Speaker Series, 2012-13

Fall 2012
 

Sept 2: Bart Beaty
"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.

2nd floor seminar room at 3463 Peel Street, 5:30pm.

Co-sponsored with The McGill Institute for the Study of Canada (MISC).

Oct 2: Sarah Banet-Weiser
“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?  

Co-sponsored with Media@McGill.

Oct 4: Janet Vertesi
"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.

Co-sponsored with History and Philosophy of Science.

Oct 11: 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.

Oct 25: Daniel Margocsy
"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.

Nov 6: Susan Silton
"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.

Co-sponsored with the Institute for Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies, Media@McGill, and the Department of English.

 

Winter 2013

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.