Zervigón, Andrés Mario
Phone: (848) 932-1205
Professor Zervigón received his doctorate in art history from Harvard University in 2000. He specializes in the history of photography and concentrates his scholarship on the interaction between photographs, film, and fine art. His work generally focuses upon moments in history when these media prove inadequate to their task of representing the visual.
Zervigón’s book, John Heartfield and the Agitated Image: Photography, Persuasion, and the Rise of Avant-Garde Photomontage (University of Chicago Press, 2012: http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/J/bo12953902.html), situates the famous artist’s images at just such a moment. The book uses the case of Heartfield to propose that photography’s sudden ubiquity in illustrated magazines, postcards, and posters produced an unsettling transformation of visual culture that artists felt compelled to address. Zervigón’s aim is to challenge existing histories of Germany’s inter-war avant-garde that describe the response to mass-photography as an enthusiastic embrace. His study, by contrast, argues that artists like Heartfield turned to the medium specifically because they wished to understand its dangerous capacity to stultify and mislead. Photomontage, “New Vision” photography, and the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) as a whole, Zervigón argues, were essentially strategies devised by Germany’s young artists to salvage, reclaim, and reinvent a medium whose validity had been deeply impugned by its inability to accommodate the multifaceted complexity of modernity.
Zervigón’s second book project "Die Arbeiter-Illustrierte Zeitung -- The Workers' Illustrated Magazine," 1921-1938: A History of Germany's Other Avant-Garde expands this discussion beyond Heartfield to the mass-circulation magazine in which he published his most famous pictures. Committed to an aggressive use of photography for leftist causes, this periodical [known as the AIZ] plied the medium in stunningly innovative ways and ultimately defined the look of photo-weeklies such as Life magazine. Driving this originality, however, was a deep-seated suspicion about images that underlay the German communist political movement this radical magazine sought to popularize. The AIZ’s photographic innovation arose when this anxiety about images met the photograph, the seemingly superficial medium that had otherwise obscured the era’s underlying tumult from vision.
Zervigón’s recently concluded projects have unfolded similar themes. The exhibition he guest-curated at the Getty Research Institute (Agitated Images. John Heartfield and German Photomontage, 1920 – 1938, February - June, 2006) [http://www.getty.edu/art/exhibitions/heartfield/] located Heartfield’s art within the larger and often intense battle of mass-produced photographs rattling interwar Germany. The exhibition subsequently traveled to the Wolfsonian Museum in Miami Beach (September 2007 – February 2008). Zervigón’s periodical publications concentrate on specific salvos in this battle of images. His essay “’A Political Struwwelpeter?’ John Heartfield’s Early Film Animation and the Crisis of Photographic Representation” appeared in issue 107 of the New German Critique (Summer 2009), and his book chapter “Postcards to the Front: John Heartfield, George Grosz and the Birth of Avant-Garde Photomontage,” appeared in the anthology Postcards: Ephemeral Histories of Modernity in Spring 2010 (Penn State Press). His article on a slightly later problem in German photographic history, "The Wiederaufbau of Perception: German Photography in the Postwar Moment, 1945-1950," appeared in Études Photographiques, Number 29 (2012).
Prof. Zervigón was recently awarded the Paul Mellon Senior Fellowship at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, where he will be in residence from September 2013 - May 2014. Until then, he is on sabbatical leave in Germany.
At Rutgers, Zervigón concentrates his teaching on the history of photography. With his Art History Department colleague Prof. Tanya Sheehan he co-founded "The Developing Room: Photography Working Group” at the Center for Cultural Analysis. This group promotes interdisciplinary dialogue among members of the Rutgers community whose research and/or teaching engages with the histories, theories, and practices of photography.
Agitated Images: John Heartfield and German Photomontage, 1920 – 1938. Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, February 21 – June 25, 2006, and Wolfsonian Museum, Miami Beach, September 20, 2007 – February 10, 2008.
John Heartfield and the Agitated Image: Photography, Persuasion, and the Rise of Avant-Garde Photomontage (University of Chicago Press, 2012).
"The Wiederaufbau of Perception: German Photography in the Postwar Moment, 1945-1950," appeared in Études Photographiques, Number 29 (2012).
“Postcards to the Front: John Heartfield, George Grosz and the Birth of Avant-Garde Photomontage,” in Postcards: Ephemeral Histories of Modernity, edited by Jordana Mendelson and David Prochaska, forthcoming, Penn State Press, 2010.
"Persuading with the Unseen? Die Arbeiter-Illustrierte-Zeitung, Photography, and German Communism’s Iconophobia.” Visual Resources 26, no. 2 (June 2010), 147-164.
“’ A Political Struwwelpeter?’ John Heartfield’s Early Film Animation and the Crisis of Photographic Representation,” New German Critique, No. 107 (Summer 2009).
“Die Buchumschläge John Heartfields,” essay for the exhibition catalogue John Heartfield: Zeitausschnitte. Fotomontagen 1918-1938, Berlinische Galerie, Berlin (May 28 – August 31, 2009). Catalogue published by the Hatje Cantz Verlag, May 2009.
“A Magnificent Distraction? The Drag Cult for Nazi-era Film Diva Zarah Leander,” Australia New Zealand Art Journal, Vol 6. No. 1 (November 2005), pp. 89-113.
“The Weave of Memory. Siemon Allen’s Screen in Post-
Apartheid South Africa,” Art Journal, Vol. 61, No. 1 (Spring 2002), pp. 68-81.
