Skip to main content

Alena Williamswilliams

Assistant Professor

(858) 822-5050

VAF 364


Alena J. Williams is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Visual Arts at the University of California, San Diego, where she teaches modern and contemporary art history and film and media studies. She received her Ph.D. in Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University. Her research areas include film and media history and theory; modern and contemporary art; rhetoric of visual culture; theories of modernity; and the epistemology of the image.

Williams is currently preparing a book-length study, The Total Experiment: Cinema and the Modernist Work of Art, on astronomy and experimental cinema’s intertwined aesthetic imaginary. She has forthcoming contributions in the edited volume Anton Pannekoek’s View on Science and Society. Modernism in Science, Radical Politics, and Art on the Dutch astronomer and socialist theorist and his legacy in contemporary art with the University of Chicago/University of Amsterdam Press, and in a retrospective publication of contemporary artist Lothar Baumgarten with Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König.

From 2010-2013, Williams curated Nancy Holt: Sightlines, an international traveling exhibition on American artist Nancy Holt’s Land art, films, videos, and related works from 1966–80 for the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery at Columbia University. The retrospective companion volume was published with the University of California Press (2011; 2015).

Currently, Williams is a member of the UCSD Chancellor’s Interdisciplinary Collaboratory, Interrogating the Archive: Shared Research Methodologies at the Intersection of Aesthetics and Authenticity, with a collective of faculty and graduate students from the Departments of Visual Arts, Communication, and Ethnic Studies. She teaches undergraduate courses in History of Experimental Cinema; History of Art and Technology; History of Film; Twentieth-Century Art; Video Art; Land Art, Environmentalism, and Media. Her graduate courses include Special Topics in Art Practice/Theory: Creative Life; Film and Science: Rethinking Experimental Cinema; and Communities and Subcultures.

Williams was a Visiting Scholar at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin and a DAAD Fellow at the Institute for the History and Theory of Design at the University of Arts in Berlin. She is currently on leave academic year 2019-2020.

Photo of Alena Williams by Ursula Paletta