Traces considers the markings, echoes, or remnants that record the fleeting existence of an event, thing, or person. In most cases, the traces we value are those that can be verified and validated, and thereby formally documented within established systems of legitimization. With recent advances in artificial intelligence especially, what was previously considered to be evidence can no longer evade our rightful caution and suspicion. A photograph, for example, cannot automatically be assumed to be a factual and objective documentation of a live event—and now neither can a voice recording, video, or signature. Under this crisis of truth, we must reevaluate and reconsider what traces we can trust and what knowledge we can depend on.
Some of the questions we will ask: What can previously overlooked traces tell us about past people, places, things, and events? What new forms of knowledge can be produced by paying attention to those traces that we previously looked past? How must we rethink the representation we trust to hold truth in the current age of falsification? What new literacies must we develop to become more attuned to the latent yet unseen traces around us? Does every object, event, or person leave a trace? How can we learn to see the unseen? Can knowledge about the traces left behind be more impactful than knowledge about the thing itself? How can we become more aware of the traces we leave behind, whether they are social, emotional, environmental, ecological, etc?
This Salon took place on September 19, 2023
Crystal Z Campbell, is a multidisciplinary artist, experimental filmmaker, and writer of Black, Filipinx, and Chinese descents. Campbell finds complexity in public secrets—fragments of information known by many but undertold or unspoken. Campbell’s works use underloved archival material to consider historical gaps in the narrative of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, revisit questions of immortality and medical ethics with Henrietta Lacks’ “immortal” cell line, and salvage a 35mm film from a demolished Black activist theater in Brooklyn as a relic of gentrification. Select honors include a 2022 Creative Capital award, Guggenheim Fellowship in Fine Arts, Harvard Radcliffe Fellowship, Pollock-Krasner Award, Rijksakademie, and Whitney ISP. Exhibitions and screenings include Artists Space, MOMA, Drawing Center, SFMOMA, ICA-Philadelphia, REDCAT, SculptureCenter, and Berlinale Forum Expanded. Campbell was a featured filmmaker at the 67th Flaherty Film Seminar, and their film, REVOLVER, received the Silver Hugo at the Chicago International Film Festival. Campbell is currently a Visiting Associate Professor in Art and Media Study at the University at Buffalo and lives in New York and Oklahoma.
Sarah Stewart Johnson’s research is driven by the underlying goal of understanding the presence and preservation of biosignatures within planetary environments. Her lab is also involved in the implementation of planetary exploration, analyzing data from current spacecraft as well as devising new techniques for future missions. A former Rhodes Scholar and White House Fellow, she received her Ph.D. from MIT and has worked on NASA’s Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity Rovers. She is also a visiting scientist with the Planetary Environments Lab at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Her recent book, The Sirens of Mars, was a New York Times Editor’s Choice and selected as one of the New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2020.
Susan Meiselas is a documentary photographer based in New York. She is the author of Carnival Strippers (1976), Nicaragua (1981), Kurdistan: In the Shadow of History (1997), Pandora’s Box (2001), Encounters with the Dani (2003), Prince Street Girls (2016), A Room Of Their Own (2017), Tar Beach (2020), and Carnival Strippers Revisited (2022).
Meiselas is well known for her documentation of human rights issues in Latin America. Her photographs are included in North American and international collections. In 1992 she was made a MacArthur Fellow, received a Guggenheim Fellowship (2015), and most recently the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize (2019) and the first Women in Motion Award from Kering and the Rencontres d’Arles. Mediations, a survey exhibition of her work from the 1970s to the present was recently exhibited at the Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Jeu de Paume, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Instituto Moreira Salles in São Paulo, Kunst Haus Wien, C/O Berlin, Kunstmuseum Magdeburg, and FOMU in Antwerp.
She has been the President of the Magnum Foundation since 2007, with a mission to expand diversity and creativity in documentary photography.
