AHCS Speaker Series, 2016-17

The lecture series would like to thank the Dean of Arts Development Fund at McGill and a generous anonymous donor for contributing to the series.

Unless otherwise noted, the events will take place at the Department of Art History and Communication Studies, Arts building, room w-215 at 5:30pm.

To subscribe to the AHCS Events mailing list, please contact: caitlin [dot] loney [at] mcgill [dot] ca

Fall 2016

Thursday, September 29: Sonal Khullar

"Everyday Partitions: Contemporary Art and Exhibition Practice in South Asia"

Abstract: In the exhibition catalogue Lines of Control: Partition as a Productive Space (2012), Iftikhar Dadi notes “the resurgence of artistic engagement” with the Partition of India in 1947 after its striking absence from the field of the visual arts for most of the twentieth century. Indeed the problem of borders, nations, and partitions has figured prominently in recent projects by Bangladeshi, Indian, and Pakistani artists that cite the historical legacy of the Partition to reflect on the present. This talk examines recent exhibitions of contemporary art – My East is Your West (Venice, 2015), This Night-Bitten Dawn (Delhi, 2016), and The Missing One (Dhaka, 2016)— that represented collaborations between artists, curators, and patrons in South Asia, and reconsidered the region’s relation to history and futurity. These exhibitions took up Partition as a method and material with which to probe the making and unmaking of place, identity, community, and society in contemporary South Asia. In so doing, they enacted an aesthetics and politics that rejects national-cultural models for artistic production and display, and articulates new forms of postcolonial and global citizenship.

Bio: ​Sonal Khullar is an Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Washington. She is the author of Worldly Affiliations: Artistic Practice, National Identity, and Modernism in India, 1930-1990 (University of California Press, 2015). She is currently ​at work on​ a book, The Art of Dislocation: Conflict and Collaboration in Contemporary Art from South Asia, which examines how collaborative art practice has emerged as a critical response to globalization since the 1990s​.​

5:30 p.m.
Arts W-215

​Friday, September 30: Art + Feminism

Over 2,500 people at more than 175 events around the world participated in the 2016 Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon, resulting in over 3,500 new and improved articles. A collective campaign to improve the representation of and increasing the participation of women on Wikipedia, the project emerged in the fall of 2013 as a response to the well-known gaps in the online encyclopedia. Siân Evans (Class of 2005), Jacqueline Mabey (Class of 2006) and Michael Mandiberg, the lead co-organizers of the Art+Feminism project, will discuss the origins of the project, its growth (and growing pains), and why the collective writing of history matters. Co- presented by the Institute for Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies, Art History & Communication Studies and the McGill Library.

3:30 p.m. 
Redpath Commons, Room A (enter through McLennan Library Building)

Tuesday, October 4: Matthew Jones

"Great Exploitations: Data Mining, Technological Determinism and the NSA"

Abstract: We cannot understand the programs revealed by Edward Snowden and other whistleblowers without understanding a broader set of historical development in the US and beyond before and after 9/11. First, with the growing spread of computation into everyday transactions from the 1960s into the 1990s, corporations and governments collected exponentially more information about consumers and citizens. To contend with this deluge of data, computer scientists, mathematicians, and business analysts created new fields of computational analysis, colloquially called “data mining,” designed to produce knowledge or intelligence from vast volume. Second, conservative legal scholars, government officers, and judges had long doubted the constitutionality of legal restrictions that the US Congress had placed on intelligence work, foreign and domestic, in the late 1970s. Facing the growth of the Internet and the increasing availability of high quality cryptography, national security lawyers within the US Department of Justice and the National Security Agency (NSA) began developing what was called a “modernization” of surveillance and intelligence law to deal with technological developments.  Third, in the Bill Clinton era, concerns about terrorist attacks on the United States came to focus heavily on the need to defend computer systems and networks. The asymmetrical nature of the terrorist threat had long challenged the traditional division of defense of the homeland versus offence abroad: attacks honored no territorial boundaries, and, neither, it increasingly came to seem, should defense against them. Protecting the “critical infrastructure” of the United States, the argument ran, required new domestic surveillance to find insecurities, and opened the door to much greater Department of Defense capability domestically and new NSA responsibilities. Tools for assessing domestic vulnerabilities lent themselves easily to discerning—and exploiting—foreign ones. And traditions of acquiring and exploiting any foreign sources of communication prompted the NSA to develop ever more invasive ways of hacking into computers and networks worldwide. In the immediate wake of 9/11, the Bush administration braided these developments, to create a massive global surveillance regime. The administration sought to make it appear at once technologically determined and essential for security in the global war of terror. The job of the NSA was “to exploit” communications networks—to make them available to policymakers; to do this, its lawyers “exploited” the law as well as technology. 

Bio: Matthew L. Jones is the James R. Barker Professor of Contemporary Civilization at Columbia University. His publications include "Querying the Archive: Data Mining from Apriori to Page Rank," in L. Daston, ed. Archives of the Sciences (Chicago, 2016); Reckoning with Matter: Calculating Machines, Innovation, and Thinking about Thinking from Pascal to Babbage (Chicago, 2016);  and The Good Life in the Scientific Revolution (University of Chicago Press, 2006).

