D. Graham Burnett


Burnett taught at MoMA in the fall of 2013 — as part of the Contemporary Issues curriculum of the reanimated “People’s Art Center.” He lead a workshop/seminar entitled “Making the Invisible Visible” — a continuation of the Artist as Researcher program curated by Alison Burstein. See more here.

Burnett was in Istanbul from November 30th to December 4, as a guest at Spot Atöyeler. A short, collaborative sifting of the problem of temporary metempsychosis took place. On December 2nd, Burnett gave a talk entitled “The Problem of the Luminous Nose: Reflections and Deflections.”

On Friday, 29 November, Burnett ran a set of attention workshops (with Sal Randolph) at the Institut für Raumexperimente, an Olafur Eliasson Studio project, and part of the Universität der Künste Berlin.

Burnett served as one of the “interpreters” in Tino Seghal’s “This Situation” (2007) which was installed/performed in Princeton in the week of November 18-22; the project was a joint effort by the Lewis Center and IHUM.

Burnett and friends did a performance lecture at the Dairy Art Center in London on the 25th of October, alongside their show on Aldous Huxley. The Order of the Third Bird has work in the exhibition, which gets discussed here.

On the 24th of October Burnett led a workshop in the “100 Hours” project at University College London. This was an interdisciplinary experiment in the study of material culture, and the brainchild of Leonie Hannan and Kate Smith. Participants have posted some reflections on the occasion.

Burnett gave a pair of lectures at the Norwegian Academy of Sciences and Letters, in Oslo, on the 21st and 22nd of October. Details here.


Los Angeles enjoyed a week of Moby-Dick madness in early October—find details here.  As part of the festivities, Burnett presented (with the primatologist Amy Parish) at the LA Public Library on October 3rd: “How Scientists Came to Love the Whale”; and then on October 5th, he performed in David Schweitzer’s “My Moby Dick” at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica — info here, and a write up of the performance here.


On the 27th of September, Burnett moderated a discussion of “The Encyclopedic Palace” — this year’s Venice Biennial.  The event celebrated the US release of the catalog for the exhibition, which was a Cabinet project.  Participants included Lynne Cooke, Hal Foster, and Massimiliano Gioni, the curator. See video of the event here.


The Creative Destruction Consultancy is back, and participated in “Pataphysics: A Theoretical Exhibition” at the Sean Kelly gallery — Burnett and colleagues (in white lab coats) offered free consultations on the evening of September 12th. See more here  and here. See here for a short feature on the work of the CDC.

On September 11th, Burnett presented a short talk entitled “Money, Teeth, and Language” at the Bard Graduate Center, where he is a fellow for 2013-2014.


Cabinet’s summer 2013 issue is out; the theme is Money. Check out Burnett’s piece on the evolution of currencies here.


This past summer, some of Burnett’s work on human-dolphin relations was featured in The Whole Earth exhibition at Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin.



On July 27 Burnett participated in the Pedagogies of Attention workshop at The Emily Harvey Foundation a project hosted by the Order of the Third Bird.

Burnett ratcheted on—for all the whale lovers out there—about the finicky bits of dead cetaceans at the Smithsonian in early June, in connection with the new exhibition “Whales: Bones to Book.”

Burnett and friends were back at Mildred’s Lane this summer, August 5 to 11. More information here. The week finished with a performative exercise in historical conjuration.  See here for one account of the doings — from “The Great God Pan is Dead”.


Cabinet commissioned and edited the essays for the catalog of the 2013 Venice Biennale, and Burnett did an essay for the volume on the concept of the “Nondescript” in nineteenth-century systematics and taxonomy — and there is also some stuff in there on Charles Waterton, a very strange man.  The catalog was released at the opening of the exhibition at the end of May, and it looked great.

On the 25th of May, Burnett presented a talk entitled “Knowledge, Networks, and Power” at Ashkal Alwan in Beirut, as part of Homeworks 6.  The session (with Turkish artist Burak Arikan) was curated by Zeynep Oz, and made up one episode of the “Plastic Veins” project. See more here.

