AHCS Speaker Series
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.
Please Join us online: The Art History and Communication Studies department invites you to subscribe to our Events list so that you can stay up to date on a wide variety of upcoming art and culture as well as policy-oriented lectures, seminars, forums, conferences, thesis and dissertation defenses, performances, and public presentations sponsored or co-sponsored by our department. To subscribe, follow this link.
January 23rd: Joanne Latimer
For Love and Money: How to Turn Your Fine Arts Degree into a Paycheque
January 30th: Glenn Peers
Associate Professor, University of Texas, Austin
Thinking with Things in Byzantium
The first preposition in the title matters to the degree that it not only indicates some mutual work humans and things can do together, but it also supposes agency and determinacy for objects themselves in that culture. So, if objects thought (as this talk will argue), little separated them from human subjects that ostensibly acted on their things. Objects spoke, moved, bled, and acted like humans, though less predictably and perhaps in the way rocks act: without much speed for the most part, but undeniably. By examining some Byzantine things closely, from the point of view of materials, crafting and independent afterlife, this paper tries to reclaim the spread of thinking in that world that our own assumptions have led us to overlook.
February 6th: Cornelius Borck
Professor of History, Theory, and Ethics of Medicine and Science at the University of Lübeck in Germany
The index card as thinking machine: Media, memory and writing in Hans Blumenberg
February 20th: Amy Slaton
Department of History and Politics, Drexel University, Philadelphia PA
Go/No-Go: Measurement, Inscription, and the Legible Industrial Worker
The visual and tactile efforts that constitute modern industrial labor reproduce famously durable social structures. From around 1880 onward, the shop-floor workers, supervisors, and design engineers employed in North American manufacturing increasingly deployed rulers, gages, calipers, bevels and other standardized instruments. Those acts of measurement and comparison, described in this paper, subjected raw materials and finished products to inspection in a sweeping positivist linkage of perception and certainty. They also enlisted workers into the capitalist rationality of stratified wage labor, with variable “capacities” for vision or touch ascribed to each occupational level. Industrial instruments, inscriptions, products and bodies made perfect sense of one another. We follow these layered technical, representational and social processes through to the current day, as they prove themselves now exquisitely suited to emergent neo-liberal ideologies of labor, talent, and privilege.
March 27th Mechthild Fend
University College London
Body to Body: The Dermatological Wax Moulage as Indexical Image
The lecture will focus on a very particular kind of medical imagery: dermatological wax moulages, casts taken from the body of people infected with diseases of the skin to document their condition. The talk will explore the ways in which these images – made by contagion in the most literal sense – engage with the body of the sick. It will query what kind of images these medical wax casts actually are and why they were so popular as a medium of dermatological visualisation from the middle of the nineteenth century until the 1960s. The talk will explore the nature of these impressions based on the contact between the somatic symptom and the plaster which was used to make the moulds from which the wax casts were then taken.
While much of the diagnostic utility of the dermatological casts relies on the re-working and colouring of the moulages by the wax modeller, their claim for truth and authenticity is based on their quality as mechanically produced images. This links them structurally to photography, and the latter medium was indeed introduced into dermatology at the same time as the wax moulages. This is particularly striking the case of the Hôpital Saint Louis in Paris (the first clinic dedicated entirely to the treatment of skin diseases): Alfred Hardy and A. de Montméja published their Clinique photographique de L'hôpital Saint-Louis published in 1868 and Jules Baretta, hired as a mouleur for the hospital in 1863, finished his first moulage in 1867. I will discuss the preference for these mechanically produced images in relation to Daston and Galison’s notion of “Images of Objectivity”. At the same time, I would like to stress the traditions of an animist believe in the lifelikeness of images at work in both of these media and discuss the similarity between the display of the wax moulages at the Musée des Moulages at the Hôpital Saint-Louis and religious votives. In this respect I would like to argue, adapting Bruno Latour, that these images have never been entirely modern.
April 10th: Natasha Schull
Time on Device: Slot machine design and the turn away from risk in gambling
September 12: Janez Janša
Name Readymade is a project presentation dealing with a wide range of
issues related to the “name changing” gesture perpetrated by three
Slovenian artists who, in 2007, legally, and with all the papers and
stamps required, changed their names and assumed the name of the
Slovenian Prime Minister at the time, Janez Janša. Ever since, all their
works, their private and public affairs – in a word, their whole life –
have been conducted under this new name.
