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Visual + Material Culture Seminar Series – Spring 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.

Open to students, staff, faculty and community members in and around UBC. The seminars will be held online over Zoom during this term. The seminars will not be recorded.

Participation is free, but registration is required (links below).

Where: Zoom (download the app here)
When: Select Thursdays, 4 – 5 pm
Conveners: Dr. Fuyubi Nakamura, MOA Curator, Asia; Dr. Nuno Porto, MOA Curator, Africa + Latin America; Dr. Anne Murphy, UBC Asian Studies

We request you adhere to the following Zoom etiquette during the sessions:

  • Please mute your microphone whenever you are not speaking; we may also mute attendees remotely.
  • Please refrain from recording or taking screenshots of the presentation.
  • During the Q&A and discussion, we will use the chat to establish the order of questions. Please write “I have a question/comment” into the chat function and we will call on you to unmute yourself and speak.

If you have questions, please contact Fuyubi Nakamura at fuyubi.nakamura@ubc.ca.

Spring 2021 series

January 14, 2021: The Remains of a Journey” with Gu Xiong, Professor, Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory, UBC.

January 28, 2021: “A-MARE [to love | to sea]” with Kristin Man, Artist, Author and Yoga Teacher.

February 25, 2021: “‘I am a Woman Photographer’: Photography in Modern Japan and Yamazawa Eiko’s Quotidian Practices of Refusal” with Kelly McCormick,  Assistant Professor, Department of History, UBC.

March 4, 2021: The Palace of Diplomacy: Twentieth-century Japan’s diplomatic world presented in the State Guest House in Tokyo, Japan” with Tae Yeon Eom, Ph.D. Candidate and Sessional Lecturer, Department of Asian Studies, UBC.

March 18, 2021: Metal Production, Communities, and Landscape in the Medieval Balkans” with Georgios Makris, Assistant Professor, Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory, UBC.

April 1, 2021: Making Queer Asiatic Worlds: Performance and Racial Interaction in North American Visual Novels” with Christopher B. Patterson, Assistant Professor in the Social Justice Institute, UBC.



January 14, 2021—The Remains of a Journey

Speaker: Gu Xiong, professor, Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory, UBC

Gu Xiong, D’Arcy Island, multimedia installation, 2020.

The exhibition, The Remains of a Journey, currently on view at Centre A: Vancouver International Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, focuses on six sites significant to the history of Chinese immigration to Canada. Each of these sites tells a story about how Chinese immigrants to Canada felt about their new home and their homeland. These stories resonate strongly with current issues, but are slipping away with time. Although these places are now empty and abandoned, their stories persist in cultural memory; the history of these sites is not just that of the places themselves, but also a history of memory and memory keeping. What are further observed in each place are the signs of new life, previously unimagined and yet stemming directly from the conflict-ridden histories of the land. Despite the destruction of property and dreams, what persists is the growth of new knowledge and states of being. It is imperative that Canadians are reminded of these histories while navigating layers of newly formed meaning.

Register for Remains of a Journey



January 28, 2021—A-MARE [to love to sea]

Speaker: Kristin Man, artist, author, yoga teacher

Kristin Man, Tribute to Zong! the Slaveship, 2020.

Sometimes, what divides us is also what unites us: our sea(s). Since 2017, Kristin has been working on Project “A-MARE” with artworks based on “relational identity” with the sea as a metaphor and handwoven tapestries of photographic threads as a medium/form. Physically, the sea serves as a channel for migration, the bed for submarine cables, an enabler of exchange and spread of pollution such as garbage and radiation. In myofascial terms, within our body there are myriads of interlinking connective tissues which resemble the ocean. Personally, having lived in three continents and traveled in all except one and having pursued various education disciplines, Kristin identifies herself as a product of multicultural and multidisciplinary threads that she has formed and interlaced. Philosophically, she wonders if continents and oceans were in Zen terms, the positive (yang) and the negative (yin) spaces, respectively. Without one, there is no “other.” Kristin’s handwoven sea photographic art speaks to the intertwining physicality of our existence. This seminar invites you to explore the notion of art as a praxis of existential diaspora.

Register for A-MARE



February 25, 2021—“I am a Woman Photographer”: Photography in Modern Japan and Yamazawa Eiko’s Quotidian Practices of Refusal

Speaker: Kelly McCormick, assistant professor, Department of History, UBC

Yamazawa Eiko and her loyal assistant Saiki Sachiko, “Photo Times,” Vol: 17, No.4, Page 4, March 1940.

