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Master of Arts in Art History

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  • Objectives
    The Department emphasises the cross-fertilisation of theory and practice and, in keeping with this approach, many of the M.A. seminars critically address the discipline of art history by means of recent developments in such fields as feminism and gender studies, postcolonial theory, communication theory, and socio-political analysis. Students are thus exposed to a selection of strategies for research and analysis, and are encouraged to formulate approaches to art history based upon a mature awareness of the various possibilities open to them.
  • Academic Title
    Master of Arts in Art History
  • Course description
    ARTH 614/1 AA
    EXAMINING THE ARTISAN TRADITION IN NORTH AMERICA: Current Debates and Historical Craft
    INSTRUCTOR: Dr. Elaine Cheasley Paterson

    This seminar will explore the relationship between current debates surrounding craft and the history of the arts and crafts movement of the late nineteenth century. We will begin by examining the North American manifestation of this movement and the radical ideals proposed by its leading reformers, including the democratization of the arts, a critique of industrial production, and a socialist political platform. We will then investigate various theoretical approaches useful for conceptualising craft. These range from Foucault's notions of heterotopia to Wolff's definitions of artistic hierarchies and Bourdieu's discussion of taste. We will also explore concepts such as tradition, domesticity and the decorative by looking at writing by craft historians. We will consider work from a wide range of media including architecture, interior design and furnishing, textile and ceramic art, as well as fashion. Students will engage with primary material as a base for research while also working with critical writing on craft to create a framework for their discussion. Although the focus of the course will be on historical objects and makers, contemporary topics will also be considered for essays and presentations.

    ARTH 611A/2 AA   
    Industrial architecture as source of modern and contemporary architecture in Montreal       
    INSTRUCTOR: Dr. Jean Bélisle

    What is industrial architecture? It is just an industrial plant or something else? In Montreal we have very good example of industrial architecture dating back to the second half of 19th century. But how industrial plant work is not clear. What is a flow chart? How the product influenced the design of the building? How the personal taste of the owner affect the physical appearance of the factory? What is the contribution of the architect and the engineer ? Many questions for which we need to think. But there is more. Because industrial architecture is always in research of new ways of building it is less conservative than vernacular architecture. So, many contemporary key architects are borrowing from industrial building to create their projects. Iron, steel, glass, concrete were practically always used first on industrial building. Those buildings became test ground for new architectural technology.

    We are fortunate to have in and around Montreal a very good collection of major industrials buildings. So we will visit industrial plants. Walking through the hallway of factory is essential in order to help us to understand how they worked and by extension how they were designed. Field work is crucial. We will visit several sites starting with the St. Maurice Iron Work in Three Rivers. We will learned how to approach the industry to do research. How to talk to plant manager. Where to look for archival material. We will also explore the recycling possibility offered by this type of construction. Many buildings on the Canal Lachine such as the Redpath Sugar Refinery or the Belding Corticelli (a textile mill) have been recycled in the recent years. But what can we do with a complex of the size of the Dominion Bridge in Lachine?

    By looking at industrial architecture we are looking at the roots of our contemporary architecture.

    ARTH 627C/2 AA           
    FEMINISM, ART, ART HISTORY: Canadian Women Artists as Historical Subjects
    INSTRUCTOR: Dr. Kristina Huneault

    This course explores the possibilities for encounter between scholarship on historical Canadian women artists and contemporary theorizing about subjectivity.  The ongoing task of reclaiming the history of Canadian women artists has produced a substantial body of biographically oriented scholarship.  Concurrently, issues of subjectivity and identity have predominated in the field of cultural theory.  While there is a clear potential for overlap between these approaches, such an exchange is still in the developmental process.  This course will give participants an opportunity to contribute to that development, exploring questions around the place of selfhood in art made be women in Canada during the 19th and early 20th-century centuries.  The course is offered in conjunction with the Canadian Women Artists History Initiative (http://cwahi.concordia.ca), and participants will have the opportunity to use the Initiative’s resources and participate in its research activities.

    ARTH 649A/2 AA                       
    ASPECTS OF CURATORIAL PRACTICE           
    INSTRUCTOR: Dr. Alice Ming Wai Jim

    This seminar is designed as an introduction to curatorship and is open to interdisciplinary and intercultural studies. The development and application of curatorial knowledge, skills and practices will be fostered through the organization of an exhibition and related events to take place in the FOFA Gallery. For fall 2008, the class will be responsible for the exhibition “Rearranging Desires: Curating the ‘Other’ Within” which explores the presentation, reading and interpretation of culturally-specific work in a postcolonial context. The exhibition interrogates constructions of “China” and “Chineseness” and is being presented in conjunction with the poster exhibition “Crossing Cultures: Images of Norman Bethune in China” and a one-day academic symposium. Students will work collaboratively to handle different aspects of the exhibition, including: the design of the exhibition space and installation of the works; the preparation of the panel texts, exhibition catalogue and media releases; and the development of an educational program to accompany the exhibition.

