Participants and Abstracts

All presentations will take place in the York Amphitheatre (EV 1.615)
Concordia University
Engineering, Computer Science and Visual Art Complex
1515 St. Catherine St. W., Montreal



Kristen M. Carter
PhD Candidate, Art History
University of British Columbia, Vancouver
All Tied Up: Lygia Clark and 'Cultural Development' in post-1968 France
Testimony/Témoignage: Saturday, March 23, 2013 at 3:00pm

Lygia Clark, Brazilian born artist, moved to Paris to teach at the Sorbonne in 1968 just after the student demonstrations—an event that, despite discord, profoundly ignited questions concerning the status of politics, education, economics, and workers’ rights (among many others). The overwhelming strikes caused the general public to panic and prompted Charles de Gaulle to respond with desperate intervention. On May 30, 1968, the president announced new elections and hinted at using military means to restore order. One month later, the elections swept de Gaulle and his supporters back into power. And keeping with his promise to restore order, the city witnessed a drastic crackdown and repression brought on by de Gaulle, the police and other government officials.

Exploring this moment of crisis, my paper considers Clark’s work at the Sorbonne from 1968 to 1975. Situating her work within the wake of May’s failed efforts, I argue her practice—which demanded self-discovery—was underscored with curative ambitions. With works such as Baba antropofagica (1973), Canibalismo (1973), Biological Arquitetures (1969), and Rede de elastico (1973) Clark brought people together in both dialogue and experience. Importantly, her focus on community was not an attempt to re-stage supposedly failed revolutionary efforts, or to merely bring people together, but rather to be aware of the ways in which we are all tied up—bound by knowledge, experience and position within an inter-related social and political system. Here, I depart from the tendency to reiterate Clark’s work with regard to participatory politics. Rather, I propose that she offered a way to cope when such participatory action had seemingly failed. This perspective not only provides a new way of interpreting Clark’s work, but also sheds light on the difficult political and social situation following the student demonstrations, ultimately revealing a crisis of consciousness that reaches far beyond the events of May 1968.


Joanne Farrall
MA Candidate, Gender Studies
Queens University, Kingston
When It Doesn't Get Better: Autobiography, Crisis and Resistance in Online Youth Trauma Videos
Trauma: Saturday, March 23, 2013 at 10:50am

In the last two years, in Canada, the US and the UK, more than two dozen teenaged girls aged 10-18 committed suicide due to ongoing peer harassment over their perceived sexual choices. The media coverage of these cases have framed their experiences as cases of online bullying, and policy responses have largely been to increase funding to gender-neutral anti-bullying programs. Social science research focuses on individualistic interventions such as identifying kids at risk and warning young women to avoid sexual conversations with strangers online. Missing from this conversation is the online culture of misogyny young women must navigate and how young women sometimes use the power of social media to resist, respond to and reframe their own experiences of crisis into stories of strength and resistance. The recent suicide of BC teenager Amanda Todd captured the Canadian and worldwide imagination in part because of her impassioned plea on youtube, a month prior to her suicide, for help.  Todd never speaks but uses a series of flashcards to communicate her experiences of sexual abuse, criminal harassment and stalking. There is a substantial body of strikingly similar youtube videos that have sprung up in the past two years by young people about their trauma. I argue these videos represent a new form of artistic visual autobiography: an effort by teens, who feel outside of protection, to communicate their pain and support others. These videos differ from the adult-initiated “it gets better” videos in a number of ways, most strikingly the choice of the girls to communicate through flashcards and have their voices remain silent. I analyze seven videos in this genre, using Foucault, Sarah Ahmed, Lauren Berlant and Leigh Gilmore as a jumping off point to demonstrate the enormous pressure young women who are experiencing violence are under to present a positive story, the failure of neoliberal culture to deal with the realities of youth trauma, and the complexities of this new genre that has both resistant and disciplinary possibilities. 


