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Graduate Program in Visual Arts

News & Events

Summer Institute 2018

Clamorous Entanglements: Cities, Crisis, and

Contemporary Asian Art

GS ARTH 6020.3 and GS VISA 6020/6030.3

May 2 - May 21, 2018

Professors Hong Kal & Yam Lau


This course examines a broad range of contemporary art practices that address social, political, environmental and aesthetic challenges embedded in selected cities in Asia.  In particular, the remarkable proliferation of art practices is concerned with creating social-political dialogues in conflict-ridden urban spaces. Complex, contradictory and unruly, these art practices often cross boundaries between art, activism, urbanism, anthropology and other fields. Distinguished by their localities, these art practices are urgent responses to emergent crisis on both cultural and “natural” registers. Inspired by a growing interest in public participation, these art practices question relationships between individual and collective, conflict and consensus, aesthetic autonomy and social responsibility. From the studio perspectives, the trajectories of these art practices will be situated within the larger paradigms of traditional aesthetics, modernism, postmodernism and globalism, as these paradigms are filtered through specific urban contexts. From the perspectives of art history and theory, issues of contemporary Asian art will be discussed with focus on critical debates on socially engaged art; artistic intervention in urban development; and disaster, trauma and affect in visual art.

The course will be offered May 2 – 21, 2018, co-led by Hong Kal (art historian) and Yam Lau (artist). It offers studies and practice projects.

There will be three seminar meetings (Monday, Wednesday & Friday) from 11:00-12:30 and 1:30-3:00; and three public lectures by invited speakers on May 8, 11, and 18, from 7:00-9:00 at a downtown location.  



Summer Institute 2017

Public Art: New Ways of Thinking and Working

GS/ARTH 6020.3 and GS/VISA 6020/6030.3

May 15 - May 25, 2017

Professors Sarah Parsons & Brandon Vickerd


The 2017 Goldfarb Summer Institute graduate course will focus on contemporary issues in public art. Within Canada, ideas of public art have evolved in recent decades, largely due to the role of new programs, policies, festivals, and initiatives that are challenging notions of temporality, spectacle, interventions and participation. While reflecting upon historically significant achievements, this seminar will take an inclusive approach to exploring current topical issues and innovations in order to expand the discourse surrounding public art in Canada and beyond, encouraging criticality and moving the field forward.


The graduate seminar will coincide with the symposium Public Art: New Ways of Thinking and Working that will be hosted by the Department of Visual Art and Art History in conjunction with the various partner organizations (May 18, 19 and 20). Public Art: New Ways of Thinking and Working will offer a forum for emerging research, challenging debate and the establishment of a sustained dialogue around public art from the perspective of both studies and practice. This will be accomplished by including a wide range of cultural, political, social, and pedagogical perspectives across the disciplines of visual arts, architecture, art history, city planning, engineering and urban studies. Students enrolled in the institute will participate in the symposium events.


The symposium will bring together international academics, critics, curators, practitioners and enthusiasts to explore the shifting role of contemporary public art and consider the accomplishments of various innovators working in the public sphere. The goal of this symposium is to critically examine the current state of Canadian contemporary public art practices and processes in the context of innovations happening internationally. Through critical examination of the artistic practices, successes and challenges, theories and impacts of the field, and by inviting multiple perspectives, Public Art: New Ways of Thinking and Working will further the discourse surrounding the role of public art and its continued redefinition. It will be organized around three key conference themes: News Ways of Thinking and Working, Duration, Policies and Processes.


Both the symposium and the seminar acknowledge multiple shifts in public art while questioning: ideas of the creative city, the ways in which artists work, how the work is being made, and the role of curation, audience, discourse and criticality in public art. Public Art: New Ways of Thinking and Working is an opportunity to bring together broad perspectives which have contributed to driving this change, to reflect on and challenge how we define and talk about public art, at a time in the field when reflection and deeper understanding is needed in the face of its mass proliferation.


Tentative Schedule:


May 15 - 17 - afternoon meetings

May 18 - afternoon meeting and evening lecture

May 19 and 20 - all day symposium

May 23 - afternoon meeting

May 24 - morning and afternoon downtown

May 25 - morning meeting - final class

June 26 - final papers due


Summer Institute 2016

Slowness, Not Sedation

GS ARTH 6020.3 and GS VISA 6020/6030.3

May 2 - May 11, 2016

Professors Nell Tenhaaf & Dan Adler

The 2016 Joan & Martin Goldfarb Summer Institute in Visual Arts explores the critical importance of slowness in modern and contemporary visual culture. Art history and criticism has a long and well-considered commitment to theorizing how art relates to slower forms of perceptual experience, including those that are semi-conscious or associated with altered states. Speed is an obvious facet of contemporary society, whereas slowness has often been dismissed as conservative and antimodern. We will explore slowness as a critical medium and a means to intensify our temporal and spatial experiences, in relation to today’s “spectator on the move.” Slowness helps us to register the multiple layers of time, history, and motion that constitute our present.

The Institute will develop aesthetic models through which slowness, sleep and even boredom may be interpreted in modern and contemporary art. We will theorize based on case studies of artistic projects that manage to critically carve out spaces—or strive to stake a claim—within hegemonic environments of acceleration. Focusing on specific works will allow us to reflect on how artists create singular or alternate temporalities and durations which—partly due to their slowness—are resistant to the systems and economies of control that depend on accelerated speeds of processing.

In partnership with the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Toronto International Film Festival’s Higher Learning program, the Goldfarb Summer Institute presents a series of public talks by its featured guests. In addition the morning seminar on May 10 will be led by a special guest, acclaimed Toronto-based media artist David Rokeby.

