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April 26: Some educational activities in FG Building relocated:


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“The sensorium is a fascinating focus for cultural studies,” wrote Walter J. Ong in “The Shifting Sensorium” (1991). Ong’s words heralded the arrival of sensory studies, an interdisciplinary field of inquiry which takes a cultural approach to the study of the senses and a sensory approach to the study of culture. Sensory Studies has galvanized much exciting and provocative research and experimentation in the humanities and social sciences and visual and performing arts over the past three decades. Uncommon Senses 2 aims to take stock of the many advances in sensuous scholarship and art practice since the first Uncommon Senses conference at Montreal’s Concordia University in 2000.

The conference is organized around three broad topic areas:

  • Crossing Sensory Borders in the Arts: The Rise of Multisensory Aesthetics and New Media Art
  • Alternative Pedagogies: The Education of the Senses
  • Law and the Regulation of the Senses

Plenary speaker: Caroline A. Jones (MIT), author of The Global Work of Art: World’s Fairs, Biennials, and the Aesthetics of Experience (2016) and Eysesight Alone: Clement Greenberg’s Modernism and the Bureaucratization of the Senses (2005), and editor of Sensorium: Embodied Experience, Technology and Contemporary Art (2006) among other works.

Uncommon Senses II is hosted by the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Society and Culture. It is co-sponsored by the Centre for Sensory Studies (CSS), Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Department of Art Education, Milieux Institute, Concordia University Research Chair in New Media, Technology and the Senses, and the Hexagram Network for Research-Creation in Media Art, Design, Digital Culture and Technology, with additional financial support from the Office of the Dean, Arts and Science. The organizers also gratefully acknowledge the collaboration of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) and the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA).

For registration and other information see the page dedicated to the conference at

Inquiries may be addressed to


Uncommon Senses II Plenary Address: Sensing Symbiontics, Or, Being With Archaeo-Bacteria

May 3, 2018, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. - Room EV 1.60

This lecture is part of Uncommon Senses II, a sensory studies conference hosted at Concordia from May 3 to May 5, 2018.

Caroline A. Jones, Professor of Art History (Department of Architecture, MIT) will give the conference's plenary address.

Abstract: Symbiontics is a portmanteau for a polemic: Let us set a new goal for our cultural evolution, in collaboration with the earth system and multiplied species on which we utterly depend. Thinking with a range of contemporary art works that lead us in the right direction, I explore how sensory studies can serve as the opening wedge for a critique and an awakening, through which the obsessions of Western philosophy (privileging the phantasmagorical "individual," his "rational mind," and his "internal representations") might finally be set aside. In the clearing thus produced, we might glimpse, touch, taste, smell, and hum with that which is, (ontics).

Graduate seminar – Caroline A. Jones: Invisibilities, or, how not to see the anthropocene

May 2, 2018, 3 p.m. – 6 p.m.

Two papers will be circulated in advance of the seminar, both co-written with Peter Galison (Pelegrino University Professor, History of Science, Harvard).

The first is the essay that got the whole conversation started around how something as diffuse as “the environment” comes to be seen (and at the same time obscured), entitled “Unknown Quantities,” published in Artforum November 2010. The second is “How Images Obscure the Anthropocene, or How Not to See” (a work in progress). To receive the papers, please register for the event. A link to download the papers will be sent to your email address. 

Registration for this seminar required via the Réseau Hexagram website.

Abstract: Collaborating across our domains as historians (of science, of art), we inquire into the intellectual, technical, and cultural histories of recent operative images of environmental disaster. We are interested in how something as diffuse as “the environment” comes to be seen, and how contemporary images also obscure. Just as every statement requires a silence to render it audible, so regimes of the visible require invisibilities: blanks and voids that shadow and adumbrate what we see and “know.” Contemporary images necessarily call on cultures of seeing and traditions honed through centuries of landscapes, summoning genre and the aesthetics of the sublime.

We pursue specific case studies to assess how the visibility operates to produce specific kinds of knowledge, and functional ignorance. Under water, on the ground, and in the air, images proliferate; states and corporations attempt to control the visual narrative, even as activists and scientists rely on images as never before. Inevitably, we encounter the special challenge presented to humans by new “senses” of planetary alteration. How can humans make visible global systemic effects, which transcend normal registers of visual culture in their temporal and spatial scales?

Ultimately, we argue for a mesh of cultural and technical operations that feed imaginaries, incorporating olfactory, haptic, microbial, ethical, and data-driven modes of being. Visibilities alone are not enough.

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