On May 7, Burnett presented a short talk titled “The Metachrotic Swan Song” for the opening of School of Death, an educational institution dedicated to exploring the relationship between death and the examined life, organized by Cabinet magazine and philosopher Simon Critchley, at the gallery Family Business in Manhattan. More here.


Burnett was seconded to the Creative Destruction Consultancy, which held an open-house at the New Museum’s Ideas City festival on Saturday, May 4. More details here.



At the beginning of May, Burnett and the artist Natalie Jeremijenko presented a project on the history (and future) of plant acupuncture at IHUM’s big flora shindig.

Burnett hosted an exhibition/symposium at MoMA on “artistic research” on Thursday, April 18, at 12:30 p.m., featuring research-artists Sal Randolph, Steve Rowell, Brooke Singer, and Alexandra P. Spaudling. More here.

On Friday, April 12, Burnett participated in the symposium “What Is Cosmopolitical Design?” at the Princeton School of Architecture, giving a talk entitled “The Amphibious Laboratory: Think Tank for a Cetacean Nation.” For a full description and schedule, click here.

On Thursday, April 4, at 7:30 p.m., Burnett presented “A Subway Death: Reflections in the Dark,” the “Year in Faith” lecture, at Ascension Church in upper Manhattan. For more information, see here.

Burnett and conspirators were in residence at the Haut Ecole D’Art et de Design, Geneva, March 18–24, running a series of attention workshops for ESTAR-SER.

Burnett spoke at “Radical Enlightenment: A Symposium on Cybernetics and the Soul,” at the Palais de Tokyo, in Paris, on March 15. The symposium took place in conjunction with the Joachim Koester exhibition “Reptile Brain or Reptile Body, It’s Your Animal.” For more, click here.

On Friday, March 8, at Columbia, Burnett was one of four speakers on a panel entitled “Climate Change, Methods, and Practice: A Conversation across the Social Sciences and Humanities.” It went from 1 to 3 p.m. and was at Columbia’s Morningside Heights Campus. For more, click here.

On Friday, March 1, Burnett presented “Critical Play: Gaming, Reading, Writing,” as part of the panel “Form: Aesthetic, Social, Biological” in the symposium “Representing Complexity: Intersections of Art and Science” at the University of Maryland. For more information, click here.

Burnett kicked off a big whale session at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in Boston on Sunday, February 17—a video of the presentation is featured on the conference website here.


This spring semester, Burnett and Sal Randolph are teaching a program seminar on “Attention” for IHUM at Princeton. Click here for more.


Burnett was one of fourteen participants in a trial of Cabinet magazine, which took place at the NYPL on Wednesday, January 30, at 6 p.m. The trial coincided with the publication of the magazine’s recent anthology, Curiosity and Method: Ten Years of Cabinet Magazine (in which Burnett is also featured; more on the book below). For more on the event, click here. The Wall Street Journal previewed the evening here.


On Friday and Saturday, January 25 and 26, Burnett will be speaking at the third roundtable of the ongoing event “The Fifth Geneva Convention: Nature, Conflict, and International Law in the Anthropocene.” The roundtable goes all day on Friday and Saturday at the Centre for Research Architecture in London (full address here); for more on the event, go here.

In conjunction with the exhibition “Rosemarie Trockel: A Cosmos” at the New Museum, Burnett and others presented “An Afternoon of Fauna: From Ants to Whales.” It was the afternoon of Saturday, January 12, from 2 to 6 p.m., at the New Museum. For more information and to buy tickets, click here.

On Saturday, January 12, at 7:30 p.m., Burnett moderated “In the Valley of the Uncanny: Humans and Humanoids,” presentations and a panel featuring artist Laurie O’Brien, filmmaker Allison de Fren, neuroscientist Asif Ghazanfar, and artist John Bell. The event took place at Union Docs, in Brooklyn; for more information, click here.


