Constellations, Clusters, Networks

Participant Abstracts


Emily Bergsma, MA Art History, Concordia University

Melvin Charney’s “Citizen Architects”: Techno-populist Architecture in Sixties Montreal

In 1966 Melvin Charney was invited to participate in the architectural competition for the Canadian Government pavilion for the 1970 World Exposition in Osaka, Japan. His submission, a collaborative project with architect Harry Parnass, was for a self-erecting exhibition system: a matrix-like structure, to be built from tower cranes, steel masts, and prefabricated modules that would leave the mechanics of the building exposed and celebrated. The under-designed building was conceived as a simple, utilitarian framework: “a ‘scaffolding’ for the participation of the people in the light, sound, and movement of an exhibition.” Although Charney’s project did not win the competition, his proposal was widely recognized within the architectural community and featured in Reyner Banham’s classic book on architecture of the era, Megastructure: Urban Futures of the Recent Past.
This paper will consider the impact of early network and media theory on architectural design in the 1960s, looking specifically at Melvin Charney’s proposal for Expo 70 as a Canadian case study.
In this paper, I will situate Charney’s proposal within the history of techno-utopian architecture that intended to liberate the masses from static, defined spaces through the design of flexible, networked megastructures. This paper will consider the work of Buckminster Fuller and the popular media theory of Marshall McLuhan as an influence. Furthermore, it will draw comparisons between Charney’s proposal and cybernetic building projects such as Cedric Price’s Fun Palace (1961–1972) and Arata Isozaki’s Festival Plaza at Expo 70. To distinguish Charney’s project from these precedents, I will consider the specificity of his politics in the midst of the Quiet Revolution in Quebec, and deem his approach “techno-populist” rather than technoutopian.

Amber Berson, PhD Art History, Queens University

Don't get C.R.E.A.M.(ed): Strategies of resistance for artist-run centres when cash rules everything around

Artist-run centres were set up as alternatives to museums and private galleries. Today they are vibrant community spaces, which produce and display some of the most important artistic output in Canada, much of which eventually comes to represent the nation on an international level. Artist-run centres cannot afford to not accept funding from the councils, and increasingly, from private corporations and foundations, as well. However, we, as art workers and artists, can equally not afford to solely produce work that reflects the agenda of our donors and funding bodies. What strategies are in place or can be developed to make the current conditions more open to flourishing, and how can we alter our current blueprint to build a better future aligned with our values?
 

Amanda Brownridge, MA Art History, Concordia University

How the West was Won: Cartographic Encounters in New France and the Castor Canadensis
A New and Exact Iconographic Analysis of The Beaver Maps

Originally valued as neutral scientific documents, maps have traditionally been studied for the insight they could provide on the definition and transformation of national borders over time. In recent scholarship, maps have come to be understood as constructions - powerful tools used to legitimate colonial power over a particular place. This is especially true of cartographic documents of the “New World” through which European colonial empires were attempting to understand, classify, and ultimately dominate a previously unknown continent. Although representative of a colonial perspective of the “New World,” maps also contain evidence of the encounter between Native Peoples and Europeans. These maps can be considered in terms of what Mary Louise Pratt calls contact zones. As such, maps remain important sources to analyze. Exploring the “Beaver Maps” as a case study, this paper looks at the ways in which postcolonial theory and decolonizing methodologies can be used to deconstruct cartographic documents of New France. Using an approach called cartographic contextualization, this paper aims to reconstruct an image of the New World during the early years of contact to include multiple narratives.
 

Gillian Canavan, MA Art History, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University

The Geography of Debris: Moveable Systems in the Work of Gabriel Orozco

 

The Geography of Debris explores Asterisms, Gabriel Orozco’s two-part installation at the Guggenheim Museum in 2012 made up of Astroturf Debris and Sandstars, both involving the collection and display of debris. A comment on the complex system of circulation networks within our contemporary world, the installation emphasizes the movement of tangible materials from place to place. This paper raises questions of dispersal, modes of classification and categorization, and the tenuous definition of sculpture by looking formally at the works, as well as thematically to understand the ways in which they negotiate a sense of place within a world dominated by movement, and how this movement can become embedded within tangible objects.


