Visual and Material Culture Research Seminar Series

Winter/Spring 2017 — Every other Thursday, 4–5 pm — Room 213 at MOA
Free — no registration required
There is no seminar during the mid-term break.
The March 2 seminar will take place in Room 233 at MOA.


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

January 12

Devil in the Digital: Ambivalent Results in an Object-Based Teaching Course
Mark Turin, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology & Chair, First Nations and Endangered Languages Program, UBC

“In 2013, I piloted a course in which students used Web-based tools to study and investigate underdocumented collections of Himalayan materials held at Yale University. Through class-based research and contextualization, students were given the goal of augmenting existing metadata and designing media-rich, virtual tours of the collections that could be incorporated into the sparse catalogue holdings held within the library system. The process was experimental and had mixed results, as this presentation documents.”

“The class provided an opportunity for undergraduate students from any discipline to work with objects and primary materials, requiring them to evaluate different sources of information, authorship, and value. Learning outcomes were nontraditional and deliberately underscripted. The collaborative and hands-on approaches toward digitization that de-emphasized the authority of the instructor were unsettling to some students. Today’s presentation offers a reflection on this process and the results.”

January 12
Image: The Himalayan Collections website.

January 26

Images, Freedom, Global Consciousness
Manuel Piña, Associate Professor, Department of Art History, Visual Art & Theory, UBC


January 26
Image: Untitled, still from “RoadMan” 2016.

February 9

Trauma and Art Production
Raghuvendra Rao K.V, Visual Artist & Research Associate
Centre for India and South Asia Research, UBC

“The central theme of the series ‘Mending Cracks’ is disability, trauma and the complex process of recovery. I was buried under rubble in the 2001 earthquake in Kutch. Long-term, this resulted in the partial paralysis and atrophy of my left arm. I also found myself faced with a further battle to get over the experience, psychologically as well as physically. Through this process, I realized the complex meaning of “mending.” I am visualizing this experience by exploring the experience of the incident and the experience of ‘loss’ that it made so central to my life.”

“My research on trauma and art production has shown that often, works on trauma and healing are assumed to target a specific audience or special group, rather than a broad public. It is my goal with this body of work to reach out to a broad audience to communicate the idea of trauma and healing. I am exploring ways of using metaphors, material, etc through painting, installations and videos.”

In association with exhibition on display at the UBC Asian Centre lobby, January 11 – February 28

February 9
Image: Details from “Mending Cracks: Limitations” installation, Bangalore, India, 2016. Raghavendra Rao K.V.

March 2

Curatorial Conundrums: Why ‘Masterworks’ in 2017?
Karen Duffek, Curator, Contemporary Visual Arts + Pacific Northwest, MOA
Jordan Wilson, Musqueam Curator-in-Residence, MOA
Note: This seminar takes place in Room 233 at MOA inside the secure admin area. Please arrive on time.

This talk presents a curatorial project in process: the as-yet-untitled opening exhibition in the Museum of Anthropology’s new Gallery of Northwest Coast Masterworks (currently under construction). Both the gallery and exhibition were initiated by a generous donation to MOA from a private collector of contemporary and historical Northwest Coast art.

Slated to open in June 2017 (50 years after the Vancouver Art Gallery’s influential exhibition Arts of the Raven: Masterworks by the Northwest Coast Indian), this exhibition will focus on historical Northwest Coast material practices, and seeks to critically examine the concept of ‘masterwork’ by contextualizing the artworks through the current voices and perspectives of Indigenous artists and community members.

The curators will discuss their methods and some of the challenges they are facing as they develop strategies to account for the objects’ past and present contexts, travels through multiple hands, and connection to living people, territories, and the future.

Image: Pipe bowl in the form of a bird, Tlingit, late 19th century, Hardwood and copper.

March 16

The Politics of House Construction in Colonial Maputo, Mozambique, 1960 to 1975
David Morton, Assistant Professor, Department of History, UBC

“For most of the colonial era, the rules for building a house in the informal settlements — the subúrbios – of colonial Maputo were relatively simple. You could build a house of reeds, and if you could afford it, you could build a wood-framed, zinc-paneled house. Such construction was tolerated because it was considered precarious, and easy to bulldoze.”

“But during the last decade or so of Portuguese rule, a few thousand households risked enormous fines and potential demolition to build illegally in concrete block. Some masked concrete construction from police with zinc panels, others built more brazenly and out in the open. In this presentation, I discuss the many meanings of building materials during this time – particularly the importance of concrete to staking a claim to a future in the city.”

Maputo - Bairro de Mavalane.
Image: View of the Maputo neighbourhood of Mavalane, undated. (Source: Centro de Documentação e Formação Fotográfica)

March 30

The Material and Materiality in Curating Layers of Influence: Unfolding Cloth Across Cultures
Jennifer Kramer, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology & Curator, Pacific Northwest, MOA


three kimonos square
Image: Layers of Influence exhibition at MOA.

Past Programs