Burnett is featured, alongside an extensive roster of other artists, writers, and scientists, in Curiosity and Method: Ten Years of Cabinet Magazine. The over-500-page anthology takes the form of > an illustrated encyclopedia, with idiosyncratic entries including Addiction, Animal Architecture, Goalkeeping, Micronation, Otolith, Sandal, Worlding, and Zoosemiotics. For more (including a link to buy with a 25 percent discount!), go here. The publication continues the conversation begun at a symposium of the same name held in April 2011 at Princeton. For more on the symposium, see here.


On Thursday, the 6th of December, Burnett met Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro and Eva Díaz for a discussion about Argentinian artist Gyula Kosice and Pérez-Barreiro’s new book, Gyula Kosice in conversation with/en conversación con Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro. The event was at Cabinet in Brooklyn; for more, click here.

On Wednesday, October 10, Burnett and Cornel West were in conversation as the keynote for “Pro+Agonist: The Art of Opposition,” an evening on “the productive possibilities of ‘agonism,’ or a relationship built on mutual incitement and struggle.” The event was a launch for a book of the same title, edited by Marisa Jahn, and also featured other contributors to the book. It took place in Cooper Union’s Great Hall; for more, click here.

Burnett joined Richard Sieburth and Tirdad Zolghadr on Thursday, September 20, at Cabinet, in celebration of Zolghadr’s new book, Plot, for a conversation about lists and their relationship to language, literary forms, and techniques of self-organization. For more, click here.

On the 28th of July, Burnett participated in another of Cabinet’s “Fairs for Knowledge,” this one on “American Fauna” at the former home of the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, in Ridgefield, Connecticut.

Poetry Lab, Burnett and Jeff Dolven’s semi-regular series at Cabinet, returned on July 26 with “Everyone and I and Frank O’Hara.”


Burnett and friends were in residence at Mildred’s Lane this year, sifting the mysteries of the Order of the Third Bird.

Burnett contributed an essay (“In Lies Begin Responsibilities”) to the catalog of “More Real? Art in the Age of Truthiness,” currently at SITE Santa Fe.

Marisa Jahn’s new book project is out, Pro+agonist—a study of the pains and pleasures of opposition. She has reprinted Burnett and Cornel West on the scary world of Melville’sConfidence Man.

Listen to an interview Burnett did with Carla Nappi on The Sounding of the Whale here.

Burnett’s stuff on dolphins and drugs and the mind recently came out in Japan, in the science magazine Kagaku.

On the 26th of May, Burnett participated in the Machete Group’s “Dictionary of the Present” series at the ICA in Philadelphia. More on the series here and on the specific event here.

Burnett and friends ran a set of “Attention Labs” at the Emily Harvey Foundation in SoHo—workshop meetings in February, March, and April.

On April 21st, Burnett spoke at the Philadelphia Book Festival. A full program for the event is here.

On the 18th of April, Burnett (with Sal Randolph, Helen Mira, and a special disruptive guest) presented at the Sert Gallery of the Carpenter Center at Harvard University. Title of the talk (part of the BYO series for contemporary art): “The Order of the Third Bird: Further Research on the Fascicle of E.” A practicum at the Sackler got things rolling. More here.

Burnett was at Labyrinth Books in Princeton on Wednesday, March 28, to read from his new book, The Sounding of the Whale. More info here.

On Monday, 12 March, Burnett did the MIT Colloquium in Science and Technologies Studies. The title is “History of Science: Why and Wherefore?” and the commentator is Gregg Mitman. Click here for more.

On March 11th, Burnett spoke at the Harvard Museum of Natural History. The subject? Don’t want to shock you here… Whales! Click here for details.

On Thursday night, March 8th, Burnett joined Swedish artist Mats Bigert for a little end-time madness at the Spring Break show in NoLIta—part of the Armory Arts Week. Check out the doomsayers in the act:

Burnett did an hour on NPR’s “On Point” with Tom Ashbrook on Monday, 13 February, talking about whales, whale science, and whale fantasy. To listen, go here.

On February 11th, Burnett joined Ed Eigen and Paulo Tavares to discuss “Hard and Soft Evidence” at “The Geologic Turn: Architecture’s New Alliance,” a symposium at the University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. More here.