Director and Professor of Historic Preservation at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, Jorge Otero-Pailos is an architect, artist, and theorist specializing in experimental forms of preservation. He is the founder and editor of the journal Future Anterior, co-editor of Experimental Preservation (2016) author of Architecture’s Historical Turn (2010) as well as a contributor to scholarly journals and books including the Oxford Encyclopedia of Aesthetics and Rem Koolhaas’ Preservation Is Overtaking Us (2014). Jorge Otero-Pailos is a member of the Academy of Arts and Sciences of Puerto Rico, and has received awards from major art, architecture, and preservation organizations, including the Kress Foundation, the Graham Foundation, the Fitch Foundation, the Canadian Center for Architecture, UNESCO, and the American Institute of Architects. He studied architecture at Cornell University and earned a doctorate in architecture at M.I.T. Jorge Otero-Pailos’s work as an artist has been commissioned by and exhibited at major heritage sites, museums, foundations, and biennials, including Artangel’s public art commission at the UK Parliament, the Venice Art Biennial, Victoria and Albert Museum, Louis Vuitton Galerie Museum, Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, SFMoMA, Hong Kong’s Tai Kwun Centre for Heritage and Arts, Frieze London, and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. He is the recipient of a 2021-22 American Academy in Rome Residency in the visual arts.
Christiaan Triebert is a journalist with The New York Times’ Visual Investigations team, which combines traditional reporting with digital sleuthing and open source methods, and a Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton University. Prior to joining The Times, he was a senior investigator and lead trainer at the investigative group Bellingcat and gave workshops on open source investigation throughout Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America. Triebert has shared two Pulitzer Prizes for investigations that revealed basic flaws in the U.S. military’s dismissal of civilian casualty claims, and that exposed Russian bombing of hospitals in Syria.
Dragan Espenschied is Preservation Director at Rhizome, stewarding ArtBase, a collection of more than 2200 works of digital art and net art. With a background in net activism, net art, and electronic music, Espenschied’s activities as a conservator are mostly focused on infrastructure and field-wide action concerning web archiving, emulation, and linked open data, rather than singular artworks.
Lawrence Abu Hamdan is a Private Ear, listening to, with and on behalf of people affected by corporate, state, and environmental violence. Abu Hamdan’s work has been presented in the form of forensic reports, lectures and live performances, films, publications, and exhibitions all over the world. He received his PhD in 2017 and has held fellowships and professorships at the University of Chicago, the New School, New York and most recently at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz where he developed his research. Abu Hamdan’s audio investigations have been used as evidence at the UK Asylum and Immigration Tribunal and been a key part of advocacy campaigns for organisations such as Amnesty International, Defence for Children International and Forensic Architecture. His projects that reflect on the political and cultural context of sound and listening have been presented at the 22nd Biennale of Sydney, the 58th Venice Biennale, the 11th Gwangju Biennale, the 13th and 14th Sharjah Biennial, Witte De With, Rotterdam, Tate Modern Tanks, Chisenhale Gallery, Hammer Museum L.A and the Portikus Frankfurt. These works are part of collections at Reina Sofia, MoMA, Guggenheim, Hamburger Bahnhof, Van AbbeMuseum, Centre Pompidou and Tate Modern.
Katja Heitmann investigates in her visual-choreographic work what moves humankind in the current era. Katja Heitmann’s choreographic work consists of extreme aesthetics, in sharp contrast to human fallibility. Her minimalistic and minutely designed imagery confronts viewers with a frantic flood of insights. This distinct, perceptible tension returns in all her work. As a choreographic sculptor, Katja is constantly searching for the core of her material. By means of radical concepts and well-considered forms of performance, she strips her artistic material of any noise. Only that what really matters is shown with astonishing sharpness. In every detail of her work lies the grand gesture. Katja Heitmann wants to move her audience. Through her work she constantly seeks interaction with society, with the city, with people. The universal character of her work makes it possible for anyone who wants to find their own entrance to the work. Katja Heitmann creates unique performance installations and theatrical exhibitions that appeal to an astonishingly varied audience and regularly brings them to tears. In 2016 Katja was awarded the Prize of the Dutch Dance Festival. In 2020 she was honoured with the prestigious Gieskes Strijbis Podium-award.
Stefan Helmreich is an anthropologist who studies how scientists in oceanography, biology, acoustics, and computer science define and theorize their objects of study, particularly as these objects — waves, life, sound, code — reach their conceptual limits. A Book of Waves (Duke University Press, 2023) details how scientists at sea and in the lab monitor and model ocean waves, seeking to capture in technical language these forces of nature at once periodic and irreversible, wild and pacific, ephemeral and eternal. The book includes reflections on waves in mythology, surf culture, feminist and queer theory, film, Indigenous Pacific activisms, Black Atlantic history, and cosmology. Helmreich’s previous ethnography, Alien Ocean: Anthropological Voyages in Microbial Seas (University of California Press, 2009), is a study of marine biologists working in realms usually out of sight and reach: the microscopic world, the deep sea, and oceans outside national sovereignty.
