Ethics and Advertising Talk at Wieden+Kennedy

Rebekah Modrak presented her work to the Wieden+Kennedy New York agency as part of a monthly guest series intended to broaden the per­spec­tive on adver­tis­ing and the respon­si­bil­i­ties of cul­tural pro­duc­ers.

Wieden+Kennedy is a full-ser­vice adver­tis­ing agency that offers brand mar­ket­ing, mar­ket­ing automa­tion, and more. The com­pany was founded in 1982 and has offices in eight cities, includ­ing Ams­ter­dam, Lon­don, New York, Tokyo, Shang­hai, Delhi, and São Paulo.

Modrak’s work as an artist and writer is at the inter­sec­tions of art, activism, crit­i­cal design, and cre­ative resis­tance to con­sumer cul­ture. Her pre­sen­ta­tion to Wieden+Kennedy focused on the ethics of representation in advertising through historical and contemporary examples and through Modrak’s cri­tique of the appro­pri­a­tion of man­ual labor (Best Made Co. / Re Made Co.) and the mar­ket­ing of the White sav­ior myth (Shi­nola / Rethink Shi­nola and Bougie Crap).

Stop Enabling Predators Panel

Rebekah Modrak co-organized and spoke at Stop Pro­tect­ing Preda­tors: Sur­vivors Speak Up,  a forum addressing U-M’s fail­ures in pre­vent­ing and respond­ing to sex­ual mis­con­duct on cam­pus. The event on Sat­ur­day, Novem­ber 13, from 11 am to 1 pm centered around two panels: The first featured six sur­vivors of sex­ual mis­con­duct at U-M (Isabelle Brourman, Maya Crosman, Katherine McMahan, Jon Vaughn, Tad DeLuca and Chuck Christian), coming together to share experiences and describe the fail­ures of the uni­ver­sity in pro­tect­ing vic­tims, in their own words. In the second panel,  Modrak and other pol­icy-advo­cates described U‑M’s cur­rent sex­ual mis­con­duct poli­cies and what changes should be made to pro­tect the U‑M com­mu­nity, and to cen­ter the voices of sur­vivors.  The Michi­gan Daily cov­ered the event.

A recording of the event is available on YouTube.

Additional information about these cases:

Uni­ver­sity of Michi­gan lec­turer Bruce Con­forth was per­mit­ted to con­tinue teach­ing after a stu­dent filed a sex­ual harass­ment report in 2008. Eight years and seven vic­tims later, the Uni­ver­sity encour­aged Con­forth to retire, pre-empt­ing a full review into sev­eral new reports against him. Another sex­ual mis­con­duct case on U‑M’s cam­pus, involv­ing Dr. Robert Ander­son, may be the largest sex­ual vio­lence case in America’s his­tory with a reported 2100+ vic­tims; the Uni­ver­sity knew of the U‑M ath­letic doctor’s sex­ual mis­con­duct since the 1970s, but allowed Ander­son to work and abuse stu­dents until his retire­ment in 2003. There are addi­tional sto­ries of abuse beyond those of Con­forth and Ander­son. For, despite the Uni­ver­sity hail­ing them­selves as rad­i­cally improv­ing sex­ual mis­con­duct poli­cies, the admin­is­tra­tion con­tin­ues to fail to pro­vide action­able pro­ce­dures to pro­tect vic­tims, pros­e­cute preda­tors, and pre­vent future mis­con­duct at U‑M.

UM Careers for Sex Offenders

UM Careers for Sex Offenders is a series of “brochures” responding to the University of Michigan’s failure to protect victims from sexual predators on campus. I began this work in response to the devastating series of alleged and confirmed offenses, including Dr. Robert Anderson‘s molestation of more than 950 people (mainly student athletes), former Provost Martin Philbert‘s sexual harassment of graduate students and staff, Lecturer Bruce Conforth‘s manipulation and sexual abuse of female students, David Daniels’ solicitations of student sex, among other offenders, and Walter Lasecki‘s sexual harassment of at least five students.

A common theme in these case is the university’s failure to sanction or fire the offender or their shuffling the predator into retirement or resignation, without prosecution. The Office of Institutional Equity (OIE) — now the Equity, Civil Rights and Title IX (ECRT) — has failed to properly investigate, to compare records across cases, and to find violations, and the Board of Regents has failed to hold administrators accountable. 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 refusal to consider alternative models, a defensiveness that continues with the current administration.

UM Careers for Sex Offenders promotes the University of Michigan campus as a protective environment for sex offenders through periodic emails. To be added to the email list, contact “CareersForSexOffenders@umich.edu”.

University of Michigan Sexual Misconduct Harassment Assault Philbert Conforth Anderson
University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel Hired an Alleged Sexual Predator as Provost in 2017 and will now Chair the 2022 Provost Search Committee.

UM former Regent warns Schlissel about Philbert, 2017.
President Schlissel learns of 2005 litigation in summer of 2017 (p. 71).
Partial exhibits from the 2005 Kimorowski lawsuit.
Schlissel statement to the press denying knowledge, 2020.

Stern Fellow at Institute for the Humanities

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.” 

 

9/8/21 Humanities headshots

Radical Humility reprinted in Boston Review

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 Awarded ArtsEngine Grant

Rebekah Modrak is the recipient of an Arts Integrative Faculty Research Grant from ArtsEngine for her and collaborator Marialaura Ghidini’s projectUnProductive 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.

Series of essays on “The Intersection of Power, Race, and Commerce”

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 32021.

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.

Renaming of Weiser Hall

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.

Radical Humility Book Launch and Reading, March 16, 2021

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).

“My Work is Yours to Do What I Want” is published by Media-N

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.