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Embodied Knowledge: Sensory Studies in the 21st Century

October 3, 2014 @ 9:00 am - 5:00 pm

image of poster for "embodied knowledge" conference

2014 Burdick-Vary Symposium:

Featuring a series of tasty “sound bytes”—short, pithy multi-media presentations by both UW-Madison and internationally-renowned scholars who are exploring the senses in trans-disciplinary research (anthropology, visual/material culture, art history, music, performance theory, cognitive sciences, etc.). Throughout the day, these “bytes” will be interspersed with a variety of interactive sensory experiences for all.

A 5-minute video, filmed and edited by Aaron Granat, was released in December 2014. See our website’s “Projects” section to view the video of the symposium: https://irh.wisc.edu/projects/



Faisal Abdu’Allah
Lynda Barry
Peter Bovenmyer
Sonya Clark
Tom Dale
Kathryn Linn Geurts
Marvin Gutierrez
Mary Hark
Darryl Harper
Marguerite E. Heckscher
Ray Hernández-Durán
David Howes
Chris Walker
Sheron Wray


RSVPs are encouraged and appreciated, but not required. If you are able to attend all or part of the symposium, please email rsvp@irh.wisc.edu.

Convened by Professor Henry Drewal, Art History; Afro-American Studies, UW-Madison.

For additional information:
Ann Harris, Assistant to the Director, Institute for Research in the Humanities


Conference Program


9:00-9:30 A.M. Welcome and Introduction
Henry DrewalUW-Madison
9:30-10:00 A.M. Two 15-Minute Sound Bytes

David HowesConcordia University
“Sensory Museology”

Faisal Abdu’AllahUW-Madison
“Sense of Salon”

followed by conversation with respondent Henry DrewalUW-Madison, and audience

10:30-10:45 A.M. Morning Break
10:45-11:05 A.M. Lynda BarryUW-Madison
“Monster, Draw Near: An Experience of Pareidolia in Action”
11:05-12:35 P.M. Three Sound/Motion Bytes

Marguerite E. HeckscherUW-Madison
“Objects as Bodies, Bodies as Objects: Medicine and Arts among the Shambaa of Tanzania”

Kathryn Linn GeurtsHamline University
“Sensing the State: Artistic Labor, Seselelame, and a ‘Mask of Desperation and Despair'”

Sheron WrayUniversity of California, Irvine

12:35-2:00 P.M. Food Bites: Lunch Break (Details TBA)
2:00-3:00 P.M. Two Sound Bytes

Ray Hernández-DuránUniversity of New Mexico at Albuquerque
“Staging the Mystical Experience in the Early Modern Americas: The Devotional Image, Sermons, and Colonial Somaesthetics”

Peter BovenmyerUW-Madison
“Machines of Desire: A Seducing Automaton in the Garden of Love”

followed by conversation with respondent Tom DaleUW-Madison, and audience

3:00-3:45 P.M. One Sound Byte

Darryl HarperVirginia Commonwealth University
“Mind, Body and Soul in the Exquisite Art of Sound”

followed by conversation with audience

3:45-4:00 P.M. Chris WalkerUW-Madison
4:00-4:15 P.M. Afternoon Break
4:15-4:45 P.M. One Sound Byte

Sonya ClarkVirginia Commonwealth University
“Hair Waves: The Sound of DNA and Collective Identity”

followed by conversation with respondent Mary HarkUW-Madison, and audience

4:45-5:00 P.M. Open Conversations and Wrap-Up
Henry DrewalUW-Madison



Presenter Bios

Faisal Abdu’Allah (UW-Madison)

