February 10-12, 2005
De Seve Cinema,
Concordia University, Montreal


Inaugural Address:
Design Comes to Its Senses

Joy Monice Malnar and Frank Vodvarka

Architectural design has for the past century been preoccupied with formal aesthetic values on the one hand, and programmatic concerns on the other. The result is an architecture – familiar to us all - that ignores cultural context, mythology, and the profound sensory aspects of design in favor of Cartesian structure and simple functional issues. Prior to the "scientific" architecture of the late 18th century – and its seemingly inevitable grandchild, Modernism - design’s sensory dimensions were better understood, if only rarely practiced. There have been of late, however some promising developments in fully sensory design, which suggests that the past may be catching up with us.

The Museum of the Senses
Constance Classen

The modern museum, dating from the nineteenth century, is characterized by an ambience of sensory restraint. Visitors may look but not touch. The museums and cabinets of curiosities of early modernity, however, promoted a multisensory interaction with their collections. Visitors might touch, listen to, smell, and, at times, even taste the assembled artefacts. The multisensoriality of the museum experience during this period reflected the contemporary understanding that knowledge and power were accessible to all of the senses.

Statues of Comrades and Beet Soup: Sensing Memories of Socialism at Grutas Park, Lithuania
Gediminas Lankauskas

Focusing on recuperated Soviet-era imagery and cuisine on offer at Grutas, Lithuania´s "theme-park" of socialism, this presentation examines the ways in which sight and taste work as non-narrative media for remembering (and forgetting) the nation´s socialist past.

Sensing Culture, Tracing History: Township Tours in Post-apartheid South Africa
Shelley Butler

This presentation examines the practice of touring townships in South Africa in relation to the poetics and politics of sensory engagement. It considers the different kinds of sensory experience that the tours promise, particularly in light of racial and spatial legacies of apartheid, and contemporary processes of globalization.

On Sorting, Sifting and Sensing: Recuperating the WTC and Constructing Memory
JS Marcoux

This presentation analyses the recuperation of the World Trade Centre (WTC). It explores the sensitive issue of memory construction - specifically, the memorial process that has taken (or failed to take) shape in the months following 9/11, through sifting and sorting of the remains. As such, this presentation explores the complex interplay between memory and material culture through the medium of sensual relations.

Jim Drobnick

As an invisible, intangible element, air is an often neglected aspect of the museumgoing experience. This presentation examines the work of contemporary artists who strategically foreground the air of the museum -- its airchitecture -- and in the process raise compelling issues about the body, affect, the environment, and the politics of the senses.

The Aesthetics of the Sixth Sense
Jennifer Fisher

This presentation will explore how the sixth sense -- intuition, the paranormal, the psychic, the proprioceptive -- is defined in light of contemporary Canadian and international installation, performance and conceptual art. It will examine how examples of recent spirit photography, trance drawing, art/life rituals present a sense morphology that exceeds notions of a discrete self. Such practices, it is argued, engage an active reception that characterizes a distinctly relational aesthetics.

Hyperaesthesia, or, The Sensual Logic of Late Capitalism
David Howes

This paper traces the role which the senses have played in the changeover from nineteenth century industrial capitalism to the consumer capitalism of today. It shows how the ideology of Calvinism, with its emphasis on sensory restriction, has been replaced by one of ostensibly instant multisensory gratification, typified by Calvin Klein. Questions are raised concerning whether the sensual logic of late capitalism may not be fatally undermining the calculating rationality on which it is based.

Bodies and Decors. The Role of Relics in the Amerindian Chapels of Seventeenth-Century New France
Muriel ClairIn

Christian art, the polysensorial object par excellence is the relic. Successively or simultaneously soliciting touch, taste, smell and sight, the relic and the reliquary (which is its indispensable complement) participate in the sacralization of the cultic milieu. This presentation interrogates the decor of seventeenth century chapels destined for Amerindian converts in New France, specifically the Huron chapel of Lorette and the Abenaki chapel of Saint-François. The introduction of the relic in these chapels seems, in effect, to have facilitated the immersion of the body of the believer in a global environment. What is it about the relic which, in consequence, permitted Amerindian converts to achieve and reinforce their new Christian identity?

Living Archives at the First Nations Garden
Monika Kin Gagnon

The First Nations Garden is a municipally funded horticultural site at the Montreal Botanical Garden, created in the tradition of botanical gardens as public sites of leisure and eco-tourism. As a naturalized, pastoral garden consisting of 300 transplanted indigenous species of the Quebec region, the garden makes direct reference to the eleven aboriginal nations of the province. Departing from a sensorial exploration of the garden, this paper is also an exercise in how to study gardens and their cultural meanings from an interdisciplinary perspective.

The Studio-Museum, or the Paradox of the Total Experience of the Artwork
Laurier Lacroix

The contemporary work of art picks up and integrates the effects and affects which emerge at the intersection of its two principal sites: the studio and the museum. This strategy, now redefined, is nevertheless not new, and since the 19th century many artists have chosen to "museify" their studios. The sensory conditions of the studio: its lighting, its space, its materials, its odours, its atmosphere may furnish the spectator with a complete and unique experience of a work. But do the constraints of the museum really permit the preservation and transmission of the essence of the creative process and of its multisensory impact?

The Exhibition as a Space of Sensory and Identity Interplay:
A Study of Double Play. Identity and Culture, presented at the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec (2004).
Jocelyne Lupien

The subject of this presentation is a contemporary art exhibit which brought together the work of three artists centred on the theme of cultural identities in North America: the Afro-American artist Willie Cole, the Ojibway artist Ron Noganosh, and the Quebec artist Richard Purdy. Why this exhibition? Because it involved installations, scupltures, photographs and prints which used not only iconographic but also sensory-perceptual strategies and display tactics to give expression to the cultural hybridity and flux of identities on this continent. It will be shown how the spectator, via this exhibition, comes to experience the duality of subjective versus collective identity through the experience of visuo-tactile sensorial duality.

Negotiating Influence – Touch and Tango
Erin Manning

Despite echoes toward a politics of Argentine national identity, tango involves a transculturation, a state of becoming through alterity. This paper traces the ways in which tango’s dance between transculturation and national identity brings to light the complexities of a certain politics of touch that addresses in evocative ways a rearticulation of the potential of the sensing body in movement.


"The wind blows dust …" The sensibility of a bits-n-pieces approach to anthropology, archaeology and museums
Sven Ouzman

Anthropology, archaeology and museums share legacies as tools of imperial, colonial and military surveillance. Their controlling impulse coaxes a putative wholeness from material fragments to frame for expectant audiences. Indigenous sensibilities and curatorial pragmatics suggest the utility of decay, destruction and journeys beyond object-centric museums in fostering sensory trajectories that allow people, objects and places mutually to constitute each other. San rock art, state symbols and graffiti from ancient and post-Apartheid Southern Africa gently shatter binaries of human and non; past and present; representation and reality – only to reassemble the shatterings in challenging co-productions or allow them to continue unto dust.

For more information, please contact:
Uncommon Senses
c/o Lonergan College
Concordia University
1455 de Maisonneuve West
Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3G 1M8
tel: (514) 848-2282