Estelle Grandbois-Bernard
Candidate au doctorate, Sociologie
Université du Québec à Montréal, Montréal
Crise de l'oïkos : un atlas visuel de la crise financière
Today/Aujourd'hui: Saturday, March 23, 2013 at 4:35pm

La crise financière de 2008 a été largement analysée et documentée, tant sur le plan des processus économiques et politiques ayant permis sa radicalisation et sa résolution, que sur le plan de ses conséquences sur l’économie réelle et l’expérience quotidienne de millions d’Américain.e.s. Elle a été abondamment photographiée par reporters et artistes dans une tentative de description et de compréhension de la réalité vécue de l’instabilité. Traders inquiets, encans de faillites, maisons forcloses, banques alimentaires, occupation de Wall Street ; innombrables sont les images qui traduisent visuellement les effets de la crise et invitent à la considérer non seulement comme un fait économique mais comme un phénomène culturel, un phénomène visuel.

Penser la crise avec les images, voilà l’objectif de cette communication. Comment celle-ci est-elle représentée par les photographes, quelles sont les lignes de force de ces représentations, les thèmes, les stratégies formelles employées ? Comment la crise s’exprime-t-elle visuellement ? À partir de l’élaboration d’un atlas visuel de la crise puisant à même la production photojournalistique et artistique actuelle, nous esquisserons son portrait multiforme dans le but d’observer comment la « dégénérescence » et le « pourrissement » propre au capitalisme (Tutin 2003) s’étendent au-delà des structures financières pour entrer dans l’intimité de l’oïkos.

S’appuyant sur un travail d’échantillonnage et d’association d’images pour penser visuellement la crise de l’économie, on verra comment celle-ci se décline comme une crise de l’économique, de la maisonnée, de l’habiter. On étudiera aussi les implications visuelles, esthétiques et anthropologiques de la théorie de l’instabilité (Minsky 1986) et la transformation de la crise en norme d’expérience. Ainsi, dans la perspective d’une sociologie visuelle articulant économie politique, phénoménologie de l’image et esthétique du montage, la contribution vise à réfléchir l’apport paradoxal des images à la fabrication et la compréhension de la crise comme nouvelle norme de l’oïkos.


Amanda Harris
MA Candidate, Art History
Carleton University, Ottawa
Sanity Is in the Eye of the Beholder: An Investigation into the Agency of the Patients of H.W. Diamond's Psychiatric Photography
Trauma: Saturday, March 23, 2013 at 10:50am

The idea that an internal problem can be diagnosed, categorized and then cured by viewing only the outer surface of a human being is an idea that came to the fore in nineteenth century medical practice.  The proliferation of this type of systematic treatment may be attributed to the rise in population and industrialization during this era, which ultimately led to an unprecedented expansion in the diagnosis of those believed to be suffering from mental illness. The crisis of managing the masses of afflicted individuals brought forth a change in practice from simply confining the mentally ill, often in inhumane ways, to aiming to rehabilitate and integrate them back into society. The role that visual technologies played in this model of medical treatment and knowledge expanded significantly during this period, and photography was undoubtedly the most popular and important medium which privileged sight in this context. This paper is centered around the psychiatric practice of Hugh Welch Diamond, and positions his photographs as sources of information which have previously not been fully analyzed in this regard. Through an investigation of theoretical models surrounding nineteenth century art and medicine, doctor and patient, subject and photographer, and gender, the role of the photograph in psychiatric practice may be seen as an early adaption of the medium to a form of cognitive-behaviour therapy. In doing so, this paper contributes to the discovery of ways in which medical patients in the nineteenth century acquired agency and the power to participate in their own recovery. Additionally, it adds to the knowledge base of the history and use of artistic practice as a form of productive therapy.


Brynn Hatton 
PhD Candidate, Art History
Northwestern University, Evanston, IL
The Image of Difference: Racial Coalition and Visual Collapse By Way of Vietnam
Nation: Friday, March 22, 2013 at 3:30pm

An unattributed propaganda poster produced in Hanoi in 1966, “Don’t Join the Army and Come to Vietnam (Không Di Linh Sang Nam Việt Nam),” features text in English, French, and Vietnamese, organized around two blockish, loosely stylized male figures, conspicuously raced as white. One figure extends his right arm outward in a recognizable ‘halt’ gesture; his left arm reaches around the front of his companion’s chest, bracing his upper body by grasping the opposite shoulder in a posture that first reads as defensive, but also conjures an embrace. The poster’s titular text reads like a directive spoken by a Vietnamese subject to a Euro-American military aggressor; yet the artist’s choice to switch the racial and national identity markers of the words’ implied speaker(s) and their corresponding gestures of protection and resistance initiates a plurality of possible subject positions and systems of address. In pared-down graphic form, this image suggests a complex political subjectivity and a mode of self-description generated by way of external reference to, and in comparison with, images of racial and national difference.