Faisal Abdu’Allah graduated from the Royal College of Art in 1993 alongside Chris Ofili and David Adjaye. Recently he was featured in The Fade, directed by Andy Mundy-Castle, starring Pharell Williams of The Neptunes, and the 55th Venice Biennale 2013, curated by Nancy-Marie Mithilo. He has won numerous awards, including the Mayors Award 2012, for his film Double Pendulumand first prize at the Tallinn Print Triennial. His work fills an important void within available scholarship on the subject of contemporary art in relation to Afro-British culture. What began as an artistic gesture in the 1980s became a conceptual approach that questioned issues of race and identity in relation to issues of cultural diversity and multiculturalism. He began selecting his subjects from émigré utopia, Afro-British social consciousness, Muslim identity, and working-class life. He also integrated other views of London, portraying it as a city of dislocated communities that were powerless in the existing world of art. Abdu’Allah is currently Assistant Professor in the Art Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is represented by Magnolia Editions, USA and Autograph ABP, UK.

Lynda Barry (UW-Madison)

Lynda Barry is a writer and cartoonist whose home is in rural Wisconsin. Her comic strip, “Ernie Pook’s Comics,” ran for thirty years in weekly papers across the continent. She’s authored 19 books and received numerous awards and honors for her work including two William Eisner awards, The American Library Association’s Alex award, the Washington State governor’s award, the Wisconsin Library Association’s RR Donnelly award and The Museum of Wisconsin Arts Lifetime Achievement Award. Her work has appeared in many publications, including The New York TimesWashington PostLos Angeles TimesVanity FairEsquireNewsweekTimeSalonMother JonesPoetry Magazine and Tin House. She is currently Assistant Professor in Interdisciplinary Creativity at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Discovery Fellow at the UW Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery.

Peter Bovenmyer (UW-Madison)

Peter Bovenmyer is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Art History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studying the art and architecture of medieval Europe. He focuses particularly on representations of the body and the role of the senses in its construction. Peter is especially interested in the intersections between science, religion, and philosophy and delves into a variety of subjects ranging from medicine to magic. His dissertation, “Alternative Anatomies: Medieval Bodies Opened and Imagined,” is an interdisciplinary study of anatomical images and their formulation of sense, identity, and materiality in the Middle Ages.

Sonya Clark (Virginia Commonwealth University)

Sonya Clark is known for using a variety of materials including human hair and combs to address race, culture, class, and history. Since 2006 she has been Chair of the Craft and Material Studies Department at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. Formerly she was a Baldwin-Bascom Professor of Creative Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She holds an M.F.A from Cranbrook Academy of Art, a B.F.A. from the Art Institute of Chicago, and a B.A. from Amherst College. Her informal education comes from her Jamaican grandmother who was a professional tailor and the many traditional artists she has met in her international travels. She is the recipient of several awards including a United State Artists Fellowship and Pollock Krasner Grant. Her work has been exhibited in over 300 museums and galleries in Africa, Australia, Europe, Asia and the Americas.

Tom Dale (UW-Madison)

Thomas E.A. Dale, Professor of Medieval Art History at UW-Madison since 2000, is graduate of the University of Toronto (B.A.) and the Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore (M.A. and Ph.D.). He is author of Relics, Prayer and Politics in Medieval Venetia (Princeton University Press, 1997), and editor/contributor for Shaping Sacred Space and Institutional Identity in Romanesque Mural Painting (Pindar Press, 2004). A third book nearing completion,Romanesque Sculpture, the Senses and Religious Experience, re-thinks the re-invention of monumental sculpture in the eleventh and twelfth-centuries by taking into account an increased valorization of the physical body, materiality and the senses in mediating the sacred. In preparation for this project, he has published a series of case studies related to the topics of monstrosity, portraiture and the nude in GestaArt BulletinSpeculum and a number of recent anthologies. A fourth book project considers Cultural Hybridity and Globalization in Medieval Venice.

