Speakers

Barâa Arar | Carleton University

Hajjaj’s Kesh Angels: Hybridity as a post-colonial response to gendered Orientalism

Hassan Hajjaj’s photomontage is unapologetically provocative. The artist’s series Kesh Angels, that is, Marrakech’s Hells Angels, features Moroccan women biker gangs, sporting brightly coloured clothing, riding their motorcycles, and starring directly into the camera with a look that theorist bell hooks would characterize as the “oppositional gaze” (1992). The women’s bodies are fully covered with only their eyes visible to the viewer. In Nikee Rider, the women wear seemingly traditional North African djellabahs, traditional floor length dresses, with one non-conventional difference: they are branded with the iconic Nike swoosh. I argue Hajjaj’s series Kesh Angels successfully subverts neo-colonial presumptions about the status of women in contemporary North Africa in three important ways; first, his chosen medium, photomontage, embodies the stubborn hybridity of post-imperial contexts. Second, Hajjaj negotiates presumptions of the gendered body with the presentation of women in traditionally hyper-masculine spaces. Thirdly, his strategic use of prominent logos identifies neoliberalism, instead of Orientalism, as the villain of modernity. My argument will demonstrate that his series depicts a twenty-first century phenomena: the neo-liberalization of corporeality. I argue that Hajjaj’s work stands not solely as a response to colonialism but manages to redirect the dialogue to one about commodification, unfair labour practices, and capitalism and how they intersect on racialized and gendered bodies. Instead of the quintessential colonized, subdued North African female subject of French Orientalists like Jean-Léon Gérôme, whose body is available for visual and physical consumption, Hajjaj criminalizes the gnawing gaze of consumerism and the commodification of the body.

Barâa Arar is a recent graduate of Carleton University’s College of Humanities with a research focus on art, politics, and resistance. She is the recipient of the Carleton Provost Scholar Award for community engagement and immersive research.

Julia Balm | University of Toronto

Manifestations of Colonialism in Art History: The Racist Work of Leo Frobenius

In this essay, I explore the work of Leo Viktor Frobenius through a close examination of his “African Atlantis” theory and his text The Childhood of Man. I will use Frobenius as a basis for the discussion of racism in art history and its manifestation in modern museum galleries. In this essay, I will also address concepts from the role of western European art historians in critiquing African art to Europe’s display of African art in ‘exotic’ exhibitions. When the Scramble for Africa and European colonial efforts discovered incredible artifacts, western art historians immediately sought to integrate African art into European standards. Leo Frobenius stands out as one of these most influential historians for his theory of “African Atlantis”. This theory states that African art is so beautiful and balanced that there must have been a white civilization in Africa prior to colonization because it is impossible for African artists to createsuch beautiful sculptures; he describes this as the ‘white residue’ that survived in Africa at this time. Due to the perfection of head sculptures, Frobenius strove to prove that the mythical city of Atlantis survived off the coast of Africa. His text, The Childhood of Man: a Popular Account of the Lives, Customs, and Thoughts of the Primitive Races by Leo Frobenius in 1909, details the characteristics of African art under the European gaze. This text stands as a prime example of the deconstruction of African art under the European academic gaze. The lasting impact of Frobenius’ work can be seen through the positioning of African art in museum exhibitions from the 19th century to the present day.

Julia Balm is a student at the University of Toronto studying History, Art History, and Creative Expression in Society. She is incredibly interested in the ways in which we view objects on display and the political implications of institutional fine art. In the upcoming year she has plans to pursue a masters in Nonproliferation and International Security at King’s College London. When she doesn’t have her nose in a book, Julia likes to take the extra time to stop and smell the roses.

Sampoorna Bhattacharya | Carleton University

The Architecture of Ethnic Enclaves: Global Immigration and the Built Environment

