Department of Art and Art History Art History

Ph.D. candidates in Art History raise funds for environmental exhibitions at the Visual Arts Center

Thu. March 31, 2016

two woman look at each other in front of white wall
Left: Dorota Biczel, right: Allison Myers. Photo by Madison Brill.

In the offices of the Visual Arts Center (VAC), we fast forward to fall 2016 where Ph.D. candidates in Art History Dorota Biczel and Allison Myers are curating exhibitions. Both ambitious exhibitions will bring international artists to Austin, and Biczel and Myers have launched a fundraising campaign to raise $15,000.

“I think Austin is a very particular place,” said Biczel. “With its focus on creative industries and new, digital entrepreneurship, it’s quite far removed from the land, regardless of how much we enjoy its glorious outdoors. I hope that our exhibitions can serve as a reminder of Austin’s grounding in the larger Texas environment beyond the city limits and how important the land is to our collective wellbeing.”

Biczel, whose dissertation focuses on artists in Lima during the 70s and 80s, will bring artists Edi Hirose and Nancy La Rosa for an exhibition entitled Moving Mountains: Extractive Landscapes of Peru. The exhibition will draw attention to current environmental issues and how people reshape their landscapes. In a similar vein, Myers, whose research chronicles the reception of French art in the US during the 70s, will bring French artist Tania Mouraud for a solo exhibition entitled Regards. While in Texas, Mouraud will visit oil refineries and nuclear power plants across the state to gather material for her new work in the VAC.

man sitting in dark gallery space with three large projections on walls
Tania Mouraud, Ad Nauseam, 2012–2014, videos HD 2910, three channel installation and 29 loudspeakers, broadcast program for randomized sound ©Ircam, camera, montage and production video © Tania Mouraud, sound composition © Tania Mouraud, sound program © Ircam, photo ©Tania Mouraud.

“Much of Tania’s recent work has focused on the relationship between human activity and the natural world,” Myers described. “I wanted to commission a new Texas-based video installation from Tania, and she chose to approach it through the lens of Texas' investment in the energy industry. Tania's video and sound installations put viewers in direct contact with sites that are normally closed to the public, like refineries, paper mills and recycling centers. Her works emphasize the sensory experience of these places, so they connect with viewers on a visceral level. This connection helps to raise consciousness about humanity’s impact on the environment.”

Myers spend her childhood in a rural town outside of Tulsa, Oklahoma and went to Webster University in St. Louis. The open curriculum at Webster allowed her to focus on classes in art history, studio art and philosophy.

“I became interested in the process of writing histories about art, and the cultural and social forces that shape the way these histories are written,” said Myers. This curiosity brought her to UT Austin for a Ph.D. in Art History.

Biczel pursued studio art, working in primarily in printmaking, and attended the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts for her undergraduate degree. She moved to the U.S. in 2002 and began writing art criticism while running a small print studio in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Writing led her to completing dual degrees in Art History, Theory and Criticism and Arts Administration and Policy at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

“When I finished, I realized I wasn’t done at all,” Biczel said. “It was clear to me that there was so much more work that needed to be done, which lead me to pursue a Ph.D.”

sandy landscape with bulldozers in background
Edi Hirose, from the series Jicamarca, 2013–2015, digital photography printed on paper. Image courtesy of the artist.

As both Biczel and Myers complete their dissertations, they are steadfastly planning exhibitions and are embarking upon a campaign to raise the money needed to bring their international artists to Austin.

“We’re incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to curate exhibitions with the support of the department behind us,” says Myers. “For me, it’s key that we have a lot of freedom to propose exhibitions and develop them while still having a supportive framework that helps us learn as we go. And any job in the arts is probably going to require fundraising at some time, so it’s great to be getting this experience now.”

Their fundraiser launches March 23 on Hornraiser, the university’s official crowdfunding platform. Biczel and Myers hope to raise $15,000 that will contribute to the transportation of artworks from and back to Lima and Paris, travel costs for the artist to be present at the exhibition openings and interact with students, framing, the construction of a video-projection room in the VAC, and production costs for Mouraud's new video commission.

