Visual and Material Culture Research Seminar Series


Fall 2017 — Every other Thursday, 4–5 pm — Room 213 at MOA
Free — no registration required

This interdisciplinary seminar series on visual and material culture is for anyone with interest in this field across different departments at UBC and beyond. It is an informal forum to share research and exchange ideas, usually followed by conversations over a drink at Koerner’s Pub. Open to students, staff, faculty and community members in and around UBC.
Dr. Fuyubi Nakamura, MOA Curator, Asia (Questions? Email Fuyubi.)
Dr. Nuno Porto, MOA Curator, Africa & Latin America
Dr. Anne Murphy, UBC Asian Studies

September 14

Considering Cultural Property, Museums, and Implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP)
Sheryl Lightfoot, Canada Research Chair in Global Indigenous Rights and Politics
Associate Professor, First Nations and Indigenous Studies & Department of Political Science, UBC

The UNDRIP, a human rights document passed overwhelmingly by the UN General Assembly in 2007, articulates a set of principles about the rights of Indigenous peoples that all states are morally and politically obligated to respect. The UN Declaration was intended as the minimum standard for relationships with Indigenous peoples and provides a guiding framework for reshaping those relationships towards one grounded in equality, justice and mutual respect. Since the 2015 release of the Summary Report of the Truth and Reconciliation of Canada, which called upon all levels of Canadian government and society to adopt and implement the UN Declaration as the framework for reconciliation, implementation has been an active conversation in politics and civil society. Dr. Sheryl Lightfoot will discuss what the UN Declaration is, what Canada’s current position is regarding implementation, and what implementation means in terms of Indigenous culture, cultural property and the potential impact on museums.

September 28

Calligraphy in my Art: an artist talk by Shamsia Hassani.

Shamsia Hassani is regarded as the first female graffiti artist from Afghanistan. She will share her insight into her work currently shown in the Traces of Words: Art and Calligraphy from Asia exhibition at MOA.

Note: If the artist is not issued her Canadian visa in time, she will give a talk via Skype.


October 12

The Hinterlands and the Desert: Images of Indigenous ‘Nationalization’ in Brazil and Argentina in the Works of the Artist-Traveller J.M. Rugendas
Andrea Roca, Sessional Lecturer of Portuguese Language and Brazilian Culture Department of French, Hispanic & Italian, UBC
This presentation analyzes ‘nationalized’ images of certain Indigenous populations of Brazil and Argentina by examining two iconographic sets of paintings by the German artist-traveller, Johann Moritz Rugendas (1802–1858). I discuss the conditions of their emergence and development in the first half of the nineteenth century, and their subsequent paths until the present. Conceptualized as artefacts and research mediators, these sets of images act as the bearers of social relations. They encapsulate and reproduce the socio-political dynamics of creating a specific image of and identity for Indigenous peoples of the Brazilian hinterlands and the Argentinean desert, and the concomitant places assigned to Indigenous peoples in the nation-building projects of these countries. Because the images naturalize conceptions of social differentiation, their documentary value rests on their potential to unveil the socio-political dynamics of their inception. And beyond their aesthetic and scientific readings, they must be seen as colonial products. These images document orders of cultural domination that have interpreted Indigenous populations as objects of thought and political intervention.

October 26

Hidden Treasures: The Changing Uses and Meanings of Wish-Fulfilling Jewels in Japanese Esoteric Buddhism
Casey Collins, a PhD student, Department of Asian Studies, UBC
In new religions derived from Shingon—Japanese esoteric Buddhism—physical objects provide a tangible link with the past, even as they find new uses and become memetic vectors imbued with new meanings. The uses and meanings of “wish- fulfilling jewels” (Jpn. nyoi hōju ) are being adapted in movements that emerged in the twentieth century. As marginalized modern communities, new religious movements often retain beliefs, practices, and objects that are discarded or dismissed in some forms of Buddhist modernism. Physical objects in Shinnyo-en , including ones related to wish-fulfilling jewels, retain many of their premodern meanings inherited from Shingon material culture, even as they are reimagined to serve contemporary institutional and doctrinal ends. The tension between tradition and modernity is negotiated primarily through physical objects in Shinnyo-en, as in other twentieth century esoteric movements in Japan, Korea, and Taiwan.

November 9

Flow, Progression, Rest
Saygin Salgirli, Assistant Professor, Department of Art History, Visual Art & Theory, UBC
This talk is a conceptual exercise in two parts. It engages with three nouns (flow, progression, rest), and questions how they can be transformed into concepts for architectural and art historical analysis. Part one is based on my ongoing research, and it focuses on thirteenth and fourteenth-century architecture from Anatolia. Starting with the landscape and its territorial markings through Seljuk caravanserais (thirteenth century), it moves onto Bursa, the first Ottoman capital (fourteenth century), and questions whether a comparable patterning of movement through architecture could be observed in an urban context. Part two concerns my next research, and with a time leap and switch in medium, it deals with an eighteenth-century Ottoman manuscript, painted by the court artist Levni. It depicts the festivities organized to celebrate the circumcision of Sultan Ahmet III’s sons in 1720. The second part questions, on the one hand, how flow, progression, and rest can be used to analyze the manuscript, and on the other, how they can be utilized to relate the manuscript to the larger social context of late-sixteenth and early-eighteenth-century Istanbul.

November 23

The Eloquence of Things: Indigenous Materiality at the 1925 Pontifical Missionary Exposition
Gloria Bell, PhD Candidate, Department of Art History, Visual Art & Theory, UBC
On Sunday, December 21, 1924, Pope Pius XI solemnly descended the Vatican staircase and opened the holy door to the Pontifical Missionary Exposition (PME). Standing in the central room, the Hall of the Americas, and surrounded by cultural belongings of the Indigenous peoples of North America, he welcomed tourists and pilgrims alike into the folds of the Vatican. This unprecedented exhibition was held on the grounds of the Vatican, with specially designed pavilions showcasing the art and artifacts from missions across the continents including the Americas, Asia, Oceania and Africa. Pius XI declared that the materials sent in were to shine as a light in the darkness to highlight missionary work. Upon the closing of the exposition, he further professed that the materials had a “silent eloquence.” Rather than think of the materials as silent however, I would like to propose that the Indigenous materials sent in are active, and that we can understand some of the dynamics of Indigenous presence through an analysis of the Hall of Americas and the transit of cultural belongings from Turtle Island to the Eternal City.



Past Programs