The International Center of Photography presents Seeing Meaning: From Pictographs to AI, a day-long convening organized by Marina Chao, with the generous support of a Curatorial Research Fellowship Grant from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.  

This public symposium brings together artists, writers, designers, scholars, and researchers to explore the intersections between image and language across disciplines. In light of emergent text-to-image AI tools and the training of machines to process image and language as a single unit, the conflation, simultaneity, and slippages between picture and text—as old as language itself—are particularly visible today.  

Looking at these relationships from a multitude of perspectives, the speakers raise urgent questions about the ethics of photojournalism in the absence of a photographer-witness and how to navigate the proliferation of misinformation in the media. In their work they weave cognition, vision, and text together in generative ways—touching on sound, speech, citation, transduction, accessibility, spirituality, empathy, and connection—and sheds light on intrinsic but elusive networks between the brain, image, and language. Looking towards the future, they imagine a more compassionate technology guided by ancient wisdom.  

ICP Symposium: Seeing Meaning: From Pictographs to AI is made possible with the generous support of a Curatorial Research Fellowship Grant from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.  

Symposium Schedule 

Morning Session 11AM – 1:30 PM 

Welcome Remarks: Elisabeth Sherman, ICP Director of Exhibitions 
Introduction: Marina Chao, Curatorial Research Fellow, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts 

Fred Ritchin presents “Exiting the Photographic Universe” 

Yotam Ophir presents “Seeing Is Believing? Visual Misinformation in the Post-Truth Era” 

Maria Varkanitsa presents Capturing Minds: The Intersection of Image and Language in Aphasia Research 

Nicholas Muellner presents “This Slideshow Has No Pictures” 

Catherine Taylor presents “Image-Text-Music” 

Q&A Session  
1:30-2:00 PM - LUNCH BREAK  

Afternoon Session - 2:00PM – 4:00PM 

JJJJJerome Ellis presents “Visualizing Stuttering” 

Shannon Ebner presents “HYPER-GRAPHIC-STATES” 

Q&A Session 

Chloë Bass presents "To Quote, To Praise, To Summon” 
Headsets are required to participate in this performance. Please pick up at the registration desk on Floor 3. Registration to participate in this ambulatory lecture-performance is strongly encouraged. Sign up here.

BREAK (4:00-4:30 PM)  

Afternoon Session II - 4:30PM – 6:30PM

Finnegan Shannon and Bojana Coklyat presents “Reflecting on 5 Years of Alt Text as Poetry” 

Jennifer Daniel presents “Talk Emoji To Me” 

Sarah Gephart presents “Hypothetical Hack” 

Haytham Nawar presents "Designing a Universal Generative Pictographic Language" 

Anna Gerber presents “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming Treating technology like it’s the divine in disguise” 

Q&A Session / Closing Remarks 

Event Info

The event is free and open to the public, but registration is required.

This program is being offered both in person at ICP, located on NYC's Lower East Side, and online. Tickets to attend the conversation in person are free and do not include access to ICP’s galleries. Online tickets are available for free.

This symposium is produced by the generous support of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. 

About the Presenters

Chloë Bass is a multiform conceptual artist working in performance, situation, conversation, publication, and installation. Her work uses daily life as a site of deep research to address scales of intimacy: where patterns hold and break as group sizes expand. Her work has been shown nationally and internationally; she currently has work on view at the California African American Museum (Los Angeles) and the Henry Art Gallery (Seattle). Upcoming exhibits will take place at the Bentway (Toronto), the Middelheim Museum (Antwerp), and the Buffalo AKG. She is currently in residence at the Francis Kite Club, where she's the host of a series of evenings with Wrong Criticism Magazine. 

Marina Chao is currently curator at the Center for Photography at Woodstock (CPW) and has previously held curatorial positions at the International Center of Photography and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. As assistant curator at ICP she organized the exhibition Multiply, Identify, Her (2018), featuring the work of ten women artists using multiplicity and hybridity as strategies for representation and survival, and contributed to the publication Public, Private, Secret: On Photography and the Configuration of Self (Aperture and ICP, 2018). Marina has degrees in art history from Cornell University and Columbia University. 