Katrina Caruso, MA Art History, Concordia University

Reclaiming Body Territory in the City: Spatial Violence, Activist Networks

Based on an intervention, the product from a course on Pointe-St-Charles, The Right to the City: Industrialization and the Built Environment, with Dr. Cynthia Hammond, this presentation will discuss how women and other marginalized groups have reclaimed their bodies within the city. The class was a pilot project funded by an Innovation Grant by Concordia University: three different groups from Art History, History and Theatre came together to work with Share the Warmth, a community centre, in Pointe-St-Charles.
For this presentation, I would like to take what I have learned from my intervention, and discuss the topic of gendered violence and space, as Fran Tonkiss has written in her book Space, The City, and Social Theory. I argue that, rather than allowing for bodies to be claimed, these spatial circumstances are the conditions for social activism and mobilization to take place, such as the creation of community centres and groups, and ‘organized’ movements such as #MMIW (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women) and Take Back the Night! This presentation will focus on my intervention, which started with looking at gendered violence and cases of missing women and girls in the neighbourhood. What I found through my research on the Pointe was the resilient activism that has grown from these instances of violence. In the case of Pointe-St-Charles, women’s groups such as St. Columba House and Madame Prend Congé, which started as grassroots movements but have developed into lasting institutions, have grown out of the needs of the community to work towards reclaiming their bodies, their contested spaces and their rights to the city. My intervention in the Pointe will act as a case study for the larger topic of creating networks of activism against aggression and violence, or, how to reclaim our body territory.

Cliodna Cussen, MA Art History, York University

From Shore to Shore: Sheffield’s Influence on Canadian Arts Education.

Between 1910 and 1931 a group of loosely associated graduates from the Sheffield Technical School of Art emigrated to Canada. This group consisted of (in order of arrival) a little known commercial artist, William Broadhead; future Group of Seven members Arthur Lismer and Frederick Varley; Elizabeth Nutt – principal of the Nova Scotia College of Art from 1919 until 1943; and Stanley Royle – lecturer of art at the Nova Scotia College of Art and later at Mount Allison University. Although it is not clear that each member of this group knew one another, there is a direct line of connection between Broadhead’s emigration in 1910 and Royle’s arrival twenty years later.
My paper will focus not on the personal relationships of these five artists but on their shared educational background and the impact it had on their work in Canada. Out of these five artists, four – Lismer, Nutt, Royle, and to a lesser extent Varley – were all important figures in Canadian art education. The net of influence of these English émigrés stretched across the country, influenced art movements such as the Group of Seven and the strain of High Realism that emerged from Mount Allison, and still impacts arts education in Canada today. Although Lismer described the education they received in Sheffield as “arid, academic and devoid of inspiration” it clearly provided this group with a foundation on which to base their own individual educational philosophies.
This paper will investigate what that pedagogical foundation was while also examining the individual educational methodologies of each artist. Moreover it will address what impact this group had on Canadian arts education overall. In particular I will argue that these educators fundamentally influenced our understanding of the value of arts education and the role that artists – and educators – can play in Canadian society.

Nima Esmailpour‏, PhD Art History, Concordia University

Aesthetics of Emergency, Networks of Solidarity, and Collective Crisis

Throughout the last two decades many artists has been drawn to collaborative modes of production. Simultaneously, the emerging global resistance networks had reciprocal effects on collective art projects. Be it an immediate response to the immediacy of political upheavals or a long term social project, contemporary collaborative art has undergone a significant transformation that is partly shaped around the Marxist notion of solidarity. By presenting three examples of such collective activities that I share a common history with, my paper examines the aestheticopolitical features of collective activity in the times of crisis: Radio Fang, a pirate internet radio launched in Tehran by a group of leftist writers, translators, and activists, in the aftermath of brutal repression and political crackdown of 2009; The sudden growing creative networks of aesthetic resistance by people during the Istanbul’s Gezi Park protests in 20132014; Cobra Res, a creative collective comprising of international artists and writers that gives emergency responses in the moments of crisis proclaimed by British Government’s Cobra Committee.

