2015 MRPS AND THESES
Idea or Individual? Indigenous Self-Representation and Narrative: Shannon Masters’ Empire of Dirt
Pamela Leigh Carlson
This MRP examined the film Empire of Dirt by Shannon Masters and the film's position when placed in three trajectories: Canadian filmmaking; documentary and ethnographic film; and the chick flick. My research has shown that Empire of Dirt is unique because of the film's portrayal of Indigenous women - portrayed as women who are like every other human being and not the product of stereotypes. As a result, Empire of Dirt is groundbreaking not only because of its representation of Indigenous women. Looking at an assortment of documentary, ethnographic, and cinematic films shows that Empire of Dirt's tendency to defy clear classification can also be observed when considering a multitude of film genres.
WINNER OF THE CADN ACADEMIC MERIT AWARD
Interrogating Accents: Brendan Fernandes, Katarina Zdjelar and Nicoline van Harskamp
This MRP explores accent as an indicator of difference in three contemporary art works: Foe (2008) by Brendan Fernandes, The Perfect Sound (2009) by Katarina Zdjelar, and English Forecast (2013) by Nicoline van Harskamp. I demonstrate how these artists utilise visual media to scrutinise the embodied accent and its relationship with individual identity, notions of race and place and the nature of English as a Lingua Franca. Through investigating how accent is deployed in these artists’ works, I explore the relation of race and ethnicity to the “marked” (accented) sound of a voice. In so doing, I draw attention to audible markers of difference, which often remain hidden within the universalising language of English communication, and through a postcolonial reading of audible difference as decolonial gesture, analyse how this audible difference is embedded into visible markers of difference.
Allison Schulnik’s Hobo Clown: Grotesque Resistance, Storytelling Metamorphosis and Francis Kafka
William Boyd Fraser
Allison Schulnik’s Hobo Clown clay stop-motion film is analyzed using a rhetorical triangulation of persuasion. A hybrid method alternates Schulnik, reader and an imaginary Other for three points of view providing comparisons of story perspective. Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis provides an exemplary third person narrative style. A history of stop-motion animation, hobos and clowns, along with animation theory of metamorphosis contribute to a hypothetical null questioning of Schulnik’s grotesque as a constructive identity resisting expectation. Mise-en-scène of staging and music provide sensory, visual and auditory description along with primary source materials and theoretical insight for describing a reading of the film’s grotesque transformations. The argument for an in between space finds identity unresolved, yet yields features of contemporary grotesque for thinking about self(s). A singular meaning for contemporary grotesque is not determinable, however a contemporary anti-story of resistant through an anti-theory of open-ended subversion suggests perspectives for potential future research.
Designer-Maker: Hybrid Strategies for Interrogative Making in Design
In 1989 design historian John A. Walker wrote of the possibility of a shift from large-scale production to small-scale batch production as a mitigating factor against the globalization of design production. For Walker, this shift in the scale of design production helpfully offered a repositioned stance from which design could look to vernacular character and local identity as a counterpoint to a homogenized aesthetic. This decentered position -- viewed as a reaction to the issues Walker identified -- serves another crucial function namely as an objective position from where designers may engage in cross-disciplinary practices. The designer-maker occupies an identifiable gap between craft and design, and is engaged in a form of post-disciplinary workmanship that neither craft nor design discourses have fully captured. In light of the phenomenon of small batch production and hand making by designers in the years since Walker’s pronouncement, the activities taking place within the post-disciplinary gap may be viewed, I argue, as the result of designers’ alienation from the experience of material production. Furthermore, contemporary designer-maker practices work against what crafts historian Howard Risatti terms “limitlessness” -- wherein there is little to give an absolute value or perspective to things, and a lack of human dimensions that might give comparison to effort and scale. Against this, the work of contemporary designer-makers reconsiders labour value and materiality as guiding threads within a production strategy that is both self-reflexive and critical of mainstream design practices.
