13 episodes

“Unboxing the Canon” takes a closer look at the history of Western art. We might be seduced by the pretty packaging, such as soft brush strokes, brilliant colours, grand gestures, expert carving, even traditional iconography. But what happens when we take a deeper look? When we open the packaging and see what might have been invisible, or what is a cultural blind spot? Join Professor Linda Steer and listen in for a take on art history that connects the past to the present, critiques the canon, and reveals what might not be immediately apparent in Western art and its institutions.

Unboxing the Canon Linda Steer

    • Arts

“Unboxing the Canon” takes a closer look at the history of Western art. We might be seduced by the pretty packaging, such as soft brush strokes, brilliant colours, grand gestures, expert carving, even traditional iconography. But what happens when we take a deeper look? When we open the packaging and see what might have been invisible, or what is a cultural blind spot? Join Professor Linda Steer and listen in for a take on art history that connects the past to the present, critiques the canon, and reveals what might not be immediately apparent in Western art and its institutions.

    Episode 11: On Disability

    Episode 11: On Disability

    This episode of Unboxing the Canon introduces the topic of disability and the visual arts, looking at both historical and contemporary examples. We consider the near absence of visible disability in the history of Western art and discuss how some contemporary artists are representing disability in powerful ways. Beginning with Diego Velázquez’s 1656 painting Las Meninas, this episode  examines it and other historical works through the ideas of contemporary artist, writer and disability activist, Riva Lehrer. Then we turn towards the work of Persimmon Blackbridge, a Canadian artist whose work touches on disability, institutionalization, censorship, and queer identity. We demystify the artist-genius myth and end with a brief discussion about how curatorial choices can make art more accessible.


     


    Sources + further reading:


    Bodies in Translation: Activist Art, Technology, and Access to Life. “Persimmon Blackbridge.” https://bodiesintranslation.ca/persimmon-blackbridge/.


    Diamond, Sara. “Still Sane.” Interview with Persimmon Blackbridge. Fuse Magazine, Fall 1984, 30-35. http://openresearch.ocadu.ca/id/eprint/1844/1/Diamond_Sane_1984.pdf 


    “Las Meninas - The Collection - Museo Nacional Del Prado.” https://www.museodelprado.es/en/the-collection/art-work/las-meninas/9fdc7800-9ade-48b0-ab8b-edee94ea877f.


    Lehrer, Riva. “Presence and Absence. The Paradox of Disability in Portraiture.” In Contemporary Art and Disability Studies, 185–202. New York: Routledge, 2019.


     Riva Lehrer – website. https://www.rivalehrerart.com.


    “Perejón, Buffoon of the Count of Benavente and of the Grand Duke of Alba - The Collection - Museo Nacional Del Prado.” https://www.museodelprado.es/en/the-collection/art-work/perejon-buffoon-of-the-count-of-benavente-and-of/724b1f54-4ea6-465e-9d49-fd2999884e4c.


    Sandals, Leah. “8 Things Everyone Needs to Know About Art and Disability.” Canadian Art. March 3, 2016. https://canadianart.ca/features/7-things-everyone-needs-to-know-about-art-disability/.


    Schönwiese, Volker, and Petra Flieger. “The Painting of a Disabled Man from the 16th Century - a Participatory Action Research Project,” n.d., 44. http://bidok.uibk.ac.at/projekte/bildnis/bildnis-ambras/handout_san_francisco.pdf


    Siebers, Tobin. “Disability aesthetics and the body beautiful: Signposts in the history of art.” Alter (4), vol 2, 2008, 329-336 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.alter.2008.08.002.


    Stewart, Sophia. “Enough with the Ableist Worship of Frida Kahlo.” Hyperallergic, July 15, 2021. http://hyperallergic.com/662606/frida-and-my-left-leg-emily-black/.


    Tangled Art + Disability. https://tangledarts.org/.


    “Velázquez, Diego Rodríguez de Silva y - The Collection - Museo Nacional Del Prado.” https://www.museodelprado.es/en/the-collection/artist/velazquez-diego-rodriguez-de-silva-y/434337e9-77e4-4597-a962-ef47304d930d?searchMeta=velazquez.


    Wexler, Alice, and John K. Derby. Contemporary Art and Disability Studies. Routledge Advances in Art and Visual Studies. New York, NY: Routledge, 2020.


     


    Music Credits:


    Jarolslav Jezek, Bugatti Step (1931). https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jarolslav_Jezek_Orchestra_Bugatti_Step_1931.ogg


    Robert Schumann. Scenes from Childhood, Op. 15 No. 3: Blind Man’s Buff, n.d. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Robert_Schumann_-_scenes_from_childhood,_op._15_-_iii._blind_man%27s_buff.ogg.


