Joan & Martin Goldfarb Summer Institute in Visual Arts

The 2020–21 Joan & Martin Goldfarb Summer Institute in Visual Arts

13th Annual Goldfarb Summer Institute 2021

Photography: In and Out of the Archive

GS ARTH/VISA 6020.03; GS/VISA 6030.03

Professors Nina Levitt and Sarah Parsons

Seminar meets online May 3 – 14, 2021


Archives have traditionally been understood as the organic repositories of information generated by the business of institutions such as states, corporations, and other organizations. As such, archives occupy a position of official power and regularly serve as the basis for historical research and narratives. More recent critical thinking about archives challenges the possibility of organic collections or their neutrality, noting that archives always structure historical knowledge and often predetermine whose stories are entered into the official records. In official or institutional collections, archivists regularly make decisions about which documents offer information and evidence that would make them worth keeping. Increasingly, collectors, scholars, artists, and others have created and archived collections that now carry their own power.

As the digital era has vastly broadened access to archives and historical material, debates about their scope and power have shifted to the mainstream and into a wide range of fields. In particular, critics noted an “archival turn” in contemporary art and curatorial practice, specifically in relation to photography. Photographs have played a disruptive role in these debates prompting questions about just what kind of information photographs can provide and what kinds of photographs have been placed inside or kept out of archives.

With the assistance of esteemed guests, Summer Institute examines the ways artists, curators, archivists, and scholars have taken up questions of both material practice and representational politics in the archival context. Guests include:

  • Krista Thompson, Mary Jane Crowe Professor of Art History and affiliated faculty in the Department of African American Studies and the Department of Performance Studies at Northwestern University whose current research examines notions of photographic absence, fugitivity, and disappearance in colonial and postcolonial Jamaica.
  • Julie Crooks, Curator of the Arts of Global Africa and the Diaspora at the Art Gallery of Ontario and curator of a landmark upcoming exhibition of Caribbean photography.
  • Sandra Brewster, Toronto-based visual artist whose work explores identity, representation, and memory, centering on Black presence.
  • Jacqueline Hoàng Nguyễn, Stockholm-based artist who uses archives and a broad range of media to investigate issues of historicity, collectivity, utopian politics, and multiculturalism via feminist theories.
  • Thy Phu, Professor Media Studies at the Department of Arts, Culture, and Media at UTSC and Director of the Family Camera Network a collaborative research project that engages local communities in the building of an antiracist public archive through the collection and preservation of family photographs and their stories.
  • Dustin Klein and Alex Criqui are Richmond, VA-based artists. Since June 2020 they have collaborated on “Reclaiming the Monument,” a series of still and moving images and text projected onto Confederate monuments.
  • Gabrielle Moser, Assistant Professor of Aesthetics and Art Education, York whose current research focuses on photography, archives, and citizenship in post-war Canada.

The seminar will entail readings, seminars, talks, and virtual workshops, to support students as they develop their own focused research/curatorial/artistic projects. During the seminar, students will participate in discussions, present readings to the group, and will submit one written response during the two weeks of meetings. The remaining assignments will be submitted after the seminar meeting period.

The annual Joan & Martin Goldfarb Summer Institute in Visual Arts offers York University graduate students and the wider community the opportunity to engage with prominent international theorists, artists, curators, and critics through seminars, workshops, and public lectures.

The 2019–20 Joan & Martin Goldfarb Summer Institute in Visual Arts

12th Annual Goldfarb Summer Institute 2020

In Practice

GS ARTH/VISA 6020.03; GS/VISA 6030.03
Professors Barbara Balfour and Jennifer Fisher
Seminar meets online May 25 – June 10, 2020

The 2020 Summer Institute aims to address diverse standpoints on aesthetic practice in ways that will be of interest to artists, art historians, curators, performers, and cultural theorists. While 'practice’ is a term used increasingly in academia, it remains somewhat elusive as a topic of investigation in itself.

In Practice will examine practice as a lens for the dynamic relationality, performativity, temporality and ethics of aesthetic expression and knowledge production. Whereas the study of art has tended to focus on objects and products, participants will be invited to focus on the aesthetics of practice as it involves the activation of contexts as well as diverse forms of agency and performativity. What does it mean to have or engage with a practice? In addition to meaning, how does practice simultaneously incorporate the body, affect and feeling? What are some possible manifestations of ‘practice-based research’ in art, curating and art history? In which ways can practice play a role in personal, political and cultural transformation? How are domains of practiced knowledge informed by corporeal and cognitive training? When might forms of practice stemming from feminist, indigenous, queer, curatorial, sensory, ethical and theoretical perspectives find a synthesis in creative production?

Participants will be invited to consider instances of practice in collaborative, feminist, contemplative and activist approaches that pertain to contemporary art and curating. The Summer Institute will consist of talks by trailblazing artists and curators, seminars, workshops and more informal dialogue with a range of local and international invited guests.

The 2018–19 Joan & Martin Goldfarb Summer Institute in Visual Arts

11th Annual Goldfarb Summer Institute 2019

Crossing the Line: Contemporary Extensions of Drawing as a Medium

GS ARTH/VISA 6020.03; GS/VISA 6030.03
Professors Dan Adler and Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum

The Summer Institute "Crossing the Line" will critically interpret drawing practices as extensions of the medium. From culture to culture and era to era, the support of drawing has varied: paper, ground, wall, pottery, fabric, film, computer screen, and so on. Paying particular attention to artists' own conceptions of their drawing processes and their varied relationships to histories of the medium, this course is focused on contemporary practices that subvert or stretch conventional definitions of drawing.