“It’s exhilarating to be able to present some of the artists whom I admire to the arts community and general public at the VAC,” says Biczel. “I really believe that contemporary art can touch and affect anyone, regardless of age and education.”

Contribute to the Hornraiser.

Moving Mountains: Extractive Landscapes of Peru and Tania Mouraud: Regards will open September 23, 2016 at the Visual Arts Center.

Art History senior Katherine Jessen receives Undergraduate Research Fellowship

Thu. March 31, 2016

photograph of building with water coming up to walls

Art History senior Katherine Jessen received an Undergraduate Research Fellowship for her paper "Assessing the Impact of the Crystal Bridges Museum of Art in Bentonville, Arkansas." The Undergraduate Research Fellowship provides financial support for scholarly research projects conducted by undergraduate students. Jessen's paper abstract follows:

This thesis surveys the multitude of ways that the new Crystal Bridges Museum of American art has affected the city of Bentonville, Arkansas and the surrounding region. The museum opened November 11, 2011 and was funded and envisioned by Walmart heiress, Alice Walton. Calculating the museum’s economic footprint, measuring increases in tourism, and looking at new development in the area offers a holistic view of how Crystal Bridges has altered the local economy. A thorough investigation of the museum’s educational initiatives and public programming demonstrates the museum’s effects on the community. Finally, I will describe how museum professionals and the media have perceived the museum and what the future looks like for Crystal Bridges and the area community.

Jessen will present her thesis during the Annual Undergraduate Art History Symposium on Friday, April 22, 2016.

UT Antiquities Action Conference: Global Initiatives Towards Cultural Heritage Preservation: Who Owns the Past? program

Mon. March 14, 2016

egyptian statue with gold warning lable
Photo source: ARCA/Tsirogiannis. Design by D C Trein.

Global Initiatives Towards Cultural Heritage Preservation: Who Owns the Past?

A UT Antiquities Action conference will take place April 2, 2016 and feature keynote speaker Salam al-Kuntar from the University of Pennsylvania. This conference is sponsored by Middle East Studies, Department of Classics and Department of Art and Art History.

8:30 a.m.

9 a.m.
Sterling Wright (The University of Texas at Austin)

Socialist Archaeology: Is It Worth Saving?
The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is a country that resides just north of Greece. Following World War II, the country became one of the constituent republics of Yugoslavia. The government for this new country was based on what many scholars refer to as Marxism and socialism. Today, the general public in Macedonia disapproves this socio-political policy. In light of this, many have felt that the country should destroy all “archaeological remains” that have been associated with socialism. However, there is also a growing number of people in Macedonia to reevaluate this sort of action. They feel that even though their socialist history was a dark period, it is still part of their cultural identity. This presentation looks into the developments of socialist archaeology in Macedonia.

9:30 a.m.
Dr. Nathan Elkins (Baylor University)

Saving Our Past: The Centrality of the Trade in Ancient Coins
When we think about the illicit antiquities trade, we tend to focus on statues, sarcophagi, Greek vases, and other “monumental” objects. But the trade in “minor antiquities,” and especially in ancient coins, is an integral part of the illicit antiquities trade. Fortunately, in recent years, there has been greater attention paid to the role of the illicit trade in ancient coins. This contribution examines the centrality of the trade in ancient coins in the broader trade in Mediterranean antiquities, sourcing practices for the trade, the scale of the trade, and legal challenges mounted by coin dealers and their lobbyist.

10 a.m.
Dr. Susan Benton-Bruning (Southern Methodist University)

From Pueblo to Paris: The International Trade in Indigenous Cultural Objects
Abstract coming soon...

