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Dissertation Fellowship 2020
The Dedalus Foundation Dissertation Fellowship for 2020 – 2021 has been awarded to Zsofi Valyi-Nagy, a PhD candidate at the University of Chicago, for her dissertation Vera Molnar’s Programmed Abstraction: Computer Graphics and Geometric Abstraction in Postwar Europe. The award carries a stipend of $25,000.
Ms. Valyi-Nagy’s dissertation focuses on Vera Molnar (b. 1924), a Hungarian-born artist who moved to Paris in 1947 and began experimenting with a mainframe computer in the late 1960s. The dissertation is comprised of three sections that consider Molnar in three distinct but interrelated roles: artist, collaborator, and early user of computers.
The first section contextualizes computer art not only within the history of “new media,” but also in a longer history of abstract art. Molnar’s practice is situated within a broader scope of aleatoric painting and geometric abstraction that investigated subjectivity through systematic, serial processes. Section two situates Molnar as a key node in a transnational, interdisciplinary network of postwar European thinkers interested in the computer’s impact on human creativity. By exploring Molnar’s involvement in research groups and collaborative partnerships––in France and Germany as well as across the Iron Curtain and the Atlantic––this dissertation maps a network of thinkers deeply invested in bridging the postwar “Two Cultures” divide between art and science, taking into account words, sounds, and images. The final section draws on methods drawn from media archaeology and feminist science and technology studies to trace the material history of computer graphics in Europe through Molnar’s user experience.
Ms. Valyi-Nagy’s project entails site-specific research in France, Germany, Switzerland, and Hungary, combining archival research, interviews with Molnar and her interlocutors, and object-based research on both artworks and computer history artifacts. By tracing the movement of objects, technologies, and individuals across borders and oceans, her dissertation considers early digital art as a transnational postwar phenomenon that sheds light on the broader intersections of art, technology, and gender in the twentieth century.
Zsofi Valyi-Nagy received a dual BA in Visual Arts and Linguistics from the University of Chicago (2013); an M.St. in English Language from the University of Oxford (2014), where her master’s dissertation traced linguistic changes in contemporary art criticism since the 1960s; and an MA in the history of art from the University of Chicago (2018). She is also a practicing artist and holographer.
The Dedalus Foundation Dissertation Fellowship is awarded annually to a Ph.D. candidate at an American university who is working on a dissertation related to modern art and modernism.