This poster is one of many images, produced between 1965-1975 and spanning a range of media and geographic points of origin, which give form to a profound and documented cohesion between anti-colonial, independence, and New Left movements whose eclectic interests were temporarily united in collective opposition to the Vietnam-American war. This paper analyzes examples of anti-war vernacular art from this period, drawn from a number of international archives, in which direct visual analogies are made between North Vietnamese liberation and a wide set of local political interests. These images both demonstrate and complicate the pluralistic character and substance of the global anti-war movement, which tended to signify and iconize Vietnam and ‘Vietnameseness’ generically and malleably in accordance with the chief interests of other political claims.


Emma Kreiner
MA Candidate, Art History
Concordia University, Montreal
Visualizing Saint-Henri
Space/Espace: Saturday, March 23, 2013 at 9:30am

This multidisciplinary investigation will examine some of the historical and social realities of current and former residents of the Montreal neighbourhood of Saint-Henri, through an examination of two varying filmic depictions of this borough. This paper will analyse the ways in which the district’s architecture was depicted in Hubert Aquin’s À Saint-Henri le cinq septembre (1962) and Shannon Walsh’s À Saint-Henri, le 26 août (2011) and how it conducts and transmits social meanings. In particular, this paper will analyse the representation of Saint-Henri’s post-industrial landscape, and the ways in which both its (lack of) structure and its subsequent filmic portrayal affected the residents of the neighbourhood, described by Aquin as a “dying.” In contrast, this paper will also outline the more recent gentrification of Saint-Henri, wherein new housing developments have allotted agency to a bourgeois population, while the original working class inhabitants have been disempowered by increasing rents and their ensuing displacement. This phenomenon is well documented in Shannon Walsh’s 2011 study of Saint-Henri. Fundamentally, this study looks at architecture, and housing, in particular, as mirroring and articulating the states of bodies that inhabit these spaces. A close reading of these two filmic depictions will attempt to reveal social and political implications of representing urban squalor, architectural decay, as well as the more recent gentrification that has contributed to the condition of groundlessness and ambiguity in Saint-Henri. In conclusion, this paper will critically examine Aquin and Walsh’s films and their respective documentation of urban space, as well and their implications on the inhabitants of this urban microcosm.


Patrick Leonard
MA Candidate, Art History
Concordia University, Montreal
It Does Not Matter if a Cat Is Black or White as Long as it Catches Mice: China's 1980's Avant-Garde
Nation: Friday, March 22, 2013 at 3:30pm

The termination of the decade-long Chinese Cultural Revolution in 1976 produced a sudden absence in artistic direction. Influenced by Communist party Chairman Mao Zedong's 1942 Yanan talks on the proscriptions for a proletarian-friendly art form, artistic developments were guided uniformly by party policy after 1949; by the start of the Cultural Revolution 1966, all independent artists groups had been abolished, western and Chinese traditional art forms purged for their "bourgeois" character and all visual art-workers yoked to formulaic, Soviet-influenced Socialist Realism. With the institution of the "Four Modernizations" that would usher China toward economic competitiveness in the late 1970's came a token artistic liberty and, for most domestic Chinese artists, a sudden exposure to western art history. With this infusion of foreign ideas came a crisis of identity: what is at the essence of Chinese culture, and what does modern Chinese art look like?

In this essay I will narrate the transition of Chinese art from Maoist restrictions to its elevation as international art market commodity by way of the modernization process that defined the 1980's. A period of experimentation, failed exhibitions and dramatic political reprisals, China's 1980's avant-garde was characterized by notions of popular efficacy in the modernization of the country and epitomized by Deng Xiaoping's expression, "it does not matter if a cat is black or white as long as it catches mice." Beginning with the illegal Stars show in late 1979 and and ending with the 1989 China Avant-garde exhibition shut down by police in the months before the Tiananmen square massacre, this essay will outline the dialogue between artists and the political culture they sought to change.