Susan Schuppli is a researcher and artist based in the UK whose work examines material evidence from war and conflict to environmental disasters and climate change. Current work is focused on learning from ice and the politics of cold. Creative projects have been exhibited throughout Europe, Asia, Canada, and the US. She has published widely within the context of media and politics and is author of the book, Material Witness published by MIT Press in 2020. Schuppli is Professor and Director of the Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths University of London where she is also an affiliate artist-researcher and Board Chair of Forensic Architecture. Previously she was Senior Research Fellow and Project Co-ordinator of Forensic Architecture. Prior to working in the UK she was an Associate Professor in visual/media arts in Canada. Schuppli received her PhD from Goldsmiths and participated in the Whitney Independent Study Program after completing her MFA at the University of California San Diego. She is the recipient of the 2016 ICP Infinity Award.
Former Deputy Director and Lead Researcher of Forensic Architecture (FA), Christina joined the FA team in 2014 and held a variety of roles, from leading investigations and overseeing research and the development of new methodologies, to setting up office structures. She was trained as an architect, and has taught a Diploma unit (MArch) at the Architectural Association (2018-2020). She was also a member of the Technology Advisory Board for the International Criminal Court (2018). Currently, Christina is a Lecturer of Forensic Architecture at the Centre for Research Architecture, at Goldsmiths, University of London, as well as pursuing her PhD at Aarhus University where her research focuses on biopolitics and imaging of the human body. She has received the Novo Nordisk Foundation Mads Øvlisen PhD Scholarship for Practice-based Artistic Research and is also a fellow at Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, where she co-curated the Forensic Architecture exhibition Witnesses. She is a founding member and the chair of the board of Forensis.
Caro Verbeek is an embedded researcher of olfactory heritage at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, the Rijksmuseum and International Flavours & Fragrances. Trained as an art historian she specialises in sensory art and education in museums, art academies and universities. She has 10+ years of experience curating exhibitions and conserving collections (prints, drawings and scents). Verbeek creates olfactory tours and interventions for museums (Rijksmuseum, Van Abbemuseum, Bijbels Museum, Amsterdam Museum) and is determined to alter the way we think about and document ephemeral history and to create a language and sensory skills to do so. Her PhD project “In Search of Lost Scents - Reconstructing the Aromatic Heritage of the Avant-garde’ was widely discussed in (international) media during the exhibition "Aromatic Art (Re-)constructed” dd. 23.02.2017 - 23.05.2017 where people were able to smell the Battle of Waterloo, an 18th century canal house, medieval prayer nuts (all created by IFF), and Futurist and Surrealist olfactory works of art.
Benjamin, Walter. “Theses on the Philosophy of History.” 1942. (Available online)
Bergson, Henri. Matter and Memory. Trans. N.M. Paul and W.S. Palmer. New York: Zone Books, 1988.
Derrida, Jacques. Of Grammatology. Paris: Les Éditions de Minuit, 1967.
Derrida, Jacques. Writing and Difference. Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1967.
Routledge, Bruce. “An Archaeology of Traces.” Cambridge Archaeological Journal (September 13, 2023): 1-14. (Available online)
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. “Jacques Derrida.” (Available online)
ON INVESTIGATING TRACES
Blythe, Finn. “Overlapping Lines: Lawrence Abu Hamdan Interviewed by Finn Blythe.” BOMB Magazine. February 13, 2023. (Available online)
Burney, Ian. “Our Environment in Miniature: Dust and the Early Twentieth-Century Forensic Imagination.” Representations 121, no. 1 (Winter 2013): 31-59. (Available online)
Conan Doyle, Arthur. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. London: George Newnes, 1892.