Doubted Love: The Tyranny of Pornography and Jeff Koons’ Made in Heaven Series
In 1990, New York based artist Jeff Koons presented a body of related works under the poetically vague title Made in Heaven which presented sculptures and photographs of the artist and his then wife (former adult industry star Ilona Staller, known as La Cicciolina) in various moments and positions of passion. Colorful and glossy, pointedly referencing the stylistics and aesthetic conditions of Rococo painting and sculpture and undeniably explicit in the depictions of arousal, intercourse and the acrobatics of love-making, the series was generally, indeed, almost universally vilified. But what was strikingly overlooked was that the series constituted a carefully considered and calculated interrogation of questions surrounding representations of sexuality in the age of mass media. Through an analysis and contextualization of select Made in Heaven works, this MRP explores the ways in which Koons dismantles cultural binaries in order to challenge and expand the limitations of erotic art.
WINNER OF THE CADN ACADEMIC MERIT AWARD
The Foreign Self in Migratory Culture: An Examination of Jamelie Hassan’s The Oblivion Seekers and Vera Frankel’s …From the Transit Bar
This thesis explores Jamelie Hassan’s The Oblivion Seekers (1985, 2008, 2009) and Vera Frenkel’s ...from the Transit Bar (1992, 2014) in the context of “migratory culture” – a term coined by Mieke Bal and Miguel Ángel Hernández-Navarro to refer to a condition of our contemporary culture as shaped by traces of global migration. I argue that the use of heterogeneous assemblage to present a multiplicity of perspectives and temporalities fosters a rethinking of the viewer’s place in the world as an active participant implicated within migratory culture. Drawing on the concept of the foreigner in Julia Kristeva’s Strangers to Ourselves (1991), I further analyze Hassan and Frenkel’s positioning of the foreigner in the context of today’s unprecedented levels of global migration. I conclude by reflecting on how their works look towards the disappearance of the foreigner in contemporary migratory culture.
Art Administration as Performative Critique / Organizing Art as Institutional Critique
A propositional rethinking of art administration within the artist-run institution, this thesis contributes new conceptualizations of operations of the artist-run centre in Canada. The suggestion is that art administration practiced therein is a specialized embodied expression of the institution as apparatus. Proposing that the Canadian artist-run context is a form of and forum for institutional critique, this analysis argues that the art administrator is a unique practice of mediation in art called “diagnostic organizing;” a negotiative role gesturing toward performative relationships to protocol. Recontextualizing art administration as embodying the interface between art and policy, this study also names “performing the context” as an experimental and critical approach to arts facilitation. The work of artist Andrea Fraser is investigated for her writing and practices of institutional critique, as is the arts presentation project Kunstverein Toronto where Co-Director’s Kari Cwynar and Kara Hamilton’s performative language and gestures communicate their facilitative practices.
WINNER OF THE CADN OUTSTANDING WRITING AWARD 2015
Seeing Beyond the Visual: Sensory Perception and Synesthesia in Contemporary Installation Art
In this thesis, I utilize scientific theories surrounding the neurological condition synesthesia to identify how multisensory installation art can challenge our understanding of the singularity of the senses. This exploration will form the basis of my theory of “synthetic synesthesia,” a term derived from my observation of synesthetic components in installation artworks that possess elements of multisensoriality, embodiment and immersion. This theory is applied to my analysis of select pieces by Marla Hlady and Peter De Cupere whose works involve sensory combinations, such as vision/hearing/touch (Hlady), and vision/olfactory (De Cupere). The works of both of my case studies reconsider how the participant interacts with an artwork by creating installations that augment the traditional visual art experience.
The Comic’s Heartbeat: Framing Affective Structures in Comics History
This thesis proposed a structure-centered method for composing a critical history of comics. It examined the development building and breaking template--a rigid grid of panels depicting a narrative arc, which then leads to a panel depicting the arc's climax that breaks with that established structure--through four moments in the history of English-language comics. Rather than attempting a comprehensive overview of the building and breaking template, the thesis was a proof of concept for the application of recent advances in structure-oriented comics theory and in theories of affect--the pre-cognitive experience of emotion-- to specific comic structures. Examining the work of Bernard Krigstein, Art Spiegelman, David Mazzucchelli and Paul Karasik, and Joshua Cotter, the thesis placed these artists within a context of conditionality, dependent both upon the material circumstances of comics production and upon the unique semiotic and affective experiences of the comic's readers.