On Sunday the 29th of January, Burnett and Sina Najafi performed an apocalyptic soapbox reading from The Last Calendar at PS1’s winter open house. Details here.

On 28 January, at the Cabinet space in Brooklyn, 5-7 p.m., Burnett and friends celebrated the release of The Sounding of the Whale: Science and Cetaceans in the Twentieth Century, just out from Chicago. There was whale song, whale pics, whale talk, and … whale hors d’oeuvre (mock whale, that is, conjured by the culinary genius Kiel Borrman). Click here for the skinny on the party and an audio recording of the evening’s talk. Check out the excessively generous recent reviews: NYTFTTelegraph, and WSJ! The event was picked up by the bloggers at Smithsonian—read more here.

On 25 January, Burnett and Sal Randolph donned their “ethereal chapeaux” to present “The Order of the Third Bird: Documents and Considerations” at the Bard Graduate Center. More info here. Watch a video of the presentation here:

On the 12th and 13th of January Burnett participated in an NEH-sponsored charette organized around plans for the 38th voyage of the Charles W. Morgan. The last nineteenth-century wooden whaleship will set sail again in 2014, as part of an artistic, historical, and scientific carnival centered on the sea. Click here for more.


On Friday the 9th of December, Burnett presented the final installment of the “Hark, the White Whale” series at the Providence Athenaeum. The event launched the publication of Burnett’s new book, The Sounding of The Whale: Science and Cetaceans in the Twentieth Century, which is just hitting bookshelves in time for X-Mas (and at 815 pages, it hits with a thud…).

Burnett and Jeff Dolven were at the Society of Fellows in the Humanities at Columbia on Thursday, November 17, to give a lunchtime lecture entitled, “Critique and Its Discontents: Notes toward a Post-Critical (?) Pedagogy.” More on the Society of Fellows here.

On November 12th, Burnett keynoted “Institutionalizing Interdisciplinarity” at Columbia University, sponsored by the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society. More info here.

Check out this essay (from Lapham’s Quarterly): Burnett on Hayden White, Heraclitus, Guatemala, Hegel, and a haircut.

Burnett and collaborator Sal Randolph showed work at the “Utopia” exhibition at CS13 in Cincinnati (through October 15). The editorial sub-committee of the Order of the Third Bird recently issued a pair of letters which appear to be from 1848, and published them as “The Clermont Connection: Evidences Bearing on Associationist Associations of the Order at Midcentury (The Robinson/Fairwright Correspondence).” Copies of the offprint were given away freely in the gallery, where one of the original texts is on display. For more on the exhibition, click here.

On Saturday, November 5, at BAM, Burnett will moderate “Antarctic Voyage,” a panel related the concurrent production 69°S by the artist group Phantom Limb. The panel features Jessica Grindstaff and Erik Sanko, Phantom Limb’s co–artistic directors, and Daniel P. Schrag, professor of geology and environmental science at Harvard University. For more on the event, see here.

Burnett presented on the “Laboratories of Risk” at the European Culture Congress in Wrocław, Poland, on the 10th of September. More on the whole event here.

Burnett and friends kicked off the 2011 Warhol Foundation “Arts Writers Convening” with a performance/practice of “The Order of the Third Bird” at the Philadelphia Museum of Art on the evening of Thursday, August 4. For more, see here.

On Wednesday, July 27, Burnett joined McKenzie Wark and Ali Dur at Cabinet in Brooklyn for a discussion of Wark’s new book on the Situationists, The Beach beneath the Street. For more, see here.

Burnett and a group of his collaborators and friends were in residency at Mildred’s Lane for the week of July 11–17, presenting on “The Order of the Third Bird,” a cult-like group of art-oriented theorists-practitioners with a mysterious history.

Burnett participated in the “Festival of Ideas for the New City” that took place in NYC, May 4–8. He worked a booth (Saturday, May 7, 5–7 pm) at “The University on the Bowery,” a pedagogical street project put together by Cabinet magazine and the New Museum.

On the 6th of May, Burnett and the artist Lisa Young screened a video collaboration at a joint session of the Philadelphia Cinema and Media Seminar and the Philadelphia Area Center for the History of Science. Click here for more info.


