Scene from Drumpilled, virtual collaboration between Khan (lead writer) and Team Rolfes, Unsound 2020
Nora N. Khan is a writer. She writes criticism on emerging issues within digital visual culture, experimental art and music practices, and philosophy of emerging technology. She is a professor at RISD, based in Digital + Media (D+M). She teaches graduate courses on technological criticism, thesis writing for artists and designers, and critical theory and artistic research, across D+M, Graphic Design, and Industrial Design.
This year, she is the Editor-in-Residence of Topical Cream, and will be focused on mentoring and commissioning women and gender non-conforming individuals invested in rigorous art and technology criticism. Feel free to please read the editorial frame here.
She is also the 2021 Editorial Lead of the HOLO Annual, which will take shape this year to produce a printed journal by August; her research frame is on languages of obfuscation and explainability around computation. Feel free to please read the editorial frame here.
Her most recent work is a short book on the logic of predictive algorithms and machine vision, titled Seeing, Naming, Knowing, published by The Brooklyn Rail. Forthcoming is The Artificial and the Real, a book on simulation, semantic mapping walks, and synthetic paint, published through Art Metropole, and a second book on AI Art and the stakes for criticism through Lund Humphries’ New Directions in Contemporary Art Series.
Khan publishes criticism in places like Artforum, TANK, Art in America, Flash Art, Mousse, 4Columns, Brooklyn Rail, Rhizome, California Sunday, The Village Voice, and Glass Bead. She has written commissioned essays for exhibitions at Serpentine Galleries, Chisenhale, the Venice Biennale, Centre Pompidou, Swiss Institute, and Kunstverein in Hamburg. In 2017, she wrote a book with Steven Warwick, Fear Indexing the X-Files, published by Primary Information.
In 2020, she was the Shed’s first guest curator, organizing Manual Override, an exhibition featuring Lynn Hershman Leeson, Sondra Perry, Martine Syms, Morehshin Allahyari, and Simon Fujiwara. Three of the works were new commissions. Manual Override saw 30,000 visitors in two months. Here is some coverage in Vogue, the New York Times, a beautiful review of the exhibition by critic Aruna D’Souza in 4Columns, and the Wall Street Journal.
Other highlighted curatorial projects include a salon, themed ‘Identity,’ for Current Museum , featuring works by Jakob Steensen, Ryan Kuo, Tabita Rezaire, Jacolby Satterwhite, Meriem Bennani, and more; production of Together in Electric Dreams, a session on the present and future of artificial intelligence, within Open Score at New Museum; ‘California Imaginary’ at Industry Lab (Boston).
Here is a good interview with Khan in the Creative Independent in about her writing and collaborative practice. Khan has spoken on art and technology criticism and experimental pedagogy for the New Models podcast, and for the MOMUS podcast in conversation with critic Mike Pepi. She was interviewed at length by Bloomberg TV around Manual Override. Interviews with Khan about her thinking and work are forthcoming in Maquette, of Yale’s Center for Collaborative Media, and The Offsite, dedicated to women of color in positions of creative leadership in spring 2021.
Khan’s writing practice extends to a wide range of artistic collaborations, which includes performances, ficto-critical texts for exhibitions, scripts, and even librettos. Notable collaborations include: 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); lecture performances of Fear Indexing the X-Files with Steven Warwick (2017-2018); collaborative essay-writing with DeForrest Brown, Jr. (2014-2017); Decession, writing a libretto for an opera performed at Volksbuhne in Berlin, by Bill Kouligas and Spiros Hadjidjanos (2016).
Critic and Advising
Khan is a frequent guest critic and speaker at conferences and schools around the world. She has 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, and has been a distinguished critic at the Core Program at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and Carnegie Mellon, School of Art. This year, Khan will be formally advising the Queens Museum on their “Year of Uncertainty.” Khan serves on the advisory board of MOMUS, The Language Art Observer, and the Kathy Rae Huffman Archives. She has juried or advised for Eyebeam, Red Bull Arts, queer.archive. work, ArtSlant.
Khan is an editor of Forces of Art (Valiz, 2020), alongside critics and curators Serubiri Moses, Carin Kuoni, and Jordi Baltà Portolés. She is also editor of Making Pictures with Generative Adversarial Networks by Casey Reas (Anteism Press), a project supported by Google’s Artist and Machine Intelligence group. She was a longtime editor (‘contributing,’ acting, and special projects) at Rhizome. A notable publication was What’s To Be Done?, a magazine marking the tenth anniversary of 7×7. Designed by Richard Turley, it features works and interviews with Paul Ford, Claire L. Evans, Kate Ray, and Martine Syms, and an interview Khan conducted with Stanford professor and Silicon Valley scholar Fred Turner, “We Are As Gods.” Khan began editing as a web editor for Kill Screen (2010-2013), and has been a researcher, fact-checker, and book and essay editor across artists’ and experimental publishing, magazine publishing, business academia and finance for a decade.
Her writing practice has been supported by many awards over the last decade. Most recent notable support includes the La Becque Residency (2021), 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 a Thoma Foundation 2016 Arts Writing Award in Digital Art for an emerging arts writer. Her short story “The Quarry” won a Howard Frank Mosher Short Fiction Prize; she has been a finalist for American Literary Review’s Fiction Contest, Glimmer Train’s Best Short Story Awards, and the Pushcart. She studied fiction writing at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop (MFA, Fiction; 2008), where she was an Iowa Arts Fellow, and history and literature at Harvard (B.A., English, 2005) where she won a Thomas T. Hoopes Prize.
General Interests: Understanding grounding ideology beneath technology; how we manage to express joy and wonder, and maintain our creative energy, within the bounds of increasingly oppressive systems; how to consistently ground analysis of creative work in the social, political and material realities that make the work possible; the ongoing play between affect, cognitive studies, and emerging technology; how new tech- makes us feel, think, and relate to one another in new ways; the hope of digital, networked, and virtual systems that might just allow for a more open, learned, and compassionate world.
Please e-mail Nora at email@example.com.