The Daniel H. Silberberg Lectures

The Daniel H. Silberberg Lectures, the longest running lecture series at the Institute of Fine Arts, is planned and coordinated by the Graduate Student Association. Art historians, archaeologists and conservators, specializing in a variety of periods and genres are invited to share their latest research with the IFA community and the public. 

The Silberberg lectures are held on selected Tuesdays at 6 p.m. in the Institute's first floor Lecture Hall at 1 East 78th Street. The lectures are free and open to the public. Seating is on a first-come first-served basis.

2013-2014 Theme: Translation

In his seminal essay The Task of the Translator (1923), Walter Benjamin proposed that the “truth-value” of a work of art is revealed only through the act of translation. For Benjamin, an ideal translation is dialogic and transformative rather than prescriptive and formulaic. It constitutes the “afterlife” of a work of art, both acknowledging the changes wrought on the original by the passage of time and allowing the original’s mode of signification to impact the culture of the translation itself. Such transformations, Benjamin proclaims, reveal historical processes, just as they preserve that most essential poetic quality of a work least susceptible to literal transcription.

Yet Benjamin also writes that “all translation is only a somewhat provisional way of coming to terms with the foreignness of languages.” The translated work—whether visual, textual, or other—signals both presence and absence. In attempting to secure the balance between originality and reproduction, fidelity and invention, something is lost, even as something is gained. Or, as Susan Sontag puts it in Being translated (1997), “translation is about differentness,” whether asserted or denied.

The 2013-2014 Silberberg Lecture Series will address the complex role translation plays within the production and interpretation of art—considering how images and objects have been mined and recontextualized across time, space, culture, and medium, as well as exploring the limits of visual communication and literacy in fostering new ways of thinking about appropriation, influence, and audience.


Please check the events calendar for upcoming lectures.


April 22, 2014
Alessandra Russo, Associate Professor, Columbia University
Untranslatable Images?

April 1, 2014
Julia Bryan-Wilson, Associate Professor, University of California, Berkeley
Feminist Figuration

March 11, 2014
Eva Hoffman, Assistant Professor, Tufts University
Connections Far and Wide: Translating Art and Culture in the Medieval Mediterranean World (working title)

Thursday, December 5, 2013
Kaja Silverman, Keith L. and Katherine Sachs Professor of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania
Unstoppable Development

Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Michael Ann Holly, Starr Director Emeritus of the Research and Academic Program, The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute
Painted Silence.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Marie-Helene Girard, Visiting Professor of French, Yale University
"Un autre monde très lointain et très inconnu": British Painters in Paris in 1855

February 12, 2013
Christiane Gruber, Associate Professor of Islamic Art, University of Michigan
Violence's Vestiges: The Martyrs' Museum in Tehran 

April 9, 2013
Richard Clay, Senior Lecturer in the History of Art and Co-Director of the Heritage and Cultural Learning Hub, University of Birmingham (U.K.)
Iconoclasm and Violence in Revolutionary Paris, 1789-1795
Watch this lecture onlineOpen link in new window

May 7, 2013
Robert Hayden, Professor of Anthropology, Law and Public & International Affairs and Director, Russian and East European Studies, University of Pittsburgh
Intersecting Religioscapes: A Comparative Approach to Trajectories of Change, Scale, Competition, Sharing and Violence in Religious Spaces
Watch this lecture onlineOpen link in new window.

January 31, 2012
Stanley Abe, Associate Professor of Art History, Duke University
The Modern Moment of Chinese Sculpture

February 28, 2012
Zainab Bahrani, Edith Porada Professor of Ancient Near Eastern Art and Archaeology, Columbia University
The Double: Difference and Repetition in Ancient Art

March 6, 2012
Michelangelo Sabatino, Associate Professor (and History-Theory Coordinator) at the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture, University of Houston
PRIDE IN MODESTY: Modernist Architecture and the Vernacular Tradition in Italy

March 27, 2012
Francesco de Angelis, Associate Professor in the Department of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University
Looking for Justice: Space, Images, and Attention in the Forum Augustum in Rome 

April 3, 2012
Michael Leja, Professor of Art History, University of Pennsylvania  
Cubism in Bondage:  Morgan Russell's Synchromism

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