Béatrice Grenier, MA Art History, Columbia University

The Transnational Network of Shanghai Abstract Painting (1976-1985)

In this paper, I consider the transnational network of exchanges between artists that made possible the circulation of ideas contributing to the advent of contemporary abstract painting in Shanghai in the immediate years (1976-1985) following the Cultural Revolution.
The recent exhibition “Inventing Abstraction, 1910-1925” curated by Leah Dickerman at MoMA in New York (2013) shows that the spread and development of abstraction is the result of a vast network of artists interacting across national boundaries under the fertile conditions of cross media exchange. The proposition that abstraction may be understood through a methodology that acknowledges the proliferation of an idea through a network opens the possibility to reflect upon histories of abstraction in a global sense—that is to say, how has it travelled across the globe, and in what ways did it interact with local artistic forms.
Bearing this methodology in mind, I argue that critical to the history of the advent of contemporary abstract painting in Shanghai is a modern culture of connectivity: ideas surrounding abstract art were introduced in Shanghai in the Republican period (1919- 1949) due to the overseas travels of Shanghainese painters such as Liu Haisu, Wu Dayu and Lin Fengmian and their interactions with prominent members of the avant-garde in Paris. The practices of these modern masters survived in the muffled voices of salon-style gatherings and resurfaced at the conclusion of the Cultural Revolution. The connections established by transnational exchange and their local transformations in Shanghai account for a particular manifestation of abstract painting in the early eighties, one that engaged with both the ideas first introduced during the Republican period as well as with the indigenous techniques of Chinese ink painting.

Sofia Kofodimos, MA Art History, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University

The Open Curriculum of the New York Correspondence School: Ray Johnson’s Pedagogical Mail Art

Initiated by the artist Ray Johnson, the New York Correspondence School is a community in which friends, acquaintances, and strangers send aestheticized mail, often called “mail art,” through the postal system. Critical of the larger commercialized art world, Johnson used educational themes in his mailings such as his brief histories, meeting seating charts, and how to draw instructions to reeducate his correspondents. His pedagogical mailings destabilized traditional concepts of art and socialization and turned forms of communication and education into artistic media in personal letters, mass-produced flyers, absurd packages, and everything in between. Johnson created a new model for network-based art experiences by encouraging collaboration and instructing his correspondents to add to or detach parts of his work and send them to other people. Johnson did not impose specific meanings on his work, instead each piece and in turn the whole network existed in constant flux, open to the indeterminacies, chance encounters, and free-associations inherent to both aesthetic and interpersonal experiences.

Annette Lepique, MA Modern Art History, Theory, Criticism, School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Gurls and the Internet: Feminine Identity Construction Within the Digital Sphere

The Gurlesque is a recent development within the realms of poetry and sub-aesthetics, created by poet and theorist Arielle Greenberg to investigate a zeitgeist of the teen girl. It serves as a means by which to understand the transgressive construction of feminine identity under third wave Feminism. Greenberg asserts that the Gurlesque accomplishes this endeavor by employing, expanding and complicating its historical lineage; one grounded in the burlesque, grotesque, carnivalesque and Riot Grrrl. These seemingly disparate elements are then engaged in a manner that allows for the deconstruction and critique of experiences and commodities traditionally coded as feminine. The Gurlesque can suffer from the same constraints and boundaries that affect the practical implementation of any theory, e.g., how does the Gurlesque function within the realm of gendered experience? Nevertheless, the expansion of the movement into the digital sphere has allowed for the creation of inclusive networks from which users may participate in a Gurlesque dialogue. The digitalization of the Gurlesque on social media (e.g., Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook) has allowed for a unique distillation of the movement, one that reformulates the physicality of the body, providing the possibility to upend social-political issues of access and representation. The multiplicity of the Gurlesque networks all share the tendency to utilize bodily interiority and exteriority as metaphors, creating introspective and challenging portrayals of the feminine body. The re-configuration of the feminine form allows for the digital Gurlesque to constitute a powerful means by which practitioners can alter, mold and play with notions of identity through the image. This paper examines how such phenomenon occurs through an analysis of Kate Durbin’s Tumblr archive Women As Objects, Gurlesque writings and theoretical materials concerning the body as a framework and commonality, facilitating a broader understanding of the shared gendered experience of the “gurl” within the digital sphere.

