Speakers, Panelists, and Moderators

Naila Al Atrash is a stage director and actor who is known for her challenging plays, which explore society, economics, and politics. She fled persecution in her home country, Syria, for teaching critical theater. She worked at Damascus’ Higher Institute for Music and Theatre (DHIMT) as a drama coach until 2004, when she moved to the United States to teach at the Tisch School of the Arts in New York University. During her time in the United States, Atrash directed several plays, many of which were put on stage at Ohio State University. In 2000, she also became a committee member of the Cannes Theatrical Institute in France.

Emily Braun, Distinguished Professor, teaches the History of Art at Hunter College and the Graduate Center, CUNY. Professor Braun’s research interests are interdisciplinary and focus on the interaction between political ideologies and visual representation. Her extensive writings on 20th-century Italian art and Fascist culture include Mario Sironi and Italian Modernism: Art and Politics under Fascism (Cambridge University Press: 2000). Several of her essays also analyze the construction of gender and otherness in belles-lettres art criticism. Her essays have been featured in the Times Literary Supplement, Modernism/modernity, Journal of Contemporary History, Art in America, The Journal of Modern Italian Studies, The Short Oxford History of Italy and numerous museum exhibition catalogs. She has received a National Jewish Book Award for The Power of Conversation: Jewish Women and their Salons (2005); a fellowship at the New York Public Library’s Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers (2002-2003); and a Senior Research Grant from the Getty Foundation (1993). Since 1987 she has been the Curator of the Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection. Braun’s current project is a retrospective of the artist Alberto Burri for the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, opening October 2015.

Paul Chan is an artist based in New York. 

Melissa Chiu is the director of the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. She oversees a staff of 50 and a collection of nearly 12,000 objects that represent pieces by leading artists from the late 19th century to the present day, including paintings, sculpture, mixed‑media pieces, photography, works on paper, video and film. Chiu had previously served as the director of the Asia Society Museum since 2004 and before that she was the curator for contemporary Asian and Asian American art (2001–2004). Chiu has focused on expanding the presentation of contemporary art while building a new collection of photography and video, including major acquisitions by Nam June Paik, Yoko Ono, Mariko Mori and Yang Fudong for the Asia Society Museum. Chiu has authored and edited several books and catalogs on contemporary art, including Contemporary Art in Asia: A Critical Reader (MIT Press, 2010), lectured at Harvard, Yale, Columbia, the Museum of Modern Art and other universities and museums.

Ethan Cohen founded the Ethan Cohen gallery in 1987 as Art Waves/Ethan Cohen in SoHo, New York City. A groundbreaker in the field of contemporary Chinese art, it was the first gallery to present the Chinese avant-garde of the 1980s to the United States. It introduced the works of now celebrated artists, such as Ai Weiwei, Xu Bing, Gu Wenda, Wang Keping, and Qiu Zhijie. Today, Ethan Cohen Fine Arts represents a diverse global mix of art, including contemporary American, African, Iranian, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Russian, Pakistani, and Thai art, with a continuing focus on emerging as well as established artists. Ethan Cohen advises private, public, and corporate clients. Cohen is a certified appraiser of the Appraisers Association of America, specializing in contemporary Asian art.

Jerome Cohen is the senior American expert on East Asian law. As Director of East Asian Legal Studies at Harvard Law School from 1964-1979, he helped pioneer the introduction of East Asian legal systems and perspectives into American legal curricula. Each year, Jerome Cohen teaches a course on Chinese law and society. In some years he offers a third course on comparative international law, analyzing how countries with a Confucian tradition relate to the international laws and traditions of the "Christian West." In another course, he explores international business contracts and economic cooperation with East Asia. In addition to these formal courses, Professor Cohen coordinates a Chinese language colloquium that attracts key figures in Chinese law and hosts a weekly Asia Hour for students, featuring informal (and frequently autobiographical) talks by prominent diplomatic and government officials, leading academics, and other influential practitioners in the East Asian legal area.

