AHCS Speaker Series, 2017-18

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 4:00pm.

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

Winter 2018

Feb 2

Bonnie Gordon (University of Virginia)
Co-sponsored with Music
4:45 pm, Strathcona Music Building, room C-201

Entangled Soundscapes: Thomas Jefferson, Haiti, and Diasporic Sound
In 1791, Thomas Jefferson and his eldest daughter Martha exchanged a series of letters that brought two seemingly dissimilar topics into close proximity: a discussion of domestic musical life in their Virginia home and events unfolding in the French colony of Saint Domingue, now known as Haiti. The most historically significant of the events unfolding in Saint Domingue was what we now recognize as the Haitian revolution, which was catalyzed in August of 1791 by a clandestine ceremony in which Dutty Boukman led an oath to fight for freedom and a mixed raced priestess named Cecile Fatiman consecrated a vow. This paper explores the sonic resonance of that ceremony and its reverberation in diasporic sound. I hear the terror of slave revolution, the terror of the imperial gaze, suddenly transforming into the largely aural experience of white listeners hearing black resistance. And the contrasts between the cultivated European music of Martha Jefferson Randolph and the incantations of the Vodou priestess resonate with the entanglement of music and sound emanating concurrently from the power structures in a racist chattel slave society and in early American democracy. Leaping forward over two centuries, the talk concludes with some thoughts on the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. As the town made famous by Jefferson, which has never been quiet or peaceful, moves from hashtag back to flashpoint, I’m convinced that listening to the past and to the complicated relationship among sound, song, aesthetics, and nation building matters very much.

Feb 8

Increasing Diversity in Local Tech and Media Organisations: Strategies from the Field
Leacock 232, 6:00-8:00 p.m.

Chris Bergeron, Rebecca Cohen-Palacios, Stephanie Little, Karl-André St-Victor

Media@McGill event

Feb 15

Andrei Pop (University of Chicago)
4:00 pm, Arts W-215

Slavery, Sugar, and Subjectivity: On Henry Fuseli’s Oronooko
The conjunction of consumer goods and unfree labor, and of both with aesthetic autonomy, is distinctive of recent postcolonial criticism of the eighteenth century. It was also formulated in the eighteenth century by a writer and painter, Henry Fuseli, in texts and images that appear to contradict one another.

Feb 15

Deanna Bowen
5:30 pm, Leacock 232

Media@McGill event

March 16

Alex Rehding (Harvard)
Co-sponsored with Music
4:45 pm, Strathcona Music Building, room C-201

Earth Music: A Media Archaeology of the Golden Record
The Golden Record on board of the Voyager spacecraft (1977) is on a journey through outer space, carrying a sampling of world music into the unknown. Conceived as a visiting card to other life in the universe, the Golden Record has been called a “message in a bottle” and an “interstellar mixtape.”—The question I want to ask is simple: What would actually happen if extraterrestrials picked it up at the other end? Can we expect that extraterrestrials have ears? What does listening even mean in an interstellar context? In what could be termed a media archaeology of the future, we will examine the record as an interface in the communication of various expressive forms—words, music, images—with the aim of getting a better sense of how exactly the Golden Record might function in this unpredictable context.  

Bio: Alexander Rehding is Fanny Peabody Professor of Music at Harvard University. His work is located at the intersection between music theory and cultural history. His publications include Hugo Riemann and the Birth of Modern Musical Thought (2003), Music and Monumentality (2009) and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony (2017). Rehding has also co-edited Music Theory and Natural Order (2001), The Oxford Handbook of Neo-Riemannian Studies (2011), and Music in Time (2016). Recent work has also taken Rehding toward media studies and transcultural work, in such articles as “Instruments of Music Theory” and the online exhibition Sounding China. A former editor of Acta musicologica, Rehding is editor-in-chief of the Oxford Music Handbook series. Rehding’s awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Dent Medal (2014). Current projects include the Oxford Handbook of Timbre, the Oxford Handbook of Critical Concepts in Music Theory, a volume on transcultural music theory, and a book on the Golden Record.

