Art History Department

Workshop on Architectural History and Media

Friday, March 22, 2019

This February, scholars from Canada, Europe, and the United States convened at the Department of Art History for a workshop entitled “Building Communication: Architectural History and Media Archaeology.” On the agenda: the state of historical research on architectural environments that were designed—or can productively be understood—as communication systems.

Left to right: Joseph L. Clarke (University of Toronto Art History) and Mary Louise Lobsinger (University of Toronto John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design). Photo: Alexa Breininger.

“This workshop builds on the University of Toronto’s world-class programs in architectural history and its legacy of groundbreaking research on media,” said Assistant Professor Joseph L. Clarke, who conceived the event and organized it with the support of a Connaught New Researcher Award. “It was a terrific opportunity for historians of architecture and media to get together and reimagine the relationship between our academic fields.”

The discipline of media archaeology emerged in the late twentieth century as scholars developed new methods for the historical study of communication technologies such as movable type, cinema, and radio. More recently, emerging scholars in architectural history have applied these approaches to their own investigations, such as Clarke’s work on the history of acoustics.

Although the field of media archaeology has especially flourished in Germany, it also has roots in the work of the late University of Toronto professor Marshall McLuhan. Given this connection, it was appropriate that “Building Communication” took place in the historic Coach House building where McLuhan once held his weekly seminars, now home to the university’s McLuhan Centre for Culture and Technology.

Left to right: Mary Louise Lobsinger (University of Toronto Daniels Faculty), Carl Knappett (University of Toronto Art History), and Rafico Ruiz (University of Alberta). Photo: Alexa Breininger.

The day began with opening remarks by Professor and Department Chair Carl Knappett. After that, Clarke laid out a series of questions for discussion:

  • How has architecture helped make (or attempted to make, or conspicuously failed to make) communication possible?
  • In what ways have architecture’s form and function changed as it has become implicated in new circuits of information transfer?
  • How have the communicative ideals and ambitions associated with technical media been complicated by the uncanny persistence of the “old media” of buildings?

Each participant presented one current research endeavour. Several of these presentations focused on the influence of cybernetics on architecture in the 1960s, particularly in the design of offices and universities. Other topics included the architecture of radio stations, the figure of the corridor in the modern novel, the architectural history of wires, and reading the melting of arctic ice as a media event.

Pictured: John Harwood (University of Toronto Daniels Faculty), Rafico Ruiz (University of Alberta), Emily Doucet (University of Toronto Art History), Jan Claas van Treeck (Humboldt University of Berlin), Mary Louise Lobsinger (University of Toronto Daniels Faculty), Kate Marshall (University of Notre Dame), Jordan Bear (University of Toronto Art History). Photo: Alexa Breininger.

Several faculty members and graduate students from the Department of Art History participated in the workshop. Since the department’s founding in 1935, the history of architecture has played a vital role in its teaching and research. Today, the exceptional breadth of faculty expertise in the department makes it possible to have wide-ranging conversations about architecture that leap across chronological, geographic, and methodological boundaries. “Events like this workshop help the Art History Department remain at the centre of current discussions in the study of architecture,” said Clarke.

Alumni Feature: Angelica Demetriou

Friday, February 22, 2019

Angelica Demetriou

MA 2011


Starting a business is demanding and high-risk, and it can be especially daunting in the years immediately following graduate school. But for one U of T alumna, building a thriving arts business came as a natural next step in an impressive, swift-moving career. Less than a decade ago, Angelica Demetriou joined U of T’s Department of Art as an MA student. Today, she is a powerhouse in the art world with a trail of accomplishments behind her.

Angelica is co-founder and Principal of K+D—the only company in Canada providing a full-range of cataloguing and art consulting services to private, corporate and institutional collectors. Angelica and her business partner, Megan Kalaman, began working together in 2017 to fill a gap in the market. Now, the duo manages teams in Toronto, Vancouver and Halifax, and works with some of Canada’s top private collectors and corporations, such as TELUS, Deloitte and Brookfield.

To grow the company from a small start-up to a pan-Canadian enterprise, Angelica and Megan relied on their unique talents, as well as their shared vision, rock-solid partnership, and exceptional team of staff. “We have an incredible pool of talent at K+D—arguably some of Canada’s best and brightest arts professionals,” says Angelica.

Strong relationships with auction houses, art dealers, curators, artists, conservators, and appraisers are also central to K+D’s success. “Learning how to establish meaningful relationships with people in my network started during my MA,” she explains. Not only did the program equip Angelica with a wealth of valuable knowledge and critical tools, but also it created avenues for connecting with artists, academics and other professionals working in the arts and adjacent fields. She remarks that “finding your footing in the cultural sector can require dogged determination, though more than anything I find that it calls for an adaptive skill set and rich relationships—both of which I cultivated during graduate school.”

U of T was the future entrepreneur’s launch pad. After graduation Angelica possessed meaningful connections and well-rounded skills, and depended on these and her existing business acumen as she moved into senior-level positions in communications, business development and corporate art. She played an integral role in founding the Art Canada Institute, where she helped to lead ground-breaking programs, including the Canadian Online Art Book Project and public lecture series. At the award-winning design firm PLANT Architect Inc., Angelica served as Communications Manager; she continues to draw inspiration from the firm’s approach to leadership: “I witnessed an innovative trio in action—three brilliant partners negotiating the business landscape and mentoring a dynamic team of professionals.”

