Department of Art and Art History Art History

UT Antiquities Action Symposium: Landscapes of Identity: Global and Local Models for Heritage Preservation program

Sun. March 19, 2017

artifact starkly lit with dramatic shadow, text in pinkish red
Image credit: D C Trein

Landscapes of Identity: Global and Local Models for Heritage Preservation

Program Presentation Abstracts

9:00 a.m.
Coffee and opening remarks

9:30 a.m.
Dr. Alex Walthall (University of Texas at Austin) and Dr. Jared Benton (Old Dominion University)

Looting, Looters, and Stakeholders in Aidone, Sicily: the Economic and Cultural Valuation of Repatriated Art in Rural Communities
During the 1990s and early 2000s a belief pervaded among archaeologists that, if cultural property remained in—or was returned to—its location of origin, it would stimulate the local economy, increase local stakeholding in cultural heritage, and curb looting. The central Sicilian town of Aidone, as a site of both repatriated works of ancient art and ongoing looting, offers an unique opportunity to study the intersections of repatriation, symbolic capital, stakeholding, and economic benefit in a community outside of the major tourist networks. From 2007 to 2011, several high-profile artifacts were returned to the city of Aidone from the United States. As it became clear the works of art would return, the residents of Aidone enthusiastically embraced both the restitution of their own cultural property and the possibility of a reinvigorated local economy. Now, a decade after the first repatriation, it is time to reflect on the initial promises of restitution.

10:00 a.m.
Dr. May al-Ibrashy (American University in Cairo, founder of Megawra)

Heritage Conservation as a driver for development: Athar Lina Initiative in Historic Cairo
Athar Lina is a participatory conservation initiative to establish modalities of citizen participation in heritage conservation based on a vision of the monument as a resource not a burden. It is based in al-Khalifa in Historic Cairo and run by the Built Environment Collective|Megawra. Athar Lina believes that conservation can be a vehicle for development if practiced in a participatory inclusive manner. Athar Lina’s activities in Khalifa are based on the five lines of action proposed in the first participatory workshop; 1) Conservation and rehabilitation of heritage sites as nodes of cultural and socio-economic development; 2) Heritage Education; 3) Development of craft and design through knowledge exchange and capacity building; 4) Tourist promotion; 5) Improvement of quality of public space through projects to improve infrastructure, upgrade public space and provide spaces for sports and recreation.

10:30 a.m.

11:00 a.m.
Dr. Astrid Runggaldier (University of Texas at Austin)

Where do ‘Orphans’ Belong? Local Engagement with Global Concerns Through the Art and Art History Collection at the University of Texas at Austin
In the context of museum collections, “orphaned antiquities” are objects with unclear or undocumented provenance, or collecting history. For archaeologists, the term “orphan” additionally refers to objects that lack information about their original context of recovery. Orphan collections tend to form when objects are donated by private collectors, as in the case of the Art and Art History Collection (AAHC) at UT Austin, which includes a number of indigenous American artworks that present complex ethical concerns for art historians, archaeologists, and museum specialists. However, as this presentation discusses, these concerns also present excellent opportunities to teach locally about global issues of cultural heritage protection.

11:30 a.m.
Dr. Robert B. Pickering (University of Tulsa)

Antiquities, Museums & Research: A West Mexico Example
Museum-based research of archaeological collections has an important role to play in preserving the past. The benefits and liabilities of using museum collections will be presented using examples from West Mexico.

12:00 p.m.

1:00 p.m.
Dr. Eric Tang (University of Texas at Austin)

Those Who Stayed: The Impact of Gentrification on Longstanding Residents of Austin's Eastside
A handful of longtime African American residents of East Austin remain in what is arguably the most heavily gentrified neighborhood in the city. They steadfastly refuse to relinquish their property, presence and place in the community. How do these remaining residents understand the profound changes brought on by gentrification and the displacement of their neighbors? Have they reaped any of the benefits of new housing development and the influx of new businesses and resources as some defenders of gentrification claim? Or are they only embattled, forced to defend what remains of their historic and beloved community?