     


    Credits


    Season 2 of Unboxing the Canon is produced by Professor Linda Steer for her course “Introduction to the History of Western Art” in the Department of Visual Arts at Brock University. Our sound designer, co-host and contributing researcher is Madeline Collins. 


    Brock University is located on the traditional lands of the Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe peoples, many of whom continue to live and work here today. This territory is covered by the Upper Canada Treaties and is within the land protected by the Dish with One Spoon Wampum Agreement. Toda

    • 19 min
    Episode 10: Thinking and Rethinking Orientalism

    Episode 10: Thinking and Rethinking Orientalism

    Episode 10: Thinking and Rethinking Orientalism


    In this episode, called “Thinking and Rethinking Orientalism,” we examine Orientalism as a particular version of the Western gaze that influenced many 19th century European painters. The Western or European gaze treats non-Western subjects as different and inferior, but also as exotic, mysterious, or enticing. After examining the orientalist visual tropes in paintings by Gérôme and Delacroix, we turn towards contemporary artists. Moroccan photographer Lalla Essaydi creates meaningful portraits of Muslim women that challenge perceptions of Arab female identity. Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian was an Iranian artist whose works combine Eastern and Western influences into a unique sculptural style. We take a look at her series Fourth Family.


     


    Sources + further reading:


    Edward W. Said. Orientalism. New York: Vintage Books, 1979.


    Nancy Demerdash. “Orientalism.” Smarthistory. https://smarthistory.org/orientalism


    Eugène Delacroix. The Death of Sardanapalus, 1827. Oil on canvas, 12 ft 10 in x 16 ft 3 in. (3.92 x 4.96 m), Musée du Louvre, Paris. https://collections.louvre.fr/ark:/53355/cl010065757


    Kathryn Calley Galitz. “Romanticism.” Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/roma/hd_roma.htm


    British Museum Blog. “How Did the Islamic World Influence Western Art?” British Museum Blog.  https://blog.britishmuseum.org/how-did-the-islamic-world-influence-western-art/


    British Museum Blog. “An Introduction to Orientalist Painting.” British Museum Blog. https://blog.britishmuseum.org/an-introduction-to-orientalist-painting/.


    Jean Léon-Gérôme. The Slave Market, 1871. Oil on canvas, 59.7 x 74.9cm. Cincinnati Art Museum, Ohio. https://www.cincinnatiartmuseum.org/art/explore-the-collection?id=11295788


    “Lalla Essaydi,” http://lallaessaydi.com/1.html


    “Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian: Infinite Possibility. Mirror Works and Drawings, 1974–2014. Guggenheim Museum. https://www.guggenheim.org/exhibition/monir


     Hussein Bicar. http://hbicar.com/biography.html  


    Abdul Qader Al Rais. http://admaf.org/artists/abdul-qader-al-rais


    Charles Hossein Zenderoudi. http://www.zenderoudi.com/english/artwork.html


     


    Music Credits


    Amitchell125.  Beethoven. Opening of String Quartet No. 1. 1801. CC BY-SA 4.0


    Rimsky-Korsakov. Scheherazade, Symphonic Suite, Op. 35. The San Francisco Symphony Orchestra conducted by Pierre Monteux. Violin solo by Naoum Blinder. CC0 1.0


    JuliusH. Bandari - Persian Arabic Music - Khaliji Drum and Nay Flute. Pixabay license.


    Andrewfai. Enti w Ana arabic song OUD Cover. Pixabay license.


    Bagher Moazen. Struggle. We played a 10 second sample of this work. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/legalcode


     


    Credits


    Season 2 of Unboxing the Canon is produced by Professor Linda Steer for her course “Introduction to the History of Western Art” in the Department of Visual Arts at Brock University. Our sound designer, co-host and contributing researcher is Madeline Collins. 


    Brock University is located on the traditional lands of the Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe peoples, many of whom continue to live and work here today. This territory is covered by the Upper Canada Treaties and is within the land protected by the Dish with One Spoon Wampum Agreement. Today this gathering place is home to many First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples and acknowledging reminds us that our great standard of living is directly related to the resources and friendship of Indigenous people.


    Our logo was created by Cherie Michels. The theme song has been adapted from “Night in Venice” Kevin MacLeod and is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution International 4.0.


    Grants from the Humanities Research Institute and from Match of Minds at Brock University support the production of this podcast, which is produced as an open educational resource. Unboxing the Canon is archived in the Brock D

    • 24 min
    Season 2 Trailer

    Season 2 Trailer

    Season 2 will launch soon!

