AHCS Research Forum


desk covered in books and research

Since 2012, the AHCS Research Forum has served as a gathering point for McGill’s Department of Art History and Communication Studies. The format of our events varies, but our mandate abides. We bring together the diverse, interdisciplinary community of faculty, post-doctoral fellows, visiting scholars, sessional instructors, graduate students and others affiliates of AHCS into informal, research-driven conversation often over food and drink. Please see below for upcoming events, and an archive of past events.

Past Events:

Sven Dupré (University of Amsterdam) – "Fragile Colors: The Art of Glassmaking and the Imitation of Nature"
AHCS Research Forum, in co-sponsorship with Le Séminaire des nouveaux modernes
Oct. 19, 2018; 4:00-6:00 PM; Arts W-220

Sven Dupré is Professor of History of Art, Science and Technology at the University of Amsterdam (Conservation & Restoration) and Chair of History of Art, Science and Technology at Utrecht University (History & Art History). Dupré’s research sits at the crossroads of technical art history and the history of science and technology. He is the Director of the project ‘Technique in the Arts: Concepts, Practices, Expertise, 1500-1950’ (ARTECHNE), supported by a European Research Council (ERC) Consolidator Grant, in cooperation with conservators at the Atelier Building in Amsterdam, where the Rijks museum, the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands and the University of Amsterdam combine their knowledge in the field of restoration of art objects.Since 2018 he also heads the NWO Smart Culture digital art history project on the history of glass focusing on the archives of the artist Sybren Valkema (1916-1996), in collaboration with the Foundation Vrij Glas, the RKD Netherlands Institute for Art History, the Corning Museum of Glass and the Glasmuseum Hentrich, Dusseldorf.He is a member of the editorial boards of the journals Nuncius, Science in Context and Studium, an associate editor of History of Humanities, a former member of the advisory board of Isis, co-editor of the Nuncius book series on material and visual history of science (Brill Publishers), and an advisory board member of the book series Studies in Art & Materiality (Brill Publishers).

PDF - The value of glass and the translation of art knowledge in early modern Antwerp

Jeehee Hong - "The Meditating Monkey: Visualizing Silence in Southern Song China"
Oct. 3, 2018;9:30-11:00 AM; Arts W-220

meditating monkeyA prime anthropoid, the monkey occupies a special place in the world of anthropomorphism in many cultures. Its proximity to a human being both in appearance and behavior generated a spectrum of imageries that allegorize or satirize the human society and culture throughout history. In contrast to the generally negative image of the monkey in religious discourses in certain cultures, the monkey had a specific appeal to Buddhist communities in China, which transcended the boundary of morality; entering the realm of literary imagination in medieval times, the animal’s manifold anthropomorphic characteristics in the poetic tradition were also integrated into Buddhist visual culture by the middle period (9th-14th centuries).

Deriving from a larger book-length project on faciality and visuality in middle-period China, this paper (-in progress)unveils a particular visual mode in which the monkey was portrayed in and around the Chan communities in middle-period China. I taddresses how the picturing of the monkey that embraced the poetic discourses evocative of visual and auditory perceptions offered itself as a medium through which the viewer was routed to an undefined realm beyond the perceptible. This study further aims to show how non-Buddhist and pre-Song poetic visions also contributed to the particular way of seeing that went beyond a simple pictorial manifestation of the single religious doctrine.

AHCS Research Forum: Welcome/Bienvenue Coffee/Café
Sept. 19, 2018; 9:45-10:45 AM; Arts W-220

AHCS Research Forum: Indigenous Art and Media Conversation
Feb. 28, 2018; 9:45-11:00 AM, Arts 160

What major questions now drive scholarship on Indigenous art and media? Who are the key artists, theorists and figures in the field? Two leading scholarly journals, Art Journal and RACAR, have recently dedicated special issues to such queries. As we look ahead to talks next month by candidates in our Indigenous Art and Media job search, the AHCS Research Forum welcomes faculty, post-docs/academic visitors, students, and all stakeholders to join us as we use essays and the brief introductions drawn from each collection (see below) as catalysts for opening conversation around the quickly changing field of Indigenous Art and Media.
We will convene for discussion in the Arts Council Room (Arts 160) from 9:45-11:00 AM on Wednesday, Feb. 28. Whether you are an expert in the field or a curious outsider, please come and join the conversation. As ever, coffee (the good stuff -- don’t worry!) and patisserie will be on hand. No need to RSVP.
Heather Igloliorte and Carla Taunton, “Continuities Between Eras: Indigenous Art Histories,” RACAR 42, 2 (2017): special issue “Continuities Between Eras: Indigenous Art Histories, edited by Heather Igloliorte and Carla Taunton, p. 5-8
Stacy A. Ernst, “Indigenous Sovereignty and Settler Amnesia: Robert Houle’s Premises for Self Rule,” RACAR 42, 2 (2017): 108-120
Kate Morris and Bill Anthes, “2017: Indigenous Futures,” Art Journal 76, 2 (2017): special issue “Indigenous Futures,” edited by Kate Morris and Bill Anthes, p. 6-9
Jessica L. Horton, “Indigenous Artists against the Anthropocene,” Art Journal 76, 2 (2017): 48-69