1:30 p.m.
Dr. Stephennie Mulder (University of Texas at Austin)

Local or Universal: Imagining Antiquity and its Localities in Islamic Societies
Long before the emergence of ISIS and other so-called Islamist iconoclasts, and perhaps as early as the rise of Islam itself, Muslims imagined Islamic and pre-Islamic antiquity and its localities in myriad ways: as sites of memory, spaces of healing, or places imbued with didactic, historical, and moral power. Ancient statuary were deployed as talismans, paintings were interpreted to foretell and reify the coming of Islam, and temples of ancient gods and churches devoted to holy saints were converted into mosques in ways that preserved their original meaning and, sometimes, even their architectural ornament and fabric. Often, such localities were valued simply as places that elicited a sense of awe and wonder, or of reflection on the present relevance of history and the greatness of past empires, a theme so prevalent it created distinct genres of Arabic and Persian literature (aja’ib, fada’il). Sites like Ctesiphon, the ancient capital of the Zoroastrian Sasanians, or the Temple Mount, where the Jewish temple had stood, were embraced by early companions of the Prophet Muhammad and incorporated into Islamic notions of the self. Furthermore, various Islamic interpretive communities as well as Jews and Christians often shared holy places and had similar haptic, sensorial, and ritual connections that enabled them to imagine place in similar ways. However, although traditional locally-grounded relationships to sites of heritage were precisely the means of their preservation into modern times, the interjection of colonial rule imposed a new paradigm of “universal” heritage that denied and erased established local practices of heritage preservation. This paper will challenge current “universal” archaeological and heritage models now prevalent by exploring several examples of local preservation of heritage sites, and in doing so, will reveal the numerous ways Muslims, Christians, and Jews preserved and revered the past throughout Islamic history.

2:00 p.m.
Keynote Speaker: Dr. Erin Thompson (John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY)

Using (and Losing) Our Heads: Case Studies of Conflicts between Global and Local Heritage
What should happen when local and global audiences want to use cultural heritage in conflicting ways? Whose use should get priority? Who should be able to block another group's use? Thompson will examine these questions by presenting three case studies of artworks based on heads: the mummified head of a Maori warrior; Athena emerging from the head of Zeus on the east pediment of the Parthenon; and the head of Sarawati, Hindu goddess of wisdom, stolen from a shrine in rural Nepal.

Bio: As America’s only full-time professor of art crime, Erin studies the damage done to humanity’s shared heritage through looting, theft, and the deliberate destruction of art. She has discussed art crime topics in, e.g., The New York Times, CNN, NPR, and the Freakonomics podcast, and has been invited to lecture at MIT, Carnegie Mellon, and Columbia. Her book, Possession: The Curious History of Private Collectors, is now out from Yale University Press. Currently, Erin is researching the ways in which terrorist groups both sell and destroy art to support their genocidal campaigns, as well as the legalities and ethics of digital reproductions of cultural heritage.

This conference is sponsored by Antiquities Action, Department of Classics, Department of Art and Art History and Middle Eastern Studies.

Professor John Clarke and Oplontis Project Win Loeb Classical Library Foundation Fellowship

Mon. March 27, 2017

AAH logo with Texas in orange above text reading Art and Art History

The Loeb Classical Library Foundation at Harvard University has awarded a Loeb Classical Library Fellowship to Art History Professor John Clarke and the Oplontis Project. The Loeb Classical Library Foundation awards fellowships to qualified scholars to support research, publication and other projects in the area of classical studies. With the fellowship in 2017-2018, Oplontis Project will continue their work at the site of Oplontis in Torre Annunziata, Italy.


Q+A with Alumna and Curator Rebecca Giordano

Wed. March 22, 2017

West wall of Christian-Green Gallery exhibiting March ON!
West wall of Christian-Green Gallery exhibiting March ON!

Curator Rebecca Giordano (M.A. in Art History, 2015) is one of the founding members of the curatorial collective, INGZ, a collaboration that grew out of Art History Associate Professor Cherise Smith's Historicizing the Politics of Identity seminar. March ON!, an exhibition curated by Giordano, is currently on view at the Christian-Green Gallery through April 15, 2017.

On Friday, March 24, INGZ and the UT Austin campus will welcome Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell for a public conversation at the Hogg Auditorium. A film screening of "Get in the Way: The Journey of John Lewis" will precede the panel, but tickets are required.

On Thursday, March 23 at 5:30 p.m. there will be a reception and conversation between Giordano and artist Nate Powell at the Christian-Green Gallery. 


image of gallery with display of comic art and panels
March ON! in the Christian-Green Gallery

Can you tell me how the March ON! exhibition came together?

I began thinking about this exhibition after reading the first volume of March back in 2014. John Lewis' personal story is certainly a compelling and important one. But it is actually the quality of the brush-and-ink illustrations made me think this graphic novel would make a fantastic exhibition. While they are, of course, comics, they are also extraordinary drawings that address essential political issues of the last century. The illustrator, Nate Powell, is an old friend of mine. I approached him about two years ago to discuss the idea of building an exhibition around the original drawings.

How do you approach curating an exhibition based on a comic? How has your work as an art historian or a curator previously crossed paths with this medium?