    • 1 min
    Episode 9: Portraits of Rulers

    Episode 9: Portraits of Rulers

    In this episode, “Portraits of Rulers,” I take a look at the history of portraits of rulers in the canon of Western art and examine how portraits engage with structures of power. Beginning with French and English royalty in the 17th and 18th century, I end with a visual analysis of Kehinde Wiley’s portrait of former American President Barack Obama. Focusing on these rulers allows us to see how European portrait conventions use a number of visual cues, from clothing, pose, setting, and the objects included within the painting, to convey wealth, power and the right to rule. Examining a portrait of late 17th-century Queen Marie Antoinette allows us to see gender differences in royal portraiture. Looking closely at Obama’s portrait reveals the ways in which Wiley both adopted and refined European portrait conventions in a way that makes his portrait stand out among portraits of other American presidents.       


     


    Sources + further reading:


     Kirsty Oram. “Charles I (r. 1625-1649).” The Royal Family, December 30, 2015. https://www.royal.uk/charles-i.


    Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker. “Anthony van Dyck, Charles I at the Hunt – Smarthistory.” Accessed March 7, 2021. https://smarthistory.org/anthony-van-dyck-charles-i-at-the-hunt/.


    Hyacinthe Rigaud. Louis XIV (1638-1715). 1701. Oil on canvas, H. 2.77 m; W. 1.94 m. Louvre. https://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/louis-xiv-1638-1715.


    The Metropolitan Museum of Art. “Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun. Marie Antoinette in Court Dress.” Accessed March 9, 2021. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/656452.


    “President Barack Obama.” Accessed April 7, 2021. https://npg.si.edu/object/npg_NPG.2018.16.


    America’s Presidents: National Portrait Gallery. “America’s Presidents: National Portrait Gallery.” Accessed April 7, 2021. https://americaspresidents.si.edu/.


    Vinson Cunningham. “Kehinde Wiley on Painting President Obama, Michael Jackson, and the People of Ferguson.” The New Yorker. October 22, 2018. https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/kehinde-wiley-on-painting-president-obama-michael-jackson-and-the-people-of-ferguson.


    Greg Allen. “There Is No Obama Chair.” Greg.Org. Accessed April 7, 2021. https://greg.org/archive/2018/02/18/there-is-no-obama-chair.html.


     


    Music Clips


    Thomas Lupo, “Fantasia,” c. 1620-30. Lupo was a court musician under Elizabeth I Queen of England and later worked for the household of Prince Charles who would become Charles I, King of England. Performed by John Sayles. http://www.jsayles.com/familypages/earlymusic.htm


    Jean-Baptiste Lully, “Ouverture” from the French opera “Cadmus et Hermione.” Harpsichord arrangement by Jean-Henri d'Anglebert. c. 1763. Lully knew Louis XIV from a young age and worked for the King’s court from 1632-1687. He was Master of the King’s music and director of the Royal Academy of Music. Performed by Eddie Konczal. https://www.soundclick.com/music/songInfo.cfm?songID=3795127


    Joseph Haydn, “Symphony 85,” aka “La reine,” from Paris Symphonies, c. 1785. This symphony was a favourite of Queen Marie Antoinette of France, hence its nickname. This is a sample from a performance conducted by Ernest Ansermet in 1963.


    Obama’s favourites. You can find Barack Obama’s list of favourite songs from 2018 here: https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/barack-obama-2018-favorite-songs-list-773419/ Unfortunately they are all under copyright, so they could not be included in the podcast.


     


    Credits


    Unboxing the Canon is hosted and produced by Linda Steer for her course “Introduction to the History of Western Art” in the Department of Visual Arts at Brock University. Brock University is located on the traditional lands of the Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe peoples.


    Our sound designer and editor is Devin Dempsey, who is also reading these credits. Our logo was created by Cherie Michels. The music for this podcast has been

    • 20 min
    Episode 8: Appropriation and Copying

    Episode 8: Appropriation and Copying

    Episode 8: Appropriation & Copying


    November 25, 2020.


    In this episode, “Appropriation & Copying,” I take a look at the ways in which artists refer to the work of their predecessors through copying and appropriation. Art instruction uses copying as a method to learn. In addition, artists refer to their predecessors in a myriad of ways by quoting or remaking existing works of art. We can think of the history of Western art as a conversation between works of art, past and present. Appropriation differs. Appropriation art takes a known work of art and uses it in a way that reveals something about the original, but also creates a new work of art. Sometimes the differences between the original and the new work of art are theoretical, yet not visible. As a form of cultural critique, appropriation can reveal sublimated meanings in a work of art, political meanings, or socio-cultural meanings. While the verb “appropriate” has various meanings, in this episode, to appropriate means taking a work of art and re-making it in a way that reveals the original’s meaning and simultaneously creates new meanings for the appropriation. This episode will briefly consider the modern work of Manet and Duchamp before turning towards contemporary art by Kehinde Wiley, Kara Walker, and Yasumasa Morimura, all of which appropriate the content or forms (or both) of the canon of Western art.