Alison Reiko Loader, PhD Communication Studies, Concordia University

En Masse: The Social Animal Network
with Christopher Plenzich

Considering the networks and collaborations of humans and insects, and how social behaviour can be implemented to make art, En Masse is an extra-curricular, interdisciplinary and interspecies research-creation project by graduate students Alison Reiko Loader (PhD Communication Studies) and Christopher Plenzich (MSc Biology) that will exhibit in the FOFA Gallery interior vitrines in Spring 2015. Mixing entomology with media art, their work explores the secret lives of forest tent caterpillars, bringing together science and art, human and animal, subject and object. Operating as an interconnected set of displays, the installation will feature videos, drawings, and performances made about, and with, the M. disstria moth, significantly during its larval form. Initially inspired by Brakhage’s Mothlight, which used insect bodies as filmic material in a narrative that identifies cinematic experience with the suicidal captivation of moths, En Masse explores the agential potential of caterpillars as social bodies innately creative, communicative and oriented towards the future. Forest tent caterpillars spin communal silk mats and forage together—forming queues and clusters as they seek, eat and recover in preparation for their dramatic transformation to adulthood. For En Masse, insects and humans made charcoal drawings and living paintings, captured on videos that will project onto screens made of cocoons. For the Constellations, Clusters, Networks conference, Loader and Plenzich will consider the ethical possibility of asymmetric collaboration and the aesthetic potential of interdisciplinary research and practice, previewing their exhibition and their own role as performers within it. Drawing further connections between what and who can see and be seen, the two will frequently inhabit the display themselves. As they study and care for insects hatched on site, they will invite viewers join them, ask questions and engage directly with and within the project, further expanding En Masse as a creative network of social animals.

Samuel Luterbacher, PhD Art History, Yale University

A Clockwork Image: Medial Itineraries between Spain and Japan

Dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu, the early seventeenth-century leader (Shogun) of Japan, the Kunôzan shrine in Shizuoka houses an array of diplomatic gifts amassed by its ruling elite. This includes a European clock, presented to Ieyasu in 1611 by a Spanish delegation from Mexico. Created in Madrid in 1581 by Hans de Vals, the Flemish clockmaker to Philip II, the clock displays ornamental reference to both real and imaginary places.

In this period, images and objects began to move more frequently across an ever- expanding set of cultural distances. As one of these items of exchange, the clock defies a fixed temporal or geographic context. The condition of travel instigates successive material transfers and remediations, yielding objects and images that engage with the concept of mobility. Drawing parallels with further domestic objects tied to Jesuit artisanal production, this paper explores the shifting metaphorics of clockwork and time in the encounter between Spain and Japan. Departing from a strictly ideological topoi, the clock’s itineraries will be treated from a medial perspective--new meanings emerge in examining the movement and translation of material through the networks of empire. 

Steve Lyons, PhD Art History, Concordia University

From Fluxus to e-flux: Nightmare of the Eternal Network

When Robert Filliou first described the Eternal Network, he imagined a radically democratic and global artists’ directory freely available for artists to use, share, and expand. Of course, this network was far from eternal, and today, the closest thing to a world-wide artists’ directory may be e-flux, an artwork-cum-international mailing list founded by Anton Vidokle in 1999. Comprised of +90,000 email addresses made available to an exclusive selection of institutions for a substantial pay-per-use fee, e-flux marks a shift in the artists’ directory away from public service and towards private enterprise. How might the history of the artists’ directory – increasingly privatized, monetized, and digitized over the course of the late twentieth century – help us uncover the effects of neoliberalism on the meaning and implications of artistic self-organization?

