Visual and Material Culture Research Seminar Series

Winter/Spring 2018 | 4-5 pm
MOA, Room 213
Free to all
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, Dr. Nuno Porto, MOA Curator, Africa & Latin America and
Dr. Anne Murphy, UBC Asian Studies.
If you have questions, please contact Fuyubi at

January 11

Embodied Archives of Authenticity: The Elderly Dancers of Korean Heritage Arts,
CedarBough T. Saeji, Korea Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Asian Studies, UBC
How has the Republic of Korea become a country where an athletic pursuit, like traditional dance, is most celebrated when performed by the oldest dancer? In this presentation I will explain how the best intentions can have unforeseen consequences, demonstrating the ways that cultural policy is implicated in frequent and celebrated staging of elderly solo dancers. I focus on three themes: (1) Korea’s intangible cultural heritage legislation, which certifies expert performers based in large part on years of participation. Older experts must choose to either continue performing, in spite of failing health, or relinquish their hard-earned title. (2) The accepted belief that communicating the emotional core of the performance is more important than athleticism. This belief facilitates the continued performance by elderly dancers—or may be constructed by ever-older master-dancers who are given the gerontocratic power to define “traditional” Korean aesthetics. (3) Nostalgia, which is often intertwined with dance performance participation and viewership practices, and which manifests in Korean traditional performance consumption through yearnings for a pre-modern past embodied by older performers.

January 25

Pain, Suffering, and Empathy in the Art Museum
David Odo, Director of Student Programs and Research Curator of University Collections Initiatives, Harvard Art Museums

How might encounters with works of art in the museum be an opportunity to meaningfully engage with difficult issues surrounding pain and suffering? Such encounters are most often deployed within art museums as part of a program to teach or foster empathy, often with medical students or physicians, for example, and studies are currently underway to determine whether or not this is possible (and effective). This presentation, drawing on a project in progress underway at the Harvard Art Museums, calls for taking a step back to interrogate what we mean by “empathy” in the museum context and thinking critically about how pain and suffering in art can be an integral part of larger discussions of embodiment, personhood, and social justice. Discussion will center around selected works of art from the museum’s collection, including works by Doris Salcedo, Carrie Mae Weems, Pablo Picasso, Aelbert Bouts, Sandro Boticelli, Mona Hatoum, and others. Please note that some images included in the presentation may be disturbing to some viewers.

February 8

Not Quite Accurate: Breaking From Historical Research in Creating Costumes for the Stage
Jacqueline Firkins, Costume Designer and Associate Professor, Department of Theatre & Film, UBC
In designing costumes for the theatre, the first stop is often a thorough search through imagery from the time and place in which a play was written. However, the stories we tell on stage should always reflect our modern life as well. Sometimes using a straightforward mirror works well in examining contemporary life. Sometimes we tint or tilt that mirror. This presentation will showcase some examples of my work in the theatre wherein I’ve designed costumes that are “period, but not.” Whether incorporating hip-hop references into Baroque clothing, or stripping away colour and detail to create a period silhouette with a modern streamlined aesthetic, each onstage world tells a story, emphasizes a theme, and allows us access to a group or characters who feel not unlike ourselves.

March 1

The Face of North Korea: Chris Marker’s
Anton Lee, PhD Candidate, Department of Art History, Visual Art & Theory, UBC
A recent television documentary aired across the US has a scene in which a North Korean couple are secretly watching smuggled South Korean TV shows in a darkened room. The camera shows no faces, but only the back of their heads. Meanwhile, we see the portraits of the country’s two previous leaders faintly glowing up on the wall. The scene appears emblematic of the representation of the North Korean people in foreign media: They are either faceless in the footages taken without the regime’s authorization, or hidden behind the well-rehearsed masks of royal citizens in the state-sanctioned visuals. One may ask when was the last time a foreigner saw their unmasked faces. My answer is 1958, when the French filmmaker, writer, and photographer Chris Marker spent six days in North Korea. In his photobook Corèennes (1959), derived from that sojourn, he wrote “it is with the face turned toward me that I have true relations.” The proposed talk touches upon my own struggle with the foreclosed possibility of that face in the present.

March 15

Perspectives: Placing the Viewer in Song Dynasty Painting and Maps
Julia Orell, Assistant Professor, Department of Art History, Visual Art & Theory, UBC
This talk presents part of a larger project that examines the depiction of specific sites, regions, and empire during the Song dynasty (10th—13th century). By focusing on how paintings and maps position the viewer vis-à-vis the landscape, I will explore how geographical knowledge is constructed with painterly and graphic means and what the implications are with regard to how observation, survey, and measuring translate into extrapolations that present a visual experience.

March 29

Materiality and Material Traces of Gesture in the French Enlightenment: A History of Musical Pantomime
Hedy Law, Assistant Professor, School of Music, UBC

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