Speaker/Event

Sandy Isenstadt
Art History, University of Delaware
Turned on by a Touch: The Light Switch and Everyday Life

Date

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Time

6:00 pm – 8:00 pm

Place

38 West 86th Street, Lecture Hall

212.501.3019, academicevents@bgc.bard.edu

Description

Sandy Isenstadt will be coming to speak at the Modern Design History Seminar on Wednesday, December 3, 2014, at the Bard Graduate Center in New York City. His talk is entitled “Turned on by a Touch: The Light Switch and Everyday Life.” 

Sandy Isenstadt is Professor of Art History at the University of Delaware, where he is also the Director of the Center for Material Culture Studies. He received his BA in Architecture from Washington University in St. Louis, his Master of Architecture from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and his PhD in History, Theory, and Criticism of Architecture from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Prior to his appointment at University of Delaware, Isenstadt was Assistant Professor at Yale University (2002-2009) and University of Kentucky (1998-2001), and a practicing architect.  In 2009-2010, he was a member of the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey.  Isenstadt’s research and publications have focused on post-World War II reformulations of modernism by émigré architects, such as Richard Neutra, Josep Lluis Sert, and Henry Klumb; visual polemics in the urban proposals of Leon Krier and Rem Koolhaas; and histories of American refrigerators, picture windows, landscape views, and real estate appraisal. His first book, The Modern American House: Spaciousness and Middle-Class Identity (New York and London: Cambridge University Press, 2006), describes the visual enhancement of spaciousness in the architectural, interior, and landscape design of American domestic architecture. Modernism and the Middle East: Politics of the Built Environment, co-editor, Kishwar Rizvi (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2008), is the first book-length treatment of modern architecture in the Middle East. Current projects include "Electric Modernism," a study of the cultural reception of electric lighting, and "The Rise and Fall of Modern Shopping," which focuses on the spatial infrastructure of shopping as it changed from the Renaissance through today.

One of the most visually startling and personally empowering actions at the start of the twentieth century was to switch on an electric light. To do so was to suggest, however inchoately, a realm where anyone ruled like a god, capable of suddenly willing worlds into presence with nothing more than an outstretched finger. While the national grid is well recognized as an engineering landmark, electricity's ready availability "at the touch of a button" brought a particle of drama into ordinary households, however much it eventually descended into plain convenience. The switch—whether toggle or dial, binary, incremental or continuously variable—an amalgam of technology and cultural practice and the interface between an individual and a force of nature, is central to the story of electric lighting and, at the same time, easy to overlook.

Light refreshments will be served at 5:45 pm. The presentation will begin at 6:00 pm.

RSVP is required. Please click on the registration link at the bottom of this page or contact academicevents@bgc.bard.edu.

PLEASE NOTE that our Lecture Hall can only accommodate a limited number of people, so please come early if you would like to have a seat in the main room. Registrants who arrive late may be seated in an overflow viewing area.

To live-stream this and other special academic events at BGC, please visit BGCTV, our online live-streaming channel.

To join the discussion remotely via Twitter, either with questions or comments, please use the Twitter hashtag #BardGradCenterTV. During the presentation, the faculty convener will review this feed and ask the speaker questions drawn from Twitter.


Academic Programs, Seminar Series / Modern Design History Seminar