van der Til, Timm Ulrichs.