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Art x Technology: Traveling in Light Years

May 24, 2023
8:00 pm – 9:00 pm

Wednesday, 24 May 2023, 8pm Hong Kong time/2pm Central European time/8am Eastern Daylight time
Zoom ID: 849 9891 9001
Passcode: 097306
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Eckart Goebel, Arthur Ou, moderated by Kelly Ma (Deputy Director, Para Site)


Photography, by definition, is a drawing by light, and its existence is founded on two parallel developments. There, first, must be a want to record events in images; the cave paintings documented the earliest known such desires to leave traces behind. Then, there needs to be a device to capture light to make images. The writings from the school of Mozi (c. 468–376 BCE) and Aristotle (384–322 BC) on the camera obscura present the understanding of optics by the Chinese and the ancient Greeks, such as the fact that light travels in a straight line and the effect of a pinhole camera. The nineteenth-century improvement on cameras and image capture capabilities, and the popularization of photography, inspired new artistic innovations and expanded the human understanding of the physical world. This mechanical device and others like it, such as the telescope and the microscope, mimic the function of the eye that receives light and, by design, help humans see clearer. 

It is safe to argue that none of these fascinating advancements would have taken place without curiosity, desire, and most of all, ambition, which are all survival instincts. Astronomy is perhaps the perfect example to demonstrate the age-old ambition to understand beyond our planet and solar system, and the potential that through these explorations we might come to understand ourselves better. 

Join literary scholar Eckart Goebel and artist Arthur Ou in a conversation on Ou’s photography series entitled Viewfinder (2020–2021), and Goebel’s publication entitled Ambition: An Essay on the Burning Desire to Rise (Bloomsbury, 2022). This panel will cross-examine the paradigms of curiosity from children and adults alike, and how it is recorded and debated in history, philosophy, literature, sciences, and the arts.

About the Speakers

Eckart Goebel

Eckart Goebel is a Professor for Comparative Literature at Tübingen University in Germany. From 2005 to 2015, he served as Professor for German at New York University. His research focuses on European and North American modernism, the Goethe Age, literature and psychoanalysis, and the history of ideas. Two of his books were translated into English: Ambition: An Essay on the Burning Desire to Rise (Bloomsbury, 2022) and Beyond Discontent: ‘Sublimation’ from Goethe to Lacan (Bloomsbury, 2012). Currently, he is working on a larger book project concerning Balance & Excess. He received his MA and PhD in Comparative Literature, Philosophy, and German Studies at the Free University of Berlin, and his MSt at St. Hugh’s College, Oxford.


Arthur Ou

Arthur Ou is a Taiwanese American artist and educator based in Queens, New York. He is an associate professor of photography at Parsons School of Design, a division of the New School. His conceptual work often takes the form of photography and installation, where he examines the intricate relationships between human and nature while reflecting on the philosophies behind and histories of image-and object-making. Ou’s work has been the subject of solo and group exhibitions at the Queens Museum, New York (2018); the Museum of Contemporary Art, Detroit (2017); the Grazer Kunstverein (2016); the Presentation House, Vancouver (2015); Daegu Photography Biennial (2012); Taipei Biennial (2006); and Taipei Fine Arts Museum (2000). His work has been featured in Artforum, Art in America, the New York Times, and the New Yorker, and his critical writing has appeared in Aperture, Art in America, Foam, and Osmos. He received his MFA from Yale University School of Art and his BFA from Parsons School of Design.


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