Burnett had a hand in organizing “Curiosity and Method,” a symposium on April 9 celebrating ten years of publication of Cabinet magazine. The all-day event took place at Princeton and featured a diverse group of writers and thinkers on some keywords that have been important in framing the Cabinet project. For more information, see here. Click here for a PDF of the poster for the symposium.

On Friday, March 18, Burnett hosted “Clipping, Copying, and Thinking,” a panel and launch event for A Little Common Place Book. Historian Ann Blair and poet Kenneth Goldsmith joined him for a ranging conversation on textual practices and the life of the mind. For more information, click here.

Does a poem have parts? Organs? Systems? How do they fit together? And can they be teased apart? On Friday, March 11, seeking to answer these questions, Burnett and Jeff Dolven hosted “William Carlos Williams: Anatomy of a Poem,” the latest installment of Cabinet’s Poetry Lab series. For more information, click here. See a write-up on the New Yorker‘s blog Book Bench here.

Burnett presented (with J. Dolven) a “Dream Talk” in San Francisco on the 3rd of March. The venue? “After Dark at the Exploratorium.” The event was part of “Art as a Way of Knowing”—a two-day symposium on knowledge and creativity. Click here for more.

On the 12th of February, in Toronto, Burnett was in conversation with David Gissen at the symposium “Architecture Is All Over” at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. Sponsored by Work Books and OCAD. Click here for a PDF of the program.

Burnett and David Kaiser (MIT) co-hosted this year’s Princeton Workshop in the History of Science. The subject was the relationship between science and the counter-culture, 1955–1975. Feburary 4–5, at Princeton; pre-circulated papers. Click here for more information. Click here for a PDF of the poster for the workshop.

On Thursday the 27th of January Burnett hosted “Art, Truth, Lies: The Pleasures and Perils of Deception,” a panel discussion in the NYPL “Live!” Series. Guests included Glenn Lowry and Carrie Lambert-Beatty. Click here for more information. See a write-up in Artforum online here. Watch a video of the discussion here.



Burnett contributed to The New City Reader, part of the exhibition “The Last Newspaper” that ran at the New Museum in Lower Manhattan during Fall and Winter 2010/11. The NCR is a project that re-conceived the newspaper as a public space. It was part of a performance-based editorial residency running concurrently with the show on contemporary art and paper-based news media. Burnett did a piece on “Outsider Science” for the issue edited by David Benjamin and Livia Corona.

Burnett and fellow Cabinet editor Christopher Turner curated “The Slice: Cutting to See,” an exhibition that, moving across historical moments and disparate fields, examined the peculiar traditions that link the keen eye to the sharp blade. Everything you ever wanted to know about the microtome. The exhibition ran from Friday, November 19, through Wednesday, December 15, 2010, at the Architectural Association School of Architecture Gallery in London. See reviews of the exhibition in BMJ and the Independent. Watch a video walk-through of the exhibition below.

“The Slice: Cutting to See” Walk-Through. Video by Luke Currall. Thanks to Vanessa Norwood and the AA School.

Burnett wrote the introduction to Cabinet Books’ recently published A Little Common Place Book. Part pocket-sized filing cabinet, part indexing guide, this hardcover notebook includes an essay on the art of commonplacing as practiced by John Locke and 144 blank pages for collecting your thoughts. For images or to purchase, go here.

Burnett has an essay in the catalog of the 2010 Mark Dion show at the Oakland Museum. Click here for more information about the show, and here for a link to the book, The Marvelous Museum: Orphans, Curiosities & Treasures, with contributions from Lawrence Weschler, Rebecca Solnit, and others.

In 2009, Burnett and a friend began working on a conceptual project involving chess and the novel. For a taste, click here to read an experimental essay in “ludic criticism”; or click here to go right to the first fruit of the collaboration, an online computer program that lets you pit one novel against another in a chess match. The US Chess Federation recently ran a story about this project—click here to check it out.