Bojana Coklyat is a disabled artist, 2019-2020 J. William Fulbright alumni, and previous project leader at the NYC Museum Arts and Culture Access Consortium (MAC). In 2019, she curated Crip Imponderabilia, the first gallery exhibit at NYU centering all disabled artists and disability culture. Around this time, she began collaborating with Finnegan Shannon on the Alt-Text as Poetry project. This has included facilitating workshops at Twitter, Google, and MIT. Recently, Bojana has been a senior producer on a film funded by the American Foundation for the Blind, featuring a variety of different people in the blind community. She also works as Associate Manager of Access Programs and Initiatives at The Whitney Museum. 

Jennifer Daniel is the Chair of the Emoji Subcommittee for the Unicode Consortium, a non-profit that develops various standards, data, and open source software libraries to represent text in software. Previously, she was the Graphics Director at Bloomberg Businessweek and a graphics editor at the New York Times where her work was recognized by the Walker Museum of Art, Society of Illustrators, and D&AD. As an artist, she explores language and communication through verbal, written, auditory and visual expression. She lives in Brooklyn, New York but also in cyberspace. 

Shannon Ebner is an artist whose work explores the visual, material and temporal circumstances of language using photographic means. She was included in the 10th edition of Liverpool Biennial, Liverpool; the 31st Biennial of Graphic Arts, Ljubljana; the Daegu Photo Biennial, South Korea; the 54th Venice Biennale, Venice; the 6th Berlin Biennale, Berlin; and the 2008 Whitney Biennial, New York. Ebner’s work is in numerous public collections in the US and abroad. She is currently chairperson of the Photography Department at Pratt Institute where she is also the series editor for Pounds Per Image (PPI), a Pratt Photography Imprint co-published by Dancing Foxes Press. 

JJJJJerome Ellis (any pronoun) is a disabled animal, artist, and person who stutters. Through music, performance, writing, video, and photography, the artist asks what stuttering can teach us about justice. Born in 1989 to Jamaican and Grenadian immigrants, the artist lives in Norfolk, Virginia, with their wife, ecologist-poet Luísa Black Ellis. 

Sarah Gephart is the principal of MGMT. design, a graphic design office that focuses on cultural projects through print, branding, experiential, and information design. MGMT. has won awards from the Art Directors Club, the American Society of Magazine Editors, Print Magazine Design Annual, Society of Environmental Graphic Designers (SEGD), AIGA 50 books/50 covers, AIGA 365, and I.D. Magazine. Sarah is currently teaching at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, and has previously taught typography and information design at Pratt, the Cooper Union School of Art, Maryland College Institute of Art, and Parsons School of Design. Sarah received her BA from Oberlin College and MFA from Yale University. 

Anna Gerber is a proud Peabody Futures Award winner working across technology, arts and culture with world class global partners. Anna works as a creative consultant with a narrative-focus for clients including: Google AI Research, Google Empathy Lab, Google Arts & Culture and Google Creative Lab, WeTransfer and Penguin Random House. Anna writes about tech and innovation for FT Weekend and Creative Review. She is currently working on a major digital exhibition for The National Gallery. Anna is founder of Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming – a new online quarterly magazine on technology, natural intelligence, spiritual practice and ancient wisdom, launching soon. 

Nicholas Muellner is a Marseille based artist and writer. His six books include Lacuna Park: Essays and Other Adventures in Photography, The Amnesia Pavilions and In Most Tide an Island, which was shortlisted for the Aperture/Paris Photo Photobook Award, and selected as an outstanding book of the year in ArtForum. His work has been supported by a Guggenheim Fellowship in Photography, and residencies at the MacDowell and Yaddo Colonies, among others. He is founding Co-Director of the Image Text MFA and Press at Cornell University. 

