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Prof. Dzenko to Lecture in University of Vienna Series “Air: Perspectives from the Environmental and Medical Humanities”

Corey Dzenko, Ph.D., associate professor of art history in the department of Art and Design, will present a virtual lecture in the University of Vienna’s ongoing series “Air: Perspectives from the Environmental and Medical Humanities” on June 13. This lecture series is open to the public and is part of a larger project funded by the FWF (Der Wissenschaftsfonds, or Austrian Science Fund).

As an art historian, Dzenko was invited to talk about visual representations of air and pandemics. She will present her paper, “Rumpled Bed Sheets and Online Mourning: Social Photography and the COVID-19 Pandemic.” In this paper, Dzenko will explore two photographic projects from New York City and the nearby region, both created early during the pandemic and made public virtually: documentary photographer Haruka Sakaguchi’s Quarantine Diary and curator and writer Marvin Heiferman’s ongoing Instagram account @whywelook.

Haruka Sakaguchi, image from Quarantine Diary, April 15, 2020, captioned: “Five more days left of this project. I wonder if documenting the past month has accomplished anything. Has it held me accountable in any way? Or has it exacerbated my fear that I would, in fact, lose my mind during quarantine? All the matters is, I have yet to spend an entire week in bed.”

Sakaguchi began her month-long diary on March 20, 2020, the day New York state governor Andrew Cuomo announced his forthcoming “lockdown” mandate. A history of depression compelled Sakaguchi to take at least one photograph daily to help herself cope with the lockdown while living alone in NYC. She posted Quarantine Diary to her website and shared some of her images during her takeover of The New Yorker’s Instagram account. Heiferman, whose husband, cultural historian Maurice Berger, died from COVID-19 complications on March 22, 2020, has used Instagram to mourn, turning to photography when words failed him.

In both instances, Sakaguchi and Heiferman addressed personal trauma publicly online, and, in doing so, created a collective environment for viewers to do similarly. By examining photography’s role in such mourning, Dzenko exposes the social life of photography, along with the ways the politics of identity and place have impacted the unfolding and effects of this global pandemic.

Marvin Heiferman, Instagram post from @whywelook, December 19, 2021, captioned: “Thinking, not sleeping.”

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