“Exchange Principle.” ScienceDirect. 2017. (Available online)
Gershon, Livia. “The Mystery of Crime-Scene Dust.” Jstor Daily. June 27, 2023. (Available online)
Murphy, Kate. “Contact Tracing Is Harder Than It Sounds.” The New York Times. May 23, 2020. (Available online)
Shuster, Simon. “The World’s Most Famous Private Detective Makes No Apologies.” Time Magazine, September 10, 2021. (Available online)
Valk, Diana. “How Forensic Techniques Aid Archaeology.” Jstor Daily. May 6, 2015. (Available online)
ON TRACING HISTORY THROUGH PHOTOGRAPHY
Arsic, Branka. “Keeping Memory: On Eduardo Cadava’s ‘Paper Graveyards.’” Los Angeles Review of Books. April 17, 2022. (Available online)
Azoulay, Ariella Aïsha. Potential History: Unlearning Imperialism. London and New York City: Verso Books, 2019.
Azoulay, Ariella Aïsha. Different Ways Not to Say Deportation. Vancouver: Fillip Editions, 2013. (Available online)
Cadava, Eduardo. Words of Light: Theses on the Photography of History. Princeton University Press: Princeton, 1997. (Available online)
De Cauwer, Stijn. “Ariella Aïsha Azoulay and Georges Didi-Huberman: the persistence of lost worlds.” Journal of Aesthetics and Culture 13, no. 1 (November 10, 2021). (Available online)
Desnoes, Edmundo. “The Death System.” In History. New York: International Center of Photography, 2008.
Dia Art Foundation. “Tiffany Sia on An-My Lê.” May 17, 2023. (Available online)
Focht, Maiya. “A secret bomb and ruined film: Why the US government only told Kodak it was going to test nuclear bombs.” Insider. July 25, 2023. (Available online)
Meiselas, Susan. Learn to See. delpire & co: Paris, 2021.
ON UNCOVERING TRACES THROUGH ARCHITECTURE
Feng, Rhoda. “Investigative Aesthetics: Eyal Weizman Interviewed by Rhoda Feng.” BOMB Magazine. November 9, 2021. (Available online)
Frichot, Hélène. Dirty Theory: Troubling Architecture. Baunach: Art Architecture Design Research, 2019. (Introduction available online)
Otero-Pailos, Jorge. “The Ambivalence of Smoke: Pollution and Modern Architectural Historiography.” Grey Room 44, (2011): 90-113. (Available with access)
Otero-Pailos, Jorge. The Ethics of Dust. Köln: Walther König, 2009. (Excerpt available online)
Weizman, Eyal. Forensic Architecture: Violence at the Threshold of Detectability. New York: Zone Books, 2017. (Available with access)
Weizman, Eyal and Matthew Fuller. Investigative Aesthetics: Conflicts and Commons in the Politics of Truth. London and New York: Verso Books, 2021.
Weizman, Ines. Dust & Data: Traces of the Bauhaus Across 100 Years. Leipzig: Spector Books, 2019. (Lecture on the book available online)
Wigley, Mark. “The Excremental Interior.” e-flux Architecture. September 2022. (Available online)
Katchadourian, Nina. Dust Gathering: An Audio+ Experience. An audio tour by Nina Katchadourian. New York: Museum of Modern Art, October 21, 2016 through October 1, 2017. (Available online)
ON DIGITAL TRACES
Amanda Darrach, “How the New York Times verified the Iran missile-strike footage,” Columbia Journalism Review, January 15, 2020. (Available online)
Cerf, Vint and Dragan Espenschied. “Preservation by Accident is Not a Plan.” Rhizome. May 30, 2017. (Available online)
Idrees Ahmad, “Bellingcat and How Open Source Reinvented Investigative Journalism,” The New York Review of Books, June 10, 2019. (Available online)
Knight, Sam. “Adam Curtis Explains It All.” The New Yorker. January 28, 2021. (Available online)
Raja Abdulrahim, Patrick Kingsley, Christiaan Triebert and Hiba Yazbek, “The Killing of Shireen Abu Akleh: Tracing a Bullet to an Israeli Convoy,” The New York Times, June 20, 2022. (Available online)
National Gallery of Art. “Visibility Machines: A Conversation with Harun Farocki and Trevor Paglen.” November 4, 2014. (Available online)
Triebert, Christiaan, Blacki Migliozzi, Alexander Cardia, Muyi Xiao, and David Botti. “Fake Signals and American Insurance: How a Dark Fleet Moves Russian Oil.” The New York Times, May 30, 2023. (Available online)
Triebert, Christiaan, Christoph Koettl, and Ainara Tiefenthäler. “How Strava’s Heat Map Uncovers Military Bases.” The New York Times, January 30, 2018. (Available online)
Yousur Al-Hlou, Masha Froliak, Dmitriy Khavin, Christoph Koettl, Haley Willis, Alexander Cardia, Natalie Reneau and Malachy Browne, “Caught on Camera, Traced by Phone: The Russian Military Unit That Killed Dozens in Bucha,” The New York Times, December 22, 2022. (Available online)
TRACES OF LIFE
Hassan, Adeel. “Overlooked – Henrietta Lacks.” The New York Times. March 8, 2018. (Available online)
Johnson, Sarah Stewart. The Sirens of Mars: Searching for Life on Another World. New York: Crown Publishing Group, 2020.