Holland Cotter has been a staff art critic at the New York Times since 1998. In 2009, he won the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism for coverage that included articles on art in China. Between 1992 and 1997, he was a regular freelance writer for the paper. During the 1980s, he was a contributing editor at Art in America and an editorial associate at Art News. In the 1970s, he co-edited New York Arts Journal, a tabloid-format quarterly magazine publishing fiction, poetry, and criticism. Art in New York City has been his regular weekly beat, which he has taken to include all five boroughs and most of the city's art and culture museums. Cotter's subjects range from Italian Renaissance painting to street-based communal work by artist collectives. For the Times he has written widely about "non-Western" art and culture. In the 1990s, Cotter introduced readers to a broad range of Asian contemporary art as the first wave of new art from China was building and breaking. He also helped bring contemporary art of India to the attention of a Western audience. Cotter has served on the board of directors of the International Association of Art Critics. He is under contract with Alfred A. Knopf for a book on New York City modernism and is also working on a study of contemporary Indian art and on a poetry manuscript.

Jeffrey Deitch is a dealer in modern and contemporary art and an art advisor to private and institutional art collectors. He is also an art writer and exhibition organizer. Before opening his own art advisory firm in 1988, Mr. Deitch was a Vice President of Citibank, where he spent nine years developing and managing the bank’s art advisory and art finance businesses. Before joining Citibank, he was the Assistant Director of the John Weber Gallery in New York and then the Curator of the De Cordova Museum in Lincoln, Massachusetts. Deitch is a 1974 graduate of Wesleyan University and was a member of its Board of Trustees from 1982 to 1985. He received an MBA from Harvard Business School in 1978. Deitch has been active as an art critic and exhibition curator since the mid-1970s. He has contributed to Arts, Art in America, Artforum, and numerous other publications and served as the first American Editor of Flash Art. He received an Art Critic’s Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1979. He has written numerous catalog essays including projects for the Museum of Modern Art of the City of Paris, the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, and the Whitney Museum, New York. His essay The Art Industry was included in the catalog for the Metropolis exhibition at the Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin in 1991. Deitch’s first important curatorial project was Lives, a 1975 exhibition about artists who used their own lives as an art medium, presented in a vacant office building in Tribeca. He has curated several exhibitions of contemporary art for the Deste Foundation in Athens, including Cultural Geometry in 1988, Artificial Nature in 1990, Everything That’s Interesting Is New in 1996, and Fractured Figure in 2007. He was a member of the curatorial team for the Deste Foundation’s Monument to Now exhibition in 2004. He curated the exhibition Strange Abstraction for the Touko Museum in Tokyo in 1991. His most ambitious exhibition was Post Human, which opened at the FAE Musée d’Art Contemporain in Lausanne in June 1992 and traveled to the Castello di Rivoli in Torino, the Deste Foundation in Athens, the Deichtorhallen in Hamburg, and the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. He also curated one of the sections of Aperto at the 1993 Venice Biennale. In 2001, he curated Form Follows Fiction at the Castello di Rivoli, Torino. Deitch opened a public gallery, Deitch Projects, in 1996, which has produced more than 200 projects by contemporary artists.