Corina MacDonald, Project Manager for e-artexte

Metadata as a Complex Network: A Case Study of Data Visualization for Art Historical Research. 
with Tomasz Neugebauer and Felicity Tayler

This paper responds to the crossover in conference topics between network science and art historical research methods. We ask how the visualization of complex networks can be used to generate art historical questions? Our data set is derived from the bibliographic database created by Artexte, an organization with the mandate to comprehensively collect Canadian exhibition catalogues and related international materials. The nodes of this network include the documents in the Artexte collections, connected to each other through edges representing subject cataloguing (keywords), and contributors, such as: artists, writers, editors, translators, critics, publishers, art organizations, etc. The resulting network of 40,000 e-artexte catalogue records contains over 135,000 nodes and more than 320,000 edges. The emerging research questions for this exploratory study include: (1) does the bibliographic metadata network exhibit the properties of complex networks (properties associated with small-world and scale-free networks) found in previous studies? (2) can the visualization of bibliographic metadata as a network contribute to art historical research? (3) is the measure of betweenness-centrality in the complex network derived from the e-artexte dataset useful to art historical research? We used measures of centrality to determine how important a particular node is to the entire structure. Although we initially thought these measures might reflect canonization processes, they seem to point to something else. Rather than mapping who has the most power in the art world because they are exhibited, published or written about most frequently, it seems to map which publications, writers, artists, curators are most important in holding the whole net together. What meaning does this outcome have for art historical methods?

Vincent Marquis, MA History of Art, Courtauld Institute of Art

“A Space Within a Space”: Public Monuments and the Political Dynamics of Public Space

Public monuments and memorials have historically operated within various forms of networks. Positioned at the juncture of the past and the future, they attempt to conjugate the often conflictual desiderata of providing narratives of the past and ensuring the pertinence and acceptance of those narratives among future generations. Monuments and memorials are also situated at the nexus between political bodies—which have traditionally commissioned those edifices—and public space. As they exist between elites and peoples, monuments have continuously proved choice sites for social unrest and political discord.
Monumental space is thus inherently nodal, and has traditionally functioned as a site where ideological pressures conflict with norms of social behaviour and emotional, individual responses to the object of commemoration. In recent years, however, artists and architects such as Thomas Hirschhorn, Krzysztof Wodiczko and Maya Lin have revisited these dynamics in order to develop models of monumentality that activate the constructive rather than the destructive potential of social tensions.
This paper positions the work of these artists in relation to prevailing models of monumentality by attending to the former’s particular strategies: conceiving the monument as an event, encouraging public discussion and reflection and social interactions, or emphasizing the collaborative and communal aspect of the work. Most importantly, this paper considers these and other means used by these artists to support a particular conception of the public role of art: to critique our current use of public space as a mere space of transit, a space that becomes purely instrumental to our fulfilling everyday tasks.
With raising awareness of how our material environment shapes us, and of the urgency of building our surroundings in more intelligent and meaningful ways, it is now crucial that we understand the potential of art and architecture to achieve the latter. I argue that it is by opening up an alternative to architecture-as-usual, while emphasizing architecture’s capacity to develop social interaction, that these artists reaffirm the possibility of productive, harmonious public spaces. Located at the intersection of art, architecture, and urbanism, their model takes the often actively conflictual presence of different social agents as an opportunity to create constructive dialogue and criticism around issues of public space.

