Michael received a BA from Yale University and a PhD in Art History from the University of Chicago, where he also completed an MBA. Before coming to Essex, he was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz--Max Planck Institut. Michael specializes in modern and contemporary visual culture, with a particular interest in issues of spectatorship in relation to artworks and built environments.
Michael's recent research has consisted of three main projects:
The first is a book about Nazi exhibition design and modernism, which was published by the University of Minnesota Press in 2018. This project considers how Nazi exhibition design served as a surprising field of formal experimentation for artists, architects, designers, and government officials to draw upon and reconfigure key practices and principles associated with modernism. As this book argues, a key motivation driving such experimentation was the interest in provoking "engaged spectatorship"--attempts to elicit experiences among exhibition-goers that would pique their desire to become involved in wider processes of social and political change.
The second project, which builds on Michael's interest in spectatorship but moves to forms of visual culture beyond exhibition spaces, explores the phenomenon of walking on art. While this book-length project concentrates on artworks from the 1910s onward, it uses these case studies to conceptualize issues that have shaped floor-based imagery from antiquity to the present.
The final project, which extends Michael's interest in spectatorship to a more applied realm, focuses on using digital tools to study and expand access to different forms of cultural heritage. Part of this project involves using eye-tracking technologies to investigate how visitors with different degrees of mobility (e.g., wheelchair vs. non-wheelchair users) navigate through museum spaces. This second part of this project, conducted in collaboration with the computer scientist Francisco Sepulveda, centers on developing a new technology that provides members of the general public the virtual sensation of touching objects in a museum's collection by donning sensor gloves.