A.6 Mining the Connection(s) between Industry and the Arts

Wed Oct 20 / 9:30 – 11:00 PDT
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  • Jessica Mace, University of Toronto

While industry and the arts may initially seem poles apart, the two fields are, in fact, closely entwined. Over time, visual and material culture has served to drive industrial development, for example, through survey photography or the construction of company towns), and has responded to industrial production in myriad ways, from documentation to artistic interpretation. In recent years, the arts have also dealt with the effects and material legacies of deindustrialization, for instance, through heritage, urban exploration, and adaptive reuse. This session, then, seeks to explore these varied connections and to bring to light these often overlooked topics. We invite scholars at all stages of their careers to discuss their work in any medium or period of time as it relates to industry and/or industrial production.

Jessica Mace, PhD, is an art and architectural historian. She is currently the Postdoctoral Fellow in the History of Canadian Architecture and Landscape in the Department of Art History at the University of Toronto, an Adjunct Professor in both the Department of Urban and Tourism Studies at the Université du Québec à Montréal and the Department of Visual Art and Art History at York University, and an instructor at OCAD University. She is also the Editor in Chief of the Journal of the Society for the Study of Architecture in Canada and serves on the Executive Committee of the Association of Critical Heritage Studies. She recently edited the book A Medieval Legacy: The Ongoing Life of Forms in the Built Environment. Essays in Honour of Professor Malcolm Thurlby (Éditions Patrimonium, 2020) and co-authored the book Identity on the Land: Company towns in Canada (with Lucie K. Morisset, 2020).

A.6.1 Painting the Post-Industrial Landscape: David Milne's Dark Pool, Ti Magami

Siobhan Angus, Yale University

In 1929, after a summer of camping in Temagami, David Milne painted Dark Pool, Ti Magami. The painting is one of a series of thirteen works of a flooded mineshaft in which a reflective surface pool had formed. I argue that Milne's work is a productive reorientation of landscape painting as a genre, as Milne's landscape is not a vista to be conquered but a vertical immersion into the earth, a vantage point that alludes to the complex networks of mine shafts that exist below the surface. Paintings of mining challenge representational conventions, for the flooded mine shaft, places an emphasis on deficit, on what remains when material is carved out of the earth. Read through an eco-critical lens, I consider what these paintings of former mining sites might tell us about the human transformed landscape and the possibilities of life in environmental sacrifice zones.

Siobhan Angus specializes in the history of photography and the environmental humanities. Her current research explores the visual culture of resource extraction with a focus on materiality, perceptions of nature, and environmental justice. Her scholarship also engages with the history of capitalism and labour, settler colonial studies, temporality and scale in the geological turn, and the relationship between art, science, and industry. She is currently a Banting Postdoctoral Fellow in the History of Art and a visiting scholar at the Yale Center for British Art. She holds a PhD in Art History and Visual Culture from York University, where her dissertation was awarded the Governor General's Gold Medal. Her research has been published in Panorama: Journal of the Association of Historians of American Art, Radical History Review, and Capitalism and the Camera (Verso, 2021) and is forthcoming in Geohumanities and October.

A.6.2 When Industry Sponsors Culture: The Case of the Canadian Wood Design Architecture Awards

Izabel Amaral, Université de Montréal

In architecture, as in other forms of art, awards are considered as a celebration of achievement and professional recognition that convey notoriety and prestige to individuals, while participating in the circulation of cultural values, as explained by James F. English in The Economy of Prestige (2005). In Canada, from 2000 to 2020, more than five hundred awards were dedicated to wood architecture across all provinces, and thus intrinsically manifest the strong link between the wood industry and architecture as a cultural practice. The Canadian Wood Council plays an important role in the commercial circulation of wood through its multiple partners and forestry organizations. This presentation discusses how the Canadian wood industry, through its Wood Design Awards, reflects tensions in the contemporary architectural culture. More precisely, it will consider how the promotion of alternatives to fossil fuel-based construction merges with discourses of wood as a symbolic representation of nature in the built environment, which can be associated with a visual expression of sustainability (Cucuzzella, 2020).

By adopting the same awarding principles of other architectural prizes — based on comparison, selection, and judgment by peers as in architectural competitions (Chupin & al, 2015) — the wood industry employs a market development and education strategy that is consistent with contemporary values in Canadian architecture. In that sense, it participates in the transformation of economic capital into symbolic capital (English, 2005). Adding to this, we will critically weigh some implications on the topic of materials in art and architecture, where an aestheticized built environment refers to a display of social status (Böhme, 2016, 2017).

Considering a corpus of awarded wood architectural designs from Ontario and Québec, we will present preliminary results of an ongoing research on exemplary public cultural buildings, such as libraries and community centers. We formulate the hypothesis that wood architecture reveals how various forms of Canadian culture represent and symbolize their relations to land and natural resources, as well as the culture of its founding peoples through a rich variety of architectural manifestations.

