Freyja Hartzell will speak in the Work in Progress series on Monday, October 5, 2015. Her talk is entitled “The Glass Sliver: Transparency and Dystopia in German Design.”

Freyja Hartzell is Assistant Professor of Modern Design History at Bard Graduate Center. Previously, Dr. Hartzell was Assistant Professor of Material and Visual Culture in the School of Art and Design History and Theory at Parsons School of Design. She has also taught the history of art and design at the MA Program in Design History and Curatorial Studies at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, and in the Department of Art & Art History at Wesleyan University. Dr. Hartzell holds a BA with honors in Art & Art History from Grinnell College, as well as MAs from the Bard Graduate Center and Yale University, where she received her PhD in the History of Art in 2012. Her research and teaching span topics in the history of European art, design, and architecture from 1750 through the present day, with special emphasis on German visual and material culture of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Dr. Hartzell’s book-in-progress—Designs on the Body: The Modern Art of Richard Riemerschmid—revises canonical conceptions of modernism through a study of Munich artist Richard Riemerschmid’s early twentieth-century designs for housewares, interiors, and clothing. She has published articles in Fashion Theory, The Journal of Modern Craft, Interiors, and Centropa. Her research has been supported by the Berlin Program for Advanced German and European Studies, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the Central European History Society, and the Wolfsonian Museum. She is currently pursuing a second book project provisionally titled, The Emperor’s New Clothes: Material Politics in Modern Design, on conceptual and material aspects of transparency and opacity in design and architecture and their cultural politics in international modernism.

Professor Hartzell will present a portion of that project in her Work in Progress talk. “Glass is such a hard, smooth material to which nothing can be fixed,” wrote German cultural critic Walter Benjamin in 1933. “Glass is the enemy of secrets. It is also the enemy of possession.” For Benjamin, glass was a utopian substance: it was the clarifying antidote to the cloying, plush interiors that had lulled the private individual of the nineteenth century into dangerous complacency vis-à-vis public events. But glass was also an “enemy”: it was resistant, hardhearted. Embedded in the utopian history of glass is a sliver of violence: the compulsion to expose andpierce in the name of “freedom.” Examining a spectrum of objects including woodblock prints, ceramic sculpture, utilitarian glassware, and public architecture the talk argues for transparency’s ambivalence in modern German culture from the late Wilhelmine Empire through the Third Reich.

RSVP is required.