"I work on the skins of things, excavating histories of technology and media from the surface layers of natural and man-made objects. I use film, photography and installation, as well as tools from the fields of the history of science and technology, art history, media studies and material culture studies to analyze the production, use, and transformation of often-overlooked, even marginalized, material artifacts located at the interstices of the found and the fabricated."
Hanna Rose Shell is a filmmaker and historian of science and technology, who focuses on the environment, the media, military studies, and material culture. In the body of her work – films, multimedia and curatorial work, as well as scholarly articles and books. Through her analysis, she breaks down increasingly untenable divides between production and consumption, art and technology, and invention and reuse. From camouflage netting, old clothes, decomposing vegetable matter, and other artifacts of creative repurposing, she uncovers historical shifts in modern epistemologies of self, nature and representation. Through her work, she not only contributes to the academic fields in which she is based, but also provides a vital historical and creative context for present-day concerns with the engineering of sustainable environments through innovations in transformational and biomimetic technology.
Her film Blind (2012), about the phenomenology of camouflage, and her site-specific installation Camoufleurs (2008) are examples of her interdisciplinary approaches. The installation and the film, along with the multimedia performances and environmental interactions out of which it emerged, both document, and are themselves experiments in hide-and-seek. They investigate how to be, as how not to be seen, both in nature and on film. She also published related book Hide and Seek: Camouflage, Photography and the Media of Reconnaissance, wherein, through several case studies, she traces the evolution of camouflage as it is developed in counterpoint to technological advances in photography, innovation in warfare, and as-yet-unsolved mysteries of natural history. Today camouflage is commonly thought of as a textile pattern of interlocking greens and browns. But in Hide and Seek camouflage reveals itself to be much more—a set of institutional structures, mixed-media art practices, and permutations of subjectivity, that emerged over the course of the twentieth century in environments increasingly mediated by photographic and cinematic intervention.
Textiles and waste are the focus of her current work, and the topic upon which she will elaborate in the exhibition Fibers, Clews, Fabrics - Thoughts are thin strands in Vysočina Regional Gallery in Jihlava. In Shoddy Aliens about textile waste and then again in an experimental multi-media documentary Secondhand (Pepe), made with Vanessa Bertozzi, she explored the story of secondhand clothing that flows from North America to Haiti together weaving it together with the historical memoir of a Jewish immigrant rag picker. The documentary, scored by sound artist Luke Fischbeck, reveals secrets of the used clothing industry as well as unexpected connections among people in an era of globalization.
Hanna Rose Shell, Associate Professor in the Program in Science, Technology and Society at MIT, has participated in many international exhibitions and festivals (ZKM in Karlsruhe, Machine Project Gallery in Los Angeles, Berwick Research Institute in Boston, Harvard University in Cambridge, Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Museum of Modern Art in New York City etc.).
During her residency in Prague, Hanna Rose Shell will screen her experimental films in Bio Ponrepo, give a thematic lecture and participate in the exhibition Fibers, Clews, Fabrics – Thoughts are thin strands in Vysočina Regional Gallery in Jihlava in June.