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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.

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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​.​

Thursday, September 29, 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.

Friday, September 30th, 3:30pm – 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).

Tuesday, October 4th, 5:30 p.m.
Arts 260

Thursday, October 13: Hilliard T. Goldfarb

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).

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

McGill University, Leacock 132, 855 Sherbrooke Street W, 7 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.