It is a parcours through different stages and aspects of the act of name
changing and its consequences, including public, relational and intimate
September 26: Michael Cole
Professor, Department of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University
"Leonardo Against Nature"
Leonardo da Vinci’s investigations of nature led him to reflect on the “counter-natural,” a category revived from antiquity that identified art with violence. This paper will examine Leonardo's redefinition of the counter-natural, looking both at his sources and at the significance of his thinking for the understanding of painting ca. 1500.
October 3: Steven Shapin
"'You Are What You Eat': Historical Changes in Ideas about Food and Identity"
The D. Lorne Gales Lecture in the History of Science
6PM Tania Schulich Hall, Faculty of Music
October 13: "Spaces of Hacking" Symposium
2-6PM Notman House, 51 Sherbrooke West
October 25 & 26: “Liquid Intelligence and the Aesthetics of Fluidity" Conference
Théâtre J. Armand Bombardier, McCord Museum, 690 Sherbrooke Street W
March 14: Lisa Nakamura
Professor, Department of American Cultures, Professor, Department of Screen Arts and Cultures, University of Michigan.
“I Will Do Everything That I am Asked:” Spambaiting, Dogshaming, and the Racial Violence of Social Media”
Abstract: The “trophy room” of 419eater.com, a site with over 48,000 registered members, is full of images of African men and women holding signs penned with demeaning slogans or engaged in ridiculous acts, such as men wearing women’s bras and posing with a fish held near their heads. While some of these are humorous, such as “I can’t believe it’s not butter,” many are designed to render their holder abject, such as “I will do everything that I am asked.” These images were contributed by "spambaiters," Internet vigilantes who trick would-be Internet scammers as punishment for their crimes. This paper will explore the genealogy, distribution, aesthetics, and visual history of this “shaming” meme across Tumblr, image trophy rooms, and other image and discussion boards. The root of the shaming meme in social media’s visual cultures of racial abjection reminds us of the digital pillory’s hidden history.
Co-sponsored with History and Philosophy of Science.
March 18 (Monday): Fred Turner
Associate Professor of Communication, Director, Program in Science, Technology and Society, Standford University.
"The Family of Man and the Politics of Attention in Cold War America"
Abstract: In 1955, the Museum of Modern Art mounted one of the most widely seen – and widely excoriated – photography exhibitions of all time, The Family of Man. For the last forty years, critics have decried the show as a model of the psychological and political repression of cold war America. This talk challenges that view. It shows how the immersive, multi-image aesthetics of the exhibition emerged not from the cold war, but from the World War II fight against fascism. It then demonstrates that The Family of Man aimed to liberate the senses of visitors and especially, to enable them to embrace racial, sexual and cultural diversity – even as it enlisted their perceptual faculties in new modes of collective self-management. For these reasons, the talk concludes, the exhibition became an influential prototype of the immersive, multi-media environments of the 1960s – and of our own multiply mediated social world today.
Co-sponsored with Media@McGill.
April 11: Hannah Feldman
Associate Professor, Department of Art History, Northwestern University.
"After Decolonization: Commemorative Aesthetics and the Politics of Remembrance and Recuperation in Paris, Algiers, and Paris again."
Abstract: This paper examines the cultural agendas and visual strategies developed and deployed by Algerians and non-Algerians from the 1960s to the 1980s in order to mobilize the memory of the War of Independence (1954-1962) for various and often contradictory purposes both within Algeria and without. Drawing attention to the ways in which such commemorative projects are complicated by contemporary events, I aim to further challenge the visual narratives developed to communicate Algeria's decolonization by comparing these earlier projects to more recent efforts to commemorate Algeria's subsequent civil war (1991-2002) by diasporic artists who have come to enjoy celebrity and prominence in the international art market.
