The Fall, 2016 VISR Term Begins Oct 17

Monday Nights, 7:00 pm at the Or Gallery, 555 Hamilton St.

On Monday, Oct 17, 2016, at 7 pm, @ the Or Gallery (555 Hamilton St.), we will inaugurate the 6th term of the Vancouver Institute for Social Research (guest curated by the Burquitlam Spinozist Athletic Club). The organizing theme of this term will be “On Civil War and Resistance.” See below for the weekly schedule. Special thanks to Alex Muir, our Technical Director for this session.

Oct. 17th – Adel Iskander – “Digital Bakhtin: Online Discourses Between the Discordant and the Grotesque”

Adel Iskandar is an Assistant Professor of Global Communication at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver/Burnaby, Canada. He is the author, co-author, and editor of several works including “Egypt In Flux: Essays on an Unfinished Revolution” (AUCP/OUP); “Al-Jazeera: The Story of the Network that is Rattling Governments and Redefining Modern Journalism” (Basic Books); “Edward Said: A Legacy of Emancipation and Representation” (University of California Press); and “Mediating the Arab Uprisings” (Tadween Publishing). Iskandar’s work deals with media, identity and politics; and he has lectured extensively on these topics at universities worldwide. His forthcoming publication is the co-edited volume “Media Evolution on the Eve of the Arab Spring” (Palgrave Macmillan). Prior to his arrival at SFU, Iskandar taught for several years at the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies and the Communication, Culture, and Technology Program at Georgetown University, in Washington, DC. He is a co-editor of Jadaliyya.

Oct. 24th – Jaleh Mansoor and Alessandra Pomarico – “The Militant Image: Avant-garde and / or Agitprop, Banner, Barricade and Blocade, or Autonomy in British Columbia, 2011-2016.”

Jaleh Mansoor is a historian of Modern and contemporary cultural production, specializing in Twentieth Century European art, Marxism, Marxist Feminism, and critical theory. She received her PhD from Columbia University in 2007 and has taught at SUNY Purchase, Barnard College, Columbia University, and Ohio University.

Mansoor’s research on abstract painting in the context of the miracolo Italiano and the international relations of the Marshall Plan era nested within the global dynamics of the Cold War opens up on to problems concerning the labour-to-capital relationship and its ramifications in culture and aesthetics. Her work limns the correlation between real and aesthetic abstraction. While Marx, in the intro to The Grundrisse, evoked aesthetic abstraction only to bracket it off from concrete abstraction in the realm of production, circulation, and consumption, Mansoor traces the etiology of capitalist social dynamics symptomatized in aesthetic abstraction. The relationship among technology, media, and reification factors into this etiology, but does not account for the social relations also indexed therein.

Having worked as a critic for Artforum, and a frequent contributor to October, Texte Zur Kunst, and The Journal of Aesthetics and Protest among others, Mansoor has written monographic studies on the work of Piero Manzoni, Ed Ruscha, Agnes Martin, Blinky Palermo, Gerhard Richter, and Mona Hatoum. She co-edited an anthology of essays addressing Jacques Rancière’s articulation of aesthetics’ bond to politics entitled Communities of Sense: Rethinking Aesthetics and Politics (Duke, 2010). Her first book, Marshall Plan Modernism: Italian Abstraction and the Beginnings of Autonomia, published by Duke University Press (September, 2016) explores procedural violence in the work of Lucio Fontana, Alberto Burri, and Piero Manzoni as an index of a rapidly reintegrating labour to capital relationship in the context of European reconstruction. She is currently working on a book, tentatively entitled Concrete Abstraction: the Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Labour, on the entwinement of labor, value, and “bare life” in the work of Santiago Sierra and Claire Fontaine, among other contemporary practices that examine the limits of the human.

Alessandra Pomarico – Registers and Affects of Opposition, Resistance and Revolution: Notes from the Global (Battle) Field

Alessandra Pomarico, PhD in Sociology, originally from Italy and based in NYC, since 2000 has been curating international and multidisciplinary artist’s residency programs in Italy and Europe, at the intersection of arts, pedagogy, social issues, nano-politics, and the poetic of relationship in community building.

Her practice is based on reflecting on and facilitating collaborative, research and context-based art projects, with a focus on social change. Through a transformative approach and community activation, ideas often resulted in long term initiatives at the Ammirato Culture House (ACH), a hub for social practices and a community center in a formerly condemned municipal building; The Common Orchard for Minor Fruits, a generative rural and social project in collaboration with organic farmers and activists, and Free Home University (FHU), an ongoing artistic and pedagogical experiment co-designed with artists and thinkers, investigating new possibilities to produce and share the learning, by experiencing life in common.


Oct. 31st – Reading Break


Nov. 7th – Jerry Zaslove “Why Are We So Afraid of Revolution?”    CANCELLED AND POSTPONED until the spring term. We apologize for the inconvenience.


