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

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. 


Winter 2018

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