2014 MRPS AND THESES
Get Your Mind Outta the Gutter: Actor-Network Theory and Panel Layout in Comics
This thesis explains how the element of the panel layout in comics conveys both a linear progression of narrative and a simultaneous image for the reader. Using Bruno Latour’s Actor-Network Theory this research asserts that the portrayal of time and space in a comic should be considered as a network. While most definitions of comics rely on the sequential juxtaposition of the form, this thesis demonstrates how panel relations operate both sequentially and non-sequentially to produce meaning for the reader and thus changing the defining feature of the medium. To demonstrate how changes in panel layout affects various networks of time and space in comics I have examined three contemporary comics, Watchmen, “A Contract with God,” and Violent Cases.
WINNER OF THE CADN ACADEMIC MERIT AWARD
Actor-Network Theory, Agency and Cinematic Authorship
This MRP was conceived as a study inspired by the careers of Iranian art house filmmaker, Samira Makhmalbaf and Canadian First Nation documentary filmmaker, Alanis Obomsawin, and a single film from the oeuvre of each filmmaker: Makhmalbaf's The Blackboards (2000), and Obomsawin's The People of Kattawapiskak River (2012). By analyzing the media contexts of these two films, as well as inspecting key elements that constitute the profiles of each filmmaker, their films-as-cultural product, and their respective societies, the study ultimately expands on the discourse of artistic agency and Authorship within contemporary cultural institutions - and by extension, the contemporary social Networks they are part of - through the lens of Actor-Network Theory (Latour 2005). As exemplified in the choice of ANT as methodology, this MRP will emphasize the imperatives of non-binary strategies, arguing that discourse and analysis based on binary propositions can no longer meet the needs of diverse global networks. As such, the choice of the examples from two vastly different cultures is a conscious and deliberate act to highlight the fact that Agency and Authorship in a networked world are more than ever contingent upon the co-operation of multiple Actors within social assemblages and networks, whatever their polity or social mores may be, as opposed to being attributes of self-contained or monadic entities.
Cultural Displacement: Gender and the Design of Identity of the Iranian Diaspora, from Iran to Toronto – 1979 to 2013
The use of material objects to construct and adorn one’s domestic space reveals much more than taste. The ways in which female immigrants of Iranian origin in Toronto use their possessions to fashion their domestic realms represents a valuable point of entry into the study of the intertwine operations of culture and memory. Indeed, the interior of the home is the primary arena for cultural performance, whether continuing, reconstituted or emerging. While the domestic space of the home provides an area for the demonstration of values and identity, each person negotiates this fact in a different and unique ‘material’ language. It is clear in the case of female Iranian emigrants in Toronto that material objects are centrally important in the processes of resettlement. This study of the role of objects in immigrant experience turns on the close reading and analysis of first hand accounts. Twelve female Iranian immigrants, from the second wave of Iranian immigrants were interviewed for this study. Ranging in ages from 25 to 71 and having arrived in Canada between 1979 and 2013 under differing circumstances and from different urban centers in Iran, these women provide important points of access to critical information about cultural transposition, identity performance and the mnemonic and semiotic functioning of possessions. And while definitions of what constitutes Iranian national identity in the context of the diaspora experience is complex and varies amongst generations (whether in Toronto or otherwise), it is clear that the distinct testimonies of these women share the common theme of emigrant experience, namely the desire to reconstruct lives in new places through the careful negotiation of carried knowledge of the old.
Rafael Lozano-Hemmer: Exploring Mexican Identity in Interactive Media
Rosalba Uriega Gutierrez
Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s work is renowned for challenging the boundaries of media technology through the creation of experimental platforms that combine technology and performance. His approach often involves a playful aspect, which compels audiences to participate in public projects that rethink the uses of technology and reconsider communal relationships. Although his interactive-digital artworks way be perceived as merely entertaining or spectacular, they also bear deeper meanings about the artist’s Mexican heritage that have so far been over looked by critics. In this MRP, I analyze three of Lozano-Hemmer’s artworks – Sandbox (2010), Nave Solar (2011), and Loud Voice (2008) – to elaborate on how they comment on specific social, political and spiritual issues endemic to Mexican history and identity.
Sampling Beyond Sound: Contemporary Sound Art and Popular Music
It is increasingly evident that popular music is utilized or appropriated as a point of reference in the works of various contemporary sound artists. Not only are artists sampling visual, material and sonic elements of popular music culture, they are doing so with an unprecedented awareness of issues within the sonic realm. To analyze the use of popular music materials in sound-based art, this MRP examines works by Dave Dyment, Laurel Woodcock and Christof Migone, three contemporary artists currently based in Toronto. In addition to negotiating critical issues in the field of sound, the artists represent the audible through various media and modes of perception. Dyment, Migone and Woodcock employ practices of sampling, appropriation and assemblage to probe popular music’s visual, material, textual and sonic composition, as well as to raise questions regarding issues of consumerism, identity and affect in culture at large.