Art History Work-In-Progress 

Amidst a busy semester, the AHCS Research Forum is trialing a new "work-in-progress" sequence. The idea is to offer a platform for experiment with—and conversation around—new research. Presentations can be as formal or informal as need requires. If you have work you’d like to present work in this occasional series, email Matthew Hunter at matthew.hunter3 [at] mcgill.ca. Details on our first meeting are below.
Jan. 25, 4-5:30 PM, Arts W 215: Matthew Hunter, “Making and Destroying Enlightenment Photography in the 1860s”

AHCS Research Forum Global Contemporary Art Conversation
Nov. 8, 2017; 10:00-11:30 AM, Arts 160

Who are the major artists and thinkers in studies of contemporary art in the global world? What regions and media count in that conversation? Whose voices and theories matter on questions of the necessity or desirability of a global art history? Writing in 2015, theorist Jim Elkins plotted the "available positions" into ten points, enumerated below.

We use Elkins’s schematism less as definitive guide than as a catalyst for opening conversation among faculty, post-docs/academic visitors, students, and all other stakeholders in AHCS as we look ahead to our upcoming hire in contemporary art in the global world. Prompted by short, suggested readings by Aruna D’Souza and David Joselit as selected by several in-program graduate students (attached), the AHCS Research Forum and the Undergraduate Program Director in Art History welcome one and all to join conversation around issues pertinent to contemporary art and the global.

We will convene discussion in the Arts Council Room (Arts 160) from 10-11:30 AM on Wednesday, Nov. 8. Whether you are an expert in the field or a curious outsider, join us in dialogue as we prepare for our candidates’ talks later in the fall. Coffee (the good stuff -- don’t worry!) and patisserie will be available for all who RSVP to matthew.hunter3 [at] mcgill.ca by Wednesday Nov. 1.

Aruna D'Souza, "Introduction," in Art History in the Wake of the Global Turn, eds. Jill H. Casid and Aruna D'Souza (Williamstown: Clark Art Institute, 2014), vii-xxiii 
David Joselit, "On Aggregators," October 146 (Fall 2013): 3-18 

elkins text

[adapted from: James Elkins, "Afterword," in Circulations in the Global History of Art, eds. Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann, Catherine Dossin and Béatrice Joyeux-Prunel (Burlington: Ashgate, 2015), 205-6.

AHCS Research Forum: Welcome/Bienvenue Coffee/Café
IPLAI seminar room, 3610 McTavish Street, room 22-6 [2nd floor]
Sept. 27, 2017;9:45-10:45 AM

"What is Your Material?" 
Nov. 4, 2016; 10:30 AM-13:25 PM, Arts 230

This fall’s Forum will be organized around the question, “What is your material?”

Participants will be invited to reflect on this question in relation to their own research (5 minutes each). The question can be interpreted in many ways -- some might talk about the research materials they are working on; some might reflect on what “material,” “materiality” and “materialism” mean in relation to their work and/or recent scholarship. These themes have renewed currency in our fields, and will be prominent in AHCS and Media@McGill programming in Winter 2017.

"Reckoning with Neoliberalism"
Oct. 7, 2015; 9:30-11:30 AM, Arts 160

In our contemporary moment, neoliberalism is a ubiquitous term.  But, what exactly is neoliberalism? How should we trace its historical genealogies? Where might we apprehend its ramifications? And what, to paraphrase philosopher Catherine Malabou, can we do so that our patterns of thought and action do not simply coincide with the spirit of neoliberalism?

This reading group takes up such questions by engaging with the recent work of noted political theorist Wendy Brown who will be this year’s Media@McGill's Beaverbrook Lecturer. Please join us as we read two chapters of Brown's recent Undoing the Demos: Neoliberalism’s Stealth Revolution (Zone, 2015): Chapter I: “Undoing Democracy: Neoliberalism’s Remaking of State and Subject" (17-45) and Chapter III: “Revising Foucault: Homo Politicus and Homo Oeconomicus” (79-111).

"The Craft of Scholarship"
April 14, 2015; 12:00-2:00 PM, Arts W 220

From the maker movement and Fab Labs to the "artisanal epistemologies" traced by recent historians of science, craft holds a prominent place in contemporary life. But, what are the crafts of scholarship? How might we understand the possibilities and challenges of thinking the practices of interdisciplinary research through the matrix of craft?

