Noam Elcott Former Senior Fellow

Noam Elcott
June 2017


Noam M. Elcott is Associate Professor for Modern and Contemporary Art and Media at Columbia University, New York. Having studied art history at Columbia University, he obtained his Ph.D. at Princeton University in 2009. From 2000 to 2001, Elcott has been Fulbright Scholar in Berlin. He held several other fellowships, e.g. the Mellon Fellowship in Humanistic Studies (2002/2003) and the Charlotte Elizabeth Procter Fellowship at Princeton University (2007/2008). He has lectured widely, including recent talks at the Museu de Arte de Rio (Brazil), Austrian Film Museum (Vienna), Institut national d'histoire de l'art (INHA) (Paris), Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam), Oslo National Academy of the Arts (Oslo), Tate Modern (London), Eikones (Basel) and others. Since 2000, Noam M. Elcott has been editor of the academic journal Grey Room, which brings together scholarly and theoretical articles from the fields of architecture, art, media, and politics.

Dated from 2017

Fields of research

Modern art history. History of photography. Film history. Media theory and history.

IKKM Research Project

Phantasmagoric Painting: Hans Richter, Theo van Doesburg, and László Moholy-Nagy between Canvas and Screen

“Phantasmagoric Painting: Hans Richter, Theo van Doesburg, and László Moholy-Nagy between Canvas and Screen,” which is the first chapter of my second book, Art in the First Screen Age: László Moholy-Nagy and the Cinefication of the Arts, revolves around competing operative ontologies of the screen. More precisely, it distinguishes the “canvas” (Leinwand) and “film-canvas” (Filmleinwand) central to essentialist definitions of art and film (Greenberg, Arnheim, et al.) from the unheralded “screen” (Schirm) promulgated by avant-garde artists and theorists like Moholy-Nagy, Richter, and van Doesburg. In the essentialist readings of interwar art, the canvas/screen foregrounded its own properties (flatness, rectangularity, etc.) in a self-critical effort to delimit “the unique and proper area of competence” of each medium (Greenberg). An alternative effort, however, endeavored to construct a screen that would facilitate the (Hegelian) collapse of image and viewer, art and life. This avant-garde screen, as I demonstrate through meticulous historical analysis, had all the properties of the phantasmagoric screen, even if contemporaneous critics and recent scholars failed to make the connection. In the case of interwar abstract painting and film, the distinction between the modernist dream of self-reflexivity and the avant-gardist dream to merge art and life hinged on the infrathin difference between canvas and screen, the assertion of limits and the dissolution of boundaries. This reading is only possible through a synthesis of media archaeology and rigorous art history.

Recent publications

Artificial Darkness: An Obscure History of Modern Art and Media. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016. Winner of the 2017 Society for Cinema and Media Studies (SCMS) Anne Friedberg Innovative Scholarship Award.

Art in the First Screen Age: László Moholy-Nagy and the Cinefication of the Arts. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, in preparation.

“The Phantasmagoric Dispositif: An Assembly of Bodies and Images in Real Time and Space.” Grey Room 62 (Winter 2016): 42-71. German translation in Nach dem Film no. 15 (2017).

“Counter-History Paintings: Stan Douglas’s Photo-Panoramas,” in Stan Douglas (Hasselblad/MACK: Göteborg, Sweden), 2016.

“Experimentation: From Darkroom to Laptop.” In Photography at MoMA: 1960 until Now, 316-319. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2015.