A Gallery of Culture in Our Times: Julia Peyton-Jones and the Serpentine Pavilions
This thesis interrogates the strategies and philosophies of Julia Peyton-Jones, the Director of the Serpentine Galleries in London, England and creator of the Serpentine Pavilion exhibition, to examine how the ideas and operations of spectacle in the contemporary art world can act as constructive social devices. Leftist and postmodern theorists have long interpreted spectacle negatively because of its associations with advanced capitalism and hyper-consumerism. This research offers an alternative interpretation of the spectacular. It identifies the remarkable and the astonishing as qualities of the spectacle, and argues that these effects benefit society in the context of the cultural realm. This MRP foregrounds Peyton-Jones’ methods as a cultural agent and examines her strategic use of spectacle to actualize her altruistic culture agenda. The interest here is how Peyton-Jones uses the idea and power of spectacle to promote contemporary architecture. The 2013 pavilion by Sou Fujimoto is used as the case study for considering the role of the spectacle here. Fujimoto’s pavilion was constructed as a latticework of slender white steel rods forming an asymmetrical ring. Deemed a digital cloud, it was experienced as aesthetically nebulous and ethereal. The physical structure, the circumstances of its conception and its realization can be read as a material embodiment of contemporary cultural production and the art world in which it circulates and is assessed. This research repositions the idea of the spectacle in culture to show that it is a productive force in the world of contemporary art.
Sapologie: Performing Postcolonial Identity in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Kaja Erika Jorgensen
As open-market policies reinforce global power imbalances, postcolonial subjects in Africa often find themselves dislocated from the promises of modernity that accompanied independence movements. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the transnational movement la Sape appropriates fashions from the metropole centres of Europe and re-enacts them in Africa, using the body as a representative surface through which to negotiate socio-economic adversity. This MRP analyzes la Sape in terms of its relationship to dandyism, the gendering of performativity, and the ongoing search for an ‘authentic’ national identity in postcolonial Congo in order to explore the complex visual phenomena it evokes. In so doing, the MRP demonstrates how la Sape is more than a subversive and/or passive appropriation of fashion, but rather a means by which fashion is mobilized as a tool for decolonization to produce alternate identities that resist categorization.
Spectacular Castration: Labiaplasty as Body Negation in the Age of Globalization
This thesis explores labiaplasty as a point of inquiry in order to understand how representations of the female body have changed with the transition to global capitalism. Through the analysis of contemporary, mainstream media representations within “body genres”, including pornography and horror films, this thesis explores notions of affect and the production of subjectivities as central modes in contemporary capitalism that signal a new and unique form of biopower whereby representation works to affect subjectivities from which new cultural practices – such as labiaplasty – may emerge. To argue this point, this thesis conducts a discourse analysis from the personal stories told by women seeking labiaplasty on the Internet, in order to examine how representation may influence subjectivities of women to the point of seeking labiaplasty.
“I’m Touching Myself”: An Investigation of Ann Hirsch’s Twelve
Ann Hirsch is an emerging video and performance artist based in Brooklyn, New York whose work focuses on women’s sexuality on the Internet. Hirsch’s digital work is constantly in flux, appearing, disappearing and reappearing online. Her work, like her identity, reflects the possibilities of self-representation at the turn of the millennium. The MRP that follows examines Hirsch’s artwork Twelve (2013) and its evolution from a pseudo-biographical eBook to an art object, a shift which transpired during the course of my own research and engagement. A complex piece addressing the nexus of youth culture, online intimacies and social regulation; the transformation of Twelve’s construction and preservation indicates the possibility for a teleological shift in new media scholarship that recognizes the ephemeral nature of technology dependent art and the slower pace of traditional forms of academic scholarship. The speed of production, destruction, and reconstruction of Twelve is distinct to new media art fields and digital cultures.
The Crucifixion in the Work of Joel-Peter Witkin
Erik Benitez Muñoz
The works of American photographer Joel-Peter Witkin demonstrate how Catholic faith can influence and challenge an artist’s practice. Through an analysis of four photographs, A Christ (1987), Crucified Horse (1999), Naked Follow the Naked Christ (2006), and Crucifix and Tapestry (2010), I examine how Witkin represents the crucifixion by altering its iconography in creative ways. I compare Witkin’s crucifixion imagery to works by Andres Serrano and Cosimo Cavallaro, artists who share some of Witkin’s interpretations of the crucifixion, and to the work of Hermann Nitsch, whose practice is radically different. Witkin’s crucifixions defy orthodox representations of the body not only by presenting a nude male body but also by shifting its affect – from devotion to eroticism. While these depictions of the crucifixion have been criticized for being blasphemous, this MRP seeks to analyze and explore how they may be understood as an alternative confirmation of the Catholic faith.
