La synthèse en histoire de l’art et l’imaginaire national : perspectives nord-américaines et européennes / The art history survey text and imagined communities: North American and European Perspective

Samedi 6 mai 2017 / Saturday May 6th, 2017

(English follows)

Alors qu’elle se prépare à la rédaction de la première synthèse en histoire de l’art du Québec (1600-1960), l’Équipe de recherche en histoire de l’art au Québec (ÉRHAQ) invite des collègues ayant œuvré à la conception, à la direction et à la réalisation d’ouvrages de synthèse sur l’histoire de l’art en Europe et en Amérique du Nord. Leurs travaux nous permettent de réfléchir sur une culture visuelle québécoise qui tienne compte de la diversité linguistique, ethnique, historique et spirituelle inscrite dans la longue durée et dans une géographie artistique qui dépasse les frontières.

Cette journée d’étude, animée par les membres de l’équipe et de la communauté étudiante, est ouverte à tous.

As it prepares to write the first survey text of Quebec art history (1600-1960), the Équipe de recherche en histoire de l’art au Québec (ÉRHAQ) invites colleagues who have worked on the conception, the editing and the writing of survey text projects for European and North American art histories. Their experiences help us to think about a Quebec visual culture that speaks to the linguistic, ethnic, historical and spiritual dimensions of a plurality inscribed in a longue durée and in an artistic geography that challenges established boundaries.

This study day, hosted by the members of the team and of its student community, is open to all.

 

« Où s’arrête l’Europe ? Et l’histoire de l’art ? »

Michela Passini, chercheur à l’Institut d’histoire moderne et contemporaine
du CNRS (Centre national de la recherche scientifique, Paris).

L’institutionnalisation de l’histoire de l’art, entre la fin du XIXe et le début du XXe siècle, a induit une plus grande implication de ses praticiens dans la vie des états. Universitaires ou conservateurs de musée sont pris dans une compétition entre nations européennes, qui se joue tant sur le plan géopolitique que sur celui des productions symboliques. L’art ancien, conçu alors comme le témoignage de l’authenticité et de la grandeur de la tradition nationales, fait l’objet d’un puissant investissement identitaire. Les historiens de l’art se donnent pour tâche d’en définir la spécificité et contribuent fortement à la création de communautés imaginées.

À partir de son expérience d’écriture de l’histoire de l’histoire de l’art, Michela Passini abordera quelques problèmes épistémologiques et pratiques de l’élaboration d’un texte de synthèse en historiographie :  la définition d’un corpus d’auteurs et de questions, les bornes chronologiques, spatiales et linguistiques, les enjeux politiques et disciplinaires et la part incompressible d’arbitraire qui est propre à toute écriture de l’histoire.

Spécialiste de l’histoire de l’histoire de l’art, de l’histoire des musées et du patrimoine, Michela Passini est notamment l’auteur de La Fabrique de l’art national. Le nationalisme et les origines de l’histoire de l’art, France et Allemagne 1870-1933 (2012) et de L’Œil et l’archive. Une histoire de l’histoire de l’art, à paraître en 2017.

 

« Iroquois Art, Power and History: decolonizing the survey text  »

Neal B. Keating, professeur agrégé d’anthropologie culturelle et directeur du département d’anthropologie au State University of New York à Brockport.

In Iroquois Art, Power and History (University of Oklahoma Press, 2012), Neal B Keating explored Iroquois visual expression through more than five thousand years, from its emergence in ancient North America into the early twenty-first century. Drawing on extensive archival research and fieldwork with Iroquois artists and communities, Keating foregrounded the voices and visions of Iroquois peoples, revealing how they have continuously used visual expression to adapt creatively to shifting political and economic environments. Although Iroquois, or Haudenosaunee, peoples have long been the subjects of Western study, writers and researchers working in European and North American settler contexts have classified historical Iroquois visuality not as art but as culturally inferior “crude” forms of expression. In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, Mainstream settler criticism frequently constrains contemporary Iroquois art in a double bind; if artists innovate and experiment beyond the settler-established canon of traditional Iroquois art, they are seen as culturally “inauthentic;” if they carefully work within Iroquois-centered traditions, they aren’t making “real” art. Working against the grain of such recolonizing discourses, Keating approached his subject as a critical settler-anthropologist, bracketed off aesthetics, and focused on how Iroquois art, like all other art, involves agency, power, and information about the world and the times in which people live. This involved a reading of visual practices through time in which conscious agency of Haudenosaunee artists is presumed rather than dismissed. This political move allowed for analyzing Iroquois art as an index of social relations and processes, and yielded a rich archive of survivance in which new perspectives on colonial pasts and neocolonial presents become visible.

