“From Please Turn to ‘Please Don’t Touch:’ Finding the Embodied Viewer in Otto Piene’s Early Lichtballette,” in Moving Images, Mobile Bodies. The Poetics and Practice of (Techno-)Corporeality in Performing and Visual Arts, Cambridge Scholars Press, 2018.

Abstract: This study investigates the alterations made to an early Lichtballett by Otto Piene and the concomitant impact upon the role, position, and interaction of the viewer. Using archival research, first-hand observation, primary sources written by the artist, and the theories of contemporary scholars, it traces the history of the work Please Turn (1961) to its current iteration. Beginning with the lineage of the Environment and the derivation and definition of the “activated viewer,” this excerpt of a larger study seeks to explain the intentional positioning of the viewer not as passive, homogenous observer within a space, but rather as active collaborator in the creation of an environment. Using a comparison to the Volksempfänger (1972-1976) of Ed and Nancy Kienholz, a similarly viewer-activated environment that has not undergone significant restructuring, this essay concludes that Piene’s Please Turn (1961) has been altered in such a manner as to no longer reflect the original intentions of the artist.

Keywords: Piene, Lichtballett, activated viewer, Environment, Kienholz

Abstract: Benjamin wrote of two very different concepts of technology, which are elaborated in this early excerpt of a dissertation project through a comparison between Lázló Moholy-Nagy’s Licht-Raum-Modulator and the Lichtballette oeuvre of Otto Piene. Here, a disagreement played out in personal correspondence between Piene and author Karl Ruhrberg, generated by the latter’s 1965 publication of Der Schlüssel zur Malerei von heute, indicates a deeper differentiation between how artists utilize and theorize technology that is intrinsic to a work of art. Described in The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility (1936), the concept of the “first technology,” which centered on the maximization of physical humanity, versus that of the experimental and contingent “second technology,” which minimizes the human presence, provide the framework for this differentiation. Moholy’s eight year collaborative project produced what he described as a “light prop” to facilitate his “experiments” with light effects, much in the manner described by Benjamin’s second technology. In contrast, Piene’s continued creation of Lichtballette which seek to “elevate the mind and body of mankind,” better represent the now antiquated first technology, and ultimately the utopian spaces of the Parisian glass arcades, the subject of Benjamin’s last and unfinished Das Passagen-Werk. (Piene, 1961)


Keywords: Art and Technology, Piene, Moholy-Nagy, Benjamin, Lichtballett

“Fluorescent Paper Trail: Dan Flavin's Diagrams,” Shift: Graduate Journal of Visual and Material Culture, peer reviewed journal, October 2012. 

This research into Dan Flavin's drawings suggests that rather than mere preliminary sketches or documentation of installations, his rich oeuvre of “diagrams” function concomitantly with his well-known fluorescent fixtures. The graph paper diagrams offer a map, perhaps an outline, of the phenomena that his well-known fluorescent fixtures present. Whereas the lights themselves obscure and illuminate space, the diagrams measure and quantify, and correspond to the final installation only in a liminal manner. The more intimate drawings on looseleaf paper offer a uniquely expressionistic insight into a canonical Minimalist oeuvre. These notecard diagrams record influences, changes, dedications, and intentions; Flavin underscored their importance by having selections printed in lithographic and intaglio form. Displayed separately from the fluorescent fixtures, the drawings authenticated Flavin's traditional artistic practice in a period (i.e., the early 1970's) when such an admission was unfashionable. Ultimately, Flavin's diagrams and drawings serve to humanize and map the fluorescents, offering the viewer a concrete point of entry to the phenomenological experience.

Keywords: Flavin, fluorescents, Minimalism

“From Playground to Fetish: The Identity of (the) Mary Jane,” Mid America College Art Association Conference Proceedings, December 2012.

Cartoon characters Buster Brown and his sister Mary Jane both wore Mary Jane shoes in 1905. The style was practical for active children – easy to don and securely fastened to busy feet. Yet by the turn of the 21st century, Mary Jane styles have been adopted by the high fashion industry and fetish culture in forms that are considerably less practical for certain forms of activity. This research traces the transition of the Mary Jane through the twentieth century, from the feet of children to the pages of Vogue and ultimately the couch of Freud. Along the way, this trajectory is analyzed to determine how the functionality of Mary Janes shifts from the playgrounds of childhood to the catwalks of adults. 

Keywords: Mary Jane shoes, Lolita, Kinderwhore, Freud fetish