Ricardo Dominguez is a co-founder of The Electronic Disturbance Theater (EDT), a group that developed virtual sit-in technologies in solidarity with the Zapatista communities in Chiapas, Mexico, in 1998. His recent Electronic Disturbance Theater 2.0/b.a.n.g. lab project (, with Brett Stalbaum, Micha Cardenas, Amy Sara Carroll, and Elle Mehrmand, the Transborder Immigrant Tool (a GPS cell phone safety net tool for crossing the Mexico-U.S. border) was the winner of the Transnational Communities Award (2008), an award funded by Cultural Contact, Endowment for Culture Mexico–US and handed out by the U.S. Embassy in Mexico. It was also funded by CALIT2 and the UCSD Center for the Humanities. The Transborder Immigrant Tool has been exhibited at the 2010 California Biennial (OCMA); Toronto Free Gallery, Canada (2011); The Van Abbemuseum, Netherlands (2013); ZKM, Germany (2014); and a number of other national and international venues. The project was also under investigation by the U.S. Congress in 2009-2010 and was reviewed by Glenn Beck in 2010 as a gesture that potentially “dissolved” the U.S. border with its poetry. Dominguez is an associate professor at the University of California, San Diego, in the Visual Arts Department, a Hellman Fellow, and Principal/Principle Investigator at CALIT2 and the Performative Nano-Robotics Lab at SME, UCSD. He is also co-founder of *particle group*, with artists Diane Ludin, Nina Waisman, Amy Sara Carroll, whose art project about nano-toxicology entitled *Particles of Interest: Tales of the Matter Market* has been presented at the House of World Cultures, Berlin (2007); the San Diego Museum of Art (2008); Oi Futuro, Brazil (2008); CAL NanoSystems Institute, UCLA (2009); Medialab-Prado, Madrid (2009); E-Poetry Festival, Barcelona, Spain (2009); Nanosférica, NYU (2010); SOMA, Mexico City, Mexico (2012); and Cornell Council for the Arts (CCA) Biennial, “Intimate Cosmologies: The Aesthetics of Scale in an Age of Nanotechnology" (2014) (

Stephen Duncombe is an Associate Professor at the Gallatin School and the Department of Media, Culture and Communications at the Steinhardt School of New York University, where he teaches the history and politics of media. He is the author, editor, co-author, and co-editor of six books, including Dream: Re-Imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy; Notes From Underground: Zines and the Politics of Underground Culture; The Bobbed Haired Bandit: Crime and Celebrity in 1920s New York; the Cultural Resistance Reader; White Riot: Punk Rock and the Politics of Race; and (Open) Utopia. Duncombe is also the creator of the Open Utopia, an open-access, open-source Web-based edition of Thomas More’s Utopia, and writes on the intersection of culture and politics for a range of scholarly and popular publications, from The Nation to Playboy. In 1998, he was awarded the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching by the State University of New York and was presented with the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching at NYU’s Gallatin school in 2012. Duncombe is a lifelong political activist who co-founded a community-based advocacy group in the Lower East Side of Manhattan and worked as an organizer for the New York City chapter of the international direct action group Reclaim the Streets. In 2009, he served as lead instructor for the Fulbright Summer School in the Humanities at Moscow State University and research associate at the Eyebeam Center for Art and Technology in New York City, where he helped organize The College of Tactical Culture. With funding from the Open Societies Foundations he co-created the School for Creative Activism in 2011; he is presently co-director of the Center for Artistic Activism. Duncombe is also a Senior Research Fellow of Theatrum Mundi, an international consortium of artists, designers, and scholars, and is working on a book on the art of propaganda during the New Deal.

David Freedberg is Pierre Matisse Professor of the History of Art and Director of the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America at Columbia University. He is best known for his work on psychological responses to art, in particular his studies on iconoclasm and censorship (see, inter alia, Iconoclasts and their Motives [1984] and The Power of Images: Studies in the History and Theory of Response [1989]). Freedberg's primary research now concentrates on the relationships between art, history, and cognitive neuroscience. Taking up the psychological dimensions of the work outlined in The Power of Images, he has for some time been engaged in research and experiments on the relationships between vision, embodiment, movement, and emotion. His more traditional art-historical writing originally centered on Dutch and Flemish art. Within these fields he specialized in the history of Dutch printmaking (see Dutch Landscape Prints of the Seventeenth Century [1980]), and in the paintings and drawings of Bruegel and Rubens (see, for example, The Prints of Pieter Bruegel the Elder [1989] and Rubens: The Life of Christ after the Passion [1984]). Freedberg then turned his attention to seventeenth-century Roman art and to the paintings of Nicolas Poussin, before moving on to his recent work in the history of science and on the importance of the new cognitive neurosciences for the study of art and its history. Freedberg has also been involved in several exhibitions of contemporary art (e.g., Joseph Kosuth: The Play of the Unmentionable [1992]). Following a series of important discoveries in Windsor Castle, the Institut de France, and the archives of the Accademia dei Lincei in Rome, he has been concerned with the intersection of art and science in the age of Galileo. While much of his work in this area has been published in articles and catalogs, his chief publication on this subject is The Eye of the Lynx: Galileo, His Friends, and the Beginnings of Modern Natural History (2002).

