Noam M. Elcott

Noam M. Elcott

Modern and Contemporary Art and Media
Ph.D., Princeton University, 2009


Noam M. Elcott writes, teaches, and advises students in the history of modern art and media in Europe and North America, with an emphasis on early 20th century art, photography, and film. His research and teaching combine close visual analysis with media archaeology and critical theory. He also writes and teaches on contemporary art.

Elcott is the author of Artificial Darkness: An Obscure History of Modern Art and Media (University of Chicago Press), winner of the 2017 Society for Cinema and Media Studies (SCMS) Anne Friedberg Innovative Scholarship Award. Encompassing diverse figures such as Étienne-Jules Marey and Richard Wagner, Georges Méliès and Oskar Schlemmer, Elcott's book is the first to conceive, historicize, and theorize artificial darkness and the art and media that gave it form. Elcott is currently at work on two book projects: Art in the First Screen Age: László Moholy-Nagy and the Cinefication of the Arts (University of Chicago Press), which traverses interwar painting, architecture, photography, film, theater, and exhibition design in the age of cinema. Additionally, he has embarked on a longue durée exploration of reality as illusion in practices such as materialist trompe l'oeil, phantasmagoria, the art of the Eucharist, and the legal framework for counterfeit and trademark in society and art.

Elcott is an editor of the journal Grey Room which brings together scholarly and theoretical articles from the fields of architecture, art, media, and politics. He is a founding member of the Center for Comparative Media, which gathers scholars and doctoral students from diverse disciplines to map and interrogate our mediated world across expanses of time (history and archaeology), space (globalization), and across diverse media technologies and techniques. He is also the director (with Sarah H. Meister) of The August Sander Project (MoMA/Columbia), a five-year initiative exploring Sander's epic photo-portrait of German society People of the Twentieth Century. His articles have appeared in leading journals like Grey RoomOctober, and Aperture, as well as in many museum catalogues and scholarly volumes, including monographic essays on Anthony McCall, Stan Douglas, Vera Lutter, Walead Beshty, Jean Epstein, James Welling, the London Film-Makers' Co-op, and others. He has lectured widely in North America, Europe, and also in South America.

Selected Publications

Artificial Darkness: An Obscure History of Modern Art and Media. University of Chicago Press, 2016.
   • Winner of the 2017 Society for Cinema and Media Studies (SCMS) Anne Friedberg Innovative Scholarship Award.
   • Finalist for the 2017 First Book Prize from the Modernist Studies Association.
   • Reviewed in Critical InquiryThe Times Literary SupplementArt HistoryCAA ReviewsThe Architectural ReviewTransbordeurNECSUSThe Year's Work in Critical and Cultural Theory (Oxford)Sešit pro umění, teorii a příbuzné zóny (English)Les Cahiers du Musée National d'Art ModerneMillennium Film JournalSenses of CinemaChoicePro Photo DailyThe Art NewspaperFilm CommentHyperallergicPrefix PhotoDigicult. Also featured in AnOther Magazine and BBC's The Forum.

"The Master of Time: Jean Epstein’s Nonhuman Time Axis Manipulation." In Time Machine: Cinematic Temporalities, edited by Antonio Somaini and Marie Rebecchi, 163-83. Milan: Skira, 2020.

"Walead Beshty: The Aesthetics and Ethics of Materialist Transparency." In Walead Beshty: Work in Exhibition, edited by Lynn Kost. London: Koenig, 2020.

"Windows on an Absent World." In Vera Lutter: Museum Pictures, 96-109. Los Angeles: LACMA, 2020.

"Loops, or The Wave." In Universalenzyklopädie der Menschlichen Klugheit, edited by Markus Krajewski and Harun Maye, 231-35. Berlin: Kadmos, 2019.

"Calder/Photography: Images in Limbo and Nonhuman Perception." In Calder: Small Sphere and Heavy Sphere, 120-39. New York: Pace Gallery, 2019.

"Material. Human. Divine. Notes on the Vertical Screen." In Screen Genealogies—From Optical Device to Environmental Medium, edited by Craig Buckley, Rüdiger Campe and Francesco Casetti, 293-319. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2019.

"The Cinematic Imaginary and the Photographic Fact: Media as Models for 20th Century Art." PhotoResearcher, no. 29 (2018): 7-23.

Artforum reviews on László Moholy-Nagy Retrospective (2016), Peter Gidal and the London Film-Makers' Co-operative (2017), and "Picture Industry" (2017).

"The Phantasmagoric Dispositif: An Assembly of Bodies and Images in Real Time and Space." Grey Room 62 (Winter 2016): 42-71.

"Experimentation, from Darkroom to Laptop." In Photography at Moma: 1960 until Now, edited by Quentin Bajac, Lucy Gallun, Roxana Marcoci and Sarah Hermanson Meister, 316-19. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2015.

"'Kaleidoscope-Architecture': Scheerbart, Taut, and the Glass House." In Glass! Love!! Perpetual Motion!!! A Paul Scheerbart Reader, edited by Josia McElheny and Christine Burgin, 110-17. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014.

"In Search of Lost Space: Stan Douglas's Archaeology of Mediated Darkness." October 139 (2012): 151-182.

"Anthony McCall and the Mediation of Immediacy." In Anthony McCall: Five Minutes of Pure Sculpture, 20-53. Berlin: Walther König, 2012.

"Rooms of Our Time: László Moholy-Nagy and the Stillbirth of Multi-Media Museums." In Screen/Space, edited by Tamara Trodd, 25-52. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2011.

"Untimely Detritus: Christian Marclay's Cyanotypes." In Christian Marclay: Cyanotypes. Zurich: JRP Ringier, 2011.
Anthologized in On & By Christian Marclay. London: Whitechapel Gallery; MIT, 2014.

"Reflections on Glass Houses." In James Welling: Glass House, 63-92. Bologna: Damiani, 2011.

"Darkened Rooms: A Genealogy of Avant-Garde Filmstrips from Man Ray to the London Film Makers' Co-op and Back Again," Grey Room 30, Winter 2008.