The Wollesen Memorial Graduate Symposium is the annual symposium for the Graduate Union of the Students of Art (GUStA) at the University of Toronto.  It was inaugurated in 2014 as an enduring legacy and fond tribute to our esteemed late colleague Dr. Jens T. Wollesen.  Dr. Wollesen joined the Department of Art at the University of Toronto in 1985.  He specialized in the art of medieval Italy, Cyprus, and the Mediterranean basin with a particular focus in the relationship between image and text.  He is also remembered as a professor dedicated to his pedagogical calling.  He was the director of both the undergraduate and graduate programs at various times, and also served on the Art Committee of the University of Toronto’s Victoria University.  His dedication as a professor led him to design a first-year Introductory Art History course which was widely acknowledged by students as legendary.  His dedication to both graduate and undergraduate education remains his legacy, for which the yearly success of this symposium is a testament.  It is made possible by the continuing support of his friends and family through the Jens Wollesen Memorial Fund.

This year, GUStA continues the tribute with a symposium entitled “Confronting the Exhibitionary Order.”

Friday March 15, 2019

East Common Room, Hart House

7 Hart House Circle

University of Toronto

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Introductory address: Dr. Elizabeth Harney, Professor of Art history, University of Toronto

Keynote address: Dr. Julie Crooks, Curator, Art Gallery of Ontario

Symposium Chairs: Laura Tibi and Maria Mendoza Camba

The history of display tactics of visual and material culture created staging realms that imbued problematic and controversial resonances, shaping today’s culture and society. We welcome innovative contributions that critically engage with the history of exhibitionary orders and classification systems as tools for defining, ordering, and representing the world as an endless exhibition. Modernism as an aesthetic movement presented itself as ahistorical and transnational, grounded in essentialism and universality. However, the classification systems that helped inform modernism were dependent on comparative cognitive shortcuts and coded stereotypes that lay claim to the superiority and accomplishments of western civilization. World fairs are pivotal examples of how classification systems operated, as they become staging realms where countries were systematically organized from least to most civilized. Anthropological and ethnographic research also substantiated a lot of racist stereotypes, contributing to this narrative of objective ordering. This symposium seeks to question how the creation, presentation, and dissemination of visual and material culture and knowledge have resulted in the perpetuation of problematic imperial hierarchies. Debates around reparations continue to percolate in today’s political climate, urging us to interrogate the display tactics of museums, galleries, and biennials, as well as larger questions of exhibitionary orders in the world. In collaboration with HASA’s conference titled “The Problematic in Art,” the Wollesen Memorial Symposium hopes to facilitate a productive discussion that challenges the problematic histories and practices of display, particularly viewing and ordering the world as exhibition.

We encourage submissions from students and scholars from various backgrounds and disciplines.

Potential topics and ideas may include, but are not limited to:

  • World exhibitions as sites for the creation, dissemination and transfer of knowledge
  • The nineteenth-century cult of the exhibition
  • Embodiment
  • Colonial exhibitions and the development of museums, display tactics, staging realms, and exhibitionary order
  • Ethnography and anthropology (human exhibits, ethnographic portraiture, etc)
  • Commodity fetishism
  • Colonial representation and propaganda
  • Historiography and the construction of historical narratives
  • Defining, ordering, and representing the world
  • The Enlightenment and classification systems
  • Colonialism/ Postcolonialism/ Decolonialism
  • Imperial hierarchies
  • Center and periphery
  • Self-representation, mimicry, hybridity, and processes of disavowal
  • Simulacrum, hyperreal, simulation, (mis)representation
  • Verisimilitude, pictorial certainty
  • Mythologies/ the power of the myth and its transposition into representational forms
  • Stereotypes as vehicles of authenticity (perpetuated through painting, photography, film, ethnography, etc.).
  • The male, western gaze
  • Biased ideals of connoisseurship

Presentations should be 20 minutes in length and will be followed by a 10-minute question and answer session for each presentation. The Symposium will employ both presentations and panel discussion in the program. Chosen works may be selected for either approach. Selected presentations will be chosen for publication in the Wollesen Art Journal, an online publication of the symposium proceedings.

Please submit an abstract (.doc/. docx/. pdf) of no more than 300 words to the Graduate Students of Art at by Friday, December 21, 2018 at 5:00 pm EST. Participants will be notified by email by the middle of January.


We would like to acknowledge the support of the University of Toronto’s Department of Art and Graduate Union of Students of Art as well as our sponsors from the Faculty of Information, School of Cities, the Department of English, the African Studies Program, and the Asia-Pacific Studies Program. 





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