January 26, 2016

On Exactitude in Science

School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University
Elizabeth McAlpine, The Map of Exactitude (#13), 2012. Two photographs on positive paper, framed, 22 x 23 3/4 inches. Collection of Jean-Edouard Van Praet. Image courtesy of the artist and Laurel Gitlen, New York.

How can an image or object represent the characteristics of a place? Guest curator Dina Deitsch brings together works by Jennifer Bornstein, Aslı Çavuşoğlu, Jumana Manna, and Elizabeth McAlpine for the exhibition On Exactitude in Science, presented by the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. These four artists address questions of representation through tactile approaches with material surfaces; their interactions with the outermost layers, the very skin, of architecture are a means to affirm presence and possibility.

Each artist in On Exactitude in Science extends the experience of a site and subject through their own surface interactions—rubbing, cutting, casting, and reading. Their prints, sculptures, photograms, and performances emphasize the palpable surface of a place, whether a street or studio, as a fragment to be scrutinized in close and careful contact. Background becomes foregrounded as subject and meaning.

The title of the exhibition is borrowed from Jorge Luis Borges’ short parable On Exactitude in Science, in which he describes an empire that maps itself in such detail that it creates a useless document the exact size of the kingdom. Borges’ 1946 text articulates the rivalry between a space and its representation. It takes on a new immediacy in today’s world of image saturation, in which one could easily argue that images have indeed replaced the experience of the original.

Jennifer Bornstein presents rubbings of the walls and floors of the former Dia building in Chelsea made on the eve of its conversion into luxury real estate. Using the direct and antiquated technique of rubbings, these prints evoke an overwhelming sense of loss of a historic site, as well as the very idea of the photographic index. Asli Çavuşoğlu similarly delves into the built surface as a repository for lost narratives. Through a performative walking tour, she “reads” architectural facades in a project that revives an ancient practice of “fortune-telling through building” with the aid of curators, musicians and historians.

Jumana Manna recreates the iconic texture and tonality of limestone-clad (or “Jerusalem Stone”) stoops from the East Jerusalem area of Silwan to evoke the fraught and unstable political territory.

Elizabeth McAlpine scrapes and plays her London sidewalk in recorded and contact printed film. She presents prints made from architecturally-specific, molded pinhole cameras to depict the ‘skins’ of interior spaces as a dimensional form of photographic representation.

“The interplay between the objects, images and time-based artworks in this exhibition tease out hidden histories embedded in the built environment and urban landscapes,” remarks Carol Stakenas, SMFA Curator. “On Exactitude in Science reinvests in the power of materiality to negotiate the world in which we live.”


Related events:

January 28, 5–7pm  
Opening reception

February 2, 6:30pm
Jennifer Bornstein: artist talk

February 9, 8:30–10am 
Dina Deitsch: breakfast + walk-though

March 3, 12:30pm 
Aslı Çavuşoğlu: artist talk

March 5, 1pm 
Words Dash Against the Façade: Performance by Aslı Çavuşoğlu
Space limited. RSVP


About the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Founded in 1876 and accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design, the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (SMFA), is one of only two art schools in the country affiliated with a major museum—the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Our mission is to provide an education in the visual arts—for undergraduate and graduate students—that is interdisciplinary and self-directed. For more information about our programs and partnerships, visit

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