Being David Joselit
19 May 2016

No. 13—Being David Joselit, 2009

From 6 until 8 pm on Thursday, April 30, 2009, Mary Ellen Carroll was being David Joselit, Professor and Chair of the History of Art Department at Yale. Joselit was the opening speaker for the conference/symposium Our Literal Speed in Chicago. This was the second venue of the three part “media pop opera” or “administrative gesamtkunstwerk.” The Chicago conference was organized by Matthew Jesse Jackson, professor of Art History at the University of Chicago, Andrew Perchuk, Contemporary Programs and Research, The Getty Research Institute, Christopher P. Heuer, Assistant Professor in Art History, Princeton in consult with an international network of European and American colleagues.

On April 8, 2009 David Joselit presented “Time Batteries” a talk that focused on duration and included the work of Mary Ellen Carroll at Light/Industry in Brooklyn, New York. Six months prior to the talk, Joselit contacted Carroll about screening her film Alas, Poor Yorick! for this talk. Following the meeting with Joselit, Carroll wrote notes under the subject category of resemblance in her index system for making work. She made a note to add a new work to the doppelgänger tapes and to add three new subject categories, reenactment, embarrassment and humility. Being David Joselit would be a main work under the subject of resemblance and a cross reference was made under the new subject headings. The notes for the work are as follows:

Be a noted contemporary art historian who is not a plodder of the canon, but who actually has an intellectual curiosity and is generative of cultural capital in this manner; who’s age is under 50 and has written about or made a presentation on the work of Mary Ellen Carroll within the past year.

An overview of the process and performance written by Carroll appeared in the journal Art Lies.

Being David Joselit at Our Literal Speed. Photo by Eric Wenzel

Being David Joselit at Our Literal Speed. Photo by Eric Wenzel

It was then that whatever demarcation of togetherness had initially been achieved in distinguishing a group in-the-know from one not in the know—students, non-art historians, those of us who did not attend the first iteration of OLS at Karlsruhe, Germany—quickly disintegrated. For one began to wonder, as Gregg Bordowitz stated, who exactly was the target of this gag. The tone was set that first night as tense and cautionary, though there was an excitement too. People were talking and perhaps with more freedom than they would have if Joselit had been at the podium. As the days progressed I began to wonder whether the kind of community forged out of that initial pulling-apart wasn’t actually something very like togetherness after all. No one said that togetherness was supposed to feel good.

Special thanks to Seth McCormick.