Boris Groys is a philosopher, essayist, art critic, media theorist, and internationally acclaimed expert on late-Soviet postmodern art and literature and the Russian avant-garde. Dr. Groys’ writing engages with the wildly disparate traditions of French poststructuralism and modern Russian philosophy. In the 1970s, Dr. Groys, who had studied philosophy and mathematics at Leningrad State University, immersed himself in the unofficial cultural scene in Russia’s capitals, coining the term “Moscow conceptualism.” From 1976 to 1981, he held a position as a research fellow in the Department of Structural and Applied Linguistics at Moscow State University. In 1981, Dr. Groys emigrated to West Germany, where he earned his PhD in Philosophy at the University of Müenster. In the United States, he is best known as the author of The Total Art of Stalin. This work is credited with introducing Western readers to Russian postmodernist writers. His philosophical writing includes A Philosopher’s Diary, On the New: A Study of Cultural Economics, and The Invention of Russia; his contributions to art theory and criticism can be found in Vanishing Point Moscow and The Art of Installation. His most recent books are Under Suspicion: A Phenomenology of the Media and Ilya Kabakov—The Man Who Flew into Space from His Apartment (Afterall/MIT Press, 2006). Dr. Groys has also edited collections of articles in Russian and German and has himself written more than 100 articles. Since 1994, in addition to serving as the curator and organizer of numerous international art exhibitions and conferences, Dr. Groys has been a Professor of Aesthetics, Art History, and Media Theory at the Center for Art and Media Technology in Karlsruhe.

Agnes Gund is President Emerita of the Museum of Modern Art and Chair of its International Council. She is also Chair of MoMA PS1. Ms. Gund joined the MoMA Board in 1976 and served as its President from 1991 until 2002. She is the founder and chair of Studio in a School, a non-profit organization she established in 1977 in response to budget cuts that virtually eliminated arts classes from New York City public schools. In January 2012, Ms. Gund was appointed Member of the New York State Council on the Arts. A philanthropist and collector of modern and contemporary art, Ms. Gund currently serves on the boards of Chess in the Schools, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, the Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies, and Socrates Sculpture Park, among others. She is co-founder of the Center for Curatorial Leadership and an Honorary Trustee of the Independent Curators International as well as the Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland. A civic leader and staunch supporter of education, women’s issues and environmental concerns, among other causes, Ms. Gund is the former Chair of the Mayor’s Cultural Affairs Advisory Commission of New York City and has served on the boards of such wide-ranging organizations as the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center, the Frick, the Fund for Public Schools, and the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation. She earned a B.A. in History from Connecticut College and a M.A. in Art History from Harvard University. She has since received numerous honorary doctorate degrees, including honors from Bowdoin College (2012), CUNY Graduate Center (2007), and Brown University (1996). In 1997, Ms. Gund received the National Medal of the Arts from President Clinton.

Ben Katchor is a MacArthur Award-winning cartoonist and Associate Professor at Parsons The New School for Design. He contributes picture-stories to Metropolis magazine and is the author of several comics collections, including Hand-Drying in America and other stories, Cheap Novelties: The Pleasures of Urban Decay, The Jew of New York, and Julius Knipl: Real Estate Photographer. Katchor has been a Guggenheim Fellow and has also written works for the stage, such as The Slug Bearers of Kayrol Island