Co-founded with Art History Department colleague Prof. Tanya Sheehan "The Developing Room: Photography Working Group” at the Center for Cultural Analysis. Recent symposia convened by The Developing Room include "Photography and Radical Politics" (April 2010), "Global Photography and Its Histories" (February 2011), and "Photography and Its Origins" (April 2012).
Chair with An Paenhysen, "The Unsettled Image: Photography in Germany's Weimar Republic," ICI Berlin, Institute for Cultural Inquiry, January 2011.
Chair with Dr. Stephen Pinson (New York Public Library) of the session “Subject: Photography,” 2007 College Art Association Conference, New York.
Co-convener of the symposium Detours of Technology: Insights into the Hungarian and Weimar German Oeuvres of László Moholy-Nagy, The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, October 28, 2006.
Co-convener and Respondent for the symposium for the symposium Radical Politics/Radical Aesthetics (called in conjunction with the exhibition Agitated Images: John Heartfield and German Photomontage, 1920-1938) Getty Research Institute, May 4, 2006.
Selected Scholarly Papers:
"The Din of Dada and the Crash of Fluxus," presented at the symposium "Cabaret from Dada to Fluxus" at the Zimmerli Museum, Rutgers University, March 7, 2012.
"Towards a Nomadic History of Photography: The Case of Lalla Essaydi," presented at the Association of Art Historians Conference, Milton Keynes (UK), March 30, 2012.
"'Proletarian Art' and the Avant-Garde after Germany's Revolution," presented at the symposium "Revolution and Representation: Germany, 1917-1923," Rice University, Houston, TX, November 12, 2011.
"Russian Iconophiles and German Iconophobes." Paper delivered at the Workshop “Berlin-Moscow 1913-1933,” Department of the History of Art and Architecture, Harvard University, April 2, 2011.
"A Radical Ambivalence. Photography and the Early Years of Germany’s Arbeiter-Illustrierte-Zeitung." Invited to present a John Rewald Lecture, Department of Art History, City University of New York, Graduate Center, September 14, 2010.
"The Reconstruction of Pictorial Consciousness. Postwar Photography in the Two Germanies." Paper delivered at the conference “Visual Culture in Italy and Germany After Dictatorship and War,” Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò, New York University, April 9, 2010.
"People Who Disliked Photographs. The Curious Case of Die Arbeiter-Illustrierte-Zeitung." Invited to give a Daniel H. Silberberg Lecture, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, delivered March 12, 2010.
"Lalla Essaydi and the Aniconic Photograph." Paper delivered at symposium accompany the exhibition “Lalla Essaydi: Les Femmes du Maroc,” Zimmerli Museum, March 3, 2010.
"Die Buchumschläge Heartfields und der Ursprung der Politischen Fotomontage," delivered at the symposium "John Heartfield: Zeitausschnitte," Berlinische Galerie, Berlin (held on the occasion of the exhibition by the same name), June 18, 2009.
“Persuading with the Unseen? Die Arbeiter-Illustrierte-Zeitung, Photography, and German Communism’s Iconophobia,” delivered on the panel “Seeing and/or Believing the Photograph,” College Art Association Conference, Los Angeles, CA, February 25, 2009.
“Modernity Inverted. “Looking Closely at Erna Lendvai-Dircksen’s Face of the German Race,” delivered at the Shelby Cullum Davis Center for Historical Studies, Princeton University, February 20, 2009.
“Doing Violence to Perception. John Heartfield and Political Photomontage,” delivered at the Wolfsonian Museum to accompany that institution’s installation of my exhibition “Agitated Images. John Heartfield and German Photomontage, 1920-1938." Delivered September 27, 2007.
“A New Way of Seeing or Blinded by Science? Laszlo-Moholy Nagy, John Heartfield and the Battle over Weimar-Era Photography,” Detours of Technology: Insights into the Hungarian and Weimar German Oeuvres of László Moholy-Nagy, The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, October 28, 2006.
“The Multi-Sensorial Unconscious? Walter Benjamin, John Heartfield and an Inverted History of Mass Media,” Das Jetzt der Erkennbarkeit. Orte Walter Benjamins in Kultur, Kunst und Wissenschaft, Zentrum für Literaturforschung and Archiv der Akademie der Künste, Berlin, Germany, October 18, 2006.
“Struck by a Bullet!” Fashioning the Haptic and the Offensive in John Heartfield’s and Kurt Tucholsky’s Deutschland, Deutschland über alles,” Eye-Cons. Illusions in Word and Image (sponsored by the Scottish Word and Image Group), University of Dundee, Dundee, Scotland, May 13, 2006.
“Photographing the Authentically Ugly Heimat. Erna Lendvai-Dircksen and the Face of the German Race,” offered as “Special Presentation” at the conference Heimat: Utopia or Reality? Interdisciplinary Approaches to the Search for Heimat and National Identity, Department of Germanic Literatures, Rutgers University, March 4, 2006.
“John Heartfield, Early German Cinema and the [Visceral] Fantasies of Photomontage,” presented in the session Film and Art, College Art Association Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, February, 2005.
Current Interests & Research:
--German and Russian photography between the two world wars
--Photomontage through 1945
--Contemporary international photography
--Contemporary South African art
--Photography and Film
Undergraduate Classes Taught:
--History of Photography, 1800-1900<
--History of Photography, 1900-Today
--Science, Art, Photography
--The Modern Photograph