"What If Comics Were Literature? Why Comics Weren't Art, and Why They Might Be Now"
Historically, the relationship between comics and the traditional “high” arts was a simple one: comics were the degraded “Other” of the fine arts. Artists like Roy Lichtenstein might mine comic books and strips for inspiration, but they were not legitimate art objects in and of themselves. In recent years, this distinction has begun to erode. With major exhibitions of comic book art taking place in art museums around the world, it is clear that the traditional distinction between fields has begun to unravel, producing new opportunities for critics, curators and artists alike. This talk will consider the past and future of comics art, tracing the vexed path that has led cartoonists to museums and galleries in order to situate the place of comics in the hierarchy of contemporary arts.
Monday, September 24, 2nd floor seminar room at 3463 Peel Street, 5:30pm.
Co-sponsored with The McGill Institute for the Study of Canada (MISC).
“I’m Like Totally Saved”: Branding Religion and the Moral Limits of the Market
Branding in the contemporary era has extended beyond a business model; branding is now both reliant on, and reflective of, the most basic social and cultural relations. Brand cultures are spaces in which politics are practiced, identities are made, art is created, and cultural value is deliberated. One example of a brand culture is religion, where branding religious lifestyles represents a new marketing and business opportunity, where there is not one specific product, but rather a politically diffused notion of religious identity, that is re-imagined and reframed not only within consumer items, but also within the ways in which religion is organized, institutionalized, and experienced in everyday life. Here, I examine two religious brand cultures, Prosperity Christianity and New Age Spiritualism, as a way to address such questions as: what is at stake in the fact that we are increasingly comfortable living in brand culture? What might be gained, and what is lost, through
this kind of living?
Tuesday, October 2.
Co-sponsored with Media@McGill.
"Seeing like a Rover: Images and Interactions on the Mars Exploration Rover Mission."
How do you work with a robot millions of miles away to make scientific discoveries on a planet you have never set foot on? While the team of NASA scientists and engineers rely on Spirit and Opportunity to do science on Mars, working with the Mars Exploration Rovers also requires that team members learn to "see like a Rover". On the one hand, I show how this enrolls a particular visual fluency with the hundreds of thousands of images that return from the Martian surface, producing new representations with image processing software to inform Rover operations. On the other hand, I argue, this visual connection to the Rovers' "eyes" on another planet produces a deeper connection to the robots too: one that ascribes human characteristics to machines, teaches humans to see, move and feel like their robots do, and develops an intimate and embodied understanding of the vehicles' experiences on Mars.
Thursday, October 4.
Co-sponsored with History and Philosophy of Science.
K. Dian Kriz
The Military Artist in Jamaica and India: Abraham James and the Production of Knowledge “In-between’”
Some of the most vivid and biting satires of life in colonial Jamaica were produced onsite by an ensign in the British army, Abraham James, and published in London in the early 1800s. This “military caricaturist” was later stationed in India and a produced very different type of printed image—of British solders and Sepoys performing stock military exercises. In this lecture Dian Kriz will examine James’s Jamaican caricature, “Martial Law in Jamaica” in tandem with images from his Indian exercise manuals in order to consider how a pan-oceanic print culture attempted to fix certain ideas about the colonial martial body. These ideals had consequences for imaging British martial masculinity in the metropole as well as in its most important eastern and western colonial centers.
Thursday, October 11.
The Well Temper’d Engraver: Newtonian Optics, Theories of Proportion, and the Invention of Color Printing
This paper examines how a select group of Dutch scientific practitioners around 1700 used artistic anatomy, and especially theories of human proportions, as a model for developing a unified theory of science. The amateur philosopher Lambert ten Kate, the entrepreneurial printmaker Jacob Christoffel le Blon, and, to a lesser extent, the classicist painter Hendrik van Limborch collaborated on an experimental research program to reform the sciences and the arts, and came to believe that the same, Pythagorean harmonies governed the structures of human body, the diffraction of white light, and all other branches of knowledge. The culmination of their research program was Le Blon’s invention of color printing, an artisanal technology based on scientific principles. This talk examines why these practitioners decided to reduce all types of knowledge into one unified theory, and how such a development influenced the intellectual property regime of the early Enlightenment.
Thursday, October 25.
"She Had a Laugh Like a Beefsteak"
Los Angeles-based artist Susan Silton activates the multivalent space of the voice in this performative lecture, drawing from diverse artistic, theoretical, and anatomical sources to contextualize her multi-disciplinary practice.
Tuesday, November 6.
Co-sponsored with the Institute for Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies, Media@McGill, and the Department of English.