55th Annual UCLA Art History Grad Symposium: Speculative Forensics

Nov 7, 2020, 2-4 pm PST

“Though reality may seem to be opaque, there are privileged zones – signs, clues – which allow us to penetrate it.”

— Carlo Ginzburg, “Clues: Roots of an Evidential Paradigm” (1989)

In his article on the theory and history of knowledge and its relationship to power, Italian historian Carlo Ginzburg establishes the value of conjecture as an alternative to scientific approaches. Many methodologies entail filling in for irretrievable evidence or making generalizations. As a result, speculation creeps into archival research, uses of critical theory, and writing techniques. However, speculative practices need not be regarded solely as deviations from purportedly rigorous epistemic paradigms. Whether adopted as an artistic or historical methodology or taken as an object of study, the idea of speculative forensics can help investigate the interplay of evidence and interpretation as well as the politics of scholarship. Where do speculation and forensics converge in art history and artistic practice, and what does this convergence mean for the ways objects tell us about the world and the world tells us about objects?

The 55th Annual UCLA Art History Graduate Symposium, Speculative Forensics, presents an opportunity to address some of these questions by gesturing toward conjectural elements stowed away in a range of art historical methodologies. In our current context defined by the struggle for Black liberation, what does it mean to link art history and criminology? Can we reckon with art history’s own overreliance on methods and institutions that developed around the need to value and protect property, from connoisseurship to museum collections of looted objects? Can we abolish forms of policing within our discipline?

Speculative Forensics will take the form of an open workshop and discussion conducted via Zoom over two days. On Friday, November 6, participants organized in panels will deliver 10 minute presentations with UCLA students and a keynote speaker serving as respondents. On November 7, keynote speakers will give presentations followed by an open discussion drawing on the previous day’s activities.

Keynote Speakers

Carrie Lambert-Beatty

Carrie Lambert-Beatty is a contemporary art historian. She is the author of the award-winning book Being Watched: Yvonne Rainer and the 1960s (MIT Press, 2008) and the essay “Make Believe: Parafiction and Plausibility,” among other writings. Her current research is on thirty years of artistic parafiction — that is, fiction presented as fact — and asks: What does this artful play tell us about contemporary ways of knowing? How can contemporary art help develop a progressive epistemic set, able counter the culture of post-truth on the one hand, and an epistemic “return to order” on the other?

Lambert-Beatty holds the rank of Professor at Harvard University, with a joint appointment in the Department of History of Art and Architecture and the Department of Art, Film, and Visual Studies. Her teaching stresses attention to the modes of spectatorship invited by artists’ formal, conceptual, and technical choices, and how these forms of experience in turn relate to new media ecologies, the social effects of neoliberalism, ongoing post-colonial reckonings, and the structural politics of gender and race.

Ken Gonzales-Day

Ken Gonzales-Day is a Los Angeles based artist whose interdisciplinary practice considers the historical construction of race and the limits of representational systems ranging from lynching photographs to museum displays. His widely exhibited Erased Lynching series (ongoing), along with the publication of  Lynching in the West: 180-1935 (Duke, 2006) transformed the understanding of racialized violence in the United States and specifically raised awareness of the lynching of Latinos, Native Americans, Asians, and African-Americans in California and helped to re-contextualize anti-immigration histories with the larger discussion of racial formation. While works from the Profiled Series have been exhibited internationally and grew out of research into the history of racial depiction found in historic expositions and educational museum displays. In 2017, Gonzales-Day received a Guggenheim Fellowship in Photography and currently holds the Fletcher Jones Chair in Art at Scripps College and is represented by Luis De Jesus Los Angeles.

Conversation with Made in L.A. 2020 curator Lauren Mackler and artist Umar Rashid

Nov 7, 2020, 12-1 pm PST

Lauren Mackler

Lauren Mackler is a curator and writer based in Los Angeles. In 2010, she founded Public Fiction, a forum for staging exhibitions, performances, and programs by contemporary artists and writers, as well as a print journal with the same mission. Mackler has organized Public Fiction exhibitions and catalogues at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2012 and 2016); Artissima LIDO, Turin (2012); the Berkeley Art Museum (2013); Frieze Projects New York (2014); the Hammer Museum (2014); the MAK Center for Art and Architecture’s Schindler House (2018); and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (January 2019). She is currently the managing editor of Sublevel, the literary magazine housed in the CalArts School of Critical Studies, and has been on faculty at the School of Visual Arts in New York, the UCLA Graduate Department of Art, and Otis College of Art and Design. Mackler is a contributor to Artforum and various other publications. In 2015, she was awarded the Rome Prize by the American Academy in Rome.

Umar Rashid

Umar Rashid (also known as Frohawk Two Feathers) was born in 1976 in Chicago. A natural storyteller, he has developed a practice that reinvents the paths of populations often omitted from the historical record. Through writing, illustration, painting, and sculpture, Rashid creates alternative historical narratives—including a what-if story about France and England unifying into a gargantuan empire—that reference a panoply of cultures and collapse geography and time while underlining the intricacies of race, gender, class, and overall power in the colonial world. Rashid steers clear of simplistic dichotomies and instead challenges the viewer to consider the complex feelings and conducts that make up every human. In his tales people are as likely to be heroes as villains no matter their color, which ultimately acknowledges their agency as historical actors. Rashid has invented a complex iconographic language that uses classifying systems, maps, and cosmological diagrams. His work is deeply informed by the hip-hop culture of his youth, using both modern and ancient references and such stylistic sources as Egyptian hieroglyphs, ledger art, Persian miniature painting, and illustrated Spanish colonial manuscripts. His work has appeared in group shows at François Ghebaly Gallery and Jeffrey Deitch, both in Los Angeles (all 2019).

For more information visit speculativeforensics.com