Dr. Michel Otayek
Freie Universität Berlin
Project "Mobilität, Anderssein und kulturelle Differenz: Ethnografische Fotografie von Europäischen Frauen im Lateinamerika" - Prof. Susanne Klengel
Michel Otayek is an art historian specializing in 20th-century photography and print culture in Ibero-America. He holds an M.A. from Hunter College (Art History, 2012) and a Ph.D. from New York University (Spanish and Portuguese, 2019). His research focuses on the production and circulation of photographic images, emphasizing questions of gender, mobility, and cultural exchange. His published scholarship showcases his ability to think critically about issues of cultural production from a transnational, interdisciplinary perspective.
Approved with distinction, his doctoral dissertation examines the careers of exiled photographers Kati Horna (1912 - 2000) and Grete Stern (1908 - 1999) in Mexico and Argentina, respectively. Paying close attention to their mobile positions across networks of cultural production, Otayek underscores the photographers' ability to exercise a wide range of creative choices within dense markets of print culture.
His curatorial experience includes "Told and Untold: The Photo Stories of Kati Horna in the Illustrated Press" (Americas Society, 2016), the first exhibition in the United States dedicated to the work of the Hungarian-born Mexican photographer. Among other institutional projects, he has collaborated with the Reina Sofía Museum's online portals "Rethinking Guernica" (2017) and "Front and Rearguard: Women in the Spanish Civil War" (2021).
As a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Lateinamerika-Institut, Dr. Otayek's current project (“Mobility, Otherness, and Cultural Difference: Ethnographic Photography by European Women in Postwar Latin-American”) considers the production of photographic images under conditions of unequal conviviality and their transnational circulation through a wide range of print materials and exhibitions. Within the context of his project, funded by the Einstein Stiftung and the Berlin University Alliance, Dr. Otayek is preparing a monograph titled Culture Brokers: Ethnographic Photography by European Women in Latin America.
- Photography and Print Culture
- Gender and Exile Studies
- Visual Anthropology
- Spanish Civil War Visual Culture
- Indigenous and Postcolonial Studies
- Modern and Contemporary Latin American Art
Culture Brokers: Ethnographic Photography by European Women in Latin America (manuscript in preparation)
“Photography, Mobility, and Collaboration: Kati Horna in Mexico and Grete Stern in Argentina.” Ph.D. dissertation (New York University, 2019). Approved with distinction.
“Testimony of an Instant: The Spanish Anarchist Revolution Through the Lens of Kati Horna (1936-1939).” MA Thesis (Hunter College, 2011). Awarded the Sommerville Art Prize.
de la LLECA al COHUE: Fotografía en penitenciarías venezolanas / Photography in Venezuelan Penitentiaries, eds. Violette Bule and Michel Otayek. Mexico City: Roga Ediciones, 2023.
Patricia Avellán: Meanderings / Serpenteos, eds. Michel Otayek and Eugenia Sucre (in preparation)
Told and Untold: The Photo Stories of Kati Horna in the Illustrated Press, eds. Christina de León, Michel Otayek and Gabriela Rangel, exhibition catalog. New York and Mexico City: Americas Society and Archivo Privado de Foto y Gráfica Kati and José Horna S.C. (2017).