The Japanese photographer Yamazawa Eiko’s (1899–1995) life history of owning her own commercial portrait studios, running a community photo school, and dedicating herself to abstract still-life photography in rejection of the photo-realism boom can be read as explicit forms of refusal. Focusing on the many “refusals” around which Yamazawa built her life, this talk approaches her work and life as an example of the possibilities for defiance within everyday practices. Yamazawa’s life lived as a refusal of the “categories of the dominant” within the photography world, social norms, and regulatory power of art critics and business leaders are an example of striving for a future not yet lived by women photographers in mid-20th century Japan. From acting as a mentor and model to many young women photographer-entrepreneurs to routinely destroying her personal archive of the evidence of her working process, McCormick explores how Yamazawa created the conditions necessary to make a life through photography as a woman in Japan from the 1930s to 1970s.

Register for I am a Woman Photographer



March 4, 2021—The Palace of Diplomacy: 20th-Century Japan’s Diplomatic World Presented in the State Guest House in Tokyo, Japan

Speaker: Tae Yeon Eom, Ph.D. candidate and sessional lecturer, Department of Asian Studies, UBC

The State Guest House (Geihinkan), Tokyo. Photo by Tae Yeon Eom.

The Akasaka Palace, now more commonly called the State Guest House (Geihinkan), was built in the early 20th century in order to serve as the Imperial Palace for the Crown Prince in Akasaka, Tokyo. After its completion, the building, depending on the time period, was used for different purposes. Since the 1970s, it has been officially used as a space for the conclusion of treaties, as well as for receptions for foreign dignitaries. The feeling of Westernness provided by the State Guest House, which was opened to the public in April 2016, is considerably strong as its facade is modelled after the Palace of Versailles. However, when looking more closely, it can be noted that the interior and exterior decorations mixed with Japanese style are carefully arranged inside and outside the building. This seminar aims to interpret 2oth-century Japan’s diplomatic thoughts by analyzing the interior and exterior design and decoration of the diplomatic space. 

Register for Palace of Diplomacy



March 18, 2021—Metal Production, Communities and Landscape in the Medieval Balkans

Speaker: Georgios Makris, assistant professor, Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory, UBC

Studies of various products of metalwork in the medieval eastern Mediterranean have addressed questions of iconographic repertoire and style, geographic diffusion on the basis of archaeological finds, and, more recently, function and human agency. The latter has been examined from the viewpoint of major consumption and production centers and often in relation to well-attested religious and social practices such as pilgrimage or fashion. This talk’s departure point is a select group of Byzantine jewelry kept at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Taken in tandem with material evidence from excavations and the results of recent archaeological analysis of metalworking activities in the late medieval Balkans, the museum objects can offer the means by which to investigate patterns and sites of production of high-and-low-quality metalwork in the Middle Ages. Looking at the landscape of the medieval Balkans that allowed many modes of metal production and given the region’s well-documented mineral resources, this talk questions the cultural isolation and invisibility of crafting communities and sees them as significant members of medieval society, and not merely as the middle step between raw material and a wealthy patron.

Register for Metal Production



April 1, 2021—Making Queer Asiatic Worlds: Performance and Racial Interaction in North American Visual Novels

Speaker: Christopher B. Patterson, assistant professor, Social Justice Institute, UBC

Image from “Stamped: an anti-travel game,” made by Kawika Guillermo, Daniel Decolongon, Braedyn Lemckert, Jess Lau, and Sophia Westrop-Troeung, based on Stamped: an anti-travel novel (2018), by Christopher B. Patterson.

In this talk, Patterson will explore how video games as a global commodity expose the presumptions separating “North America” and “Asia” in the traditional senses of isolation, origination and presumed distance. He will focus on the most “Asiatic” genre of video games today, the North American visual novel, which offers a counter-discourse to normative modes of play, and attempts to offer utopic spaces to reflect upon the “real” genres of race and neo-Cold War geopolitics. Using critical race theories of performance and digital media, he will show how visual novels created by American and Canadian trans, queer and women of color designers are primarily aspirational, in that they build queer and seemingly anti-racist worlds through Asiatic digital forms. He will also share his own experience adapting his debut novel, Stamped: an anti-travel novel, into a visual novel game that attempts to revise the digital genre conventions of race and queerness to reflect more on transnational forms of capitalism and empire. If video games make the boundaries of Asia and North America irrelevant, visual novels explore this irrelevance through queer Asiatic irreverence.

Register for Making Queer Asiatic Worlds