Henry John Drewal (UW-Madison)

After graduating from Hamilton College, Henry Drewal joined the Peace Corps, taught French and English and organized arts camps in Nigeria. While in Nigeria he apprenticed himself to a Yoruba sculptor, an experience that was transformative. He returned for graduate studies at Columbia University with an interdisciplinary specialization in African art history and culture, receiving two Masters’ degrees and a PhD in 1973. He taught at Cleveland State University (where he was chair of the Art Department), and was a Visiting Professor at UC-Santa Barbara and SUNY-Purchase. Since 1990 he has been Evjue-Bascom Professor at UW-Madison and Adjunct Curator of African Art at the Chazen Museum of Art. He has received numerous awards (Fulbright, NEH, Guggenheim, AIIS, Smithsonian, and Sainsbury fellowships) and published several books, edited volumes, and many articles on African and African Diaspora arts including Yoruba: Nine Centuries of African Art and Thought (1989) andBeads, Body and Soul: Art and Light in the Yoruba Universe (1998). He curated and wrote the catalogue for the major traveling exhibition Mami Wata: Arts for Water Spirits in Africa and Its Diasporas (2008) and edited the volume Sacred Waters: Arts for Mami Wata and other Divinities in Africa and the Diaspora (2008) that won the 2011 Arnold Rubin Distinguished Publication Award from ACASA. His exhibition project, Dynasty and Divinity: Ife Art in Ancient Nigeria (2009), for which he wrote the catalogue, opened in Santander, Spain in 2009, traveled to Madrid and the British Museum in 2010 before its 2011-12 US tour.

Kathryn Linn Geurts (Hamline University)

Professor Kathryn Linn Geurts has been teaching at Hamline University in Saint Paul, Minnesota, since 2002. Her anthropological research focuses on investigating bodily experience – not through a Western lens but through a West African perspective. Her monograph Culture and the Senses: Bodily Ways of Knowing in an African Community, concerns the cultural construction of sensory orientations among Ewe-speaking people in Ghana. It was nominated for the Melville J. Herskovits Award for most distinguished publication in African Studies (2003). At Hamline University she teaches a range of courses that engage the burgeoning scholarship about bodily and sensory experience and the socio-political effects of a physicalist bias in global culture.

She earned a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College (1984), and an M.A. (1991) and Ph.D. (1998) from the University of Pennsylvania. She was the recipient of a Fulbright-Hays Fellowship for ethnographic research in southeastern Ghana (1993-95). She held a National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) post-doctoral research position at the University of Chicago in the Department of Comparative Human Development (1998-2000), and was a Weatherhead Residential Fellow at the School for Advanced Research on the Human Experience in Santa Fe, New Mexico (2000-2001). In 2009 she was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation fellowship for her project “Ethnography of Disability in Urban Africa.”

Marvin Gutierrez (UW-Madison)

Mary Hark (UW-Madison)

Mary Hark is an Associate Professor of Design Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is the proprietor of HARK! Handmade Paper, where she produces editions of linen and flax papers in collaboration with book designers and artists, as well as unique paperworks. Hark’s work has been exhibited internationally and is in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Smithsonian Museum of African Art, the Ginsberg Book Arts Collection in Johannesburg, South Africa, and in many university special collections in the United States and Canada. In 2006 Hark received a Senior Fulbright Research Grant to Sub Saharan Africa, and continues to lead an initiative in Kumasi, Ghana, building the first hand papermill in West Africa capable of producing high-quality papers from local botanicals. Recently, Hark led a team in St. Paul, Minnesota, designing and producing 2000 handmade papers made from urban bio-waste, that were used as placemats for CREATE: the Community Mealpublic art event. Hark teaches textile design and papermaking at UW and is invited to conduct workshops and lecture at Art Centers and Universities internationally.