Nikahang Kowsar is an Iranian journalist and cartoonist who was forced to flee his country in 2003 for trying to sketch too realistic a portrait of the society fashioned by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He studied geology in the University of Tehran and joined Gol-Agha, an Iranian political satire magazine, as a cartoonist in 1991. He worked for Hamshahri from 1992 to 1998 and for newspapers such as Zan, Aftab-e Emrooz, Sobh-e Emrooz, Akhbar-e Eghtesadi, Azad, Bahar, Bonyan, Doran-e Emrooz, Nosazi, Hayate No, Abrar-e Eghteadi, Hambastegi, and Farhang-e Ashti. Most of these papers were banned by Saeed Mortazavi. Kowsar was arrested in 2000 for one of his cartoons and spent six days at the Evin Prison in Tehran. Kowsar won the 2001 international Courage for Editorial Cartooning award from Cartoonists Rights Network International. He also received the second prize in Canada's National Press Club editorial cartoon contest in 2001. He won four National Press Awards from Iran's Press Festival in 1996, 1999, 2000, and 2002. His cartoons are published mainly by Rooz online, a news website that is funded by a Dutch foundation. Kowsar also runs Khodnevis, a citizen journalism platform, and lives in Washington, DC.

Carin Kuoni is Director of the Vera List Center for Art and Politics at The New School for Public Engagement. Kuoni is a curator, writer, and arts administrator whose work examines how contemporary artistic practices reflect and inform social, political, and cultural conditions. Under her directorship, the Vera Center for Art and Politics has developed into an internationally recognized public think tank and research lab on the role of the arts in fostering new modes of civic engagement. Kuoni curates a dynamic program of interdisciplinary public lectures, conferences, performances, and panel discussions focusing on themes of political urgency and broad resonance. The center organizes occasional exhibitions and publications exploring these topics, among them “Homeland,” “Speculation” and “Considering Forgiveness.” The center’s programs are shaped by its fellows, who have included Maurice Berger, Sharon Hayes, Kobena Mercer, and Walid Raad. The center’s current fellows are Joshua Simon, a Tel Aviv–based curator, and Bouchra Khalili, a French Moroccan filmmaker. An art historian by education and a curator and critic by practice, Kuoni was previously director of exhibitions at Independent Curators International (ICI) and director of the Swiss Institute New York. She has curated many international exhibitions, among them "The Puppet Show" (2008–2009, with Ingrid Schaffner). In 2008, she curated "OURS: Democracy in the Age of Branding," the inaugural exhibition for the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center at Parsons The New School for Design. In 2009, she co-curated "By Any Name: Institutional Memory at The New School," an exhibition and art installation on the occasion of The New School’s 90th anniversary. Ms. Kuoni is also a founding member of the artists’ collective REPOhistory. Ms. Kuoni has written for several international publications and is the editor of Energy Plan for the Western Man: Joseph Beuys in America (Four Walls Eight Windows, 1990, 1993) and Words of Wisdom: A Curator’s Vade Mecum on Contemporary Art (ICI, 2001). She is the co-editor of Considering Forgiveness (2009) and Speculation (forthcoming), both published by the Vera List Center for Art and Politics.

Elzbieta Matynia is Associate Professor of Sociology and Liberal Studies and Director of the Transregional Center for Democratic Studies. Her research in political and cultural sociology focuses on democratic transformations, gender and democracy, the borderlands of a shared Europe, and more recently the challenges faced by democracies emerging from a legacy of violence. As director of TCDS, she has developed and directs international Democracy & Diversity Institutes for rigorous study and cross-cultural research on the critical issues facing today’s world. Her book Performative Democracy (2009) explores a potential in political life that easily escapes theorists: the indigenously inspired enacting of democracy by citizens. Challenges following 1989 are explored in her forthcoming Havel-Michnik: The Uncanny Era of Post-revolution—Conversations over a Quarter of a Century. A 2011 Fulbright research scholar in South Africa, she is working on a new book, Democracy After Violence. Matynia is a member of the editorial board of Social Research and editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society.

Svetlana Mintcheva is the Director of Programs at the National Coalition Against Censorship. She joined NCAC after years of academic teaching and research on post–World War II art and literature. Having spent a large part of her academic career analyzing provocative art and its sociopolitical contexts, she is happy to be on the front lines protecting the coexistence of a diversity of voices in the cultural sphere. Mintcheva has published and presented numerous papers on contemporary art and writing; most recently, she co-edited Censoring Culture: Contemporary Threats to Free Expression (2006, The New Press). She curated the 2007 exhibition Filth, Treason, Blasphemy? Museums and Censorship at the McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum in Chicago and conceived Exposing the Censor Within, a traveling interactive public art installation, which opened in California in March 2007. An academic and activist, Mintcheva has taught literature and critical theory at the University of Sofia, Bulgaria, and at Duke University, from which she received her PhD in critical theory in 1999. She currently teaches part-time at New York University. Her academic research and writing focus on postmodern literature and aesthetic provocations as well as censorship and ethics.

