Visual + Material Culture Research Seminar Series – Fall 2021
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 a hybrid mode this term: in-person at MOA and also online over Zoom. If the COVID situation changes, we may shift to the online mode. The seminars will not be recorded.
Participation is free, but if you’d like attend online, registration is required (links below).
Where: Room 213 at MOA (Near the admin reception and opposite of MOA library and archives; no food/drink with the exception of bottled water is allowed in this room); Zoom (download the app here)
When: Select Thursdays, 4 – 5 pm
Conveners: Dr. Fuyubi Nakamura, MOA Curator, Asia and UBC Asian Studies and Dr. Nuno Porto, MOA Curator, Africa + Latin America
Fall 2021 series
September 16: “Reverse Diaspora: The “Brazilians” in West Africa.” Antje Ziethen, Assistant Professor, Department of French, Hispanic and Italian Studies, UBC
October 7: “Orúkọ Mi Ni: Táíyéwò ati Kẹ́hìndé“. Oluwasayo Olowo-Ake, MA student, Department of Art History, Visual Art & Theory, UBC
October 14: “Groundedness as Risk: Adaptation Strategies for Ground Failures in Seattle.” Arthur Leung, Architect and Adjunct Faculty, School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, UBC
October 28: “The Grievability of Japanese Sex Workers in the Transpacific Underground.” Ayaka Yoshimizu, Assistant Professor of Teaching, Department of Asian Studies & UBC-Ritsumeikan Academic Exchange Programs, UBC
November 18: “Beyond the Visual: The Roles of the Body in Spain’s “Post-Comics” Scene.” Jennifer Nagtegaal, doctoral student, Department of French, Hispanic & Italian Studies, Hispanic Studies, UBC
December 2: “Visual Politics: Documenting Black Western Canadian Diasporic Cultural Production.” Nya Williams, Curator, Founder and Director of BlackArt Gastown, Programmer Vancouver Queer Film Festival
September 16, 2021—Reverse Diaspora: The “Brazilians” in West Africa
Speaker: Antje Ziethen, Assistant Professor, Department of French, Hispanic and Italian Studies, UBC
This talk explores the history of the Agudas – enslaved Africans and free Blacks from Brazil who relocated to Togo, Benin, Ghana, and Nigeria in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Following unsuccessful slave revolts in Brazil, particularly in the State of Bahia, hundreds were deported to the port city of Ouidah in what was then the Kingdom of Dahomey, today’s Benin. As repression of the Black population in Bahia intensified, thousands left Brazil in search of new opportunities. They developed a number of Afro-Brazilian settlements in West Africa – notably the Brazilian Quarter in Lagos, Nigeria. Its architecture, epitomized in the famous Water House, bears witness to their political influence and economic success. Charles Piot notes that “standard conceptions of diasporic flow and cultural influence [are] always only one-way: from Africa, the homeland, to its diaspora in the Americas”. The Agudas, however, represent a reverse African Diaspora illustrating how returnees from the Americas contribute to the formation of cultures and identities in their communities of origin.
October 7, 2021—Orúkọ Mi Ni: Táíyéwò ati Kẹ́hìndé
Speaker: Oluwasayo Taiwo Olowo-Ake, MA student, Department of Art History, Visual Art + Theory, UBC
Oruko mi ni, (My name is) presents Yoruba knowledge to redirect the focus from Ere Ibeji (Yoruba wooden twin figure) to the oral knowledge surrounding Ibeji (Yoruba twins). Ere Ibeji is a wooden figure carved in honour of a twin who died and is the dominant visual material that Western collections associate with Yoruba twins from Nigeria. Yoruba believe that twins share a soul: the family treats the carved figure as they would if the twin was still physically present. As a result, the twin is fed, washed, and cared for in a domestic setting. Focusing on Yoruba oral tradition and narratives, Oruko mi ni asks how we can view Ibeji with tools from their place of origin, not looking to Western collections to tell Ibeji stories. Furthermore, where does the Yoruba understanding of history, twinship and documentation practice lead museums? How can re-centering Yoruba oral knowledge on Ibeji, reshape the museum’s decolonial practices?