Global immigration is a historical and ever-increasing phenomenon, shaping, categorizing and  diversifying the world of art history. This paper examines the forces leading to the formation of ethnic  enclaves around the world, specifically in Canada, and their impact on society. Looking back to the history of these enclaves, narratives of separation, segregation and in many cases, in different strengths, racism present themselves. Today, the perceptions of ethnic enclaves range from unknown, poor, underfunded and exotic to educational, vibrant and eclectic. Ethnic enclaves are meant to showcase a history of a specific culture’s immigration to the country. Often however, ethnic enclaves fall prey to theming and branding for the purpose of attracting tourists and consumers. The celebrated falsification showcases an exciting and visually stimulating past instead of present conditions of the mother country. In turn, cultural appropriation and inauthenticity are encouraged in the fight for survival and protection of ethnic enclaves. How can ethnic enclaves escape the cycle and adapt to future needs of communities organically? Research conducted for the paper included a literary review of articles and books regarding specific ethnic enclaves around the world, and local case studies. The two enclaves existing in Ottawa are Little Italy and Chinatown. Study techniques used included public surveys, photojournalism, informal verbal surveys and research on individual businesses within the ethnic enclaves. The paper unfolds the multi-sensory architectural experience provided by visiting the neighbourhoods, and the inconsistencies which branding and theming can impose on the true spirit of places and communities.

Sampoorna Bhattacharya is a recent graduate of the History and Theory of Architecture program at Carleton University and presently Manager Intern at Heritage Ottawa. Her paper titled “The Architecture of Ethnic Enclaves: Global Immigration and the Built Environment” was completed in December 2018 for her directed studies course, supervised by Professor Morgan Currie. The theme of the selected topic was one that was uncommon and largely new and therefore intriguing and worth researching. As an immigrant to Canada herself, Sampoorna wanted to dig deeper evolving ideas of identity and plurality within heritage.

Aidan Flynn | University of Toronto

Mas(q)ulinity: Constructing Gender Ideals in the Stage Architecture of Inigo Jones (1610–1611)

This paper offers an examination of the set designs for two masques—a form of courtly entertainment popular in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries—by Inigo Jones. Henry, Prince of Wales and first son of King James VI & I, commissioned Jones to design the scenery and costumes for Prince Henry’s Barriers (1610) and Oberon, the Fairy Prince (1611). In light of his father’s effeminate reputation and contested sexuality at court, Henry participated in the artistic, literary, and political construction of a hypermasculine and militaristic image for himself. The costumes and physical sets in Jones’s masques articulated immaterial ideas about kingship and masculinity at this moment in history. The political climate and familial relationship between Henry and King James, augmented by early martial portraiture of the prince, created a representational precedent that inspired allegorical themes for the masque designs. Jones used stage machinery and contrasting sets to articulate polarizing dichotomies of order versus disorder and masculinity versus femininity. Ancient architectural forms and imagery conveyed nostalgic themes of chivalry that revealed Henry’s virility and exceptional potential in a dramatic world yearning for a heroic champion. Ultimately, Jones’s masque designs unearth a number of important questions about the problematic relationship between medium and message. This paper will investigate how Jones manipulated architectural forms to construct gendered meaning in early seventeenth-century England.

Aidan Flynn is in his final year of undergraduate study at Victoria College in the University of Toronto, completing a double major in Art History and Renaissance Studies. His academic and research interests focus on the complex relationship between sexuality, urbanism, and architectural forms in the early modern city. In September, Aidan will begin a Master of Science in Architecture Studies (SMArchS) in the History, Theory, and Criticism of Architecture and Art program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Laura Howard | Hampshire College

Delighting in Provenance: The Importance of Honest Exhibition Practices

In the past thirty years, museums have made great strides towards preventing future acquisitions of ethically dubious material, but they still face the challenge of how to exhibit objects that were acquired prior to today’s ethics guidelines. Although most museums refrain from addressing provenance and authenticity in the gallery, transparency is the best approach for museum professionals attempting to overcome the ethical errors of their predecessors. If interpreted honestly, illicit antiquities could serve as fascinating didactic tools to educate visitors on due diligence and the changing tide of ancient art collecting. This paper will address how the Walters Art Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston have respectively approached interpreting potentially looted or forged objects in their collections. My research concerns the Walters’ interpretation of the John Bourne Collection and the MFA’s “Art With a Past” series. My purpose is to contribute to the growing dialog encouraging museums to proactively embrace accountability in their collections, publications, and online databases. Furthermore, I hope my paper will inspire my peers, the next generation of museum professionals, to think deeply about the importance of ethical conduct in cultural institutions.

Laura Howard goes to Hampshire College and is interested in provenance research and cultural heritage protection.

