The Practice of Paying Attention


Jul 18, 2018 • 7:00 PM




BRIC House Stoop
647 Fulton Street
(Enter on Rockwell Place)
Brooklyn, NY 11217
United States
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In conjunction with the Alchemy exhibition, this panel discussion between art historian Ana Matisse Donefer-Hickie of the Making & Knowing Projectpoet Leonard Nalenz of Project 404, and D. Graham Burnett of The Order of the Third Bird, to discuss new and innovative ways of experiencing/producing knowledge. The panel was curated by Alchemy artist Anna Riley and will be moderated by the visual artist Caroline Woolard.

Please join us for the Protocol of Attention and Adaptation workshop presented by Project 404 before the event (5-6:30pm).  

Co-presented with


The Making & Knowing Project is a research and pedagogical initiative in the Center for Science and Society at Columbia University that explores the intersections between artistic making and scientific knowing. Today these realms are regarded as separate, yet in the earliest phases of the Scientific Revolution, nature was investigated primarily by skilled artisans by means of continuous and methodical experimentation in the making of objects – the time when “making” was “knowing.”

Drawing on techniques from both laboratory and archival research, the Making and Knowing Project crosses the science/humanities divide and explores the relationships between today’s labs and the craft workshops of the past, and between pre-industrial conceptions of natural knowledge and our understanding of science and art today.

It is high tide in the digital age. Smartphones, laptops, tablets, televisions, and now watches and other “wearable technology” constantly proffer text and images, often simultaneously. We can scroll or swipe our way through the waves of rich data, but there is always another hyperlink to transport us elsewhere. If we are to accept the presence of digital technology in our lives, we need strategies and practices that will ensure that we remain active, not lulled into passivity by these devices. Project 404 is a practice of attention that aspires to help us remain fully, creatively engaged with the world and ourselves while using the very devices that threaten us with passivity. 

The practice itself consists of two phases: a silent phase of fifteen minutes during which the participants look intently together at a single image on our individual devices. The image will be chosen by someone offsite from among the images submitted by the participants in the practice. The subsequent phase is a colloquy of between 60 and 90 minutes, during which the participants discuss their experiences of the silent phase (with devices put aside). Project 404 rests on the belief that it is practice, rather than theory, that makes us who we are. Our practice of attention can be social as well as pedagogical; in either case, it is designed to enable us to be more fully attuned to the infinitely complex nexus of external stimuli and interior consciousness that constitutes much of our experience, and it allows us to enjoy collaborative sociability, as we discuss with one another the experience of paying focused attention to our devices and the images they display. This practice of attention is a particular way of being and becoming, one that revolves around the twin axes of creativity and generosity. 

ESTAR(SER) — The Esthetical Society for Transcendental and Applied Realization (now incorporating the Society for Esthetic Realizers) — is a private, dedicated body of amateurs, scholars, and interested parties who concern themselves with the historicity of The Order of the Third Bird. This community of researchers works to sift evidences of Bird-like attentional practices in the historical record, and to present those evidences to critical readers. In this project ESTAR(SER) is fortunate to be in possession of a vast (possibly infinite) body of source materials — known as “The W-Cache” — which appears to have been assembled by an aspiring historian of the Order seeking to write a comprehensive history of the Birds. He or she did not succeed, but bequeathed to the Society a valuable and diverse archive. The academicians of ESTAR(SER) have made it their business, over the years, to publish critical editions of these primary sources, materials that see print in the Proceedings of ESTAR(SER).



D. Graham Burnett graduated from Princeton University in 1993 as the salutatorian and a recipient of the Pyne Prize. With the support of a Marshall Scholarship he completed a Ph.D. in the History and Philosophy of Science at Cambridge University (1997 [2001]), where he was a member of Trinity College. Burnett was awarded the 1999 Nebenzahl Prize in the History of Cartography, and was editorially involved with the History of Cartography Project. Before joining the Princeton faculty in 2001, he taught at Yale and was a Mellon Fellow in the Humanities at Columbia University (1997–1999) and an inaugural fellow in the Center for Scholars and Writers (the Cullman Center) at the New York Public Library (1999–2000). He held the Christian Gauss Fund University Preceptorship in 2006. His scholarly interests include the history of natural history and the sciences of the earth and the sea from the seventeenth through the twentieth centuries, including cartography, navigation, oceanography, and ecology/environmentalism. In 2008 he became an editor at the Brooklyn-based art magazine Cabinet, and he also serves on the editorial board of Lapham’s Quarterly. He is a member of the New York Institute for the Humanities, and at Princeton he is affiliated with the Program in History of Science, the Law and Public Affairs Program, the Center for Architecture, Urbanism, and Infrastructure, and the Princeton Environmental Institute. Burnett received a Mellon “New Directions” Fellowship in 2009 to support two years of hybrid work at the intersection of the sciences and the arts, and he was a 2013-2014 Guggenheim Fellow.

Ana Matisse Donefer-Hickie, Research Associate, is currently assisting with an exhibition on the intersections of art, science and technology, and entertainment in early-modern court culture. She holds an MA from the Bard Graduate Center in the history decorative arts, design, and material culture, where her qualifying paper on the private glass workshop of Archduke Ferdinand II won the 2017 Clive Wainwright Award. She holds a BA Honors in history of science and technology from the University of King's College, Halifax.

Anna Riley’s practice investigates the manufacturing processes of materials as a means of exposing the role that they play as active agents in daily life. For Alchemy, Riley presents a work in the form of a large manuscript, an emblem that carries alchemical theories of the past. Rather than reenact this form by inscribing her handmade paper with alchemical recipes, Riley exhibits the material of the pages as the manuscript’s content. In place of a traditional spine, Riley includes a glass armature that is echoed in the standing glass pages on pedestals. These pages, consolidated with pages made of lime, point to the labor-intensive physical and chemical processes of papermaking as well as its architectural uses. Riley has shown her work at the Agnes Varis Art Center, Urban Glass, Brooklyn; the American Museum of Glass, Millville, NJ; Art House Gallery, Jersey City, NJ; and the Noyes Museum of Stockton University, Atlantic City, NJ. Riley has participated in residencies at Urban Glass and Dieu Donné Papermill Workspace, both in Brooklyn; the Museum of Arts and Design and the Cyborg Foundation in NY; and the Corning Museum in Corning, NY, among others.

Caroline Woolard is a New York-based artist born in Rhode Island. Woolard creates sculptures using online networks, hand built objects, and immersive environments. Her work has been commissioned by MoMA, the Whitney Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Creative Time, the Brooklyn Museum, Cornell University, and Cooper Union. She is the recipient of a number of awards and fellowships including at Pilchuck (2018), the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (2016), the Queens Museum (2014), Eyebeam (2013), Rockefeller Cultural Innovation Fund (2010), Watermill (2011), and the MacDowell Colony (2009). Recent scholarly writing on her work has been published in The Brooklyn Rail (2018); Artforum (2016); Art in America (2016); The New York Times (2016); and South Atlantic Quarterly (2015). Woolard’s work has been featured twice in PBS / Art21 for New York Close Up (2014, 2016). Caroline Woolard is an Assistant Professor of Sculpture at the University of Hartford and a mentor at the School of Visual Arts.



Venue Information:

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