March 20

Deborah Cowen (University of Toronto)
4 PM, Arts W-215

Beyond '150': Transnational Infrastructures of Empire and Resistance

​March 27

Anna Feigenbaum (Bournemouth University)
Co-sponsored with Media@McGill
5:00 pm, Leacock 232

Cruel Design/Disobedient Design – The Art and Politics of Designing for Social Justice

MAY 22

Film screening and discussion with Christina Lammer

Fall 2017

Sept 14

Amy Knight Powell (UC Irvine) 
With generous funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

Airy Idols
Paul's argument that “idols are nothing" was, in the middle ages and renaissance, often taken to mean that idols are mythical creatures, like centaurs. But Paul was also sometimes taken to mean that idols are without substance. In this line of thinking, air (rather than centaurs and other composite creatures) became emblematic of the nothingness of the idol. This had consequences for painting. For, when Alberti turned pictures into windows, he turned air, which is to say nothingness, which is to say the idol, into the matrix of painting. From this vacuous substance, painters could then conjure anything they wished, but what they conjured would always remain tainted by the the airy stuff from which it was made.

Oct 5

Allison Morehead (Queen's University)

When We Nurses Awaken: Edvard Munch and New Medical Women
Edvard Munch's numerous depictions of nurses - paintings, prints, drawings, and photographs - are haunted by the themes of Henrik Ibsen's last play, When We Dead Awaken, which the radical lesbian feminist author Adrienne Rich memorably described as about "the use that the male artist and thinker - in the process of creating culture as we know it - has made of women, in his life and in his work; and about a woman's slow, struggling awakening to the use to which her life has been put." This paper delves not only into Munch's representations of nurses, but also into how nurses posed for, interacted with, and represented themselves to Munch in ways that speak to the fraught nature of their professional entrance into the fraternity of medicine. 

Oct 26

Zeynep D. Gürsel (Macalester College)

A Picture of Health: The Search for a Genre to Visualize Care in Late Ottoman Istanbul
This paper addresses a specific photographic album from the 1890s found in Ottoman Sultan Abdülhamit's palace archive which shows female patients of the Haseki Women's Hospital after they have regained their health.  These formal portraits show each patient modestly dressed in hospital issued uniform yet baring her abdomen to show a surgical scar.  In a specimen jar on the ornate table each woman leans on is displayed the tumor removed by the gynecological surgeon.  How might we make sense of the surgeon's signature on each plate (and differently on each abdomen in the form of a scar) despite the images having been made by a prominent studio photographer?  How does this album requires us to rethink agency in photography?  How do we make sense of these images displaying that which was once internal to these women to themselves, the surgeon and the sultan?  Does the appearance of these images in an album at the palace collapse traditional differences between medical and political imaging technologies? How is care being visualized and to what political end?  What kinds of relationships are materialized in this album?

The photo albums of Ottoman sultan and Islamic leader Abdulhamid II (1876-1909) who dispatched photographers to four corners of his empire contain some 35,000 images.  This visual archive documents state projects such as military and government buildings, hospitals, factories, massive engineering projects, schools, mosques and cityscapes, and includes a large collection of police photographs.  The sultan’s collection also contains albums sent to him by diplomats, foreign heads of state and individual foreign and Ottoman subjects, including doctors.

Nov 2

Philip Sohm (University of Toronto)
With generous funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation​

Vicarious painting and ludic visual projection
How can an amateur mentally transform pigments on a palette into a finished painting and then return them to their original state as pigment on a palette? Anton Francesco Doni posed this unlikely question in I Marmi (Venice, 1552).  In doing so, he invented a new kind of creative viewing where vicarious painters collaborate with and reconfigure paintings. As amateurs became more curious about the secrets of painters' studios -- the materials, tools and techniques that 'miraculously' turned pigment into flesh -- a new type of art manual was invented to teach amateurs to draw.  Concurrently painters began to represent palettes and paintings in the studio on their easels in ways that would prompt viewers to imagine using palettes and brushes to complete unfinished paintings. The consequences in the later 16th- and 17th-centuries of this new role of viewer as painter is the subject of this lecture. Various types of psychologized visuality will be introduced, including visual agnosia and the projective phenomenon of pareidolia, as a means to interpret early-modern self-portraits, allegories of painting, and scenes of painters' studio. Concluding remarks on indeterminacy and the heuristics of confusion will be offered.

Nov 16

Heather Igloliorte (Concordia University)

Instructors and Innovators: Unconventional Inuit Art in the late 20th and early 21st Centuries

In this presentation Dr. Heather Igloliorte (Inuk, Concordia University Research Chair) examines the history of modern and contemporary Inuit art by investigating how artistic innovation and interventions have changed and expanded the field of Inuit art history and practice. Igloliorte examines the role of Qallunaat arts instructors and their Inuit collaborators in the past and present, and explores how artists have broken from conventions and expectations in Inuit art through a variety of styles and media.