Arts 260, 5:30 p.m.


Thursday, October 13: Hilliard T. Goldfarb

"Was Nicolas Poussin really an Atheist?: Faith, Archaeology and Classicism in Seventeenth-Century Rome"

Bio: Hilliard Goldfarb is Senior Curator of Collections and Curator of Old Masters at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. He has curated the exhibition Rembrandt Creates Rembrandt: Art and Ambition in Leiden, 1629–1631 at the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum in Boston (Sep. 2000 – Jan. 2001), and most recently Splendore a Venezia: Art and Music from the Renaissance to Baroque in Venice at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (Oct. 2013 – Jan. 2014). 

He is the author of numerous publications and exhibition catalogues, including: Toulouse-Lautrec illustrates the Belle Epoque (Yale UP for Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 2016), From the Hands of the Masters: A Private Collection (Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, 2013), Richelieu: Art and Power (Monreal Museum of Fine Arts, 2002), Titian and Rubens: Power, Politics, and Style (Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 1998), Botticelli's Witness: Changing Style in a Changing Florence (Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 1997), A Humanist Vision: The Adolph Weil, Jr. Collection of Rembrandt Prints (Hood Museum of Art, 1988).

Abstract: Nicolas Poussin stands as the most revered artist in the history of France, although he lived and worked in Rome by choice for 40 years. This great figure influenced artists for centuries, from Jacques-Louis David to Pablo Picasso. To some extent, our vision of Poussin has been molded by the work of our brilliant predecessors, scholars who unconsciously and consciously brought their own predispositions, including atheism, into their characterizations and focuses upon him. Poussin became the model of cool intellectualism and severe classicism, as asserted by biographers and art theoreticians of his own times (e.g. Giovanni Pietro Bellori), the Académie Royale des Peintures and its post-revolutionary successor, as well as such modern scholars as Anthony Blunt, Jacques Thuillier and their successors: he has been academicised into the embodiment of French secular rationalism. Yet nearly half of his works bear religious themes, including two remarkable series of depictions of the Seven Sacraments, among his greatest masterpieces.

This lecture will explore aspects of the actual Roman culture that Poussin experienced, of the passion for archaeological rediscovery of the earliest Church history, from explorations of the catacombs to the researches of scholars such as Cardinal Cesare Baronio. It will also examine the broader religious climate in Rome in which Poussin himself worked for most of his active career. It will present the evidence of religious affiliations of those close to him, explore the nature of neo-Stoicism in the seventeenth century, a philosophical movement with which Poussin is generally associated, and will close on some revealing archival discoveries on the artist himself.

The thesis of this lecture is essentially that the weight of evidence, both circumstantial and direct, is that Poussin, contrary to being an atheist, was a sincerely believing Catholic. Such a positing of faith in no way diminishes the breadth of sources and subjects that the artist explored, nor a neo-stoic disposition. The talk will culminate in an exploration of one of the most moving of Nicolas Poussin’s works, his sombre and profoundly tragic depiction of the Crucifixion of Christ.

Monday, October 24: Media@McGill Beaverbrook Annual Lecture

Sheila Watt-Cloutier
Environmental Advocate, Author of The Right to Be Cold (2015), a book about the effects of climate change on Inuit communities

Steven Guilbeault
Cofounder and Senior Director, Equiterre

McGill University, Moot Court, Faculty of Law, 3644 Peel Street, 5:30 p.m.


Wednesday, November 2: Edward Snowden (via videoconference), Media@McGill

Media@McGill has invited Edward Snowden to give a free, public talk (via videoconference). Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, best known for leaking documents in 2013 about NSA surveillance activities, will talk about surveillance in Canada.

Leacock 132, 855 Sherbrooke Street W, 7:00 p.m. 

​Thursday, November 3: André Dombrowski

“The Impressionist Instant and the Poetics of the Schedule”

Abstract: This lecture will consider the historical conjunction between the industrialization of time and Impressionism, the artistic style that made time and especially the instant its pivot. In particular, I will analyze the so-called “unification of time” in the 1870s to 1890s—the synchronization, standardization, and commercialization of precise time that marked the era—and the pressures it put on the speeds of modern depiction. Claude Monet at the Gare Saint-Lazare—one of the crucial sites of this transformation—will be the focus.

Bio: André Dombrowski’s research centers on the arts and material cultures of France and Germany in the mid to late nineteenth century, with an emphasis on the histories of science, politics, and psychology. He is particularly concerned with the social and intellectual rationales behind the emergence of avant-garde painting in the 1860s and 1870s, including Impressionism. Winner of the Phillips Book Prize from the Center for the Study of Modern Art at the Phillips Collection, he is author of Cézanne, Murder, and Modern Life (University of California Press, 2013). The book analyzes Cézanne’s early scenes of murder and sexual violence through the lens of pre-Freudian definitions of desire and instinct. He has started two new projects: one shorter book on the relation between Impressionism and the history of modern time-keeping (chapters will focus, for instance, on “reaction time” and the birth of Impressionism, or the advent of “universal time” in 1884 and its relationship to the serried order of Seurat’s pointillist technique); and a longer study that will situate the innovations of Édouard Manet’s major 1860s paintings within the Second Empire’s political and juridical cultures.

