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
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.
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
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.
An Evening with Deanna Bowen
5:30 pm, Leacock 232
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.
Deborah Cowen (University of Toronto)
4 PM, Arts W-215
Beyond '150': Transnational Infrastructures of Empire and Resistance
Despite commitments to systemic and institutional change in the wake of the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission, ‘Canada 150’ celebrations proceeded apace over the summer of 2017. Festivities were awash with the language of reconciliation, but performed amnesia regarding both historic and ongoing state violence, including the very act of celebrating ‘replacement’. Indigenous people organized against the whitewashed birthday festivities, insisting that struggles over pipelines, damns, and drinking water offered a better diagnosis of ‘Nation to Nation’ relations. Drawing attention to the infrastructure that underpins contemporary settler colonialism – water and land protectors expose ties that are long and bind tight. In fact, ‘Canada 150’ also marks the completion of the national railroad on which settler state confederation relied. The CPR was famously referred to as ‘the spine of the nation’, but it was built on Indigenous, Black, and Chinese backs. This talk explores the key role of infrastructure in the formation and contestation of settler colonial space. It traces a set of cartographies that cut across nationalist narratives to foreground the violent ways infrastructure holds us together across time and space. Tracking the making of this ‘national spine’ through the transnational slave trade, indigenous dispossession, and violent racial capitalism, this talk asks what infrastructures can take us beyond ‘150’?
Bio: Deborah Cowen is Associate Professor in the Department of Geography and Planning at the University of Toronto and a 2016 Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Fellow. Her research explores the role of organized violence in shaping intimacy, space, and citizenship. She is the author of The Deadly Life of Logistics: Mapping Violence in Global Trade with the University of Minnesota Press, Military Workfare: The Soldier and Social Citizenship in Canada, and co-editor with Emily Gilbert, of War, Citizenship, Territory. Deborah has also been active in community-based research and organizing in Toronto addressing the racialization of sub/urban space, and was a collaborator on the National Film Board of Canada’s Emmy award winning HIGHRISE project. Deborah serves on the board of the Groundswell Community Justice Trust Fund.
Anna Feigenbaum, Minute Works, and Gavin Grindon
Co-sponsored with Media@McGill
5:00 pm, Leacock 232
Cruel Design/Disobedient Design – The Art and Politics of Designing for Social Justice
From drones, border walls and riot control weapons to protest banners and DIY tear gas masks, design practices are used for both social control and social change. In this public talk we explore how design practices are implemented in the creation of objects used for repression and harm. Situating this "cruel design" in relation to acts of disobedience, we take the audience on a journey through the creative processes and critical readings of power that lie at the heart of designing for disobedience. Revealing the tensions between "cruel design" and "disobedient design," we draw on a range of examples. From RiotID infographics to protesting legos, we look at how such objects travel across nations and movements. As repressive and harmful technologies are continually innovated and adapted, people continue to find new modes of resilience. We argue that beyond the creation of individual artefacts, engaging in civic and participatory design can foster infrastructures of resistance, shape social movement cultures, and innovate tactics that spread around the world.
Anna Feigenbaum is a Principal Academic in Digital Storytelling at Bournemouth University where she runs the Civic Media Hub. She is coordinator of the RiotID project that uses participatory information design to train people around the world how to identify, monitor and record the use of riot control weapons against civilians around the world.
Minute Works is a graphic design studio whose projects are defined by an enthusiasm for sustainable practice and social solidarity. They work regularly with Greenpeace and the Green Party, among other campaign groups and non-profits. They are the designers on the RiotID project, featured at Banksy’s Dismaland.
Gavin Grindon is a Lecturer in Art History and Curating at the University of Essex. Gavin recently curated The Museum of Cruel Designs and Guerilla Island at Banksy's Dismaland show. Before this he co-curated the exhibition Disobedient Objects at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, about objects of art and design produced by protest.
Matters of the Heart: Workshop, Film screening and discussion with artist Christina Lammer and surgeon Wilfried Wisser
Amy Knight Powell (UC Irvine)
With generous funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.