Western arts exhibition steps outside the usual boundaries

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Art

Has it all been done? Is the historical production of visual art merely a sequence of appropriations, or is there possibility for (r)evolution? These questions, among others, are posed by Western’s graduate visual arts students and faculty.

Last weekend, visual arts graduate students and faculty members held Western’s third annual visual arts conference and exhibition, It’s All Been Done?/ What’s Been Done. The interdisciplinary conference boasts a diverse range of speakers from universities across Canada, including McGill, Concordia, Trent, and Toronto.

Toronto Professor Mark Cheetham was the conference’s keynote speaker. Cheetham, a former Western faculty member and highly decorated academic, expressed his unique perspective regarding modern anxieties in visual culture.

“There is a worry that what we want to do has already been done, that we will succumb to repetition,” Cheetham says. “Yet, this anxiety is a constituent part of the creative process.”

Potential presentation topics are focused on identity politics, Expressionism, the Internet, Classicism and neo-classicism, popular mythology, and sex and gender. Papers at the conference were collected and displayed in an online journal available on Western’s website.

The exhibition consists of artists whose work “negotiates the boundaries of appropriation to explore the constant recycling of visual culture,” and includes a series of intensive moderated panel discussions.

Sian Evans, an MA candidate in Western’s Graduate Arts program, stressed the importance of the exhibition of student productions.

“[It] allows us to speak to political and aesthetic issues while offering students a chance to exhibit their work,” he said.

To further enhance academic opportunities for students, the conference also marked the annunciation of Western’s new Visual Arts PhD program. Set for launch this fall, the program hopes to expand already growing academic horizons.

Kathryn Brush, Western’s visual arts department chair, said “members of the new PhD program will entertain an even more dynamic role in next year’s conference.”

It’s All Been Done?/ What’s Been Done isn’t restricted to academia. Rather, it fosters the interaction of students on a social level to form interest-specific communities.

“We see this conference as a tool of professionalization, aiming to engage in a larger academic community,” Brush said.

John Hatch, Graduate Chair of Visual Arts, is equally optimistic, saying the program will encourage “a fresh, creative approach to its subject.”

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