Performance Art as Mirroring Identities: As Examination of Nikki S. Lee's Projects (1997-2001)
This MRP examines how South Korean artists use performance art as a medium to explore the complexities of identity formation and the transnationalism in the context of globalization. It focuses specifically on South Korean artist Nikki S. Lee's Projects (1997-2001). I argue that Lee addresses the relationship of self and other through a conceptual strategy of simulated assimilation to reveal how transnational identity formation is shaped by imagined communities and a desire for group belonging. Lee's conceptual approach to identity formation is contextualized through a discussion of the relationship of performativity to photography, and by a comparison of Projects with artworks by South Korean artists such as Do Ho Suh, and Sooja Kim. In so doing, the MRP seeks to demonstrate how contemporary South Korean artists have challenged their derivative ties to international Western art practices, and made unique contributions to the contemporary art scene.
Sheepish: Posthumanism and the Ovine in Contemporary Art
Ovine imagery in contemporary art is represented by works as diverse in media as they are linked in meaning with art historical precedents. Practices embracing taxidermic sheep, documentary film footage, carcass built sculpture, graphic novels, printmaking, drawing and works made through the action of sheep participate in a narrative in confluence with, or contradiction of, the contemporary view of the animal in posthumanist theory. The many contemporary iterations of sheep and lamb imagery are synchronous with the animal turn in art and posthumanist thought yet author a larger anthropomorphism that calls this relationship into question. The representation of ovine tropes is part of a millennia long history of anthropomorphic imagery embedded in our culture, addressing themes of Christology, soteriology, nation, and sacrifice that clearly position these works outside the rubric of animal art. Each of the artists whose practices participate in this discussion—Henry Moore, Damien Hirst, and Andy Goldsworthy—open a point of interrogation in a larger discussion framed by posthumanist theory, offering an enduringly humanist reading that belies contemporary discourse.
New Media as a Platform for Indigenous Self-Representation and Socio-Political Activism as Seen Through TimeTraveller™ and Skins
This MRP considers how Indigenous people utilize new media as an effective tool for representing themselves and to address socio-political issues. Aboriginal Territories in Cyber Space (AbTec) is an online networking project created by Indigenous artists Jason Lewis and Skawennati Fragnito. Two projects created through AbTeC, TimeTraveller, a machinima production, and Skins, a video game workshop for Indigenous youth will be the focus of this research. Each project addresses different issues such as historical conflicts, representations of Indigenous people, online Indigenous territory, combining traditional practices with contemporary platforms, and integrating Indigenous people into the field of new media. AbTec, TimeTraveller™ and Skins are important because they serve as examples of successful new media projects. This MRP argues that new media presents a unique opportunity to challenge dominant ideologies, utilize selfrepresentation to address socio-political issues, exert identity, and compliment culture.
PANTONE: Identity Formation Through Colours
Roberta Schultz Santos
This MRP examines Pantone, the producer of a commercially owned colour standard widely accepted by public and industry. By analyzing the company's history, context, products and marketing strategies, this research explores the manners in which a tool for the occupation of design became a commodity and a signifier of social identity. The 'circuit of culture' by Paul DuGay is utilized to structure the MRP's research methodology, approaching the cultural processes of representation, identity, production, consumption and regulation that inscribe meaning into cultural artifacts. The MRP investigates how Pantone's brand extension Pantone Universe has aided in the identity formation of its public through the translation of a design-working tool into consumer goods, blurring the lines between economic and social identity. In addition, this research analyzes how Pantone has inverted the brand advertising process, relying on its public to promote its products and how current media facilitates these occurrences.
The Book of Stone: Architecture, Memory, and the Graphic Novel
This thesis explores the contemporary graphic novel as a platform to engage with the city and architectural space as an experiential, lived, site as well as an archive of personal and collective memories and histories. It looks at graphic novels that present architecture and the urban environment as an active character within the novel, and their portrayal of historical and psychological dimensions embedded within built space. The visual structure of the comic, with its forms of representations and unique temporalities are taken into consideration as this thesis explores how these works become a viable form of research into the urban environment, portraying how architecture and urban space is an active force in shaping and influencing the lives of its inhabitants.
WINNER OF THE CADN OUTSTANDING WRITING AWARD
Indigenous Hip Hop as a Tool of Decolonization: Examining Nicholas Galanin's Tsu Heidei Shugaxtutaan Part One and Two and Kevin Lee Burton's Nikamowin (Song)
This MRP examines how Indigenous hip hop gains decolonization specifically in two artworks that were presented in the exhibition Beat Nation. Nicholas Galanin’s Tsu Heidei Shugaxtutaan Part One and Two and Kevin Lee Burton’s Nikamowin (Song) create a space of decolonization not only for Indigenous peoples but for non-Indigenous peoples as well. Here, an exploration of how Indigenous artists such as Burton and Galanin engage with hip hop, how Indigenous hip hop creates receptive and listening ears in non-Indigenous peoples to the concerns of Indigenous peoples, and how Indigenous hip hop causes non-Indigenous peoples to question their own ideologies occurs.