Neal B Keating works in a collaborative and human rights-based perspective that is grounded in partnerships and fieldwork with Indigenous Peoples and communities in Southeast Asia, North and Central America. He is engaged in a long term curatorial project entitled “Mush Hole Remembered,” a collaboration with a Mohawk artist and survivor of the Mohawk Institute Indian Residential School that was constructed on the Grand River Territory of the Six Nations in the 19th century.

 

A Companion to American Art: a snapshot approach to ‘la synthèse historique’

Jennifer A. Greenhill, Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Southern California

What does it mean to think about, research, and write the history of American art in the early twenty-first century? How should we understand the terms “American” and “art,” and how are today’s scholars reconsidering the methods by which they come to know the people, works, and histories that fall under the umbrella of “American art”? What are the chronological, geographical, and conceptual boundaries of the field, and how should we characterize them? In what ways does current scholarship on American art participate in broader debates within the humanities? How are academic, curatorial, and contemporary artistic practices informing shifting conceptions of the constitution and character of American art? Where has the field been and where is it going? This talk explores these questions and the challenge of addressing them in a single “survey” text by using, as a case study, A Companion to American Art (Wiley-Blackwell, 2015): a 653-page “state-of-the-field” volume, which I co-edited with John Davis and Jason LaFountain. I explore the book’s goals and the reasoning behind its “snapshot” approach, taking stock of strengths, weaknesses, and moments in the life of the project when we might have chosen alternate paths.

Jennifer A. Greenhill is the author of Playing It Straight: Art and Humor in the Gilded Age (University of California Press, 2012) and a co-editor of A Companion to American Art (Wiley-Blackwell, 2015). Current projects include two books: The Commercial Imagination: American Illustration and the Materialities of the Market, 1890-1930, and a study of the complex meanings of color in the work of the African American photographer and filmmaker, Gordon Parks.

 

« Grands récits? Petits récits?: The challenge of the survey »

Anne Whitelaw, Department of Art History, Concordia University

In La condition postmoderne (famously commissioned by the Ministère de l’éducation du Québec), Jean-Francois Lyotard argued that histories could no longer be the all-encompassing « grands récits » of modern historiography, but had to bring forward the « petits récits » of the marginalized. While the incredulity towards master narratives that Lyotard advocated has shaped much of the critical writing on art history over the past 30 years, the survey remains a constant feature of museums, art publications, and university curriculum. How do we account for the continued lure of the survey both large and small?  I have spent much of my career writing about – and participating in the writing of –surveys of Canadian art. I have consistently tackled the mapping of art in Canada across lengthy expanses of time and sought to better understand the role of place (and in particular constructions of the « nation ») within those timeframes. In writing these accounts, the question of the viability of the survey has always been in play: what do these major overviews of cultural production seek to achieve? What ideas of the nation are reified and left unquestioned? What role do institutions play in constructing and in many cases perpetuating conceptions of art history? As the diversity of art practices are acknowledged and celebrated, how are they incorporated into these surveys? In this presentation, I will examine these questions through a reflection on my own role in perpetuating the survey as a mode of intellectual thought in my writing and my teaching.

Anne Whitelaw is the co-editor with Brian Foss and Sandra Paikowsky of The Visual Arts in Canada: The Twentieth Century (Oxford University Press, 2010). Her book Spaces and Places for Art: Making Art Institutions in Western Canada 1912-1990 is forthcoming from McGill-Queen’s University Press.

 

L’ÉRHAQ remercie ses partenaires pour leur soutien / ÉRHAQ gratefully acknowledges for their support:

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