In general, comics are accessible. They are considered a low medium, a literally pulp form. The flip side of this disregard is that people are eager to pick them up and tear through without recognizing how much work they do to read them or feeling intimidated by the theme or content. This affords a unique opportunity for drawing out a nuanced and layered perspective and interesting, fine-tuned illustrations for a broad (and sometimes unsuspecting) audience, which March does very well.

This is my second exhibition of comic artwork. The first was In Heartbeats: The Comic Art of Jackie Ormes, which showcased work from four newspaper series by the first African American woman cartoonist. (One of Ormes’ comics is also on display in March ON!) I approached both shows archivally, putting these fantastic comic artworks in conversation with other kinds of cultural production. Because of the historic content and the necessity for visitors to spend time actually reading the text on the page, March ON! required a different curatorial approach. One question I had was about how to curate work from a comic book. These drawings are reproduced in an award-winning and best-selling graphic novel, so how could I approach this to make an exhibition that is interesting and does something different than the book? The exhibition March ON! features more than 50 original drawings from March by Nate Powell. I included a variety of ephemera and works of art by other artists to help fill out the historical period that the graphic memoir covers. Documentary photographs by Charles Moore and Spider Martin and pamphlets and newsletters from the activist James Farmer's archive (all of which came from the Briscoe Center here on campus) along with comics from the 1950s and today addressing racial justice, and protest albums from the era are on display to help visitors think about how the ideas behind the Civil Rights Movement spread in material ways.

depiction of 50s comic strip where little girl is talking to mom
Panel from In Heartbeats: The Comic Art of Jackie Ormes


What conversation or question do you hope to inspire with this exhibition?

March ON! offers UT a place to reflect on the relationship between a particular historic moment and our own using outstanding and innovative visual culture that centers Black experience. This is an undeniably important contribution to our campus culture. One really fantastic aspect of March as a graphic novel series is that there are so many points of entry for different people. Curating from more than 600 pages required selecting what events and ideas covered in the three volumes to represent in the exhibition. I chose to highlight the breadth of Lewis' story to invite as many connections as possible, whether it be a shared concern for social justice, empathy for the violence of racist treatment, the excitement of finding community as well as the difficulty of bridging differences within a movement, or using art to voice a deeply felt political position. The exhibition—like the books themselves—doesn't let you forget the past or the present. While there is no one thing that I hope visitors take away, I hope the exhibition offers an opportunity to reflect on the many roles people can play in social movements including the ways that the strategies that proved successful were developed, honed and carried out by ordinary people for ordinary people.

What are INGZ’s future plans?

INGZ is motivated by a creative approach to curating as a political practice. We like to rethink what happens in galleries, with whom, and how the curatorial process changes when we move beyond traditional models. For us, that can mean shifting our approach to the time and space of an exhibition—what does it do to offer two exhibitions back-to-back by the same artist in two very different spaces on the same campus, as we did with LaToya Ruby Frazier: Riveted? It can also mean seeing what comes out of condensing a semester-long performance series into three days to create a viewing and performing experience with density and in support of emerging and ongoing webs of connection and participation as we undertook with Sampling. Our current projects include a collaborative expanded video and a work that intends to bridge the worlds of inspirational speaking and chatty memoir through performance art. We like questions that emerge at limits. We also like archives. To that end, we are exploring how we create faithful archives of our own processes and projects. Online, this can be found out

Hotel Mexico awarded the Arvey Foundation Book Award from the Association for Latin American Art

Mon. March 20, 2017

depiction of book cover with blue tinted skyline of mexico and title of book
Hotel Mexico: Dwelling on the '68 Movement by George Flaherty

Each year the Association for Latin American Art (ALAA) selects a book representing the best scholarly work published on the art of Latin America from the Pre-Columbian era to the present for the Arvey Foundation Book Award. This year, the selection committee honored Art History assistant professor George Flaherty with that award for his most recent book, Hotel Mexico: Dwelling on the '68 Movement (University of California Press, 2016).

“In his abundantly detailed, thoughtful, and theoretically sophisticated study, Flaherty engages a pivotal episode, the 1968 massacre of 300 student protestors in Mexico City ten days before the Olympics,” said Charlene Villaseñor Black, ALAA Chair, during the award presentation. “Flaherty considers Mexico in 1968 and its cinematic, photographic, and literary afterimages in an analysis of the diverse ways in which the Tlatelolco Massacre is remembered, evoked, and memorialized.”

Flaherty publishes primarily on Latin American and U.S. Latino visual and spatial cultures since 1940, with emphasis on Mexico and the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. His research and teaching interests extend to Cuba, film and media studies, postcolonial and subaltern studies, and the historiography of global contemporary art. Hotel Mexico investigates the spatial dimensions of the 1968 student-led protest movement in Mexico City and its representation. 

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