Johnson, Sarah Stewart. “Why Frigid Mars Is the Perfect Place to Look for Ancient Life.” The New York Times. February 17, 2021. (Available online)
Knoll, Andrew H. Life on a Young Planet: The First Three Billion Years of Evolution on Earth. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015.
National Institute of Justice. “The Forensic Microbiome: The Invisible Traces We Leave Behind.” June 7, 2021. (Available online)
O’Grady, Cathleen. “Cities have their own distinct microbial fingerprints.” Science. May 26, 2021. (Available online)
Scholes, Sarah. “The Search for Extraterrestrial Life as We Don’t Know It.” Scientific American. February 1, 2023. (Available online)
Skloot, Rebecca. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. New York: Crown Publishing Group, 2011.
Yehuda, Rachel. “How Parents’ Trauma Leaves Biological Traces in Children.” Scientific American. July 1, 2022. (Available online)
ON USING TRACES TO CHALLENGE THE PRODUCTION OF HISTORY
Bertischi, Denise, Julien Lafontaine Carboni, and Nitin Bathla. Unearthing Traces: Dismantling Imperialist Entanglements of Archives, Landscapes, and the Built Environment. Lausanne, Switzerland: EPFL Press, 2023. (Available online)
Campbell, Crystal Z. “99 Years After the Tulsa Race Massacre, an Artist Reflects.” Hyperallergic. June 1, 2020.
Gates Jr., Henry Louis. Finding Your Roots. PBS. Originally released March 25, 2012. (Available online)
Gross, Jenny. “What Did Europe Smell Like Centuries Ago? Historians Set Out to Recreate Lost Scents.” The New York Times. November 18, 2020. (Available online)
Haigney, Sophie. “What Does History Smell Like?” The New York Times. December 4, 2020. (Available online)
Hartman, Saidiya. “Venus in Two Acts.” Small Axe 12, no. 2 (June 1, 2008): 1-14. (Available online)
Mbembe, Achille. “The Power of the Archive and its Limits.” In Refiguring the Archive edited by Carolyn Hamilton, Verne Harris, Jane Taylot, Michele Pickover, Graeme Reid, and Razia Saleh, 19-27. Berlin: Springer Dordrecht, 2002. (Available online)
moore, madison. “DARK ROOM. Sleaze and the Queer Archive.” Contemporary Theatre Review 31, no.1-2 (May 19, 2021): 191-196. (Available online)
Poll, Zoey. “Turning the Gestures of Everyday Life Into Art.” The New York Times. January 8, 2023. (Available online)
ON MATERIAL TRACES IN THE ENVIRONMENT
Helmreich, Stefan. A Book of Waves. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2023.
Henni, Samia. “Jerboasite: Naming French Radioactive Matter in the Sahara.” e-flux Architecture, (December 2022). (Available online)
Henni, Samia. Deserts Are Not Empty. New York: Columbia University Press, 2022. (Introduction available online)
Hyde, Timothy. “‘London particular’: the city, its atmosphere and the visibility of its objects.” The Journal of Architecture 21, no. 8 (2016): 1274-1298.
Liboiron, Max. Pollution is Colonialism. Durham: Duke University Press, 2021.
Schuppli, Susan. Material Witness: Media, Forensics, Evidence. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2020.
Schuppli, Susan. “Learning from Ice: Notes from the Field.” In Fieldwork for Future Ecologies / Radical Practice for Art and Art-based Research. Eds. Bridget Crone, Sam Nightingale, and Polly Stanton. Eindhoven: Onomatopee 225: 2022. (Available online)