Closing thoughts at the end of my ICI internship

Written by Intern on August 23rd, 2016

The end of the summer is approaching, and, sadly, so is my time working with the ICI. I came in as the Curatorial Assistant Intern, to help with the operations for the current project “With Everything but the Monkey Head.”

I’ve learned a lot about why curation is essential for a project of this scale. While also learning how essential it is to communicate information visually, particularly for the public and curious spectators beyond the doors of the Institute.

I must say that I came to the ICI intrigued, knowing very little about the organization itself and its mission. By now, I can confidently say that I may have some small idea about the driving mission for ICI, although it remains very open for interpretation. This is a richly introspective space that the organization operates out of, a space that encourages different modes of thought.

I am very grateful and humbled to have had this opportunity, and look forward to taking what I’ve learned here with me as I move on to future ventures.

All best,

Post script: The library here is incredible! I’ve spent a lot of time here admiring the expansive book collection.


Updates from my time thus far at ICI

Written by Intern on July 1st, 2016


My time at ICI has thus far been quite interesting, as I learn more and more about the organization through their current project series With Everything but the Monkey Head. 

Thus far I’ve been happy to meet two of our artists in residence, Anna Ayeroff and Antoinette LaFarge who have been working on their respective pieces for the ICI project program. This residency program is very intensive, and under very specific time constraints so I’ve translated and transcribed a lot of our project deadlines into solid dates so we have a more regimented schedule to go by. I’ve also been reaching out to different public outlets to notify them of these upcoming events at ICI where we invite the public to come join us on each individual artist’s finissage for the project. I even had the opportunity to sit in on important conversations that have taken place with the artists and staff that will contribute towards their projects.

It’s been rewarding to learn more about the organization, even inspiring, as I continue to question my role as an artist and researcher, and how important the artistic ‘process’ may be, rather than a finished product. I’m grateful to be a part of these conversations and use the information as a tool for my own practice moving forward. I’m very eager and excited to see what awaits for the rest of this summer as the project continues to unfold!



An Introduction

Written by Intern on June 9th, 2016

My name is Dareen Hussein and I am the new curatorial assistant intern at The Institute of Cultural Inquiry for Summer 2016!

I recently graduated from the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) with a BFA in Photography & Media. My most recent project, titled A Partial Restoration of the Palestine Archaeological Museum interrogates the history of the former Palestine Archaeological Museum through the collection of archival materials and ephemera acquired online. The project serves as an active restoration of this former museum, while the overarching goal is rooted in creating a space to research and construct a cohesive Palestinian archive.

The project in large part aligns with my own personal questions concerning representation, visuality, and history, and how these concepts relate with one another. That being said, I’m excited to work at the ICI this summer, and to learn more about the organization itself and how my experiences here could help form new answers to my questions.



Welcome to Christian Smith

Written by institute on April 27th, 2016


Christian Smith in the ICI garden where he begins to build a portable darkroom that he’ll use for his contribution to the ICI’s current long-term project – With Everything But the Monkey Head: theorizing art’s untheorizable processes. Christian will be working behind the scenes for most of May, eventually cobbling together, in addition to the outdoor darkroom,  a large format camera which he’ll use to create wet plate photographic images from century-old techniques. Watch for his ‘formal’  Monkey Head residency (as we affectionately call the project) where he’ll share his unique research with the public—this event to occur sometime in June of this year.


Barthes, the Sensualist

Written by Intern on April 12th, 2016

When I began this fellowship, I was more invested in interrogating why Barthes’ strange, middling work had endured than affirming its position as the pinnacle of photography theory. Not only is Camera Lucida subjective, but it is also dense, meandering, partial, and unfocused — the opposite of what theory is supposed to be.

I’ve been researching the broader implications of Camera Lucida; how it has been received over time both in and outside of strictly academic settings; what exactly went into writing the book, and whether or not any of the claims in the book at all can be confirmed or justified. I find, part of the value of the book is its shock value — how radical of a departure the book was from Barthes’ previous work, especially his early work in semiotics. Readers were expecting to find an exhaustive guide to reading the “language” of photography, but instead found an elegiac, and at times deeply personal, journal on photography, death, and the loss of Barthes’ own mother.

Much of my research so far suggests that Barthes’ approach to Camera Lucida probably wasn’t very well thought out. He references photographs that seemingly don’t exist, confuses dates, and seemingly pulls everything from memory rather than going about his writing methodically. Likewise, it seems like he pulls the vast majority of his photographs from shockingly few sources, which suggests that he references these particular photographs out of convenience rather than any substantive deliberation. At times, quite literally, it seems like he’s making it up as he goes along. For somebody in the process of trying to track down all of the loose ends that the book leaves, this is a baffling and frustrating combination.

In spite of all of this, the book has endured not only in the popular imagination but also in my own thoughts. Barthes set out with an impossible thesis to begin with, to affirm the subjectivity of photography. In thinking about why Barthes’ work has endured, the novelty of the work itself is important to consider. Barthes wrote something unclassifiable, at once a journal, an elegy, and an essay. Concepts like studium and punctum have had a curiously long half-life in part, probably, because the book itself is so unique.

In trying to classify exactly what Camera Lucida is, I revert back to the formal, antiquated use of the word essay, which more or less means an attempt: Camera Lucida seems like an attempt to make sense of why some photographs haunt us and some don’t, about why photographs have a hold on each of us in an entirely unique way. Like the photographs themselves, Camera Lucida seems to haunt. For better or for worse, it sticks around.

— Jeremy