Arts W-215, 16:00

Winter 2017

Thursday, January 25: Simone Browne

Bio: Simone Browne teaches and researches surveillance studies, biometrics, airport protocol, popular culture, and black diaspora studies. She is a member of the Executive Board of HASTAC. Professor Browne's book, Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness, examines surveillance with a focus on slavery, biometric information technology, airports, borders, and creative texts. In May 2015 she participated in the New Museum’s biennial Ideas City festival as part of a collaboration between New Inc and Deep Lab, a feminist research collective (video link).

Thursday, February 2: Communicating Climate Change in Canada

Candis Callison (UBC), Mike De Souza (National Observer), Martin Lukacs (The Guardian), Kai Nagata (Dogwood), Linda Solomon Wood (Observer Media Group) 

McGill University, Adams Auditorium, 3450 University Street, 6 p.m.

Friday, February 10: Peter Galison

Containment: Film Screening and Discussion
(co-sponsored with Media@McGill)

3475 Peel, Room 101, 11:30 a.m.

BioGalison is interested in the intersection of philosophical and historical questions such as these: What, at a given time, convinces people that an experiment is correct? How do scientific subcultures form interlanguages of theory and things at their borders?

More broadly, Galison's main work explores the complex interaction between the three principal subcultures of twentieth century physics--experimentation, instrumentation, and theory. The volume on experiment, How Experiments End (University of Chicago Press, 1987), and that on instruments, Image and Logic (University of Chicago Press, 1997), are to be followed by the final volume, "Building, Crashing, Thinking," that is still under construction. Einstein's Clocks, Poincaré's Maps (W.W. Norton, 2003) begins the study of theory by focusing on the ways in which the theory of relativity stood at the crossroads of technology, philosophy, and physics. Image & Logic won the Pfizer Award from the History of Science Society in October 1998.

In addition, Galison has launched several projects examining the powerful cross-currents between science and other fields. His book (with Lorraine Daston), Objectivity (Zone Books, 2007) asks how visual representation shaped the concept of scientific objectivity, and how atlases of scientific images continue, even today, to rework what counts as right depiction. Further work on the boundary between science and other fields includes his co-edited volumes on the relations between science, art and architecture, The Architecture of Science (MIT Press, 1999; ed. with Emily Thompson) and Picturing Science, Producing Art (Routledge, 1998; ed. with Caroline A. Jones), as well as Big Science: The Growth of Large-Scale Research (Stanford University Press, 1992; ed. with Bruce Hevly), The Disunity of Science: Boundaries, Contexts, and Power (Stanford University Press, 1996; ed. with David J. Stump), Atmospheric Flight in the Twentieth Century (Kluwer, 2000; ed. with Alex Roland), Scientific Authorship: Credit and Intellectual Property in Science (Routledge, 2003; ed. with Mario Biagioli), and Einstein for the 21st Century: His Legacy in Science, Art, and Modern Culture (Princeton University Press, 2008; ed. with Gerald Holton and Silvan S. Schweber).


​Friday, February 24: Sumanth Gopinath

“‘Now you can finally throw out that Rolex’: Unboxing the Digital Watch and Beyond”
(co-sponsored with music)

Abstract: Among the innumerable bizarre and prominent video genre cultures found on YouTube, the "unboxing video," in which products are unwrapped from their packaging, ranks as a prominent and fascinating one. Thanks to YouTube's monetizing of video viewing, the unboxing video, which began as an amateur undertaking, has spawned an industry of micropayments to content providers (some of whom have thereby accrued substantial wealth) and the emergence of professional and semiprofessional unboxers. After beginning by recounting his accidental foray into the world of unboxing videos, the author provides a general account of the genre, reflects on the role of music and sound within it, and offers a broader set of reflections on the materialities of packaging within contemporary capitalism.

Bio: Sumanth Gopinath is Associate Professor of Music Theory at the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities. He is the author of The Ringtone Dialectic: Economy and Cultural Form (MIT Press, 2013) and co-edited with Jason Stanyek The Oxford Handbook of Mobile Music Studies (2014). He is co-editing Rethinking Reich (forthcoming) with Pwyll ap Siôn and is working on various projects, including a revision of his dissertation on Steve Reich's "race" pieces from the mid-1960s.


March 9-11: Climate Realism, Media @ McGill International Colloquium

Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal (MAC)

Climate Realism addresses the challenge of representing and conceptualizing climate in the era of climate change. This year’s international colloquium asks leading scholars in the humanities and social sciences to spell out a new research agenda for climate theory and aesthetics in the age of the Anthropocene.