October 14, 2021—Groundedness as Risk: Adaptation Strategies for Ground Failures in Seattle
Speaker: Arthur Leung, Architect and Adjunct Faculty, School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, UBC
“Groundedness” implies stability and permanence, but our reliance on the presumed fixity of the earth under our feet has led us to lose sight of its dynamism. From macro tectonic readjustments to micro sediment transport, these are natural processes that participate in adaptive cycles. A megathrust earthquake—the “Next Big One”—is expected in the Cascadia region. Looking specifically at Seattle, this high-magnitude seismic event would occur in a city already sensitive to geologic risks due to its history of land manipulations and its development patterns. Using visual tools of maps, drawings, and photographs, Leung examines these geologic risks and explores a framework of adaptive strategies. The strategies utilize the very material they are responding to—the “ground,” or in its essence, “sediment.” They are meant to balance sediment for ecosystem health and build ecosystem resilience in a world predisposed to engineering resilience in the way it controls the environment.
October 28, 2021—The Grievability of Japanese Sex Workers in the Transpacific Underground
Speaker: Ayaka Yoshimizu, Assistant Professor of Teaching, Department of Asian Studies & UBC-Ritsumeikan Academic Exchange Programs
In this presentation Yoshimizu discusses implications of embodied engagement with the materiality of the memorials (or lack thereof) through performance ethnography for studying memories of Japanese sex workers who lived across the transpacific world between the mid-19th century to the early 20th century. Doing fieldwork at cemeteries and memorial sites both in Canada and Japan, she encountered the “ungrievability” of their lives; headstones belonging to sex workers that seem unattended, anonymous collective graves that fail to commemorate individual women, and absence of markers that make invisible their burial locations. Those are what she calls “unmemorials,” memorial objects or sites that are meant for commemorating lost lives or past events but whose intentions are undone or undermined due to the absence of commemorators or narratives that enable commemoration. Embodied engagement with unmemorials, however, makes their ungrievablity sensible, and opens up a possibility to apprehend, if not remember, migrant women who lived in underground transnational spaces.
November 18, 2021—Beyond the Visual: The Roles of the Body in Spain’s “Post-Comics” Scene
Speaker: Jennifer Nagtegaal, doctoral student, Department of French, Hispanic & Italian Studies, Hispanic Studies, UBC
This seminar discusses the development of the so-called “post-comic” in Spain, and the implications these have on critical, cultural and creative engagements with comics art. Long recognized for their literary value, comics studies has only recently taken a visual turn. Meanwhile, a handful of comics scholars are already challenging the notion that comics are purely a visual medium. We are seeing theorizations, for example, on the roles of the body in both drawing and reading comics, and multi-sensory approaches to reading comics. Spain’s “post-comics” scene offers fertile ground for further developing these debates. Here, we see the transference of comics art to different artistic, cultural, technological and industrial worlds, in the creation of, among other things, comics art installations, blind accessible comics and comics-albums (in the musical sense) that question the boundaries of what is a comic, and the role of someone we can no longer simply call a reader-viewer.
December 2, 2021—Visual Politics: Documenting Black Western Canadian Diasporic Cultural Production
Speaker: Nya Williams, Curator, Founder and Director of BlackArt Gastown, Programmer Vancouver Queer Film Festival
The seminar aims to analyze histories of Black cultural production in Western Canada, through a critical overview of the contemporary social, historical, and political landscape by examining six notable, and underrepresented works by Black Canadian artists, central to the visibility and voice of Black Canadian cultural production, markers for Black Canadian art. Williams will articulate this approach from the standpoint of her curatorial practice that aims to highlight the contributions of Black and Afro-Diasporic cultural producers whose thought-provoking work frames an emerging lens of visual and material heritage; laying a foundation for fruitful dialogue surrounding the preservation of the Black Canadian aesthetic, the underrepresentation and insufficient documentation and dissemination of Black and African Canadian histories, and the implications of anti-Black racism within art institutions, impacting artistic expression, community building, and representation.