Tomasz Neugebauer, Digital Projects & Systems Development Librarian, Concordia University Libraries

Metadata as a Complex Network: A Case Study of Data Visualization for Art Historical Research. 
with Felicity Tayler and Corina MacDonald

This paper responds to the crossover in conference topics between network science and art historical research methods. We ask how the visualization of complex networks can be used to generate art historical questions? Our data set is derived from the bibliographic database created by Artexte, an organization with the mandate to comprehensively collect Canadian exhibition catalogues and related international materials. The nodes of this network include the documents in the Artexte collections, connected to each other through edges representing subject cataloguing (keywords), and contributors, such as: artists, writers, editors, translators, critics, publishers, art organizations, etc. The resulting network of 40,000 e-artexte catalogue records contains over 135,000 nodes and more than 320,000 edges. The emerging research questions for this exploratory study include: (1) does the bibliographic metadata network exhibit the properties of complex networks (properties associated with small-world and scale-free networks) found in previous studies? (2) can the visualization of bibliographic metadata as a network contribute to art historical research? (3) is the measure of betweenness-centrality in the complex network derived from the e-artexte dataset useful to art historical research? We used measures of centrality to determine how important a particular node is to the entire structure. Although we initially thought these measures might reflect canonization processes, they seem to point to something else. Rather than mapping who has the most power in the art world because they are exhibited, published or written about most frequently, it seems to map which publications, writers, artists, curators are most important in holding the whole net together. What meaning does this outcome have for art historical methods?

Taien Ng-Chan, PhD Humanities, Concordia University

Cartographies of time (an exploration of GPS and locative media art)

Michel de Certeau, in his book The Practice of Everyday Life, suggests that the map has become an authority on place, delineating sets of rules and plans, streets and architectures, whereas the spatial practices that produced the map, that is, the narrative, context, and human perspective, have disappeared from it. Indeed, with the advent of digital GIS services such as Google Maps, where the entire earth is being laid out in detail (and commodified), de Certeau’s observation seems to be more relevant than ever. But what would happen, Doreen Massey asks, “if we refuse this imagination?” (6). Massey’s book For Space is a critique of binary thinking such as that of space and place in de Certeau’s work and indeed, in much of western thought. Massey argues that binaries like space/place or here/there help to build a “billiard-ball view” of space, reductionist, essentialist, bounded, preconstituted (68).
The modern map constructs space as apart from and opposed to time, history, political and social relations, when instead, it could more productively be seen as networks of vast interrelations and trajectories. Places are not “locations of coherence” but the foci, the meeting-point of potentially discordant or concordant trajectories. In calling for a new cartographic imaginary, critical cartographer John Pickles, in A History of Spaces, argues that we must think about “the world-not-as-picture” but “in terms of new dialectical images that render movement as movement, rather than frozen images, dead, inert, fixed” (193). What would these new maps look like, and as an artist engaged in critical cartography, how can my work materialize these concerns? To begin with, I explore some locative media and GPS-based art projects that attempt to foreground a view of mapping as relational, as processual, performative and affective, through focusing on networks and trajectories rather than space and place.

Christopher Plenzich, MSc Biology, Concordia University

En Masse: The Social Animal Network 
with Allison Reiko Loader

Considering the networks and collaborations of humans and insects, and how social behaviour can be implemented to make art, En Masse is an extra-curricular, interdisciplinary and interspecies research-creation project by graduate students Alison Reiko Loader (PhD Communication Studies) and Christopher Plenzich (MSc Biology) that will exhibit in the FOFA Gallery interior vitrines in Spring 2015. Mixing entomology with media art, their work explores the secret lives of forest tent caterpillars, bringing together science and art, human and animal, subject and object. Operating as an interconnected set of displays, the installation will feature videos, drawings, and performances made about, and with, the M. disstria moth, significantly during its larval form. Initially inspired by Brakhage’s Mothlight, which used insect bodies as filmic material in a narrative that identifies cinematic experience with the suicidal captivation of moths, En Masse explores the agential potential of caterpillars as social bodies innately creative, communicative and oriented towards the future. Forest tent caterpillars spin communal silk mats and forage together—forming queues and clusters as they seek, eat and recover in preparation for their dramatic transformation to adulthood. For En Masse, insects and humans made charcoal drawings and living paintings, captured on videos that will project onto screens made of cocoons. For the Constellations, Clusters, Networks conference, Loader and Plenzich will consider the ethical possibility of asymmetric collaboration and the aesthetic potential of interdisciplinary research and practice, previewing their exhibition and their own role as performers within it. Drawing further connections between what and who can see and be seen, the two will frequently inhabit the display themselves. As they study and care for insects hatched on site, they will invite viewers join them, ask questions and engage directly with and within the project, further expanding En Masse as a creative network of social animals.