Organized in collaboration with Media@McGill, our upcoming meeting of the AHCS Research Forum will explore these questions as stimulated by papers from visiting faculty members Stephen Monteiro (American University of Paris) and Alessandra Renzi (Northeastern University). Please join us on Wednesday April 15 in Arts W 220 for lunch at 12 PM and papers by Profs. Monteiro and Renzi (whose abstracts and bios are below), which will open into questions and discussion of the craft and, perhaps, craftiness of scholarship in the present moment.

Stephen Monteiro (American University of Paris), “Patchwork Media and the Myth of Seamlessness”

Media design may aspire to fluidity, but fragmentation remains a dynamic component of everyday media practice. This talk considers the fundamental role fragmentation plays in contemporary participatory media and explores its ties to handicraft culture.

Stephen Monteiro is Assistant Professor of Global Communications at The American University of Paris and Visiting Assistant Professor of Art History & Communication Studies at McGill. He is the author of Screen Presence (Edinburgh University Press, 2015) and the editor of the Screen Media Reader, to be published by Bloomsbury in 2016.

Alessandra Renzi (Northeastern University), “Connecting media activism - From pirate TV to social networks”

This talk introduces results from a multi-year ethnographic study of the media collective insu^tv, a node in the Telestreet network of pirate community television channels active in Italy since 2002. This study traces the transformation of media activism from the peak of Indymedia to the present, detailing a shift in activist practices from producing counter-information to the use of collaborative media production as a catalyst to forge and strengthen ties among a variety of local and transnational communities. In fact, in their own words, insu^tv is not a collective; it is a connective. Yet, while insu^tv continues to perform this connective work, the rise of proprietary and corporate social media networks and platforms for user generated content, within activism, has presented considerable challenges to insu^tv’s community building work and, more generally, has weakened our grasp on the meaning, functions and potential of social connection in the web 2.0 era. Insu^tv’s case is by no means unique; in discussing the contemporary pressures it faces, this talk aims to stimulate a conversation about the implications of emerging technologies for social struggle that reaches beyond the problem of surveillance, corporate monopoly and the tyranny of prepackaged and black-boxed platform design. Indeed, in addition to discussing these very important issues, it is important that scholars and activists critically examine the modes of social connection, forms of self-awareness and political agency that are aided or made possible by emergent technologies.

Alessandra Renzi is Assistant Professor in Emergent Media at Northeastern University where she investigates the linkages between media, art and activism through ethnographic studies and media art projects. Her research interests led her to study pirate television networks in Italy and the surveillance of social movements in Canada. Her book Infrastructure Critical: Sacrifice at Toronto’s G8/G20 Summit, co-authored with Greg Elmer, was published in 2012. As part of her past research on surveillance, she co-produced the crowdsourced documentary Preempting Dissent: Policing the Crisis (2014). Dr. Renzi’s media art interventions interrogate and build upon the habits and practices emerging at the intersection of face-to-face and interface. Her work has been featured internationally in venues like the Transmediale Festival in Berlin, the Hemispheric Institute’s Encuentro in Sao Paulo (Brazil) and the Queens Museum of Art (NY). Her current research examines the design and socio-cultural impact of participatory platforms for collaboration and activism.

"Aesthetic Autonomy and Political Economy"
Oct. 15, 2014; 2:30-5:30 PM, MISC 201

A master class with Prof. Walter Benn Michaels (University of Illinois, Chicago and Media@McGill Scholar, 2014-5), we will discuss Michaels’s vigorous defense of authorial intention and his recent critique of Michael Fried and Jacques Rancière as practitioners of "neoliberal aesthetics."


Walter Benn Michaels, “Neoliberal Aesthetics: Fried, Rancière and the Form of the Photograph,” Nonsite.org (Jan. 25, 2011): http://nonsite.org/issues/issue-1/neoliberal-aesthetics-fried-ranciere-a...

Walter Benn Michaels, “The Beauty of a Social Problem (e.g. Unemployment),” Twentieth Century Literature 57 (2011): 309-327

Jacques Rancière, “Notes on the Photographic Image,” Radical Philosophy 156 (2009): 8-15

Steven Knapp and Walter B. Michaels, “Against Theory,” Critical Inquiry 8, 4 (1982): 723-742

“Courting Controversy” 
September 16, 2014; 12:30-2 PM in MISC 201

What constitutes controversial work in your field? Who does it and why? Is controversy a professional risk, a marketable opportunity, or perhaps an ethical imperative of scholarly life? Since an aim of the AHCS Research Forum is to open trans-disciplinary conversation, we take our prompt from the provocative work of Glenn Greenwald, Walter Benn Michaels and other speakers who will be visiting campus this term.



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