Victor S. Navasky has served as editor, publisher, and now publisher emeritus of The Nation, which he joined in 1978. He is also the George Delacorte Professor of Magazine Journalism at the Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, where he directs the Delacorte Center of Magazines and chairs the Columbia Journalism Review. In the 1970s, he served as an editor on the New York Times Magazine. In the 1960s, he was founding editor and publisher of Monocle, a “leisurely quarterly of political satire” (that meant it came out twice a year). His books include Kennedy Justice; Naming Names, which won a National Book Award; (with Christopher Cerf) The Experts Speak: The Definitive Guide to Authoritative Misinformation and also Mission Accomplished! Or How We Won the War In Iraq; A Matter of Opinion, which won the 2005 George Polk Book Award and the 2006 Ann M. Sperber Prize and of which the New York Times wrote, “Anybody who has ever dreamed of starting a magazine, or worried that the country is losing the ability to speak seriously to itself, should read A Matter of Opinion.” Navasky is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Most recently he has published The Art of Making Magazines: On Being an Editor and Other Views for the Industry, edited by Victor S. Navasky and Evan Cornog, and The Art of Controversy: Political Cartoons and Their Enduring Power (Knopf, 2013).

Shirin Neshat is among the best-known Persian artists in the Western world. She has lived in the United States, in self-imposed exile from her native Iran, for most of her adult life. The experience of being caught between two cultures dominates Neshat’s creative work: Each of her pieces offers a glimpse of the complex social, religious and political realities that shape her identity—and the identities of Muslim women worldwide. Neshat’s earliest works were photographs, such as the Unveiling (1993) and Women of Allah (1993–97) series, which explore notions of femininity in relation to Islamic fundamentalism and militancy in her home country. Her subsequent video works departed dramatically from overtly political content or critique, in favor of more poetic imagery and narratives. Her first video installations—the trilogy comprising Turbulent (1998), Rapture (1999), and Fervor (2000)—use dual video screens to portray abstract oppositions based in gender and society, the individual and the group. While these works hint at the restrictions imposed on women in Muslim societies, they deliberately open onto multiple readings, reaching toward universal conditions. Other videos, such as Soliloquy (1999), Possessed (2001), Pulse (2001), and Tooba (2002), along with the film Passage (2001), expand upon this formula, presenting similarly ambiguous narratives. Neshat’s provocative photographs, videos, and multimedia installations have resonated with the curators of many major international art exhibitions, including the XLVIII Venice Biennale, where she won the top prize in 1999. Her first feature film, Women Without Men, tells the stories of four women struggling to escape oppression in Tehran. It won her the Silver Lion for Best Director at the 2010 Venice Film Festival.

László Jakab Orsós is World Voices Festival and Public Programs Director at the PEN American Center. Before his arrival in New York, Orsós had a career in Hungary and Europe as a writer, scriptwriter, and creative writing instructor. In addition to his writing, Orsós founded Hungary’s leading contemporary literary journal, and produced and hosted various cultural programs and talk shows for television. In 2004, Orsos co-wrote the animated Hungarian feature film The District!, which won the main prize at the 2005 Annecy International Animation Festival. Orsós relocated to the U.S. in 2005, working as a diplomat and curator, overseeing Hungary’s cultural presence in New York and Washington, D.C. In 2009, he conceived and executed a year-long Hungarian art festival, with over 150 events. The Extremely Hungary Festival featured shows, exhibitions and concerts in venues such as Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, the Museum of Modern Art, The National Gallery, and Lincoln Center. Beyond his curatorial work, Orsós has also served as a board member at George Soros’ Open Society Foundations and he is currently an advisory board member at Human Rights Watch and Creative Time, a New York-based public art organization.