Rheagan E. Martin
MA Candidate, Art History
Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX
The Violent Earth Art of Ana Mendieta
Trauma: Saturday, March 23, 2013 at 10:50am 

While scholars are quick to address violence in large-scale earth art by men, there is a fundamental difference in the understanding of violence present in Cuban-American artist Ana Mendieta’s Silueta series, which burn, gouge, and submerge the human form into the earth. This violence must be acknowledged outright and understood for what it seeks to accomplish. At stake is an understanding of Mendieta’s work as a violent response to the crisis of her exile, in which she inverts previous masochistic performances to develop a sadistic relationship with the earth in order to forge new identity. This paper will demonstrate that such an understanding can be reached in two ways: first by identifying the cultural references such violence encodes and, secondly, by understanding the nature of time in the intentionally ephemeral works preserved for viewers in photographs and short films.
Mendieta’s wound on the earth is a space in which trauma is enacted in order to externalize an interior crisis of alienation in order to create a public and psychological topography. The frame of the photograph or the time within the film holds the objects and erasures that create these spaces before they burn, melt, or erode back into landscape. This reliance on photography and film creates differences of temporality within the work. The inevitable disintegration of Mendieta’s Siluetas causes viewers to consider the images in the future anterior, knowing that the figures will have disappeared. In this sense, the photographs do not represent an event but rather a “gap” or “wound” in time. They entangle the viewer in a violence from which s/he is both physically and temporally removed, creating a voyeuristic relationship between the viewer and Mendieta’s externalized crisis.


Rajee Paña Jeji Shergill
MA Candidate, Art History
Concordia University, Montreal
Working Through Oppression: Identity Politics in the Artistic Practice of Lani Maestro, 1990-1994
Testimony/Témoignage: Saturday, March 23, 2013 at 3:00pm

Between 1990 and 1994, Filipina-Canadian artist Lani Maestro worked on a joint project with Canadian artist and writer Stephen Horne, founding and editing the Montreal-based HarbourMagazine of Art and Everyday Life. Harbour Magazine was a journal that brought together artworks and writings by artists, critics and theorists, providing a platform where artists were able to engage with issues affecting art production and dissemination in relation to power and difference, while also offering an alternative arts venue to the institutional system of that time. Quebec’s political climate was quite unstable around the time Maestro and Horne moved back to Montreal and launched Harbour. They arrived in September during the Oka crisis, which ended September 26, 1990. This paper examines Harbour’s third issue, published in 1991, which contains two pieces written by First Nations women within the context of the Oka Crisis. I examine the ways in which Harbour’s content engages with postcolonial issues such as the aftereffects of colonialism and its impacts in terms of identity. I begin this essay by discussing a collaborative work made by Maestro and Horne titled The Enemy is Within, which was part of the publication Instabili: The Question of Subject (1990), produced by the feminist artist run-centre in Montreal, La Centrale, in conjunction with their sixteenth anniversary.  Through close examination of Maestro’s oeuvre during the early stages of her career, I consider the ways in which she draws from her diasporic experience as an immigrant to Canada from the Philippines, as she actively engages with the politics of identity through a postcolonial lens. I suggest that Maestro’s art practice had a significant impact both in Montreal and in Canada more generally, as she brought increased awareness to postcolonial issues.


Nicholas Parkinson
PhD Candidate, Art History and Criticism
Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY
Manet's Ennui
Testimony/Témoignage: Saturday, March 23, 2013 at 3:00pm

In the wake of the devastation caused by the Franco-Prussian War and the ensuing bloodshed during the suppression of the Paris Commune, Édouard Manet suffered a debilitating depression nerveuse.  Scholarship on Manet has tended to ignore this event and its possible consequences on his oeuvre, despite that the early 1870s undoubtedly marks a crucial period of transition in the artist’s career.  Instead, critics and art historians have tended to confine readings of Manet’s work to narratives concerning the development of modern art, and perhaps to the point of overlooking details which might enrich our understanding of the artist’s work and the circumstances under which it developed.  An analysis of Manet’s work during the early 1870s reveals a strong correlation between changes in the artist’s work and concurrent social and personal events which mark a transition within the artist’s life.  In particular, a connection can be made between the distress caused by his direct encounters with the violence of European politics, a strained and ambiguous relationship with his family, and the marriage of his companion Berthe Morisot to his brother, Eugène Manet, and the manner in which they are handled by Manet when his paintings touch upon these subjects.  This article analyzes Manet’s productions during the early 1870s which relate to politics, domestic space, and portraiture, as being shaped by the artist’s state of ennui – a favorite subject of the artist’s close friend, Charles Baudelaire – in order to develop a more nuanced reading of the advance of the artist’s career.