Burnett and video artist Lisa Young teamed up in 2010 on a multimedia project that premiered as part of “Seeing from Above,” a conference at the Wellcome Collection, London. Part éloge, part montage, the collaborative piece, “Free Fall: The Life and Times of Bud ‘Crosshairs’ MacGinitie,” is an experiment in biographical sky-diving.

In celebration of 10/10/10, on Wednesday October 6, 2010, Burnett hosted a discussion and screening of Charles and Ray Eames’s short film Powers of Ten. The screening took place in Elebash Recital Hall at the CUNY Graduate Center, 365 5th Avenue in New York, at 7 pm. For more information, click here.

Burnett had a hand in organizing a show that opened on March 30, 2010: “An Ordinall of Alchimy,” at the Cabinet Space in Brooklyn. It’s about collecting, art, money, and the internet. After Cabinet, it moved on to the Slought Foundation in Philly, where was on view from April 30 until June 14. Click here for more on the project from Cabinet and here for more on its stay at the Slought Foundation.

On June 8, 2010, Burnett convened a discussion between Lawrence Weschler and Lena Herzog at the NYPL-Live series. The occasion: Herzog’s new show (at the ICP until September 12)—Burnett did an essay for the catalog, Lost Souls.

On the 7th of June, 2010, Burnett showed an installation version of NovelChess at WhiteBox on Broome Street. Music by Les Chauds LapinsHere’s the invite.

On Thursday, the 27th of May, 2010, Burnett chaired a post-performance discussion of Cynthia Hopkins’ The Truth: A Tragedy at the Soho Rep Theater in Manhattan. Dave Herman was there from the City Reliquary Museum.

“Military Dreams and the Deep-Sea Mind.” On May 15, 2010, at 6 pm, at the Cabinet Space, Burnett screened some old Navy propaganda films concerning its Marine Mammal Program; he was in discussion with Laurel Braitman afterwards. More here.

On Saturday the 8th of May, 2010, at 3 pm, Burnett read “Two Bubbles, and a Third” at Art in General, and talked with Italian artists Hilario Isola and Matteo Norzi about their new project, Liquid Door, realized in conjunction with the New York Aquarium. For more, click here.

On the 5th of May, 2010, at the Natural History Museum in NYC, there was a screening of Ric Burns’ new documentary on American whaling: Into the Deep. Burnett is one of the talking heads in the film, and he also served on the board of advisers for the project, which was funded by the NEH and WGBH Boston, where it broadcast on May 10. More here.

On Sunday, April 11, 2010, at the Cabinet Space in Brooklyn, Burnett joined in conversation the distinguished Swiss critic and historian of neuroscience Michael Hagner, who screened Pudovkin’s creepy 1926 documentary The Mechanics of the Brain. This event was been supported in part by the Mellon Foundation. Click here for more.

Burnett wrote a catalog essay for a gallery show that ran from January 15 to April 5, 2010, at the Drawing Center, in Soho. The show, curated by Nina Katchadourian, was entitled “Sea Marks,” and it featured three contemporary artists whose work deals with the ocean.

2009 and back into the deep past

For PERFORMA 2009, Burnett contributed to “Speed Reading,” an event that featured texts on speed read from treadmills: that’s him on the right, performing a suite of historical fragments on the nineteenth-century reception of the Velocipede.

In 2009 Burnett, as part of his Mellon “New Directions” Fellowship, Burnett was in residence at Columbia University, where he was a fellow at the Italian Academy and worked with the artist Mark Dion and the neuroscientist Franco Pestilli. In the fall, he brought together the neuroscientist Sabine Kastner and the artist Terry Winters in a conversation with historian of science Peter Galison at the Kitchen in Chelsea.

In 2007 Burnett contributed to the Berlin-Based exhibition “Objects in Transition” at the Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte; click here to see his catalog essay.

In 2005 Burnett organized  “Lives of the Sea: A Symposium on the History of Marine Life,” an interdisciplinary conference (sponsored by the Program in History of Science and the Princeton Environmental Institute) featuring biologists, fisheries scientists, and historians who work on historical population data for marine species (see poster below).