Dr. Michel Otayek
Freie Universität Berlin
Forschungsprojekt "Mobilität, Anderssein" - Prof. 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).
Dr. Otayek's current book project (Strangers, Documenters, Troublemakers: Indigenist Photography by European Women in Postwar Latin America) considers photography's mediating role in contexts of unequal conviviality by tracing the production and transnational circulation of photographic images in advocacy for indigenous rights in Central and South America.
- Photography and print culture
- Modern and contemporary Latin-American art
- Gender and migration studies
- Spanish Civil War visual culture
- Transnational cultural exchange
- Collective forms of cultural production
“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).
Told and Untold: The Photo Stories of Kati Horna in the Illustrated Press, co-ed. with Christina de León 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).
Academic Articles, Book Chapters, Catalog Essays and other Publications
“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 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 50 Photobooks About New York, 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.
Conference Papers Presented
“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 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.