Articles, Book Chapters, Catalog Essays, Encyclopedia Entries
“Between the Archive and the Artworld: Writing Gendered Histories of Ibero-American Photography,” in (Re)thinking Archives: Women, Culture and Gender in Iberia, Africa and Latin America in the 20th Century, eds. Carmen Gaitán Salinas and Jordana Mendelson, special issue of Journal of Women’s History (forthcoming 2024)
“Greed, Violence, and Desire: Alfredo Boulton's Portrait of a Venezuelan Fisherman,” in Modernist Bodies, eds. Michelle Greet and Lynda Klich, special issue of Journal of Latin American and Latinx Visual Culture (forthcoming 2024)
“Kati Horna: Fotografía y experiencia de exilio,” in Salirse del camino: Artistas del exilio republicano español, eds. Alejandro Coello Hernández y Carmen Gaitán Salinas. Granada: Editorial Comares (forthcoming 2024)
“Oficios de la página impresa: Manuela Ballester y la revista Pasionaria,” in Manuela Ballester: Pintar ante todo, ed. Carmen Gaitán Salinas. Valencia: Universitat de Valencia (forthcoming 2024)
"Between Science and Popular Culture: Barbara Brändli's Photographs of the Venezuelan Amazonia," in A Foreign Eye: Photography, Women and Global; Encounters in the 20th Century, eds. Jordan Troeller and Hyewon Yoon, special issue of History of Photography (in review)
“Women's Rightful Place: Images, Magazines, and Mobilization During the Spanish Civil War,” in The Edinburg University Press Companion on Spanish Civil War Art and Visual Culture, eds. Eugenia Afinoguénova, Silvina Gesser and Robert Lubar (in review)
"The Camera as Compass: Kati Horna's Photographic Exiles," in Jewish Latin American Artists: Perspectives from the Global South, ed. Laura Fattal. Detroit: Wayne State University Press (in review)
“Rómulo Gallegos, Canaima, and the Photobook that Never Was,” in Vistas 2: First Annual Symposium on Latin American art—Realisms: Politics, Art, and Visual Culture in the Americas, ed. Sean Nesselrode Moncada. New York: Institute of Fine Arts (2020): 63-73.
"Fotografía y excepcionalidad: Barbara Brändli, Thea Segall y el sur venezolano," in Las otras modernidades de Venezuela, ed. Juan Pablo Lupi, special issue of Studia Iberica et Americana 5 (2019): 101-121.
“Keepsakes of the Revolution: Transnational Networks and the Production and Distribution of Anarchist Propaganda During the Spanish Civil War,” in Writing Revolution: Hispanic Anarchism in the United States, 1868-2015, eds. Montse Feu and Christopher Castaneda. Chicago: University of Illinois Press (2019): 227-244.
“La Venezuela distante de Barbara Brändli”, in PhotoBolsillo: Barbara Brändli. Madrid: La Fábrica (2018).
New article (“Kati Horna”) and updated articles (“Caracas,” “Graciela Iturbide,” “Luis Brito,” “Martin Chambi,” “Paolo Gasparini,” and “Tina Modotti”) in Grove Encyclopedia of Latin American Art & Architecture, ed. Tom Cummins. New York: Oxford University Press (2019).
“Del reportaje periodístico a la rebelión contra el arte: las vidas múltiples de “El iluminado” de Kati Horna,” in Lámpara de mil bujías: fotografía y arte en América Latina desde 1839, eds. Elena Rosauro and Juanita Solano. Barcelona: Editorial Foc (2018): 390-429.
“Contando a Kati Horna: apuntes breves sobre el oficio de historiador,” in Velar la imagen, eds. Lourdes Dávila et al, special issue of Esferas 7 (2017): 149-155.
“Loss and Renewal: The Politics and Poetics of Kati Horna’s Photo Stories,” in Told and Untold: The Photo Stories of Kati Horna in the Illustrated Press, eds. Christina de León, Michel Otayek and Gabriela Rangel, exhibition catalog. New York and Mexico City: Americas Society and Archivo Privado de Foto y Gráfica Kati and José Horna S.C. (2017): 20-39.
“Berenice Abbott: Changing New York,” and “Walker Evans: Many Are Called,” in New York in Photobooks, ed. Horacio Fernández, exhibition catalog. Granada, Spain and Mexico City: Centro José Guerrero and Editorial RM (2016): 40-47 and 104-109.
"Catalogue" and "Timeline," in Power and Piety: Spanish American Colonial Art, ed. Jorge F. Rivas, exhibition catalog. Alexandria and New York: Art Services International and Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros (2015): 54-167 and 170-179.
Conferences, Lectures, Symposia
“Neighbours: A conversation between artist Karin Sander and art historian Michel Otayek about the Swiss contribution to the 2023 Venice Architecture Biennale.” Public conversation as part of the Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes’ series Berliner Gespräche (Berlin, Germany), September 1, 2023.
“Kati Horna y sus exilios fotográficos.” Guest lecture delivered as part of the seminar Cultura, Arte y Género, Centro de Ciencias Humanas y Sociales, CSIC (Madrid, Spain), February 14, 2023.
“Photography as Extraction and Redress: Barbara Brändli and Claudia Andujar Among the Yanomami.” Guest lecture presented as part of the MA in Art History Alumni Lecture Series, Hunter College (New York, USA), October 27, 2022.