Public talks

LYNNE COOKE: “Retrospective/Retrospection“
Mon. May 2, 6–7:30pm
Art Gallery of Ontario, Jackman Hall, 317 Dundas St. West, Toronto

View this event online: York U | AGO

MOYRA DAVEY: artist talk
Wed. May 4, 6–7:30pm
Art Gallery of Ontario, Jackman Hall, 317 Dundas St. West, Toronto

View this event online: York U | AGO

WENDY CHUN: “Habitual New Media”
Wed. May 11, 1–2:30pm
TIFF Bell Lightbox, 350 King St. West, Toronto

View this event online: York U | TIFF

Syllabus available here

Now in its eighth year, the Joan & Martin Summer Institute in Visual Arts offers York University graduate students and the wider community the opportunity to engage with prominent international artists, curators, critics and theorists through seminars, workshops, courses and public lectures. Previous guests include art theorists Manuel De Landa and Thierry De Duve, media arts specialists Christine Ross and Douglas Kahn, art historian and curator Sarat Maharaj, and the Singh Twins. The summer institute is named in recognition of Joan and Martin Goldfarb, longstanding supporters of York’s School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design, whose generous gift has made this annual residency program possible.


Summer Institute 2015

Sights + Sites: Memory, Monuments and Place After the Digital Turn

GS ARTH 6020.3 and GS VISA 6020/6030.3

May 4 - May 15, 2015

Professor Shelley Hornstein

The annual Joan & Martin Goldfarb Summer Institute in Visual Arts, now in its seventh year, offers York University graduate students and the wider community the opportunity to engage with prominent international theorists, artists, curators and critics through seminars, workshops and public lectures.  This intensive format is an opportunity for graduate students to engage deeply with each other, Professor Hornstein, and international guest faculty for a two-week period from May 4 - May 15, 2015. This course will explore the writings of our distinguished speakers to investigate the assumed invisibility or heightened visibility of the material and digital presence of communities, performers and things, and the inevitable and multiple interfaces between them. 

The theme of this summer institute will explore the pervasiveness and shifting landscape of screen-based images in our everyday lives and the feverish pace at which we create, disseminate, upload, download, remember, forget, save and delete them.  Concurrently, we will examine what monuments, memorials and public art mean as material objects in urban and rural space.   Can we seek new identities and cultural contexts through mediated images on screens? What does it mean to recognize the mobility of the image and its autonomy from physical place and material culture? How does a digital or virtual image situate people and place: networks, context, cities, and geographies?  What is the relationship between an ephemeral image and a material one?  When images disappear, what do we remember?  Are we and our images and places, truly mobile and connected? What is the enduring relationship of tangible to intangible heritage?  And what constitutes our cultural and collective memory?  Can digital images trigger memory as effectively as physical objects in land- and cityscapes? 

The reading list will draw largely from texts written by our esteemed guests. Students will be required to produce written responses to the readings and to take turns presenting in class. Dialogue among seminar participants will continue online through Moodle after May 10 in part to provide support as students develop their own research papers that will be due at the beginning of June.

VISITING GUEST SPEAKERS:James Young Marita Sturken Melissa Shiff & Louis Kaplan Paula Amad and Nick Yablon

Additional possible site visits with: Scott Weir; and the RAD lab

(Responsive Architecture at Daniels)


Goldfarb Annual Lecture - Room 312 GCFA


Shimon Attie, a New York-based, internationally renowned visual artist, will present and discuss selected art projects, including early site-specific installations across Europe and the United States, as well as more recent works that involve multiple-channel immersive video installations. He will also show images from his most recent project, “Facts on the Ground”, a series of site-specific installations that he created across Israel and Palestine.  

In many of these projects, Attie draws upon a wide variety of media to re-imagine new relationships between space, time, place and identity.  He also often engages local communities in the creation of these works.  Attie is particularly concerned with issues of loss, communal trauma and the potential for regeneration. 

In addition to presenting his works, Attie will touch upon themes related to ephemeral versus material images, and how this relates to the process of remembering and forgetting.  He will also through his presentation suggest broader parameters of what constitutes “site”, context, culture and politics.


Summer Institute 2014

Sonic Praxis in X Actions

GS ARTH 6020.3 and GS VISA 6020/6030.3

May 5 - May 23, 2014

Professors Leslie Korrick & Marc Couroux

This intensive summer graduate course takes as its primary interest sound and sound
art, especially as it has unfolded in and around the visual arts, its discourses, and
institutions during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Themes to be explored
include: the challenges sound and sound art pose to “the visual arts” and visual culture
more broadly as well as the opportunities emerging out of these; the materialities of
sound and the role the latter might play within emergent speculative thought; and
modes of intuiting novel political orientations through sonic practices. In addition, the
course will consider sound as one means of navigating transdisciplinary vectors that cut
across the domains of art, science, and technology. Taking its cue from a range of midtwentieth
century propositions associated with the artistic avant-garde, the course will
be structured through a series of on- and off-campus “actions” that will allow students to
consider these themes at the seminar table, in the studio, on the street, and in the
The course will be co-taught by York University Professors Marc Couroux and Leslie
Korrick in collaboration with historians, artists, and curators. Among these, students
will have an opportunity to work closely with scholar Douglas Kahn, Professor of Media
and Innovation at the National Institute of Experimental Arts, University of New South
Wales in Sydney; sound artist Hong-Kai Wang, currently based in Vienna; and Trine Friis
Sørensen, independent curator and Ph.D. Fellow at the LARM Audio Research Archive in
The course meets daily for two weeks, Monday through Friday from 5-16 May, followed
by a third independent “work week” culminating in final presentations and critique on
22-23 May. Because class time will vary from day to day in the first two weeks, students
should not have inflexible or time-consuming commitments during this period.