Jack Persekian is Director and Head Curator of the Palestinian Museum (due to open in 2015). He is a longtime supporter of regional artists and is the founding director of Anadiel Gallery, the Al-Ma’mal Foundation for Contemporary Art in Jerusalem, and XEIN Productions. He has curated include the Official Palestinian Representation to the São Paulo Bienal (1998), In weiter ferne, so nah, neue palastinensische kunst at Ifa Galleries in Bonn, Stuttgart, and Berlin (2002), Disorientation: Contemporary Arab Artists from the Middle East at Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin (2003), Reconsidering Palestinian Art in Cuenca, Spain (2006), The Jerusalem Show in Jerusalem (2007 and 2009), and DisOrientation II: The Rise and Fall of Arab Cities at Abu Dhabi Art (2009). After curating the seventh edition of the Biennial in 2006, Persekian was offered the position of foundation director. During his tenure, he raised the Sharjah Biennial’s profile by involving international curators and an improved roster of regional and international artists. Persekian was instrumental in expanding the Biennial into the SAF, which, along with organizing the festival, supports artist residencies, the production of artworks and publications, and the annual March Meeting, a conference of artists and arts professionals from North Africa and West, South, and Central Asia. At the tenth edition of the Sharjah Biennial in 2011, Persekian was dismissed from his position because of the content of a work in the Sharjah Biennial. His removal angered and disappointed many in the regional and international art community. Persekian has also directed and produced the Millennium Celebrations in Bethlehem in 2000 and the Palestinian Cultural Evening at the World Economic Forum at the Dead Sea, Jordan (2004).

Olaf Peters is Professor of Modern Art History and Art Theory at Martin-Luther-University, Halle-Wittenberg. He was previously Assistant Professor at the Institute of Art History at the University of Bonn (2004-2006) and a member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton (2002-2003). He is curator of Degenerate Art: The Attack on Modern Art in Nazi Germany, 1937, an exhibition at the Neue Galerie (March 13–June 30, 2014), which included works by Max Beckmann, George Grosz, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Paul Klee, Oskar Kokoschka, and Emil Nolde. He is the author of many books, including two biographies: Otto Dix: The intrepid look (Stuttgart 2013) and Max Beckmann: The mythologized modernity (Stuttgart, 2015).

Lisa Phillips has been Director of the New Museum of Contemporary Art since 1999. She initiated the design and construction of the New Museum’s first dedicated freestanding building, located on the Bowery on the Lower East Side, designed by the leading firm SANAA. She co-curated exhibitions on John Waters, Carroll Dunham, and Paul McCarthy at the New Museum. Previously she worked as a curator at the Whitney Museum for two decades, and was involved with every Whitney Biennial exhibition from 1985 to 1993; she oversaw the 1997 Biennial. Other exhibitions Phillips curated there include The American Century: 1950–2000; Beat Culture and the New American: 1950–1965; Image World: Art and Media Culture; and High Styles: Twentieth-Century American Design. She has presided over surveys of major influential artists such as Richard Prince, Frederick Kiesler, Terry Winters, and Cindy Sherman. She has authored more than 20 publications for the Whitney Museum, contributed essays to other major museum catalogs nationally and internationally, and written articles for several journals and magazines. Phillips lectures on contemporary art throughout the world and has served as a visiting critic at Yale University. She has been named and featured as a top New Yorker by New York magazine and Time Out New York and was named one of the top 100 businesswomen of the year by Crain’s magazine.

Silvia Rocciolo is Curator at The New School. The university's legacy of supporting the freedom of artistic expression began in 1931 with the commissioning of two historically significant mural cycles: Jose Clemente Orozco's A Call for Revolution and Universal Brotherhood and Thomas Hart Benton's epic America Today. Over the years, the university has hosted a roster of accomplished artists, writers, dancers, designers, historians, social scientists, and philosophers, creating a flourishing laboratory for experimentation and innovation. As an institution that embraced such diverse figures as poet Robert Frost, anthropologist Margaret Mead, art historian Meyer Schapiro, and composer/conceptual artist John Cage, The New School has always stood at the forefront of self-discovery and visionary social, intellectual, and aesthetic experimentation.