Julian Peters

MA Candidate, Art History
Concordia University, Montreal
Explain Yourself: The Projector (1971) by Martin Vaughn-James and the Reinvention of Narrative
Anxiety/Angoisse: Saturday, March 23, 2013 at 1:40pm 

The 1960s and early 1970s saw a widespread questioning of the traditional primacy accorded to certain media as the proper vehicles for serious artistic expression. Owing in part to rapid accelerations in technological development, traditional media such as painting and sculpture began to seem less socially relevant, and can be seen to have entered into a period of crisis.

In the domain of literature, too, there was a feeling that the novel form, in particular, was hopelessly outmoded and consumed through overuse, necessitating the invention of new forms of literary narrative. Among the most remarkable responses to this perceived crisis are the four “visual novels” created in Toronto by the British-born artist Martin Vaughn-James between 1970 and 1975. These book-length graphic narratives feature a combination of visual and textual elements inspired primarily by comics and by such surrealist experimentation as Max Ernst’s collage novels.

By presenting a comics or comics-derived narrative aimed at an adult audience within a book-length format, these works anticipate the graphic novel phenomenon that began to take hold in the mid 1980s. However, Vaughn-James aims at a far more radical subversion of traditional narrative than a mere transposition of form. His visual novels use a multitude of tactics to confound any attempt to impose a logical order upon them, thus encouraging the reader to cast off what the artist called the “language of preconceptions, that outmoded system of structures imposed externally by those who wish to preserve a stagnating culture.”

In my presentation, I will trace Vaughn-James’ evolution towards an ever more radical challenge to traditional narrative conventions, and tie his work in with other experimental juxtapositions of imagery and text that were a notable feature of Toronto’s avant-garde artistic and literary scene during this period.


Anne-Marie Proulx
Candidate à la maîtrise, Histoire de l'art
Université Concordia, Montréal
Photographe photographiée : l'artiste témoin
Today/Aujourd'hui: Saturday, March 23, 2013 at 4:35pm 

Le 22 mars 2012, plusieurs milliers de personnes se rassemblent dans les rues de Montréal pour manifester contre la hausse des frais de scolarité imposée par le gouvernement du Québec. L’événement est décrit comme historique alors même que la marche se déroule. De l’intérieur comme de l’extérieur, d’innombrables images en sont captées, par des photographes professionnels jusqu’aux téléphones portables. L’événement a ainsi été documenté et archivé, par le biais de ces images qui se retrouvèrent, dans les heures ou les jours suivants, partagées massivement sur les réseaux sociaux. Parmi celles-ci, une photo attire particulièrement mon attention : la photographe Raymonde April y figure, accompagnée de ses collègues professeurs de photographie et d’arts plastiques de l’Université Concordia, alors que ceux-ci participent à la manifestation. Un jeu de regards se dessine entre eux et les milliers de personnes qui ne figurent pas dans l’image. Cette image servira de point de départ à une réflexion autour de la photographie et de la manière dont l’histoire est vécue, documentée, écrite, et véhiculée. En examinant les liens qui existent entre elle et la pratique artistique inspirée du quotidien d’April, le médium photographique sera interrogé quant à son rôle dans la documentation visuelle d’un événement et dans une œuvre de création. Quelle place peut prendre une telle photo dans l’étude du travail d’une artiste comme Raymonde April, dont le médium principal est la photographie sans toutefois l’utiliser pour faire une représentation directe des événements importants de l’histoire? Inversement, où peut-on situer l’art, parmi les documents des événements pivots de l’histoire?


Julie Ravary
Candidate au doctorat, Études cinématographiques
Université de Montréal, Montréal
Question d'identités : sexualité, genre et nation dans le cinéma québécois de 1980 à aujourd'hui
Nation: Friday, March 22, 2013 at 3:30pm

Au début des années 1980, on remarque une importante transformation dans la cinématographie québécoise : un délaissement de la tendance résolument politique, prédominante lors des années 1960 et 1970, pour une approche plus intimiste qui explore davantage le quotidien que la question nationale. Durant cette transition, on observe notamment une polarisation dans la représentation de la sexualité et des identités sexuelles dans le cinéma québécois des années 1960 et 1970 et celui des années 1980 à aujourd’hui.