Izabel Amaral is the director of École d'architecture, Université de Montréal, since June 2021. She was previously an adjunct professor at the McEwen School of Architecture at Laurentian University. She is a Brazilian architect with a PhD from the Faculté de l'aménagement at Université de Montréal, who has lived in Canada since 2005. Her academic research reflects on contemporary practices of architecture through a cross-cultural analysis of Canadian and Brazilian architecture projects. Her research interests include cultural and aesthetic dimensions of construction, tectonics, architectural competitions as well as modern and contemporary architecture. She acquired her professional experience in Northeast Brazilian in residential and public building designs, as well as an expertise in architectural acoustics.

A.6.3 Genealogies of the Techno-Industrial Artist Residency

Ashley Scarlett, Alberta University of the Arts

The last five years have witnessed a growing interest in mid-twentieth century collaborations between artists, engineers, and the technological industry (Noll 2016; Patterson 2015). From Bell Labs-sponsored Experiments in Art and Technology to aesthetic experimentation unfolding at XEROX and IBM, many prominent tech ventures of the 1960s and 70s developed artist residency programming, inviting artists to access new suites of creative tools, materials, and technological affordances (Paul 2016). Working as "Resident Visitors" at the Bell Laboratories, artists like Nam June Paik and Lillian Schwartz leveraged new and emerging computational tools to reimagine the creative and aesthetic potential of their previously analogue practices (Kane 2014).

While significant scholarship has demonstrated how early access to computational technologies and expertise shaped the foundations of many contemporary art movements (Shanken 2015), these accounts often overlook the critical contributions that artists have made to the technological industry — e.g., driving innovation, expanding markets, and "art-washing." In The Artist and the Computer, Bell Labs engineer John Pattberg explains that "… in working with an artist, you gain new perspectives in working with computer graphics" (Ball 1976). One of Lillian Schwartz's collaborators, the duo spurred the digitization of colour, significantly expanding the computer's colour palette.

Cases like Schwartz's highlight the critical role, though often overlooked, that artist-in-residence programming aligned with the tech industry has played in the intersecting histories of computation and computer art. And yet, little research has engaged in either an expanded history or contemporary critique of artist-in-residence programming aligned with the tech industry. The following paper begins to fill this gap. Building on a sweeping account of the pre- and early histories of the "techno-industrial artist residency," the paper will draw upon archival research, discourse analysis, and interviews to explore the rhetorical constitution, interdisciplinary realization, and historical contributions of artist-in-residence programming offered by software developer Autodesk. The paper advances an original account of the contingent histories of computation and computer art.

Dr. Ashley Scarlett is an assistant professor in the School of Critical and Creative Studies at the Alberta University of the Arts. Dr. Scarlett's research interests lie at the intersection of art, technology and critical thought. Grounded in theoretical and practice-based analyses of contemporary media art and its histories, her work explores how artists have aestheticized, conceptualized and critiqued technical and cultural dimensions of 'the digital.' Dr. Scarlett's research has been published in a number of venues, including Parallax, Media Theory, Digital Culture & Society, The Routledge Companion to Photography Theory, and Computational Arts in Canada 1967–74.

A.6.4 The Art of the Smart City

Melanie Wilmink, Independent Scholar

This paper will investigate how artists are intervening in the industry research and development around smart city planning. As urban environments increasingly embed technology within physical infrastructure, these tools become commonplace. Art is often positioned as a way to intervene into habitual thinking, where it can denaturalize assumptions about the world and bring to the foreground invisible aspects of experience. This makes it an important tool for understanding how our experience with that technology unfolds and what consequences it might have on our thinking.

This idea emerged from my work with Sidewalk Labs — an urban development firm funded by Google — where I created exhibitions in their Toronto office space. I am interested in how art can participate in the ongoing research about the integration of technologically-driven systems into the urban environment and how these tools might function as art-making media. Cities increasingly turn towards technology to solve urban management problems, but as these technologies proliferate, users become less aware of them and potential ethical issues regarding privacy, accessibility, and equity are exacerbated. My research will investigate how artists are addressing the smart city and its associated technologies, and I will analyze what role art plays in the development of knowledge and public agency regarding these tools. I will discuss my own experience working with Sidewalk Labs and introduce a selection of artists who are similarly investigating the intersection between their artistic practice and smart-city technologies through the tools of AI, embedded sensors, VR and media architecture.

Melanie Wilmink holds a PhD in Visual Art and Art History from York University (Toronto), with honours such as the 2014 Elia Scholars Award and a 2015 SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship. She completed her MA in Interdisciplinary Studies (Film and Visual Arts) at the University of Regina, where she was a research assistant on Dr. Christine Ramsay's SSHRC-funded Atom Egoyan In Media Res exhibition project and was awarded a Joseph-Bombardier Canada Graduate Masters Scholarship in 2013. With a dissertation focus on the inter-connectivity between spectatorial experience and exhibition spaces, her ongoing research emerged during her role programming for the Calgary Society of Independent Filmmakers and her independent curating practice, including the Situated Cinema Project (Pleasure Dome, 2015) and as Curator-in-Residence for Sidewalk Labs Toronto. She is the co-editor of the anthologies Sculpting Cinema (2018) and Landscapes of Moving Image (2021) with Solomon Nagler.