Dario Ré, MA Art History, Concordia University

Re(de)composition: Mycelial Networks and Contemporary Art

Mushrooms are replacing Styrofoam as biodegradable packing material, and are used for cleaning oil spills, filtering contaminated water, mining precious metals from disposed electronics, insulating walls, erecting buildings, bio-illuminating advertisements and urban space, altering perception, guiding in spiritual pursuits, treating illness, and of course eaten as food. They surface in the world of contemporary art in equally diverse forms: from the displacement of the organism itself as taken up by Mark Dion and Olafur Eliasson to artists who operate within fields of biotechnology such as Zeger Reyes and Philip Ross. Other artists, like Roxy Paine, use mushroom morphology to address ideas of replication, while Carsten Höller utilizes large-scale installations to explore altered states of mind and the interplay with psychedelic folklore. In this paper, I investigate the use of mycelium—the web like, vegetative body of mushrooms—in the art of Jae Rhim Lee and Klaus Weber. I explore Deleuze and Guattari’s philosophic notion of rhizomatic structures—twisty, nonlinear networks that allow potential for many beginnings and endings. These structures correspond directly with the ecological function of mycelium, which is instrumental in the decomposition of organic matter. By placing decomposition within a contemporary art discourse, Lee and Weber demonstrate the power of mushrooms to actively respond to society’s insensitivity towards the natural environmental—a call for recomposition, balance and accountability. Ultimately, what does the mycelium network model have to offer contemporaneity?

Ksenia M. Soboleva, MA Institute of Fine Arts, New York University

fierce pussy: A Queer Women Artists Collective During the AIDS Crisis

This paper discusses fierce pussy, a collective of queer women artists formed in 1991 and active during the AIDS crisis in New York, when individualcitizens took direct political action where the government was lacking due to homophobia. The shared loss of friends and the trauma of surviving shaped a strong community between gay men and gay women. Among many activist artist collectives formed during that period, fierce pussy is unique in the fact that it had exclusively female members. By means of a vibrant visual campaign of infinitely reproducible posters, stickers, postcards and t-shirts, fierce pussy brought lesbian identity and visibility directly into the streets. Their work was “low-tech” and “low budget”, using resources that were easily available to them, such as old typewriters, found and personal photographs, and the printing supplies and equipment they had access to through their daytime jobs. This paper examines how the collective “fought with words” and used the public space to affect social change in times of crisis.

Felicity Tayler, PhD Humanities, Concordia University

Metadata as a Complex Network: A Case Study of Data Visualization for Art Historical Research.
with Tomasz Neugebauer and Corina MacDonald

This paper responds to the crossover in conference topics between network science and art historical research methods. We ask how the visualization of complex networks can be used to generate art historical questions? Our data set is derived from the bibliographic database created by Artexte, an organization with the mandate to comprehensively collect Canadian exhibition catalogues and related international materials. The nodes of this network include the documents in the Artexte collections, connected to each other through edges representing subject cataloguing (keywords), and contributors, such as: artists, writers, editors, translators, critics, publishers, art organizations, etc. The resulting network of 40,000 e-artexte catalogue records contains over 135,000 nodes and more than 320,000 edges. The emerging research questions for this exploratory study include: (1) does the bibliographic metadata network exhibit the properties of complex networks (properties associated with small-world and scale-free networks) found in previous studies? (2) can the visualization of bibliographic metadata as a network contribute to art historical research? (3) is the measure of betweenness-centrality in the complex network derived from the e-artexte dataset useful to art historical research? We used measures of centrality to determine how important a particular node is to the entire structure. Although we initially thought these measures might reflect canonization processes, they seem to point to something else. Rather than mapping who has the most power in the art world because they are exhibited, published or written about most frequently, it seems to map which publications, writers, artists, curators are most important in holding the whole net together. What meaning does this outcome have for art historical methods?