Durant les années 1960 et 1970, plusieurs cinéastes québécois mettent en scène la révolution sexuelle de façon à représenter/allégoriser spécifiquement des propos nationalistes ce qui, selon Jeffrey Vacante, est typique de l’histoire de la sexualité au Québec : « The history of sexuality in Quebec has come to reflect the priorities of national history in ways that have deprived it of the influence it has earned elsewhere ».

Alors que la société québécoise des années 1960 et 1970 est marquée par de nombreuses luttes collectives, les années 1980 verront un retour en force de l’individualisme. On observe une transition similaire dans le cinéma québécois : la collusion entre le discours sexuel et la question nationale semble déserter les écrans.

Que s’est-il passé durant les années 1980 pour que le lien entre nation et sexualité ne soit plus l’un des sujets de prédilection tel qu’il l’était durant les deux décennies précédentes? La question nationale aurait-elle été marginalisée par l’individualisation des discours et l’intérêt grandissant pour l’intime qui caractérisèrent le cinéma québécois au début des années 1980?

À travers l’approche des « gender studies » et plus particulièrement de la théorie de la différence sexuelle (Rosi Braidotti, Luce Irigaray), je souhaite proposer une étude portant sur la construction des identités sexuelles et de genre ainsi que sur la mutation de leur lien avec le discours politique dans le cinéma québécois.


Yoanna Terziyska
MA (2012), Contemporary Art History
OCAD University, Toronto
Gerhard Richter: Postmodern Painting and Memory
Nation: Friday, March 22, 2013 at 3:30pm 

In 1988, the contemporary German artist, Gerhard Richter, produced the painting series titled 18. Oktober, 1977. The title refers to the date, during the so-called German Autumn, when a violent confrontation between the West German state and the Red Army Faction (RAF) occurred. RAF, also known as the Baader Meinhof Group, was a radical left-wing political organization, whose goal was to dismantle the democratic regime of the Federal Republic by force. The RAF’s efforts ultimately resulted in the deadly disaster that is referenced in Richter’s fifteen works. The painting series, exceptional in Richter’s oeuvre, is an artistic project of profound importance due to its overt representation of a political crisis, the memory of which was being suppressed by the German authorities. According to scholars, no other body of work of twentieth-century art has been so widely discussed or provoked such ongoing controversy in contemporary Germany. My goal is to argue that Richter’s painting series, 18. Oktober, 1977, undermines modern notions pertaining to artistic representations of history. Richter does this by embracing an anti-aesthetican anti-modern style of productionwhereupon his works begin to act as objects that address issues of memory and identity. This argument is anchored in an analysis of how the artist utilizes matter (paint, photographic reference) and layering (the creation of a variety of picture planes).

Through this commemoration effort, Richter resists the constantly renewed ‘collective memory’ imparted by the state. This memory, in turn, has tremendously shaped the contemporary German identity into a fragmented entity continuously experiencing a sense of damage and reconstruction. Richter points to this deeply embedded cultural paradox and successfully represents it within his works of art. With the postmodern device of addressing history, Richter attempts to fill the gap between memory and presence, thus disrupting a long history of collective amnesia.


Katie White
MA Candidate, Art History and Curatorial Studies
Brigham Young University, Provo, UT
Martyr, Murderer, or Memorial? Felice Beato and a Crisis of Representation in the Indian Mutiny of 1857
Anxiety/Angoisse: Saturday, March 23, 2013 at 1:40pm

The Indian Rebellion of 1857 is a complicated and horrifying example of the fragile balance held between the British Empire and those it colonized. After rifle cartridges, believed to be coated in both cow and pig tallow, were supplied to Hindu and Muslim soldiers a year of bloody engagements ensued. In the city of Cawnpore, 200 British women and children were hacked to death and tossed down a well, while in Lucknow Indian soldiers were cornered by the British inside a building, bayoneted, and then thrown from windows into the courtyard below. It is this vengeful event that photographer Felice Beato strove to depict in his photograph, Interior of the Secundra Bagh, which soon became an iconic image of the uprising. I believe the reason behind this is that it was an answer to a crisis in which the colonizer had quite suddenly lost control of the colonized.

