2023-2024 Guest Lecture Series

Tuesday, October 10th, at 6:00pm – CAS 211
Professor Zeynep Çelik Alexander

Associate Professor of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University
Lecture: “Paper Beats Rock: The Imperial Institute’s Media.”

Merely six months after its pompous opening in 1893, the Imperial Institute in London was called a “white elephant” by the press. The giant complex had been constructed to help fulfill the British empire’s ambitions for “systematic colonization.” It was designed as a vast “database” that facilitated trade by collecting, storing, and disseminating information about colonial products. Yet, despite the ambitiousness of its architecture, its galleries remained empty, and its mission was soon deemed unrealizable. This talk tries to make sense of this “failure” by considering the building as the last instance of a nineteenth-century project of spatializing information in space. The “paper” of print and film, it turns out, would beat the “rock” of architecture in structuring and circulating information in the twentieth century.

Sponsored by the Boston University Center for the Humanities

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