Haytham Nawar is a practicing artist and designer, as well as a scholar in the fields of art and design. He has built his professional and academic career over the past two decades simultaneously fulfilling the different roles. He is an Associate Professor of design and the former Chair of the Department of the Arts at the American University in Cairo. Nawar is also the founding director of Cairotronica, Cairo International Electronic and New Media Arts Festival, Egypt. His most recent publications are Language of Tomorrow: Towards a Multicultural Visual Communication System in a Post-Human Era and the co-authored book A History of Arab Graphic Design. 

Yotam Ophir (PhD, University of Pennsylvania, 2018) studies media effects, persuasion, misinformation, conspiracy theories and extremism. His work combines computational methods for text mining, network analysis, experiments and surveys to study media content and effects in the areas of political, science, and health communication. His book “Misinformation & Society” is expected 2024. Dr. Ophir is the head of the Media Effects, Misinformation, and Extremism (MEME) lab at the University at Buffalo, a member of the Center for Information Integrity (CII) at the University at Buffalo, and a distinguished fellow at the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. 

Fred Ritchin is Dean Emeritus of the International Center of Photography where he had founded the Photojournalism and Documentary Photography educational program in 1983. He was professor of Photography and Imaging at New York University for over two decades where he co-founded the Photography and Human Rights Program, teaching as well in the Interactive Telecommunications Program. Ritchin served as picture editor of the New York Times Magazine (1978-82) and executive editor of Camera Arts magazine (1982-83). He created the first multimedia version of the New York Times newspaper in 1994-95, and conceived and edited the Times’s first non-linear online documentary project, “Bosnia: Uncertain Paths to Peace,” nominated in 1997 for a Pulitzer Prize in public service. Ritchin began writing on the digital revolution and its potential impacts on photographic credibility in 1984 for the New York Times Magazine. His books on the future of imaging include In Our Own Image: The Coming Revolution in Photography (Aperture, 1990), After Photography (W.W. Norton, 2008), and Bending the Frame: Photojournalism, Documentary, and the Citizen (Aperture, 2013). His next book will be The Synthetic Eye: Photography Transformed in the Age of AI, to be published by Thames & Hudson later this year.  

Finnegan Shannon is an artist experimenting with forms of access. They intervene in ableist structures with humor, earnestness, and rage. Some of their recent work includes Alt Text as Poetry, a collaboration with Bojana Coklyat that explores the expressive potential of image description; Do You Want Us Here or Not, a series of benches and cushions designed for exhibition spaces; and Don’t mind if I do, a conveyor-belt-centered exhibition that prioritizes rest and play. Their work has been supported by a Wynn Newhouse Award, an Eyebeam fellowship, and grants from Art Matters Foundation, Canada Council for the Arts, and the Disability Visibility Project. 

Catherine Taylor is the author of Image Text Music, a collection of essays on visual culture; You, Me, and the Violence on drones, puppets and autonomy; and Apart, a mixed-genre memoir and political history about South Africa. Her first book, Giving Birth: A Journey Into the World of Mothers and Midwives, won the Lamaze International Birth Advocate Award. She is a founding editor of Essay Press and was cofounder of The Human Rights Watch Film Festival. Taylor received her Ph.D. from Duke University. She is a founding codirector of the ITI Press and the Image Text MFA at Cornell University. 

Maria Varkanitsa is a Research Assistant Professor at the Boston University Center for Brain Recovery. She specializes in the relationship of language processing and the brain’s structural and functional integrity in individuals with stroke-induced aphasia. Her groundbreaking work focuses on identifying neuroimaging biomarkers for predicting language recovery, notably exploring how cerebral small vessel disease impacts therapeutic outcomes. Varkanitsa’s research also delves into the influence of static resting-state functional connectivity within critical cognitive networks on therapy responsiveness, significantly advancing the understanding of aphasia rehabilitation. 

About Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts  

In accordance with Andy Warhol’s will, the mission of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts is the advancement of the visual arts. The foundation manages a dynamic grants program while also preserving Warhol’s legacy through creative and responsible licensing policies and extensive scholarly research for ongoing catalogue raisonné projects. To date, the foundation has given nearly $300 million in cash grants to over 1,000 arts organizations around the country and abroad and has donated 52,786 works of art to 322 institutions worldwide. 

Image by Gabrielle Ravet