Concordia University

Constellations, clusters and networks

Art-history graduate students organize an interdisciplinary symposium aimed at uniting the academic community
March 3, 2015
By Jasmine Stuart

The conference’s keynote lecture will be given by theorist McKenzie Wark. The conference’s keynote lecture will be given by theorist McKenzie Wark on Friday, March 6, 2015.

On March 6 and 7, Concordia’s Art History Graduate Student Association (AHGSA) will welcome graduate students from across North America and Europe for its annual conference. This year’s theme, “Constellations, Clusters and Networks,” will bring together students from Concordia, Queen’s, Yale, Columbia and the Art Institute of Chicago, among other schools, to explore the diverse ways in which networks figure in current art historical research and practice.

“The word ‘network’ has become a buzz word across disciplines in recent years,” says conference organizer and PhD candidate Mikhel Proulx. “We wanted to create a place where graduate students could break down silos among disciplines.” Through the theme, conference participants will consider the impact of network cultures as a broad sociocultural shift. The theme is also meant as a lens through which to understand the artistic field in relation to today’s increased networked activity.

This year, AHGSA will do things a little differently. The morning of March 6, Concordia faculty members will present workshops on major themes in the conference to prepare students to participate in discussions and engage with scholars from other disciplines. Each workshop will see the production of a source document that will be uploaded to the conference’s website as resource to participants following the conference.

“This conference is about more than just adding a line to your CV; it’s about preparing to join the professional world. It’s a chance to develop our critical perspectives of the discipline in real time,” Proulx says.

The dedicated faculty members of the Department of Art History are the reason such a high level of academic rigour is possible. “Not only does this conference get close to 30 graduate students out of bed at 8 a.m. on a Saturday, but our faculty members are there, too,” says PhD candidate Samuel Gaudreau-Lalande.

In addition to giving workshops, participating faculty members also moderate panels. Johanne Sloan served as faculty advisor to the organizers, going as far as to provide financial support through her Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council-funded research project, “Networked Art Histories: Assembling Contemporary Art in Canada.”

Gaudreau-Lalande first attended the AHGSA conference while completing his MA in art history at UQAM. He submitted a presentation proposal when he saw that the conference attracted peers from across North America.

He then made the decision to do his PhD in art history based on his experience presenting at the conference. “I was struck by how professionally organized the event was, but also by the sense of community at Concordia.” He even organized the 2013 event during his first year at the university.

For Alice Ming Wai Jim, associate professor and graduate program director in the Department of Art History, the conference is an important part of the strong sense of community in the department. “AHGSA’s annual conferences is an ideal venue to showcase the high caliber of intellectual work, professionalism and collegiality of our students in the program,” says Jim. “It provides our students with a public forum in which to communicate their research and contribute to the field’s current debates, as well as the opportunity to build the research networks they will need to enter into academia as full-fledged emerging scholars.”

The conference’s keynote lecture will be given by theorist McKenzie Wark on his newest book, 
Molecular Red: Theory for the Anthropocene. His lecture is at 6 p.m. on Friday, March 6, 2015, in the York Amphitheatre, room EV 1.605, in the Engineering and Visual Arts Integrated Complex.

All lectures and panels are free and open to the public. Visit the event program.

In parallel with the AHGSA conference, presenters Amber Berson (MA ‘14) and Kat Simpson, a current PhD student, are organizing Montreal’s participation in Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon with support from the Canadian Women’s Art History Initiative (CWAHI) and the Concordia Digital Image and Slide Collection (DISC).

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