The University of Chicago News Office
March 31, 2006 Press Contact: Josh Schonwald
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Public art by Helen Mirra appearing across the University of Chicago campus

As part of a three-year Mellon Project that concludes with the conference, “The Fate of Disciplines,” The Franke Institute for the Humanities at the University of Chicago is announcing a public artwork, Instance the determination, by Helen Mirra. The artwork will be up from April 27, 2006 through June 2009.

Mirra's project, Instance the determination, takes the form of 30 brief segments of text, each painted directly on the wall in locations dispersed throughout the academic buildings on the main quadrangle of the University of Chicago campus. These texts are derived from indexes that Mirra has created from two books by authors closely connected to the histories of the University of Chicago and the City of Chicago: John Dewey's Experience and Nature (1925) and Jane Addams' Newer Ideals of Peace (1907). Dewey and Addams were colleagues and close friends. Addams founded the Hull House on Chicago's Near West Side in 1889, and Dewey taught at the University of Chicago from 1894 until 1904.

By turning the index form into a kind of poetry, as well as taking it off the page, Mirra produces an interaction between the practices of art and the practices of scholarship. Recontextualized and architecturally integrated, the mined texts behave not as signifiers back to the source texts, but instead point out into the world at large. They are located in stairwells and hallways in order to be encountered within ordinary movement through the University, and are thereby references for everyday experience. The entries, in their textual isolation and particular sites, come across variously as enigmatic, germane, anomalous and poignant.

Index entries are located in the following buildings: Classics, Gates-Blake, Cobb, Swift, Jones Laboratory, Kent, Anatomy, Ryerson, Eckhart, Walker, Kelly-Beecher-Green, Foster, Social Sciences, Stuart, Harper, Wieboldt and Haskell. On a wall at the Franke Institute for the Humanities, located in the Regenstein Library, can be found the painted citations for the source books. Campus buildings are open weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Mirra's work has been widely exhibited internationally, including group exhibitions at the Kunsthalle Basel, Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam, and the 50th Venice Biennale, and solo exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Berkeley Art Museum, the Renaissance Society, Chicago, and the DAAD Galerie, Berlin. Mirra, who earned her MFA from the University of Illinois, Chicago, was Senior Lecturer in Visual Arts and Cinema & Media Studies at the University of Chicago from 2001 until 2005, and is currently Assistant Professor of Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard.

Mirra's artwork, Instance the determination, is supported by a UChicagoArts grant from the Arts Planning Council and the Franke Institute for the Humanities of the University of Chicago. The Mellon Project on “New Perspectives on the Disciplines: Comparative Studies in Higher Education” is sponsored by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and coordinated by the Franke Institute for the Humanities, directed by James Chandler, the Barbara E. and Richard J. Franke Professor in the Department of English Language & Literature, the Committees on the History of Culture and Cinema & Media Studies, and the College at the University of Chicago.

Related events:

Lunch discussion with Helen Mirra about the artwork Instance the determination, Wednesday, April 26 from 12 to 1 p.m. at Classics 10, 1010 East 58th Street on the University of Chicago campus. (Light refreshments provided.)

Conference session, “The Disciplines and the Arts” Saturday, April 29 from 4 to 6 p.m., with a reception following until 7 p.m. Swift Hall, 1025 E. 58th St. on the University of Chicago campus Moderated by Laura Letinsky, the Chair of the Department of Visual Arts, with Bill Brown, Chair of the Department of English; W.J.T. Mitchell, the Gaylord Donnelley Distinguished Service Professor in English and Art History; and Helen Mirra.
Last modified at 01:21 PM CST on Tuesday, April 25, 2006.

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