    ARTH 655/2 AA and ARTH 655/4 BB           
    THESIS SEMINAR
    INSTRUCTOR: Dr. Catherine MacKenzie

    The intention of the thesis seminar is to equip graduate students with fundamental skills needed in academia (such as giving conference papers, applying for grants) as well as provide an intellectual framework for the formal obligations of the degree (such as writing the thesis, choosing an advisor, maintaining a professional relationship with advisors and peers). The course will run for the first half of each semester.  Students' attendance in the seminar will begin in their first term, but they are only officially registered and assigned a grade once they give their thesis presentation.

    ARTH 613G/4 AA           
    SPECIAL TOPICS IN AMERINDIAN AND INUIT ART AND ART HISTORY:
    Represent/Representation:  Issues of Representation in Aboriginal Image Construction
    and Art History

    INSTRUCTOR: Dr. Sherry Farrell-Racette

    Tensions around representation and Aboriginal people emerged as key issues in the late twentieth century and continue to dominate the arts practice of contemporary artists.  According to the Oxford English dictionary, "represent" is a verb that implies the subject has the authority to represent or speak on behalf of, that the subject is a speciman or example of, or it may simply suggest presence (as opposed to absence). In hip-hop jargon "Represent!" is a call for pride and power.  This class will explore the legacy of historic representation, the stereotypical construction of the `Indian` `Half Breed` and `Eskimo`, and the strategies of deconstruction and opposition employed by contemporary visual artists in the face of those historic representations.  Jeffrey Thomas, Shelley Niro, Terrance Houle, Arthur Renwick and KC Adams  are among the artists whose work directly confronts the photographic legacy of ethnography and stereotypical representation.  The work of artists such as Carl Bearm, Edward Poitras, Rebecca Belmore, Dana Claxton, Kent Monkman, and Robert Houle address absence, and confront viewers with uncomfortable histories and rememberance.  We will also explore the efforts of artists to seek representation and inclusion in art institutions, and the current movement to include indigenous perspectives in theoretical approaches, curatorial work and art histories using the work of Lara Evans (Cherokee), Gerald McMaster (Cree), Lee Ann Martin (Mohawk), Ryan Rice (Mohawk) and Nancy Mithlo (Apache).

    ARTH 626/4 AA                       
    NATIONHOOD AND IDENTITY IN CANADIAN ART
    INSTRUCTOR: Dr. Brian Foss

    Over the course of three centuries Canada has had a series of inter-relating self-identification crises on a variety of levels and themes and all involving the phenomenon of identity, whether that identity is conceptualized as national, regional, gender-based, sexual, ethnic, racial, or something else.  This course examines key debates about nationhood and identity in Canada, and considers ways in which they have been played out in the visual arts.  Analysis of selected theories of national identity and national belonging in general will be correlated with examination of specific art works, groups and movements, with the goal of defining intersections between the concept of a coherent, monolithic national identity, and the forces that disrupt, undermine and complicate it.

    ARTH 610M/4 AA           
    SELECTED ISSUES IN NORTH AMERICAN ART AND ARCHITECTURAL HISTORY: City as Palimpsest: Montreal’s changing urban fabric
    INSTRUCTOR: Dr. Cynthia Hammond

    In any urban centre, various groups, institutions and individuals appropriate existing architecture through adaptive re-use, whether for commercial, religious, social, or community purposes. Transformations can have considerable scale within a short time frame, such as the proposed developments for Griffentown, or they can be small interventions of long duration, such as the weekly transformation of Parc Mont-Royal during the 'tam-tam'. Such changes often have a troubled relationship to their larger context, as they can be in conflict with a city's official, as well as unofficial urban image. In this way they become 'points of intensity' (Eyal Weizman) in a discursive masking of property with the cultural 'surplus' of architecture (Catherine Ingraham). This course will introduce students to Montreal's rich and changing urban landscape via a series of site
    visits, and, through our readings, will propose a variety of frameworks for understanding the politics of cities in transition. The following questions will be key to our work together: How is architecture transformed to meet new needs, sometimes in dramatic contrast to a building's original purpose? What is the role of (material) culture in the reshaping of cities? How do conflicts over informal versus formal ownership play out in built spaces? What are the theoretical sources and research resources that can help us understand, analyze and articulate the changing nature of cities and urban spaces?

    The objective of the course is to familiarize students with current, rich and at times contradictory literature on urbanism, place, identity, and heritage. At the same time, through a series of site visits, guest lectures and special sessions at the Canadian Centre for Architecture, students will encounter a variety of perspectives, as well as a variety of material and archival objects, to enrich their conception of how to study buildings, places and cities. Students will choose a specific site in the city as the basis for their research papers and presentations. The course will conclude with the presentation of course research in the form of a one-day student symposium in April, in conjunction with invited speakers from the architectural community. In this way, the course will provide students with valuable professional experience as well as explore the struggle for power in and through the built environment.

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