“París-Barcelona-México: Kati Horna y sus exilios fotográficos.” Guest lecture presented as part of the HISTAGRA Lecture Series, Departamento de Historia, Universidad de Santiago (Santiago de Compostela, Spain), March 31, 2022.
“Fotografía y experiencias femeninas del exilio republican.” Presented at Salirse del camino: creadoras del exilio republicano español, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (Madrid, Spain), January 28, 2022.
“Fotografía, surrealismo y arraigo: Kati Horna y su vampiro en Coyoacán.” Presented at Explorando el pluriverso surrealista, Lateinamerika-Institut (Freie Universität Berlin), December 7, 2021.
"Making Words Palatable: Grete Stern’s Dreams (1948-1951).” Presented at SECAC Annual Conference (Chattanooga, TN), October 18, 2019.
"Photographic Entanglements: Kati Horna and the Modernizing City." Presented at Modernist Studies Association Annual Conference (Columbus, OH), November 10, 2018.
“Modernidad, etnografía y excepcionalidad: Bárbara Brändli, Thea Segall y las comunidades indígenas del sur venezolano.” Presented at Latin American Studies Association Annual Conference (Lima, Peru), April 30, 2017.
“The Asymmetrical Power of Pictures: Photography, Illustration, and Anarchist Propaganda During the Spanish Civil War.” Presented at College Art Association 105th Annual Conference (New York, NY), February 15, 2017.
“Exile in Latin America: Kati Horna and Grete Stern.” Presented at Kati Horna and Women Photographers in Exile, Institute of Fine Arts (New York, NY), November 9, 2016.
“Canaima Recreated: Photography, Timelessness, and the Economic Conquest of the Venezuelan South—Or, The Splendid Photobook That Never Was.” Presented at the 2016 IFA–ISLAA Symposium Realisms: Politics, Art, and Visual Culture in the Americas, Institute of Fine Arts (New York, NY), April 30, 2016.
“Lights and Shadows in the Hinterlands: Ethnographic Endeavors of Grete Stern and Bárbara Brändli in 1960s Argentina and Venezuela.” Presented at College Art Association 104th Annual Conference (Washington, DC), February 5, 2016.
“The Resistance Movement in Venezuela: Civil Disobedience and the Rule of Law.” Presented at Diálogo: Crisis en Venezuela, New York University (New York, NY), March 4, 2014.
“A Belated Campaign: Kati Horna and the Production of Anarchist Foreign Propaganda During the Spanish Civil War.” Presented at While Silent They Speak: Art and Diplomacy, University of Georgia (Athens, GA), March 29, 2014.
Co-Curator, Felix González-Torres: “Untitled” (Fortune Cookie Corner) (1990)”. Berlin, Germany. Multisite exhibition organized by Andrea Rosen Gallery and David Zwirner Gallery (Berlin, Germany), 2020.
Curator, Patricia Avellán: Campos de Papel. Espacio Yoo (Quito, Ecuador), 2018.
Guest Curator, Fantastic Rediscovered: Rare Photographs from the Estate of Kati Horna. Sotheby’s (New York and Los Angeles, USA), 2017.
Guest Curator, Told and Untold: The Photo Stories of Kati Horna in the Illustrated Press. Americas Society (New York, USA), 2016.
Co-Investigator, Hacedoras de cultura: conexiones e intercambios artísticos transatlánticos en el siglo XX. Project funded by Spain’s Ministry of Science and Innovation. Principal Investigator: Carmen Gaitán Salinas (CSIC, Madrid, Spain). Project duration: 2023-2026.
Co-Investigator, Artistas transatlánticas. Producciones e identidades entre España y Latinoamérica en el siglo XX desde la perspectiva feminista. Project funded by Spain’s Ministry of Equality. Principal Investigator: Carmen Gaitán Salinas (CSIC, Madrid, Spain). Project duration: 2022-2023.
Contributing Author, Frente y retaguardia: Mujeres en la Guerra Civil / Front and Rearguard: Women in the Spanish Civil War. Special Exhibition and Online Portal at Reina Sofía Museum (Madrid, Spain). 2020-2021.
Research Contributor, Repensar Guernica / Rethinking Guernica. Online portal at Reina Sofía Museum (Madrid, Spain). 2017.