Nov. 14th – Claudette Lauzon

“Drones Gone Wild, and Other Unruly Bodies of War: A Contemporary Art History”

In one of the opening scenes of Christopher Nolan’s 2014 film Interstellar, set in 2067, the protagonist Cooper is driving through a rural landscape with his children when his pickup truck gets a flat tire. Suddenly a drone appears—Cooper identifies it as a solar-powered Indian Air Force drone—and they set about chasing it through cornfields. It never becomes clear why a decommissioned drone is flying over the American mid-west; however, it’s suggested in the narrative that it may have been forgotten in the drawdown after a global resources war and thus left to its own devices, flying aimlessly around the world for ten years until Cooper manages to wrangle it with his digital lariat. This presentation is largely inspired by this wandering drone, which provokes the question: What happens when drones fly off course? Lose their way? Reject or fail their mission? Specifically, I am interested in art and cultural practices of the past few years that feature drones behaving randomly and unpredictably. How might such art practices—from the likes of Wafaa Bilal, Roman Signer and Laurent Grasso, among others—be understood to inform and complicate mainstream narratives regarding the presumed virtuality and virtuosity of drone warfare? I suggest that certain contemporary art practices call attention to the fictions that sustain drone technology as a so-called precise, virtual and decorporealized site of military engagement, and challenge these fictions by concretizing the bodies and spaces of war in all its messy, unruly materiality.

Claudette Lauzon is an assistant professor of contemporary art history in the School for the Contemporary Arts at Simon Fraser University. She is the author of The Unmaking of Home in Contemporary Art (University of Toronto Press, 2017), which looks at the ways in which artists use the space of home (both literally and figuratively) to reframe human responses to trauma. Her current research project, funded by a SSHRC Insight Development Grant, examines cultures of surveillance and militarization through the lens of media art practices. With John O’Brian (UBC), she is also editing a collection of essays on vision and visuality in the post-nuclear era for McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Nov. 21st – Yani Kong (in conversation with Am Johal)– “The Re-Enchantment of the World: Radical Encounters with Art after 9/11”

In “The Re-Enchantment of the World: Radical Encounters with Art after 9/11,” I theorize the capacity for art in the twenty-first century to re-enchant the spectator, disrupting contemporary states of disenchantment. Since Max Weber defined this state of disassociation in 1919 (1946) as one that arises from a culture of increased human mastery, from Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno’s modernist criticism (1947/2002), to the post-structural turn, and neo-Marxist theory, the disenchanted mechanisms of human mastery have intensified, in particular, in the contemporary period of late capitalism where the effects of large-scale alienation from material life serves to benefit corporate industrialism. Treating the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York City in 2001 as a defining catalyst, I identify and analyze a group of artworks that disturb this present state by invoking in the viewer modes of political responsibility and attachment that I define as re-enchantment. This interdisciplinary project combines social theory and philosophy with art history, art criticism, and theories of biopolitics and new materialism to challenge conventional portrayals of the alienated contemporary world.

Yani Kong is a Vancouver based visual culture scholar researching the concept of the disenchantment of the world and the possibilities for art and other visual phenomena to stimulate forms of re-enchantment. Her previous studies have explored this concept in examinations of 19th century photography and the cultural history of American Spiritualism. New work from Kong seeks to politicize the notion of re-enchantment and turn it toward art made after 9/11 and the war on terror. Yani holds a Masters in Theory, Culture, and Politics from Trent University, and is an alumna of SFU SCA with a BA in Art and Culture Studies. She is completing a PhD in the School for the Contemporary Arts at SFU.

Nov. 28th – Jem Noble – “Idylls and Riddles: A Meditation on Material Agency and the Politics of Dreaming”

How does entanglement in the technical circuits of ‘progress’ affect not just dreams, but the capacity to dream? Presenting current work in practice-based visual arts research, Jem Noble explores shared territories of media theory and post-humanism, questioning how material and subjective forces mediate conceptions of themselves and one another, and in so doing shape capacities of ‘the body politic’.

Jem Noble is an artist and PhD research student based in Vancouver (Unceded Coast Salish Territories) and Melbourne (Kulin Nation). Noble creates and repurposes media artifacts, stages gestures and performances, makes installations, publications and broadcasts, often working collaboratively. Inspired by art and critical thought that explore form as process, this work examines traces of material and visual culture in terms of the forces they express, mediate and connect. Noble has presented work at Documenta 13; Manifesta 7; Tate Britain; ICA (London); EVA Biennial; SCAPE Biennial of Public Art; The Museum of Haifa; Spike Island (Bristol), and VIVO Media Arts (Vancouver). ‘Dream Dialects’ is a solo exhibition of Noble’s work taking place at Te Tuhi Contemporary Art, Auckland, between November 2016 and February 2017.


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