Professor Michael Mandiberg

Although the scorching days of summer lead many to swimming pools, beaches, and lounge chairs, Professor Michael Mandiberg has no time for leisure or summer vacations. With awards under his belt and exhibitions in his sights, the College of Staten Island (CSI) professor and interdisciplinary artist is as multidimensional as his projects.

Mandiberg is the recent recipient of a Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) fellowship award and was also accepted to a residency at The MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire. In addition to these prestigious honors, the Brooklyn resident is finishing up several large projects and also beginning some new ones.

The Art + Technology Lab at LACMA is a substantial financial award that will help support Mandiberg for a one-year research leave as he embarks on a new project recreating the Charlie Chaplin film Modern Times using digital labor sourced from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk marketplace. Mandiberg’s 21st-Century version of the 1936 film will remix it to speak to contemporary digital labor.

To devote time and concentration to his complex creations, Mandiberg will reside at The MacDowell Colony, the oldest artist residence in the country, during the summer months.

Working in a subcategory of new media art, Mandiberg uses a wide range of tools and technology, sometimes utilizing software and sometimes even building the software to craft his digital projects.

“My work spans a broad range of creative research methodologies,” he noted, adding that the creative process behind these mammoth projects takes “quite a bit of time.”

In addition to the new project, Mandiberg is currently completing two major works: Print Wikipedia and FDIC Insured.

Mandiberg's FDIC Insured exhibit

Print Wikipedia is a massive undertaking in which Mandiberg wrote software that transforms the entirety of the Wikipedia database into thousands of book-format volumes.

“I started editing Wikipedia in 2009, and once I started editing, I thought ‘This corpus is amazing. And so big. What can I do with it?’”

FDIC Insured began at the height of the Great Recession in 2009 when large numbers of banks were failing regularly. To represent the scope of the systemic failure, Mandiberg archived the logos of 527 of these banks and burned them on covers of books about investment, business management, or financial planning.

“I started thinking about the way in which these logos disappear,” Mandiberg says. “As soon as the bank fails, the Website is erased, and the logo goes quickly thereafter. Logos, as we know them, are a post-Second World War phenomenon in which the corporate entity is able to signify timelessness, stability, and trust. Think about the Chase [bank] logo: it is like an immovable boulder, but it is also a safe, and a jewel. It literally and symbolically manifests permanence.”

Mandiberg aims to preserve the logos in a book and online archive due to be published this summer ahead of the show this autumn at 40 Rector Street in Manhattan, organized by Art In Buildings. A portion of the series was first shown at the Pacific Northwest College of Art’s Feldman Gallery in Portland, OR, Mandiberg’s hometown, in 2010.

Although the artist, technologist, and scholar has much on his interdisciplinary plate, he looks forward to returning to CSI after his research leave to teach his Design and Digital Media courses. His CSI students have become, in fact, a part of his work as about five students have steadily assisted him on these projects for several years.

As Mandiberg said, “I do my best to synthesize research and teaching.”