Visual + Material Culture Research Seminar Series – Winter 2023
This interdisciplinary seminar series is for anyone with interests in visual and material culture across different departments at UBC and beyond. The seminar provides an opportunity 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.
The seminars will be held in-person at MOA.
Participation is free and no registration is required.
Where: MOA’s Community Lounge (Near the administration reception and opposite the MOA Library and Archives). Note: The Museum will be closed to the public due to seismic upgrades, but the administration area remains open. Please enter through the administration entrance, which is past the courtyard on your right, facing the Museum’s main entrance.
When: Select Thursdays, 4 – 5 pm
Conveners: Dr. Fuyubi Nakamura, MOA Curator, Asia and UBC Asian Studies and Dr. Nuno Porto, MOA Curator, Africa + South America and UBC Art History, Visual Art & Theory
Winter 2023 series
January 19: “Intimacy with the Gods: The Power of the Nude Female in Ancient Greece.”
Megan Daniels, Assistant Professor, UBC Department of Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Studies, UBC
February 2: “Islamicate Heritage, Reassembled: Tracing Itinerant Coins into the 21st Century.”
Sara Ann Knutson, Assistant Professor of Teaching, Department of History, UBC
February 16: “BÁON/BAÓN: Filipinx Canadian Community and Memories From/Of/To Home.”
Allen Baylosis, PhD student, Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice, UBC
March 2: “Redressing Ritual in St’at’imc Territory”
Kristen Barnett, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, UBC
March 16: “Adinkra Symbols as Visual Representations of the Akan Philosophy of Life.”
Stephen Yaw Oppong, PhD student, Department of Theatre and Film, UBC
March 30: “Charles Edenshaw’s ‘Fungus Man’ Platters and Grave Totems: Human/Fungus Relationships Revealed Through Haida and Tlingit Agarikon Carvings.”
Alexandra Peck, Assistant Professor + Audain Chair in Historical Indigenous Art, Department of Art History, Visual Art + Theory, UBC
January 19: “Intimacy with the Gods: The Power of the Nude Female in Ancient Greece”
Speaker: Megan Daniels, Assistant Professor, UBC Department of Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Studies, UBC
Nudity can evoke a variety of complex meanings for humans: sexuality, desire, lewdness, vulnerability, freedom, and indulgence, to name a few. Our complicated relationship with this state of being translates to our interpretation of past societies. In this talk, Daniels examines a striking image from the Iron Age Mediterranean (ca. 900-500 BCE), the Nude Standing Female, or Nude Standing Goddess. This imagery had a very long history in the Middle East and Mediterranean, going back to the third millennium BCE. Its appearance was often interpreted by scholars as indicating generic ideas of fertility and sexuality amongst the societies that produced this imagery. Daniels questions these assumptions through cross-cultural examinations of ancient texts paired with closer attention to the various gestures the nude female adopts. She argues that these figurines expressed a sense of power and intimacy with the divine that is often lost on modern viewers.
February 2: “Islamicate Heritage, Reassembled: Tracing Itinerant Coins into the 21st Century”
Speaker: Sara Ann Knutson, Assistant Professor of Teaching, Department of History, UBC
In museum anthropology and archaeology, the term assemblage identifies the collection of similar materials which share a defining characteristic or the collection of diverse materials which share a defined context. At face value, coins from the Islamic World seem to offer a self-explaining assemblage. But coins have never been simply mediums of finance. For as long as Islamic coins have existed, communities have taken such objects out of monetary circulation and placed these materials into other forms of circulation and meaning making. The non-monetary values associated with coins has meant that these objects actively assemble and reassemble into new assemblages, including jewelry, amulets, and textiles. Community stakeholders have claimed Islamic coins as meaningful to their cultural heritage. This project begins to untangle the ways that Islamicate heritage (re)assembles itself and the multifaceted meanings that such assemblages hold for people in the Middle East and North Africa and the wider diaspora.
February 16: “BÁON/BAÓN: Filipinx Canadian Community and Memories From/Of/To Home”
Speaker: Allen Baylosis, PhD student, Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice, UBC
How do we tell our migration stories? How do the belongings we brought with us from home convey our migration histories? This seminar examines butu/buto: bones are seeds (2022), a community-devised theatre performance based on stories and poetry from Vancouver’s Filipinx Canadian Community, which was staged in July 2022. As a tribute to the community’s resilience, the play becomes a fragmented collective memoir of arrival, transit, and departure. With this, Baylosis focuses on how the costumes and props used in this devised theatre complement the scenes enacted by the actors. This also shows that hand props are more than just “props.” They are also performers onstage who bring Philippine culture to life. Like their handlers, these “props” have their nuanced complexities imbued with life and life-making qualities animated through performative site. As the guiding theme, Baylosis revolves around how the props co-created with the actors in the production to represent, communicate, and share lived experiences of migration, displacement, community-formation, and home-ing.
March 2: “Redressing Ritual in St’at’imc Territory”
Speaker: Kristen Barnett, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, UBC
Keatley Creek is a socially complex village on the British Columbia Plateau in the Mid-Fraser region of interior British Columbia that has received considerable archaeological research. Five small houses defined as “ritual” architecture, or men’s secret society houses, are located on the southern and eastern terraces
peripheral to the site’s core. This talk redresses these interpretations drawing from local knowledge and understanding (blood memory), an extensive regional ethnographic record, and archaeological belongings and materials. This glimpse into the little houses examines ritual, an important element of identity and practice, and complicates archaeological reliance on materiality and a genealogy of archaeological research and interpretations as a primary source of information.
March 16: “Adinkra Symbols as Visual Representations of The Akan Philosophy of Life”
Speaker: Stephen Yaw Oppong, PhD student, Department of Theatre and Film, UBC
The Akan people of Ghana like many other people of the world are ocularcentric, placing the eye above all other senses of the body. Beyond the description of the prominence of the eye in their proverbs such as “The baboon says: my magic is my eye” and “what we visualize is what we dream of” among many other proverbs about the eye, Adinkra symbols, which were first sighted in the 1800s emphasize the ocularcentrism of the Akan people as these symbols represent the Akan philosophies of life. This seminar will explore the usage and significance of Adinkra symbols in the visual culture of Ghana and the African diaspora. The seminar will uncover the cultural preservation and communication roles of Adinkra symbols.
March 30: “Charles Edenshaw’s ‘Fungus Man’ Platters and Grave Totems: Human/Fungus Relationships Revealed Through Haida and Tlingit Agarikon Carvings”
Speaker: Alexandra Peck, Assistant Professor + Audain Chair in Historical Indigenous Art, Department of Art History, Visual Art + Theory, UBC
Within Haida and Tlingit societies, life and death are intricately linked to a particular fungus, known as Agarikon (Laricifomes officinalis). This woody conk features prominently in Haida origin stories, where Agarikon is anthropomorphized as the legendary “Fungus Man” character, whose bravery and power are credited with the creation of women. Amongst the Tlingit, Agarikon plays a complementary role and was employed in pre-colonial mortuary settings, where the fungus offered protection for the deceased. Examining 19th century Haida artist Charles Edenshaw’s carved argillite platters that depict three versions of Fungus Man, as well as ancient Tlingit grave totems carved from actual Agarikon, this presentation draws upon traditional ecological knowledge (TEK), oral history, mycology, and material culture to explore the unique spiritual, symbiotic relationship between fungi and First Nations.