History of Art and Architecture

Graduate Symposium

The graduate students in the Department of History of Art & Architecture host a biannual graduate student symposium that brings together graduate students pursuing PhD, MFA, and MA degrees from around the world to discuss a theme pertinent to the study and practice of art and visual culture. At each symposium, a leading scholar on the theme under consideration presents a keynote lecture. Past keynote speakers include such distinguished scholars as Robert Rosenblum, Luis Camnitzer, and Grant Kester. The symposium is hosted at Carnegie Museum of Art, and participants are invited to attend special lectures and gallery talks with museum curators and staff.

Virtual Matters, Spring 2022

Keynote Speaker: Barbara London, curator and founder of video exhibition and collection programs at the Museum of Modern Art

Since early 2020, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed our relationship with the moving image, as screens have become the interface for our social, educational, professional, even medical interactions. Platforms such as Zoom and VooV have been added to our cultural vernacular, along with increased rates of engagement with screen-based entertainment. COVID has accelerated the use of virtual media, raising the question for us of what virtual reality in fact is: What are its modes? Its scope? Its effects? Furthermore, how do we tow the increasingly indistinguishable boundaries between what is real and what is imagined? In this symposium, we use the notion of “virtual matters” to both suggest the importance of the virtual and to assert its various materialities, i.e. it has content and presence via various modes of online interface. Within this context, we ask, what is virtual reality?

Please see the program for more details.

Motivating Monuments, Fall 2018

Visual objects can serve as tools of social cohesion, whether through construction, destruction, modification, or translocation: monuments link shared concerns that persist across time and geographic location.

The goal of this conference was to promote interdisciplinary discussions about the power invested in monuments and how individual attachments to them are persistently and profoundly mediated by shared group identities. This symposium took objects as concrete manifestations of collective identities and fostered productive, in-depth discussions about the shared stakes of monuments. Conversations unfolded across premodern, early modern, and contemporary topics and, thematically linked researched across disciplinary and historical divides.

Panels were organized around three themes: temporality, environment, and identity. To learn more about the symposium, visit http://haagradsymposium.pitt.edu.

Operating Identity, Fall 2016

Identity studies, as an interdisciplinary constellation within the humanities, involves methods of inquiry constructed around subjectivity, positionality, intersectionality, humanness, and modes or forms of identification. In studying artistic and cultural history, production, and theory, we apply these methods in the interest of advancing our understanding of certain subject matter, and the stakes of identity for these subjects.

To call identity operational is to acknowledge the agency of representations and signifiers of identity in such spheres. This symposium aims to critically consider the construction of identities and identifiers within art history, literature, philosophy, film, and social thought, and the trafficking of identity studies as a method or orientation within the humanities. We want to reflect upon orientations to scholarship that are determined by interests in identity, and consider the terms and assumptions we use in making academic arguments about identity and art.

Debating Visual Knowledge, Fall 2014

Visual knowledge and visual literacy have become pressing concerns across a variety of academic disciplines and areas of creative production. These concerns are shaped by the fluid definitions of “visual knowledge” and the multiple ways in which it manifests. Many forms of visual knowledge have capabilities that are not shared by language. This knowledge is produced, mediated, and distributed by a number of different objects, tools, media, and technologies. This symposium seeks to broaden understandings of intellectual and creative work by interrogating the theorization, production, use, and historicization of visual knowledge. We envision the event as an exploratory lab, comprising scholarly and creative projects that engage with these questions. See the call for participants for more details.

Exhibition Complex: Displaying People, Identity, and Culture, Fall 2012

This year’s symposium sets out to analyze the many modes of display, types of artistic production, and built and existing structures that constitute ephemeral exhibition spaces. Organized in collaboration with the Carnegie Museum of Art, our topic is inspired by the museum’s fall 2012 exhibition, Inventing the Modern World: Decorative Arts at the World’s Fairs, 1851–1939. We are interested in projects that explore temporary exhibitions displaying people, identity, and culture in any geographical location or time period, within and beyond the modern history of Western display. The keynote address will be delivered by Saloni Mathur, Associate Professor of Art History at UCLA and author of the book India by Design: Colonial History and Cultural Display (2007), and co-editor of the forthcoming No Touching, Spitting, Praying: Modalities of the Museum in South Asia (2012).

The Place of the Image: Global Connections, Local Affiliations, Fall 2010

This symposium aimed to explore the relationship between image and place across different time periods and geographic locations. The keynote speech, "Blindness and Insight: The Suffering Body in Sierra and Riis," was delivered by Professor Grant Kester (art historian and critic, and current Chair of Visual Arts at the University of California San Diego), who is currently at the forefront of scholarship on socially engaged art practices. The symposium coincided with opening festivities for the exhibition Ordinary Madness at Carnegie Museum of Art.

Storytelling: Playful Interactions and Spaces of Imagination in Contemporary Visual Culture, Fall 2008

The symposium, in collaboration with the Carnegie Museum of Art and the Film Studies Program, focused on the strategic use of visual and verbal narratives to challenge the boundaries between fiction and reality, create a sense of community, and critically reflect on local and global problems. The keynote lectures of Professor Emeritus Luis Camnitzer (State University of New York) and curator Douglas Fogle, organizer of Life on Mars, the 55th Carnegie International, discussed the ethical implications of contemporary art practices and the idea of communication and humanity inherent in creative acts. Presentations were made by graduate students from art history, cultural studies, film studies, and MFA programs from universities across the United States on such topics as our participation to the social production of space, the artificial separations between nature and culture, and our changing sense of bodily awareness in relation to surveillance and technology.

Natural Selections: Art and Exchange with the Natural World, Spring 2006

This symposium, in collaboration with the Cultural Studies Program, explored humanity’s relationship with the natural world as transmitted through artistic practice throughout the ages. The symposium was also a joint venture with Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, which opened the exhibition Fierce Friends: Artists & Animals in the Industrial Era, 1750–1900 on March 25, 2006. The exhibition, co-organized by Carnegie Museum of Art and the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, explored 18th and 19th century representations of humanity’s relationship to nature as exemplified by our treatment of animals.