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Aesthetic Scenes in Canada

Cultural Studies


GENG-7820.3 Topics in Visual Culture: Aesthetic Scenes in Canada: Contemporary Art, Social Movement and Neoliberalism
Spring/Summer 2016
Monday/Wednesday 1-4, May 2 - June 13

Professor J. Jacobson-Konefall

In this course students will analyze how contemporary art defines and resists neoliberalism in Canada, memorializes and inspires social movement, and tracks changes in relationships between citizens, Indigenous nations, and the state. Students will consider relationships between artworks and social movements such as Idle No More and anti-austerity protests as aesthetic scenes coalescing with art production. For the purposes of this class, we will consider neoliberalism as a contemporary process that intensifies the liberal order framework of Canada as a colonial state, emphasizing the free choice, agency, and responsibility of the private individual, while increasing the precarity of citizenship and belonging through increasing marketization. We will examine the works of artists such as Rebecca Belmore, Paul Wong and Skeena Reece, whose Ooooo Canada (2010), produced for the Vancouver Olympic Games, presents a critique of Canada’s corporate nationalist culture; Kyisha Williams’ Red Lips: Cages for Black Girls (2010) which explores racialized and criminalized identity in relation to Canada’s prison industrial complex; and Carol Conde and Karl Beveridge’s painting, Liberty Lost (2010) of the Toronto G8/G20 events. We will focus on contemporary artistic practices in light of neoliberal attacks on Canada that impact both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples on these lands. We will also consider the knowledge production of social movement activists and independent scholars regarding neoliberalism, and their arguments regarding the potential for solidarity and collaboration across communities.