Diana Taylor and Deborah Willis, who both have appointments in New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and its Faculty of Arts and Science (FAS), have been awarded fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.
As a Guggenheim fellow, Taylor will explore political spectatorship in the Americas. She will examine how spectatorship functions as a political act-whether it’s live in front of an audience, televised for a mass audience, or transmitted online. Taylor will study elections, political demonstrations, infomercials, and other forms of political spectacles to explore how spectatorship is constituted, the overlaps between embodied and mediated seeing, and how the mass media and digital technologies complicate previous notions of “liveness,” presence, aura, charisma, identification, participation, and human agency. She will draw from current political spectacles occurring throughout the Americas.
Chair of Tisch’s Department of Performance Studies and a professor in FAS’s Department of Spanish and Portuguese, Taylor has written The Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas (2003), Disappearing Acts: Spectacles of Gender and Nationalism in Argentina’s Dirty War (1997), and Theatre of Crisis: Drama and Politics in Latin America (1991). Taylor is also the founding director of the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics, which is funded by the Ford and Rockefeller foundations.
As a Guggenheim fellow, Willis will focus on the visual culture of African American women in early 20th century photographs (1900-1930). She will research and analyze how the camera was the central instrument by which black women could disprove societal misrepresentation. Willis’s thesis is that through text and images black photographers and black women worked together to expose the injustices their communities experienced and used photography to challenge misrepresentation more than 30 years after the end of slavery.
Willis’s publications include Family, History, and Memory: Recording African-American Life (2005), Reflections in Black: A History of Black Photographers, 1840 to the Present (2000), and, with Carla Williams, The Black Female Body: A Photographic History (2002). In addition to her work as a historian of African American photography, Willis is a professional art photographer whose works have been exhibited across the United States. She is a professor in Tisch’s Department of Photography and Imaging and part of the faculty at FAS’s Africana Studies program.