The space between the lens and the real world allows us to deal with anxieties that arise in spaces and events that are disconcerting and unfamiliar. I believe the key to understanding how Beato’s photograph confronted and solved the crisis facing the British Empire is in seeing how the image itself and the bodies held in that image create a physical presence of the struggle. The photograph itself, and the way it was utilized in the years that followed, shows how important it had become in helping the British frame the events that made murders of some and martyrs of others. It also became physical evidence that could insure them that the control that had been lost was once more regained. The British viewer could look and take comfort in knowing what awaited those who pushed back against British power; the evidenced of which was found in a courtyard scattered with bones.


Jayne Wilkinson
MA Candidate, Art History
University of British Columbia, Vancouver
We All Occupy: Finding Space in Crisis
Today/Aujourd'hui: Saturday, March 23, 2013 at 4:35pm 

The “crisis moment” is in crisis. There is a crisis of credit, of financial stability, of economics, of climate, of environment, of security, and of perpetual global conflict. Mainstream media reports reinforce the notion of an omnipresent crisis unfolding around us, a crisis that is at once vague, numbing and demanding. As widespread dissatisfaction with Western governments increases it becomes clear that democratic models of governance have failed to provide the security and the freedom that the political ideology of “democracy” claims to offer. From the summer of 2011 onwards the Occupy movement grew, in large part, as a response to not one but many crises. The rhetorical rally cry of “the 99%” makes it clear that a model of governance predicated on the representation of each member of society is actually representing almost no one.

This paper takes as its critical fulcrum the crisis of democracy and addresses how artists and cultural producers are responding to our present, highly contested moment. Working through the concepts of democracy’s double discourse, or paradox, as argued by Jacques Rancière, and the productive resonances of Hardt and Negri’s contemporary notion of the multitude with Georges Bataille’s transgressive, heterogeneous politics of the 1930s, this paper identifies ways that contemporary protest continues to work from within the systems it so strongly contests. While Occupy has been criticized for its lack of unity, its diverse organization offers a fluidity and immediacy that institutions lack, as was clearly witnessed in the aid responses to Hurricane Sandy. In this social climate, art occupies space alongside practices that allow citizens to resist the failure of the democratic state, to invade and press from within. Here art might find itself articulated not as art, or as activism, but as occupation. In this current, highly destabilized moment, the spaces of artistic production have shifted. The crisis of democracy necessitates artistic response that is always, already political and mobilized within a much wider net of civic engagement.


Jacqueline Witkowski
MA Candidate, Art History
University of British Columbia, Vancouver
Don’t Rock the Boat: Merging Aesthetics and Activism through Women on Waves
Space/Espace: Saturday, March 23, 2013 at 9:30am

“The war on women.” As presidential candidates began their appeal for voters in the United States, the topic of abortion quickly seized the spotlight. In Canada, Stephen Harper refused to readdress this hot button topic despite the government’s funding cuts for abortion in its G8 child and maternal health-care initiative for developing countries. Such contemporary actions demonstrate that the social imperatives of a critical conversation surrounding women’s reproductive rights, which have infiltrated the art world itself over the past forty years, remain even more pressing today.

A-portable is a gynecological clinic housed within a white, rectilinear shipping container ornamented with an image of an orange boat contained in a large purple dot. Transferable between ships, this clinic was produced, not by a medical community, but by Atelier Joep van Lieshout and former artist/activist Rebecca Gomparts with funding from the Mondriaan Foundation, an institution created to stimulate the visual arts. Part of a larger project, titled Women on Waves, this vessel brings abortions and sexual and reproductive education to countries where abortion is illegal. After women board the ship, it sails twelve miles off shore into international waters, thus circumventing the law. The project has garnered attention as activism although being shown in the 2001 Venice Biennale and having gallery installations of t-shirts inscribed with the words, “I had an abortion,” in multiple languages. The question remains whether this project borders the activist/art line, one parallel to Suzanne Lacy’s, Three Weeks in May (1977), a project in Los Angeles. However, in this moment of participatory politics, I extend Women on Waves into feminist aesthetics and the imagination in order to establish a new space in which to discuss the project, one not exclusively centered on its activism but also its aesthetic contributions.