Upcoming Goldfarb Summer Institute events explore ‘Photography: In and Out of the Archive’

The Department of Visual Art and Art History at York University, York University’s School of the Arts, Media, Performance and Design (AMPD) and Sensorium: Centre for Digital Arts and Technology present two events this week as part of the 13th Annual Goldfarb Summer Institute.

Nina Levitt
Nina Levitt

Organized by Professors Nina Levitt and Sarah Parsons, 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.

This year’s Summer Institute explores the theme “Photography: In and Out of the Archive.”

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.

Sarah Parsons
Sarah Parsons

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.

The upcoming Summer Institute sessions take place virtually on May 5 and 6 and are open to the public.

“Unhomed: Orphan Images and Diasporic Kinships” – Thy Phu and Jacqueline Hoàng Nguyễn in Conversation

Unhomed Summer Institute event promo

This talk takes place on May 5 from 2 to 3:30 p.m. via Zoom. Register here.

What can family photographs tell us about ourselves, our attachments, our displacements, and our estrangements? In this event, artist Jacqueline Hoàng Nguyễn and critic Thy Phu discuss their work with family photographs as objects, as encounters with personal memory, and as creative artifacts.

Phu is a professor of media studies at the University of Toronto. She is co-editor of Feeling Photography and Refugee States: Critical Refugee Studies in Canada. She is also author of Picturing Model Citizens: Civility in Asian American Visual Culture, and Director of the collaborative research project, The Family Camera Network.

Nguyễn is an artist using archives and a broad range of media to investigate issues of historicity, collectivity, utopian politics and multiculturalism via feminist theories. Currently based in Stockholm, she is a PhD candidate in the Art, Technology and Design program at Konstfack University of Arts, Crafts and Design. Nguyễn completed the Whitney Independent Study Program, her MFA and a post-graduate diploma in critical studies from the Malmö Art Academy, Sweden and a BFA from Concordia University.

“The Fugitive Photograph and Archival Escape in Jamaica” – Public talk with Krista Thompson

Photograph of Paul Bogle

This presentation takes place on May 6 from 5 to 6:30 p.m. via Zoom. Register here.

The photograph depicted in the graphic above, long circulated as an image of Paul Bogle – one of the leaders of what became known as the “Morant Bay Rebellion” (1865) – went missing from a national archive in Jamaica in the 1970s. The precise date and circumstances of its disappearance are unknown.

This presentation examines the histories, stories and controversies surrounding the photograph, which was first publicly identified as a representation of Bogle almost a century after his death in 1865. What role did photography play in state, academic and popular understandings of Bogle, the Morant Bay Rebellion, and the discipline of history in post-Independence Jamaica? What might the Bogle image reveal not only about the relationship between history and photography, but also about photographic disappearance, fugitivity and the unarchived in the historical imagination?

Thompson is the Mary Jane Crowe Professor of Art History at Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois. She is the author of An Eye for the Tropics (2006) and Shine: The Visual Economy of Light in African Diasporic Aesthetic Practice (2015), and recipient of the Charles Rufus Morey Award for distinguished book in the history of art from the College Art Association (2016). Thompson is currently working on the manuscript The Evidence of Things Not Captured (Duke University Press, forthcoming), which examines notions of photographic absence, fugitivity, and disappearance in Jamaica. She is also writing Black Light, a manuscript about electronic light artist Tom Lloyd.