     


    Sources + further reading:


    Detroit Institute of Arts, “Officer of the Hussars,” Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts 89 (2015), https://www.dia.org/art/collection/object/officer-hussars-98007


     


    Marcel Duchamp,  L.H.O.O.Q.,


    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/7/74/Marcel_Duchamp%2C_1919%2C_L.H.O.O.Q.jpg


     


    Alexxa Gotthardt, “The Japanese Photographer Placing Himself in Art History’s Most Famous Scenes,” Artsy, October 18, 2018, https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-yasumasa-morimura-places-art-historys-famous-scenes


     


    “Rijksstudio,” Rijksmuseum, https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en/rijksstudio.


     


    Tate, “Kara Walker’s Fons Americanus – Look Closer,” Tate https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/kara-walker-2674/kara-walkers-fons-americanus


     


    Kara Walker, “I’m an Unreliable Narrator,” Tate, 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tV_L3fceGNA


     


    “Kara Walker,” Kara Walker, http://www.karawalkerstudio.com


     


    “2019,” Kara Walker, http://www.karawalkerstudio.com/2019


     


     “Kehinde Wiley Studio - Brooklyn, NY,” https://kehindewiley.com/


     


    Mimi Wong, “Ego Obscura,” Art Asia Pacific Magazine, http://artasiapacific.com/Magazine/WebExclusives/EgoObscura


     


    Credits


    Unboxing the Canon is hosted and produced by Linda Steer for her course “Introduction to the History of Western Art” in the Department of Visual Arts at Brock University. Brock University is located on the traditional lands of the Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe peoples.


    Our sound designer and editor is Devin Dempsey, who is also reading these credits. Our logo was created by Cherie Michels. The music for this podcast has been adapted from “Night in Venice” and “Inspired” by Kevin MacLeod. Both are licensed under Creative Commons Attribution International 4.0. Additional music in this episode is from Bach, “The Well Tempered Clavier,” Book I, BWV 846-869, musicians unknown.


    We are grateful to Alison Innes from the Faculty of Humanities for her sharing her podcasting wisdom and offering support.


    This podcast is funded by the Humanities Research Institute at Brock University.


     


     

    • 16 min
    Episode 7: Musing on Museums

    Episode 7: Musing on Museums

    Episode 7: Musing on Museums


    November 4, 2020.


    This episode, called “Musing on Museums,” takes a look at the history of the modern Western museum and considers what stories museums tell and how. From wunderkammern and other private collections to the British Museum and the Louvre, museums are intimately connected to power. Contemporary artists Fred Wilson, Spring Hurlbut, and James Luna reveal the hidden histories of collecting and collections and ask us to think about what is collected and how those collections are organized. By troubling organization systems, contemporary artists uncover new ways of finding meaning in museum collections.


    Sources + further reading:


    The British Museum. “The British Museum Story.” https://www.britishmuseum.org/about-us/british-museum-story.


    Clarke, Bill. “Spring Hurlbut: Deadfall Dialogues.” Canadian Art. April 15, 2010. https://canadianart.ca/interviews/spring-hurlbut/.


    Corrin, Lisa G. “Mining the Museum: An Installation Confronting History.” Curator: The Museum Journal 36, no. 4 (December 1993): 302–13. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.2151-6952.1993.tb00804.x.


    “Fred Wilson.” Pace Gallery.  https://www.pacegallery.com/artists/fred-wilson/.


    Hill, Richard William. “Remembering James Luna (1950–2018).” Canadian Art. March 7, 2018. https://canadianart.ca/features/james-luna-in-memoriam/.


     “History of the Louvre.” Louvre Museum. https://www.louvre.fr/en/histoirelouvres/history-louvre.


    Hurlbut, Spring. “The Final Sleep.” https://www.springhurlbut.com/the-final-sleep.


    “Institutional Critique – Art Term.” Tate. https://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/i/institutional-critique.


    Raicovich, Laura. “What Happened When Fred Wilson Dug Beneath a Museum’s Floorboards.” Hyperallergic. August 16, 2019. https://hyperallergic.com/507245/mining-the-museum-an-installation-by-fred-wilson/.


    Rodini, Elizabeth. “A Brief History of the Art Museum.” Smarthistory. June 1, 2019. https://smarthistory.org/a-brief-history-of-the-art-museum/.


    -------. “2. Museums and Politics: The Louvre, Paris.” Smarthistory. June 1, 2019. https://smarthistory.org/museums-politic-louvre/.

    • 18 min

Top Podcasts In Arts

NPR
The Moth
Roman Mars
Rusty Quill
Cynthia Graber and Nicola Twilley
Jason Weiser, Carissa Weiser