Evangeline Mann | University of Guelph

An Inuit Artistic Exploration of Space with Nancy Pukingrnak Aupaluktuq and Annie Pootoogook

Nancy Pukingrnak Aupaluktuq’s circa 1974 Untitled (Igloo scene with green monsters) and Annie Pootoogook’s 2002 Man Abusing His Partner are two drawings by Inuit artists from Baker Lake (Qamani’tuaq) and Cape Dorset (Kinngait), within Nunavut. This paper examines the formal qualities as well as the historical, geographical and cultural contexts of these two artworks to suggest how each artist may be illustrating her personal perception of the northern environment. Nancy Pukingrnak Aupaluktuq presents a terrified woman clutching her child as her husband sleeps in their igloo and monsters circle it. Annie Pootoogook depicts the moment before a man beats his female partner with a wooden plank in a permanent, southern-style home. The paper will argue that these two images may indicate how each artist intended to present their own experience with the constant threat of southern colonialism on northern Inuit communities. Twentieth-century colonialist mandates in the north included the Christian conversion of Inuit communities (Igloliorte 127), the construction of permanent dwellings for the Inuit to force them to abandon their traditional nomadic lifestyle, (Jackson and Nasby 8) and the implementation of the residential school system (King 10). This paper shall investigate how Nancy Pukingrnak Aupaluktuq’s circa 1974 Untitled (Igloo scene with green monsters) and Annie Pootoogook’s 2002 Man Abusing His Partner suggest the problematic in art by presenting moments in time with two distinct couples in specific spaces to portray Canada’s troubling colonial history as well as its impact on contemporary Inuit communities.

Evangeline Mann is a third year undergraduate student studying Art History at the University of Guelph. Evangeline recently participated in the University of Guelph’s undergraduate European Studies conference in November 2018 and was part of the Emerging Scholars program at the ArtsEverywhere festival in Guelph during January 2019. She is particularly interested in contemporary Inuit art, museums and galleries, as well as curatorial practices and writing about contemporary art. She is also the editor-in-chief of Her Campus at Guelph, an online magazine at the University of Guelph.

Victoria Murray | University of Toronto

Sterbak’s the Flesh Dress: a Controversy of Transgressive Art in Canada

This essay explores Canadian artist Jana Sterbak’s piece Vanitas: Flesh Dress for an Albino Anorectic. Her “meat dress” sparked intense controversy due to its fundamentally transgressive statement engaging Canadians in complex questions of censorship, feminism and elitism in the role of galleries, while both inspiring other artists and directlychanging the exhibition practices of Canadian museums in the display of controversial subjects. Through examining the impact of Vanitas: Flesh Dress for an Albino Anorectic on art, popular culture and the social sphere, this paper sheds light on a controversial and integral piece of art in the postmodern period.

My name is Victoria Murray and I attend the University of Toronto currently completing a major in Art History and Visual Studies. I am interested in modern and contemporary history and theory. My research is often focused on the role of museums and institutions in educating and engaging with the public.

Esther Simon | Mount Holyoke College

Anatomy of Misogyny: William Hunter’s Female Cadavers

This paper will examine the problematic history of William Hunter’s The Anatomy of the Human Gravid Uterus, Exhibited in Figures (1774). This medical text, which remains one of the most influential in the history of obstetrics, features incredibly detailed, naturalistic engravings of dissected female cadavers, most between the seventh and ninth month of pregnancy. These engravings mark both important developments in the art of scientific illustration in the 18th century and a dark part of science and art history. Twenty women were dissected and studied for the book, as Hunter insisted his artists copy from nature rather than from memory. Their bodies are presented, as per Hunter’s instruction, in painstaking detail, headless and limbless, in various stages of dissection. In this paper I will examine both the problematic standards which led to the cadavers being presented in the graphic way that they are, and the upsetting theories regarding where Hunter acquired his cadavers. Because of the number and quality of the engravings and their integrity to the book’s function, I will be considering The Anatomy of the Human Gravid Uterus, Exhibited in Figures as a piece of art in its own right. In order to critique it, I will examine both primary documents from the 18th century documents––including Hunter’s text itself—and contemporary responses to and investigations of Hunter and his Anatomy.

Esther Simon is a senior majoring in art history and film studies at Mount Holyoke College.  When she is not in class, she is a liaison for the film department, co-president of Mount Holyoke’s tabletop RPG club, and an avid connoisseur of the disturbing and grotesque in all its forms.  She is currently working on an art history thesis on the impact of science on dynamics of spectatorship in the visual arts in late enlightenment Britain. 

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