Chaw Ei Thein was born in Rangoon in 1969 and graduated from Yangon University with a Bachelor of Law degree in 1994. Her artistic recognition started at an early age through the numerous international art awards that she received. With her father, Maung Maung Thein, as her art teacher and mentor, Chaw's art practice has developed into a diverse art practice. Highly regarded as a painter and a conceptual as well as a performance artist, her international career is highly profiled as she candidly portrays the contradictions and conflictions of her socio-political environment. Her feminist approach to her art is both gracious and candid and has earned her accolades and recognition as one of the most important contemporary artists to emerge from Myanmar. The recipient of the Elizabeth J McCormack and Jerome I Aaron fellowship in connection with the Asian Cultural Council in New York, she has lectured and exhibited extensively in and outside of Myanmar. Amongst her numerous and most notable achievements include participation in the 2008 Singapore Biennial, 2009 Open Studios Exhibitions, International Studio and Curators Program in New York as well as several performance works together with Htein Lin in Myanmar and at Asia House, London in 2007. Chaw Ei Thein currently lives and works in New York.

Saadia Toor is Associate Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at the College of Staten Island. She is author of The State of Islam: Culture and Cold War Politics in Pakistan (2011).

Ai Weiwei is a Chinese contemporary artist, active in sculpture, installation, architecture, curating, photography, film, and social, political and cultural criticism. From 1981 to 1993, he lived in the United States, mostly in New York. He studied briefly at Parsons The New School for Design and the Art Students League of New York. Ai Weiwei collaborated with Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron as the artistic consultant on the Beijing National Stadium for the 2008 Olympics. As a political activist, he has been critical of the Chinese Government's stance on democracy and human rights. He has investigated government corruption and cover-ups, in particular, the Sichuan schools corruption scandal following the collapse of so-called "tofu-dreg schools" in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. In 2011, following his arrest at Beijing Capital International Airport on 3 April, he was held for 81 days without any official charges being filed; officials alluded to their allegations of "economic crimes". He currently resides and works in Beijing. 

Minky Worden is Director of Global Initiatives at Human Rights Watch where she develops and implements international outreach and advocacy campaigns. She previously served as Human Rights Watch's Media Director, working with the world’s journalists to help them cover crises, wars, human rights abuses and political developments in some 90 countries worldwide. Before joining Human Rights Watch in 1998, Ms. Worden lived and worked in Hong Kong as an adviser to Democratic Party chairman Martin Lee and worked at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. as a speechwriter for the U.S. Attorney General and in the Executive Office for US Attorneys. A member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Ms. Worden speaks Cantonese and German, and is an elected member of the Overseas Press Club's Board of Governors. She is the editor of The Unfinished Revolution (Seven Stories Press, 2012) and China's Great Leap (Seven Stories Press, 2008), and the co-editor of Torture (New Press, 2005).

Alexandra Zsigmond is the New York Times’ Deputy Art Director for the Opinion section. Since graduating from Stanford University in 2004 with a degree in philosophy and the visual arts, she has worked as a program coordinator and designer for a variety of arts organizations, including Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, the National Endowment for the Arts in Washington, DC,  Jazz at Lincoln Center, and Cabinet magazine in New York City.

About the Director

Arien Mack, the Alfred and Monette Marrow Professor of Psychology at The New School for Social Research, has been the editor of Social Research since 1970 and is the founder and director of the Social Research conference series and all other Social Research projects. She teaches and manages a research laboratory investigating visual perception. Her publications include more than 60 articles; a book, Inattentional Blindness (1998); and three edited volumes (issues of Social Research republished as books by university presses), Death and the American Experience (1973), Technology and the Rest of Culture (1997), and Humans and Other Animals (1995).

For information about how you can support the Center for Public Scholarship, contact Professor Arien Mack at

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