Hello; I’m Nora

I am a writer, an editor, and a curator. By day, I am Executive Director of Project X Foundation, publisher of X-TRA Contemporary Art Journal, based in Los Angeles. By night and early morning, I am co-curator of the Biennale de l’Image en Mouvement, alongside Andrea Bellini, which will open in January 2024 in Geneva, at the Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève.

I began writing and publishing professionally in 2007, writing long-form essays about designing narrative systems and belief in games for Kill Screen. I went on to write and serve as editor at Rhizome for six years, at Topical Cream from 2020-2021, and from 2021 to 2022, at HOLO Magazine, recently producing the well-received HOLO 3: Mirror Stage: Between Computability and its Opposite. I was a professor at RISD in Digital + Media (D+M), from 2018 to 2021, and taught technological criticism, critical theory and artistic research, and artistic and theoretical writing across D+M, Graphic Design, and Industrial Design. I was nominated for the John R. Frazier Award for Excellence in Teaching after three years.

Through all that time, my interests have been consistent. I write and speak on algorithms and artificial intelligence and machine learning, to elucidate the ways machines shape our sense of time, our capacity to understand and process images, and our sense of belief. I am invested in the ways computation irrevocably challenges cherished humanist frameworks for artistic and literary practice. I study the person before the machine, in relation to the machine, and inevitably thinking through the machine. I research the ways governments, institutions, and museums manage cultural anxiety about technology through clever initiatives. I particularly enjoy tracing current, heady claims to utopia built through technological innovation, and claims to neutrality and objectivity, drawing a through line to their origins in early history of engineering and computational design.

At the core of my practice is writing, which forms the foundation for my work as a mentor and curator working with young writers and artists. I have written two books: Seeing, Naming, Knowing (Brooklyn Rail, 2019) on the politics and future of machine vision, and Fear Indexing the X-Files (Primary Information, 2017) with Steven Warwick. I am currently editing two books towards publication: No Context: AI Art and the Stakes for Criticism (Lund Humphries, New Directions in Contemporary Art Series), and Kingdom, a novel, which will be published by Primary Information. For many years, I consistently published criticism and essays in publications like Art in America, Artforum, Rhizome, Flash Art, and California Sunday, on topics ranging from the poetry of boids to sonic weapons. This website – soon to be updated – is an index (of a selection) of pieces that are accessible online.

In my practice as an editor, I am driven by one, consistent challenge: sustaining an editorial process and collective that can identify, nourish, and develop rigorous, experimental writing about digital media, artistic practice, and experimental technologies, to cut through hype and the market cycle. I believe in fostering a critical relationship between writing and the systems that we build. There has never been a more necessary time for a range of critical thinking about technological art, AI aesthetics and ethics, simulation, and publishing on the internet. I believe this style of writing is an art form in itself, and deserves naming, support, and understanding. I’m committed to supporting writers and artists who are able to frame, distill, and help us see the unseen, designed-away, buried political stakes of systems, and also teach us to navigate them.

Recent interviews in Yale’s CCAM journal, What Kind of Eye is This?  and a conversation with Andrea Bellini, Plants in a Garden, Tended by Machines in Flash Art this past fall, are good dives into my curatorial and writing practice.

Working with artists as a curator is one of my driving passions. I am currently working with Andrea Bellini on 15 new commissions for the Moving Image Biennial, including artists American Artist, Jenna Sutela, Diego Marcon, Interspecifics, Danielle Braithwaite-Shirley, Aziz Hazara, and many more brilliant people. In 2020, I was the first guest curator at the Shed, organizing Manual Overridean exhibition featuring Lynn Hershman Leeson, Sondra Perry, Martine Syms, Morehshin Allahyari, and Simon Fujiwara. Manual Override saw 30,000 visitors in two months. I have written commissioned essays and monographs for the artists Josh Kline, Lynne Marsh, Katja Novitskova, Sondra Perry, Ian Cheng, Jeremy Shaw, and more, for exhibitions at Serpentine Galleries, Chisenhale Gallery, the Venice Biennale’s Estonian Pavilion, Centre Pompidou, Swiss Institute, and Kunstverein in Hamburg.

My writing practice extends, when possible, to a wide range of artistic collaborations, to include performances, ficto-critical texts for exhibitions, scripts, and librettos. Notable collaborations include: being lead writer for Team Rolfes for Unsound Festival (2020); A Wild Ass Beyond: ApocalypseRN, in collaboration with Sondra Perry, Caitlin Cherry, and American Artist at Performance Space, New York (2018); delivering lecture performances of Fear Indexing the X-Files with Steven Warwick (2017-2018); undertaking collaborative essay-writing with DeForrest Brown, Jr. (2014-2017), and writing a libretto for Decession, an opera performed at Volksbuhne in Berlin, by Bill Kouligas and Spiros Hadjidjanos (2016).

I have led workshops and seminars in both institutional and para-institutional spaces around the world. Co-curating, with Maya Indira Ganesh, the AI Anarchies Autumn School: Experiments in Study, Collective Learning and Unlearning was a massive undertaking in 2022, supported by the Akademie der Künste in Berlin. AI Anarchies gathered theorists and practitioners from around the world to consider, theorize, and discuss the concept of an ‘anarchic AI.’ Working with other femme scholars who also struggle through the difficult, often unseen interdisciplinary theorizing of technology, drawing on feminist and radical frameworks, is of huge importance to me. Another notable seminar series I developed was Simulation Politics: Persuasion and Possibility, taught as faculty at the Art & Research Center at ICA Miami.

I am an experienced guest critic and moderator, and speaker at conferences and schools around the world. I have moderated the Digital Earth Talks, hosted a season of the Bloomberg Art & Technology Series, and spoken at transmediale (Berlin), Serpentine Galleries, DLD, Gray Area, Duke, RISD, Brown University, UCLA, Pratt, Parsons, New School, UKK in Denmark, the Whitney, and ICA Miami. In 2019, I was a distinguished critic at the Core Program at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and Carnegie Mellon, School of Art.

I have been very lucky to have had incredible support from residencies and arts non-profits over my career. I credit the support of La Becque in Switzerland, The Islands Arts Writing Residency on Fogo Island and Toronto Islands (2019), a Critical Writing Grant given through the Visual Arts Foundation and the Crossed Purposes Foundation (2018), an Eyebeam Research Residency (2017), and the Thoma Foundation 2016 Arts Writing Award in Digital Art for an emerging arts writer for all helping me continue my practice at crucial moments.

Please feel free to reach out to me for writing and speaking opportunities, or just to get in touch, at noranahidkhan@gmail.com.

2 responses to “Hello; I’m Nora”

  1. Hi Nora,

    I’m an art and culture writer currently working on a story for Vice about the increasing digitalization of the art world through artificial intelligence and the issues this raises about copyright, privacy, and anonymity. I’m a huge fan of your writings for Art in America and Rhizome and would love to be able to talk to you about your work at Eyebeam but couldn’t find your e-mail on your site.

    Please let me know if this would be a possibility!

    All my best,

    Mariana Fernandez

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