Lisa Zaher is an art historian of modern and contemporary art and visual culture. Her research and teaching focus on the history and theory of photographic media (construed broadly to include still and moving images, along with proto-cinematic devices, video and new digital platforms for distribution and display), historiography, and the conservation of fine art and media.
Zaher received her Ph.D. in Art History from the University of Chicago in 2013, with a dissertation on the work of the photographer, filmmaker and theorist, Hollis Frampton. Her book manuscript, By Mind and Hand: Hollis Frampton’s Photographic Modernism situates the artist’s works and theoretical writings within the histories of fine art, photography, and film. The book underscores the historiographical ambitions of Frampton’s practice through his development of a theory of embodied images. It considers the artist’s conception of an image, from his early application of Ezra Pound’s Imagist theories to still photography, to his experiments with computer interfaces and programs, informed by the emerging fields of computer science and artificial intelligence.
Frampton’s unfinished film, “R”, which uses Chinese radicals to map the visual, phonetic, and gestural nexus of language acquisition, serves as the foundation for a collaborative digital humanities project that she has conceived. This project, which brings together Sinologists, neuroscientists, computer scientists, filmmakers, film scholars and art historians, attempts to visualize and test the potential for “R” to generate information about the production of knowledge and the origins of language.
Zaher is currently at work on two other publications, including a collection of essays and writings on and by the multi-media artist Patrick Clancy, and Vostell Concrete, an edited collection related to the conservation of Concrete Traffic, with Christine Mehring. She is also a lead researcher on the international research program, The Sites of the Virtual, organized by the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris 3 and the University of Girona. In conjunction with this project, Zaher is researching forms and processes of emergence.
From 2015-17, Zaher served as the first UChicago Arts Conservation Research Fellow for work on Christine Mehring's project to conserve the German Fluxus artist, Wolf Vostell's monumental public sculpture, Concrete Traffic (1970). Since 2011, she has been a lecturer at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.