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.


Debating Visual Knowledge, Fall 2014

This symposium is organized by graduate students in Information Science and History of Art and Architecture and will take place on October 3 – 5, 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). Visit website for more details


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.