Darryl Harper (Virginia Commonwealth University)

Darryl Harper’s performance credits include dates with Orrin Evans, Tim Warfield, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Roscoe Mitchell, Dave Holland, Uri Caine, and a two-year stint touring with Regina Carter. He has recorded seven albums as a leader on the Hipnotic Records label. As a composer, Harper has published and recorded over two-dozen works. He has written a score for the award-winning documentary film Herskovits: At the Heart of Blackness, and commissions for choreographers Li Chiao-Ping and Ingo Taleb Rashid and visual artists Peter Bruun and Elisa Jimenez. Harper holds music degrees from Amherst College, Rutgers University, and New England Conservatory. He has led projects including The Onus, Into Something, and the C3 Project. Harper is chair of the Department of Music in the School of the Arts at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Marguerite E. Heckscher (UW-Madison)

A trained theater actress, Marguerite E. Heckscher holds a B.A. in art history from Columbia University and a M.A. in African art history from University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is currently a Ph.D. student in African arts at UW-Madison, studying with Henry Drewal. Her research focuses on matter spirit nexuses, relations between objects and bodies, and processes of embodiment in healing and initiation rituals among Shambaa communities in Tanzania.


Ray Hernández-Durán (University of New Mexico in Albuquerque)

Ray Hernández-Durán is Associate Professor of Art History at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. He completed his Ph.D. in Pre-Hispanic and Colonial Latin American Art History at the University of Chicago in 2005. His primary research focuses on eighteenth-century New Spain and nineteenth-century Mexico. Courses he offers include: Introduction to Ibero-American Colonial Art (1496–1860), Arts of New Spain, Hapsburg Period (1521–1700), Arts of New Spain, Bourbon Period (1700–1821), and Non-Religious Colonial Art. Publications include “The Language of Line in Late Eighteenth-Century New Spain: The Calligraphic Equestrian Portrait of Viceroy, Bernardo de Gálvez (1796),” in Buen Gusto and Classicism in the Visual Cultures of Latin America, 1780–1910 (2013) and “Modern Museum Practice in Nineteenth-Century Mexico: The Academy of San Carlos and la antigua escuela mexicana,” in Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide: A Journal of Nineteenth-Century Visual Culture (2010). Forthcoming works include “Aztec Art after the Conquest: From the Plaza Mayor to the Curiosity Cabinet to the Art Museum,” in Oxford Handbook of the Aztecs (2015), and two books: The Academy of San Carlos and Mexican Art History: Politics, History, and Art in Nineteenth-Century Mexico (Ashgate, 2015), and A Historiography of Colonial Art in Mexico, ca. 1855–1934 (University of New Mexico Press, 2015).

David Howes (Concordia University)

David Howes is Professor of Anthropology and the Director of the Centre for Sensory Studies at Concordia University, Montreal. He holds two degrees in law and three degrees in anthropology. His research interests span the fields of law, commerce, consumption, perception, the senses and aesthetics. His latest book is Ways of Sensing: Understanding the Senses in Society (co-authored with Constance Classen).


Chris Walker (UW-Madison)

Chris Walker, Associate Professor of Dance, is the Artistic Director of the First Wave Hip Hop Theater Ensemble at UW-Madison and artistic director of NuMoRune Collaborative. Walker has taken First Wave, which received the Governor’s Arts Award (2010), on local, national and international tours. His choreography and performance are supported by grants and commissions and shown in the Americas, Europe and Asia. Walker received his M.F.A. and B.F.A. from the SUNY College at Brockport through articulation from the Edna Manley College in Kingston, Jamaica. He remains an active touring choreographer with the National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica.

Sheron Wray (University of California, Irvine)

Sheron Wray is an Assistant Professor of Dance at UC Irvine where she also directs The Ghana Project. She is undertaking her PhD at the University of Surrey, supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. In the UK she performed with the leading contemporary dance companies Rambert and London Contemporary Dance Theatre. In tandem she began JazzXchange Music and Dance Company as a means to explore the reintegration of live jazz music in performance, creating work with Wynton Marsalis, Byron Wallen, Julian Joseph and Gary Crosby. Her recent research centers on improvisation which incorporates African principles as well as shifting to generating audience centric experiences through Texterritory which involves the integration of cell phone technology.