2021-2022 Schedule

Spring 2022

Monday, May 16, 3PM CST: Virtual Talk with Sarah Thomas (Birkbeck College, University of London)

“Consumption, Wealth, and Art Collecting in the Age of British Emancipation”

Abstract: Over the course of the 1820s, as British slaveholders were drawn increasingly into a bitter and contested debate about the future of slavery, the nation’s art institutions were thriving. The foundation of a National Gallery in 1824 was the culmination of several decades of lobbying from various quarters, and the concomitant rise of private collections in Britain. The wealth and confidence of British art collectors and connoisseurs in the period is amply demonstrated in a grand painting by Dutch artist Pieter Christoffel Wonder, Patrons and Lovers of Art (1830). I take this painting as the starting point for seeking to understand how the brutal system of colonial slavery infiltrated the world of aesthetics and taste during this seminal period in the history Britain’s major art institutions. Wonder’s careful delineation of collectors, and works of art with their own individual provenance histories, entangled with and ultimately dependent upon the economy of plantation slavery, is a useful springboard for a deeper consideration of the cultural legacies of slave-ownership, encouraging reflection about a history that has for too long remained silent.

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Winter 2022

Friday, March 11, 1-2:30pm CT: Virtual Workshop with Reginald Jackson (University of Michigan)

“Burdens of Proof: Enslavement, Evangelization, and the Performativity of Visual Evidence in Jesuit Japan”

Join us for our discussion of Prof. Reginald Jackson’s pre-circulated paper, “Burdens of Proof: Enslavement, Evangelization, and the Performativity of Visual Evidence in Jesuit Japan.” Yunning Zhang (Comparative Literature, UChicago) will be the discussant. The paper will be available for download a week before the workshop.

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Fall 2021

Thursday, November 17, 4pm CT: Virtual Workshop with C.C. McKee (Bryn Mawr College)

 “At the Threshold of Human and Vegetable: Painting Black Monstrosity in the French Atlantic”

We will be discussing Prof. C.C. McKee’s pre-circulated paper, “At the Threshold of the Human and the Vegetable: Painting Black Monstrosity in the French Atlantic.” Prof. Andrei Pop (Art History, UChicago) will be the discussant. The paper will be available for download a week before the workshop. This event is conducted with support from the French section of the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures at the University of Chicago.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2-3pm CT: Virtual talk by Elzbieta Sklodowska (Washington University in Saint Louis)

“Etched in Sugar, Soil, Metal, and Blood: The Afterlives of the “Plantation Machine” and Countervisuality in Contemporary Cuban Art”

Abstract: Sugar—both as a commodity and as a metaphor—has been woven into the fabric of Cuban history and identity ever since the indigenous genocide and the ensuing enslavement of African peoples had put the pan-Caribbean “plantation machine” into a relentless forward motion. In this paper, I analyze  the reinscriptions of the sugar plantation in select paintings, photography, installations, and performance by contemporary Cuban artists: Tania Bruguera (b. 1968), Carlos Martiel (b.1989), Douglas Pérez Castro (b. 1972), Reinaldo Echemendía Cid (b. 1987), and Susana Pilar Delahante Matienzo (b.1984). I argue that by etching—both literally and metaphorically—the black, gendered experience in sugar, soil, metal, and blood these artists reclaim the “right to look” by creating their own discourses of “countervisuality” (Nicholas Mirzoeff’s terms) in the crucible of enslavement, resistance, and (re)productive plantation machine.

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Click here to download article.

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Click here to see our events from past years and quarters.