Saelan Twerdy, PhD Art History, McGill University

Attention Ecology: Biological Metaphors in Post-internet Art

Within the emerging field of post-internet art, there has been a notable tendency to imagine that the networked circulation, distribution, and “behaviour” of images operate on the same principles as organic processes like natural selection. Moving away from dominant interpretive conceptions of art that focus on meaning and intention or on critiquing regimes of signification, these artists engage with the agency of images and objects themselves – their autonomous capability for self-perpetuation, mutation, and replication.
Artist Timur Si-Qin and curator Agatha Wara have both written texts citing the assemblage theory of Manuel De Landa as an inspiration. Like him, they find structural similarities within patterns and trends that emerge from the aggregate behavior of multitudes of units, whether these units are genomes or jpegs. Artists working with these ideas (including Si-Qin, Katja Novitskova, and Kari Altmann, among others) have often turned their attention to the world of marketing and advertising which, as Si-Qin asserts, has exploited evolutionary psychology to an extent that the field of contemporary art has not – advertising explicitly aims to stimulate certain emotional states and desires in order to influence behaviour. As Agatha Wara writes: “Brands share the same evolutionary goals as organisms, that is, to succeed.” Accordingly, a number of post-internet artists have argued that art is simply an agent that seeks to reproduce itself by attracting (and sustaining) attention.
At the same time as they frame art as an ecological process, however, these artists naturalize the operations of the free market and universalize the horizon of neoliberalism, positing the status quo as the result of organic principles of determinism. This appropriation of metaphors from systems theory and, I would argue, misunderstanding of ideas borrowed from new materialism and assemblage theory conflates incompatible drives towards both cooperation and competition – the increased emphasis on the agency of images and objects comes at the cost of absolving humans of political responsibility. In fact, a major contribution within New Materialist philosophy is the notion of the “Anthropocene”: it is precisely the pace and severity of human effects on climate and ecology that prompts reflection on nonhuman entities.

Grace Woods-Puckett, PhD Institute of Fine Arts, New York University

Intersecting Orbits of Americans in England in the 1880s: Shared Dreams and the Paradoxical Nature of Whistler as Centripetal Force

This paper will contrast two very different communities of American artists in England during the 1880s: one which coalesced around Broadway, a picturesque Cotswolds village, in the summers of the 1880s, and the other which revolved around James McNeill Whistler in London. I am particularly interested in how the orbits of these artists intersected with each other—why did certain relationships flourish while others withered? How were these communities formed? What practices and actions helped them cohere?
When Edwin Austin Abbey, John Singer Sargent, Francis Davis Millet, and Alfred Parsons began congregating in Broadway over the summers, the village became a haven for Americans to explore their fascination with the “authentic” English countryside. Yet, despite Whistler’s friendships with several of the artists (e.g., Abbey was to be one of the pallbearers at his funeral, while Sargent shared studio space with him on Tite Street), to the best of our knowledge, he never visited Broadway.
Rather, Whistler was the center of a very different group of artists, drawing visitors to his London (and later, Paris) studio with a centripetal force. This group was more diffuse: Whistler’s fickle temper defined its members (William Merritt Chase, Harper Pennington, John McLure Hamilton, Joseph Pennell, Mortimer Menpes, and G.P. Jacomb-Hood, among others) and its interests, which were tuned to portraiture and etchings. Whistler himself was intrigued by what has been called the “urban picturesque”—the inverse of the Broadway group’s nostalgic picturesque—the gritty Thames waterfront, decaying storefronts of Chelsea, and crepuscular waterscapes.
American artists negotiated the artistic spaces of mid-nineteenth century England by exploiting social networks. Contrasting these two primarily expatriate clusters will illuminate different modes of artistic community (community of equals vs. coterie around a central point), manifestations of the picturesque (idyllic vs. urban), and the careers of artists famous, infamous, and [relatively] unknown.