10:30 a.m.
Dr. David Stuart (The University of Texas at Austin)

The Looting of La Corona: A Case Study of Destruction, Archaeology and Preservation at an Ancient Maya Center
In the late 1960s a group of related sculptures and text fragments came to the attention of scholars, all looted from an unknown Maya ruin designated as “Site Q.” Epigraphic studies of these inscriptions revealed the outlines of royal history from this unidentified site, which evidently had close associations with other powerful Maya kingdoms during the 7th and 8th centuries. In 1997, the initial discovery and documentation of the ruins of La Corona revealed it to be the likely origin of nearly all of the Site Q materials. Archaeological investigations at La Corona since 2005 have uncovered many more sculptures, some parts of monuments looted decades ago. Efforts are now underway to restore La Corona’s monuments, merging data from both excavations and from collections, giving hope to what had once been a hopeless example of site destruction.

11 a.m.
Dr. Dale Correa (The University of Texas at Austin)

Writing Manuscripts into Cultural Heritage Preservation: The Role of Western Scholars in the Recovery of Knowledge
Often overlooked in cultural heritage preservation discourse, handwritten and print materials frequently meet a similar fate to that of art and architecture in conflict areas. In the mid-1990s, the Bosnian Manuscript In-Gathering Project sought to recover materials that had been destroyed or damaged during the war in the former Yugoslavia by asking researchers to contribute the copies of manuscripts and archival documents that they had procured in previous years. Taking cues from this project and others, the Aleppo Recovery Archive addresses the destruction of written cultural heritage in Aleppo, Syria, through strategic archiving of materials acquired by researchers before the onset of conflict. This project not only involves collaboration with scholars locally in Syria and internationally, but also challenges approaches to preservation, access and cultural patrimony in the context of the Middle East. It is hoped that the fruits of Western scholars’ privileged access and acquisition during fieldwork will help to recover some of what has been lost forever in Aleppo.

Noon – 1 p.m.

1 p.m.
Nicole Payntar (The University of Texas at Austin)

Local Identities in Global Contexts: Examining the Effects of Cultural Heritage Destruction in Conflict Zones
The recent surge in cultural heritage destruction and antiquities trafficking in Syria is occurring at an unprecedented rate. With most Western media outlets focusing their attention on high profile instances of heritage destruction at the hands of Da’esh, damage to archaeological sites by additional operatives in the country continues to be under reported. The sustained looting and trafficking of antiquities constitutes an irreparable loss of regional knowledge and presents adverse impacts on local identities. By assessing the damage and destruction of heritage sites by groups across Syria, patterns of social inequality and heritage hierarchy emerge. This paper will examine the consequences of cultural heritage destruction in terms of identity and the perception of regional power. It will also address the significance that cultural heritage may contribute toward rebuilding nations in post-conflict stages.

1:30 p.m.
Dr. Janice Leoshko (The University of Texas at Austin)

On the Invention of Heritage
In hindsight the many ensuing tragedies resulting from the events of September 11, 2001 are spectacularly foregrounded by the destruction of the colossal Buddhas at Bamiyan orchestrated by the Taliban in March 2001. This paper seeks to understand what has happened to the “image” of this famous site since that time within perspectives first developed in the insightful volume The Invention of Tradition, edited by Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger (1983). What are the results of the inscription of Bamiyan as a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2003? What is at stake in “heritage production” within museum, academic and political contexts?

2 p.m.
Dr. Salam al-Kuntar (University of Pennsylvania)

Responses to the Destruction of Cultural Heritage in Syria and Iraq: A Critical Appraisal of Current Efforts
The destruction of cultural heritage in the current conflicts in Syria and Iraq is well known to the international heritage community. The common belief is that interventions to protect cultural heritage are extremely difficult to design and implement during conflict, and that both the Syrian and Iraqi crisis are particularly intractable for experts and heritage actors who are seeking to offer their assistance. In this presentation, I provide a critical appraisal of the responses that have been advanced to protect cultural heritage during the crisis to date. I argue that the mobilization of the international community and the varied responses that have been made are hindered by the real difficulty inherent in maintaining a professed rhetoric of universality and neutrality. I also offer some evidence that emergency heritage projects designed to address local needs inside Syria may offer some measure of success and hope for saving heritage and helping the people who are struggling to survive this war.

3 p.m.
Coffee + adjourn

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