• Rematerializing the Immaterial: A Comparative Study of Vancouver's Conceptual Art and Writing

      Polyck-O'Neill, Julia; Interdisciplinary Humanities Program
      Rematerializing the Immaterial: A Comparative Study of Vancouver’s Conceptual Art and Writing examines the contemporary situation of the Vancouver art world and addresses the twin schools of conceptualism in the city, the Vancouver School of photoconceptualism and the Kootenay School of Writing (KSW). The dissertation, which explores conceptual art’s impact on Vancouver’s cultural reputation broadly, brings visual art into conversation with conceptual writing and examines how specific definitions and ideas of and relating to conceptual art have shaped the discourse of conceptualism in Vancouver. As the title suggests, many of the ideas central to conceptual art and conceptualism implicate questions of materiality – particularly as American curator and art critic Lucy Lippard’s notion of “dematerialization” is concerned – and whether conceptualism is a material or intellectual enterprise. Drawing on the research and theorization of scholars such as Lippard, Leah Modigliani, Peter Osborne, Jeff Derksen, Jason Wiens, Scott Watson, Alexander Alberro, Kenneth Goldsmith, Caroline Bergvall, and Adrian Piper, I argue that Vancouver conceptualism is both materially and critically, intellectually engaged with the social, cultural, political, and economic histories and realities of Vancouver. Examining the creative and critical work of such artists and writers as Derksen, Stan Douglas, Fred Wah, Jeff Wall, and Lisa Robertson, I observe how, as a kind of critical- and often para-linguistic assemblage, these forces form a discernable poetics of Vancouver, incorporating art histories, criticism, formal conventions, ideas of and engagement with the archive, and impactful events in the city’s historical unfolding to shape the way Vancouver conceptualism circulates locally and internationally. By means of a reconsideration of Vancouver’s art world, including key artworks, poems, archives, and events, I seek to demonstrate how conceptualist photography and writing are complex and varied practices that engage at once with theory, art history, and social and cultural histories in the city.
    • A Rhetorical Model of Autism: a Pop Culture Personification of Masculinity in Crisis

      Matthews, Malcolm; Interdisciplinary Humanities Program
      ABSTRACT In my dissertation, I argue that significant rhetorical mechanisms are at work in the production and consumption of portrayals of autism in literature, TV, and film. My project is driven by a central question: In what ways do portrayals of autism function as a visual rhetorical reconfiguration of masculinity that reimagines and repurposes disability in the service of the promotion of Humanist notions of white male hegemony in a technocentric era? I begin with Hans Asperger’s 1944 claim that autism is “a variant of male intelligence.” I connect that originary declaration with contemporary observations by Stuart Murray that autism is a form of “metaphorized hypermasculinity” and with Simon Baron-Cohen’s controversial insistence that autism represents a version of “The Extreme Male Brain.” Such testimonials, coupled with results from my own analysis and taxonomy of autistic characters throughout emerging popular culture manifestations, has led me to hypothesize that autism in portrayal serves as a survival guide for the white Western male in an era that threatens to be post-racial, post-ableist, post-phallocentric, and even post-anthropocentric. Fictional adolescent autists (e.g.: Christopher Boone, Nathanial Clark, and Colin Fischer), living autists (e.g.: David Paravicini, Daniel Tammet, and Temple Grandin), autistic “techno-savants” (e.g.: Spock, Rain Man, Sheldon Cooper), and speculatively diagnosed historical figures (e.g.: Alan Turing, Andy Warhol, and Bobby Fischer), advance a distinct “autism aesthetic” and function as rhetorical texts whose readings expose an unexplored intersection of disability, masculinity, ethnicity, and digital technology. Such characters illustrate in visual rhetorical terms how certain traits of autism are being romanticized in a digital era to equate ethnic whiteness with intellect and with a re-branded form of techno-masculinity. By providing a Rhetorical Model of autism as a link between autism as a clinical condition and as a cultural construct, I aim to form a more complete picture of autism and of its role in popular consciousness. As an interdisciplinary project, my dissertation draws upon the vocabularies and methodologies of gender, disability, and media studies. Under the unifying umbrella of visual rhetoric, I explore ethnicity, sexuality, and symbol-manipulation on the autism spectrum as they relate to Western man’s hope for a unifying techno-human singularity and his anxiety over the possible obsolescence of conventional constructions of masculinity. At stake are notions of hegemonic masculinity and of autism as a rhetorical artifact with real world implications.
    • Stretching the Vitruvian Man: Investigating Affective and Representational Arts-based Methodologies Towards Theorizing a More Humanistic Model of Medicine

      Couse, Candace; Interdisciplinary Humanities Program
      Westernized medicine can be said to illustrate its history and structure, as well as its current understanding of the capacity and appearance of the human through its visual representations of the body. Scientific images, this paper argues, become a site for interrogating the tangle of idealism, truth, objectivity and knowledge in how knowledge is actively used, replicated, paralleled and otherwise functions. First, asking how depictions of the medicalized body inform the epistemological foundations of medicine, and to what end, this work opens up the question of methodology, arguing that the integration of the modes of arts-based practices can bring medicine toward a much more realistic picture of the world. A parallel argument is a similarly concentrated interrogation of the affective quality of arts-based methodology, which is commonly understood to be the nucleus of work on the political dimensions of non-representational theory. I complicate the dominant scholarly preference for an ontologically rooted affect theory, finding it theoretically non-viable for art and humanistic medicine by thinking through subjectivity, autobiographical accounts of illness and epistemological flexibility. I see a path forward using a biologically and evolutionarily rooted affect theory, noting the ethical implications of its differences for a humanistic approach to medicine.