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“Between the Personal and the Historical”: Asma Naeem on Listening to Art and Visual Culture

“I started to create all of these very strange connections between technologies of sound and what I found to be really pervasive themes of expression in non-oral, or non-sonic, modalities [in artworks]. I started to force those connections, being led by the paintings.” 

In this episode

Caitlin Woolsey speaks with Asma Naeem, the Eddie C. and C. Sylvia Brown Chief Curator at the Baltimore Museum of Art. Asma shares her circuitous path into the discipline, beginning with her sensitivity to the visual landscape of her childhood within an Indo-Pakistani immigrant family, to the formative challenges of practicing law in a district attorney’s office in Manhattan, and how her tenacious passion for art history led her to explore the intersections between sound technologies and nineteenth-century American painting, and into her current curatorial work. 

A transcript for this episode is forthcoming. If you require one immediately, please write to [email protected].

Asma Naeem

Photo: Christopher Myers 

Asma Naeem is the Eddie C. and C. Sylvia Brown Chief Curator at the Baltimore Museum of Art, where she has organized exhibitions on the work of such artists as Candice Breitz, Isaac Julien, and Valerie Maynard. Prior to the BMA, she held curatorial positions at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, where she presented, among other shows, an early career retrospective of the work of Titus Kaphar, and an historical and contemporary exploration of the silhouette through the lens of gender, race, and technology. She has written widely on American art, contemporary art, critical race theory, the South Asian diaspora, and museum studies. Her book, Out of Earshot: Sound, Technology, and Power in American Art, 1847–1897, was published by University of California Press in 2020.  

This conversation was recorded on September 15, 2021.

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