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Thesis defences

PhD Oral Exam - Mikhel Proulx, Art History

Social Practice Before the Web: Networked Media in Canadian Art

Friday, August 5, 2022 (all day)

This event is free


School of Graduate Studies


Daniela Ferrer



When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.

Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.


This dissertation examines the concurrent emergence of digital networks and participatory art practice in Canada over a period of five decades. Although much literature on network culture has provided for rich discussion of community and togetherness in the digital age, there has yet to be a cohesive and sustained historical analysis of this discussion in networked art. From the Eternal Network to the global village, to the virtual community and social media today, concepts of community have shifted in relation to technological development over the last fifty years. Artists have been at the forefront of articulating this movement in both digital and non-digital forms of social practice.

This dissertation project looks to insights from art historical precedents to consider network culture today. The chapters are built from case studies of art projects that each employ a specific media network to create a temporary community. These include: Anna Banana’s (b. 1940) extended community produced through an ongoing, fifty-year practice of mail art exchange; the co-operative performance of Vera Frenkel’s (b. 1938) 1974 String Games, which used an early telematic network; a collaboratively-produced, site-specific textile installation in Laura Vickerson’s (b. 1959) Fairy Tales and Factories, 1999; and CyberPowWow, a platform for Internet-based artworks made by Indigenous artists, which was a project produced by the artist Skawennati (b. 1969) and many collaborators between 1997 and 2004. These are art projects that draw attention to intimate social encounters with diverse networked media, and they demonstrate how communications technologies can be used consciously and critically in the formation of temporary communities.

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