Much has been made of the purported purging of authorial intentionality and subjectivity in advanced art of the 1960s and 70s, which placed a heightened emphasis on analytic rigor, systematic planning, and serial methodologies. This move is often characterized as a “cool” reaction to the “hot” psychologically transparent practices and rhetoric of heroic individualism associated with modernist abstraction in the post-World War II era. The supposed shift from hot to cool—from gestural disclosure to rational, anti-authorial approaches—was, however, never definitive or clear-cut.

The Summer Institute will develop aesthetic models through which drawing may be interpreted in contemporary art, offering close readings of works that manage to critically carve out spaces—or strive to stake a claim—within hegemonic environments that prioritize spectacle and easy entertainment. Increasingly, we live in a world engaged in the ongoing management of individual attentiveness and the impairment of perception within the compulsory routines of contemporary technological culture. Against this backdrop, a drawing may be envisioned as a restorative withdrawal that is, in a partial sense, incompatible with the capitalist marketplace, which now operates through every hour of the day and night—pushing us into constant activity, eroding forms of community and political expression, and damaging the fabric of everyday life.

SI Outline - May 2019

The 2017–18 Joan & Martin Goldfarb Summer Institute in Visual Arts

10th Annual Goldfarb Summer Institute 2018

Clamorous Entanglements: Cities, Crises and Contemporary Asian Art

GS ARTH/VISA 6020.03; GS/VISA 6030.03
Professors Hong Kal and Yam Lau
May 2nd–18th, 2018

This course examines a broad range of contemporary art practices that address social, political, environmental, and aesthetic challenges embedded in selected cities in Asia. In particular, the remarkable proliferation of art practices is concerned with creating social-political dialogues in conflict-ridden urban spaces. Complex, contradictory and unruly, these art practices often cross boundaries between art, activism, urbanism, anthropology, and other fields. Distinguished by their localities, these art practices are urgent responses to the emergent crises on both cultural and “natural” registers. Inspired by a growing interest in public participation, these art practices question relationships between individual and collective, conflict and consensus, aesthetic autonomy, and social responsibility. From the studio perspectives, the trajectories of these art practices will be situated within the larger paradigms of traditional aesthetics, modernism, postmodernism, and globalism, as these paradigms are filtered through specific urban contexts. From the perspectives of art history and theory, issues of contemporary Asian art will be discussed with a focus on critical debates on socially engaged art; artistic intervention in urban development; and disaster, trauma and affect in visual art.

The 2016–17 Joan & Martin Goldfarb Summer Institute in Visual Arts

9th Annual Goldfarb Summer Institute 2017

Public Art: New Ways of Thinking and Working

GS ARTH/VISA 6020.03; GS/VISA 6030.03
Professors Sarah Parsons and Brandon Vickerd

The 2017 Goldfarb Summer Institute graduate course will focus on contemporary issues in public art. Within Canada, ideas of public art have evolved in recent decades, largely due to the role of new programs, policies, festivals, and initiatives that are challenging notions of temporality, spectacle, interventions, and participation. While reflecting upon historically significant achievements, this seminar will take an inclusive approach to exploring current topical issues and innovations in order to expand the discourse surrounding public art in Canada and beyond, encouraging criticality and moving the field forward.

The graduate seminar will coincide with the symposium Public Art: New Ways of Thinking and Working that will be hosted by the Department of Visual Art and Art History in conjunction with the various partner organizations (May 18, 19 and 20). Public Art: New Ways of Thinking and Working will offer a forum for emerging research, challenging debate, and the establishment of a sustained dialogue around public art from the perspective of both studies and practice. This will be accomplished by including a wide range of cultural, political, social, and pedagogical perspectives across the disciplines of visual arts, architecture, art history, city planning, engineering, and urban studies. Students enrolled in the institute will participate in the symposium events.

The symposium will bring together international academics, critics, curators, practitioners and enthusiasts to explore the shifting role of contemporary public art and consider the accomplishments of various innovators working in the public sphere. The goal of this symposium is to critically examine the current state of Canadian contemporary public art practices and processes in the context of innovations happening internationally. Through critical examination of the artistic practices, successes and challenges, theories and impacts of the field, and by inviting multiple perspectives, Public Art: New Ways of Thinking and Working will further the discourse surrounding the role of public art and its continued redefinition. It will be organized around three key conference themes: News Ways of Thinking and Working, Duration, Policies, and Processes.

Both the symposium and the seminar acknowledge multiple shifts in public art while questioning: ideas of the creative city, the ways in which artists work, how the work is being made, and the role of curation, audience, discourse and criticality in public art. Public Art: New Ways of Thinking and Working is an opportunity to bring together broad perspectives which have contributed to driving this change, to reflect on and challenge how we define and talk about public art, at a time in the field when reflection and deeper understanding is needed in the face of its mass proliferation.

Tentative Schedule:

May 15 - 17 afternoon meetings
May 18 - afternoon meeting and evening lecture
May 19 and 20 - all-day symposium
May 23 - afternoon meeting
May 24 - morning and afternoon downtown
May 25 - morning meeting - final class
June 26 - final papers due