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.
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.
Rebekah Modrak was invited to exhibit at the Weserburg Museum in Bremen, Germany in the exhibition Künstlerpublikationen: analog – digital!.
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.
Rebekah Modrak and curator Marialaura Ghidini’s work #exstrange was featured in ANYWHERE iii, a book featuring contributions from artists participating in Anywhere and Elsewhere: Art at The Outermost Limits of Location-Specificity. The book, edited by Sean Lowry (Head of Critical and Theoretical Studies, Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne) and Simone Douglas (Professor, Parsons, The New School) explores a broad range of questions associated with presenting, experiencing, discussing and evaluating art located anywhere and elsewhere in space and time.
ANYWHERE iii was published by Centre of Visual Art, University of Melbourne; School of Art, Media, and Technology at Parsons School of Design, The New School, New York, NY; and Project Anywhere.
Other artists/artworks featured in the book include Benjamin Matthews’ New Hypothetical Continents, Ana Mendes’ On Drawing, Jacob Olmedo’s And The World Will Be As One, Macushla Robinson’s In the Wake of Museul Whiteness, and Ryota Sato’s Matsushima Bunko Museum.
Rebekah Modrak presented at the University of Buffalo as part of the Department of Art’s Visiting Artist Speaker Series, lectures attended by current undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, staff, and open to the public.
In her presentation, Modrak described her use of photography, the internet, and critical design to explore commerce, identity and class. As part of her work at the Department of Art, she met with graduate students for individual studio visits.
Jurors selected the Age of Humility website and social media for the “Scholarship: Creative Works” category of the 2019 Design Incubation Awards.
The Age of Humility project asks: can we reinvigorate humility as a living value that can be practiced in every workplace, and which is relevant in all realms, informing our choices as friends, colleagues, parents, and citizens? The project is generating a collection of essays and a series of researched posts distributed via social media. The Age of Humility website (AgeOfHumility.com) is the hub of the project. In designing the website and social media pages, the team’s goal was to inspire interest in humility as a value during this time in which political boasting and status-seeking are pervasive and humility is rarely discussed.
The Age of Humility design team is led by Rebekah Modrak, Jamie Lausch Vander Broek, and Sam Oliver. Rebekah Modrak is an artist and Stamps Professor. Jamie Lausch Vander Broek is a Librarian for Art & Design at the University of Michigan. Sam Oliver is the founder of Shaper Realities, a product and interaction design studio based in Brooklyn, and is a Stamps BFA alum.
Modrak, Vander Broek and Oliver worked collaboratively to invent a visual language that created a contemplative space within the “fast media” of web navigation and social media. The Age of Humility website home page intentionally avoids the cursor’s point-and-click as the method of interaction. Instead, viewers activate the site via an imperfect, hand-drawn line that winds users through a series of quotations from politics, consumer culture, psychology, and other perspectives. The line and an animated ink cloud reflect the belief that thoughts are pliant and yielding and prompt an introspective, gentle tempo for navigating the site. The team used two complimentary fonts filled with a watercolor texture as a way of implying a spoken voice that fluctuates in timbre, and as a way of emphasizing key words within that speech. All elements mimic organic movements and defy the flat space of the digital screen and the grid-based template of traditional web design.
Rebekah Modrak has been invited to join the new editorial board of Spark, the online magazine of the National Center for Institutional Diversity, for a two-year term. She will be working alongside a diverse group of editors dedicated to utilizing scholarship to spark curiosity and engagement in readers. NCID announces: “We believe that scholarship has the potential to transform society and positively impact minoritized and marginalized communities and the systems in which we live. But for scholarship to have the greatest impact, it must reach a diverse — and public — audience.”
Her role on the editorial board will include editing 12 pieces throughout her term, editing a series focused on her area of scholarly expertise, and engaging in meetings to discuss work as public scholars.
On September 20, 2019, Alex Mastrangelo, CEO of UnProductive Solutions Ltd., presented new technologies invented by the company to allow “users” to be less productive and less efficient and, therefore, more human. Mastrangelo shared these discoveries with two audiences: faculty and graduate students at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and artists and scholars attending Border Control, the annual symposium of the New Media Caucus. In a surprise turn of events, Mastrangelo’s lecture and workshop was an artwork and performance developed by artist Rebekah Modrak and art technology curator Marialaura Ghidini to critique assumptions about and dependence upon standardized logic and algorithmic efficiency.
This performance was the first action of a long-term project that explores the synergy between artistic and technological research to consider how the products and on-demand services of the e-economy (such as personal management apps, chat-bot enabled services, community marketplaces and on-demand concierge services) impact the way we communicate, work, relate to the environment, and live as part of a community.