Mentorship figures prominently in Angelica’s vision for K+D. Even with a full schedule—from leading her new company to participating on art panels, juries and committees—the ambitious U of T alumna is committed to helping others succeed within the arts: “We’re creating more jobs each year. As our business grows, we can become a real incubator for arts professionals to help bright talent get rooted across Canada.”


Meet Our Postdoctoral Fellows: Julia Lum

Friday, February 15, 2019

 Julia Lum

SSHRC Postdoctoral Research Fellow


I came to the University of Toronto after completing my PhD in art history at Yale University. Before that, I did a master’s degree in art history at Carleton University.

Many things attracted me to the University of Toronto: its faculty, its world-class library and museum collections and its opportunities for interdisciplinary engagement. I wanted to work with Mark Cheetham, whose scholarship on landscape, eco art and art theory advances urgent sets of issues that connect across periods and traditions.

My own research about the art of eighteenth and nineteenth century Britain, cross-cultural exchange and landscape art has shifted since I began postdoctoral research. My new project looks at the photographs and landscape views made by British and American surveyors who marked the 49th parallel North American border between Lake of the Woods and the Pacific Coast from 1857 to 1876.

The question of how Canada and the United States took shape, and what other kinds of knowledge and cultural practices were adopted or suppressed in the process of making the line, is something that I’m particularly poised to think about in Toronto. Not only are there photographs and papers at the Archives of Ontario, but the original reports, engravings and publications of the boundary survey are within easy reach at UofT’s magnificent Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library and at Robarts Library. No less important is the strong contingent of Toronto-based Indigenous and Settler artists and scholars whose practices are reframing how we think of nations and sovereignties.

My approach to this research question is enriched by attending workshops at interdisciplinary centres such as the Jackman Humanities Institute, and by seeking expertise in fields as diverse as cultural geography, environmental studies, anthropology and Indigenous education. I look forward to continuing to build relationships with the art history and visual studies faculty, graduate students and with scholars across campus.

Ariella Minden at the KHI

Friday, February 15, 2019

In September 2018 it was announced that one of our graduate students, Ariella Minden, received a Max-Planck Pre-Doctoral Fellowship at the Kunsthistorisches Institut (KHI) in Florence. We asked Ariella to reflect on her time at the KHI under the supervision of Prof. Alessandro Nova and what the next 18 months have in store for her as she continues this amazing fellowship.

As a second year PhD student in the Graduate Department of Art at the University of Toronto my desk looks exactly like what one might expect of someone who has just started to undertake a book-length study also known as my doctoral dissertation. There are books piled high, well above my head, notes scattered about with ‘brilliant ideas’ that turn into passing thoughts, and a to-do list or three written on post-it notes stuck to the frame of my computer screen. The slight difference, however, is the location of my desk, which is not in Toronto, but instead at the Kunsthitorisches Institut in Florence where I am a pre-doctoral fellow.

The Kunsthistorisches Institut (KHI) is a Max Planck Society institute for art historical research, which also houses one of the largest art libraries in Europe. Having just celebrated its 150th birthday, the KHI remains a vibrant intellectual centre with hundreds of scholars making use of its resources, a regular program of lectures and seminars, and a team of pre- and post-doctoral fellows divided between two departments who carry out their own research while also taking part in larger working groups led by the directors of each department.

“What is your role in this ecosystem?” I hear you ask. I am a member of Prof. Alessandro Nova’s department where I am writing my dissertation on visual culture in Bologna during the first quarter of the sixteenth century. My project examines the ways in which artists and scholars worked in concert to generate knowledge, a conceit facilitated by the presence of the University, the oldest in Europe. During my two-year fellowship at the KHI, I am expected to give regular research-in-progress papers both at departmental meetings as well as for my pre-and post-doctoral colleagues. I presented the initial results of my research last October, speaking about three illustrated anatomical treatises published in 1521, 1522, and 1523. Focusing on the texts’ woodcuts, I discussed these books as sites of collaboration and experimentation to better understand print culture in Renaissance Bologna. Complimentary to my own research, I am part of the working group “Rinascimento Conteso”- “The Contested Renaissance.” Within this framework I take part in site visits, reading groups, and seminars where the goal is to reconsider and challenge traditional narratives of the Italian Renaissance by offering new critical methodologies or reintroducing previously neglected corpora.

I cannot overstate how fortunate I am to be part of such an intellectually vibrant community. At the KHI itself, I am surrounded by colleagues and mentors who continue to be lively interlocutors as my dissertation begins to take shape. The weekly academic programming has exposed me to a range of topics with which I had little prior familiarity. Furthermore, living in Florence has allowed for me to be immersed in the works of art that I study and am passionate about. I have had the opportunity not only to explore the artistic collections of the city itself, but to travel to other cities throughout Italy, an experience that has enriched my perspectives on certain object. This has opened up new avenues in my current project and continues to create fertile grounds for work in the future. With such a rich start to my fellowship, I look forward to what the next 18 months have in store!

Exposé of my Digging Days

Monday, May 7, 2018

View from the Central Court as a storm rolled into Sissi (© EBSA; T. Thoennes)

My name is Tatiana Thoennes, a current fourth year student completing a History of Art Specialist and a Renaissance Studies Major. Last summer, from June 24th to August 4th, 2017, I interned outside of my concentrated area of study as a volunteer archaeologist on the Sissi Archaeological Project at Sissi, Crete; and had one of the best experiences of my life. Archaeological excavations have been underway in the Aegean since before 1900 when archaeologists such as Heinrich Schliemann and Sir Arthur Evans attempted to find evidentiary support for tales told by Homer and Greek mythology. Excavating has since evolved to be more than the unearthing of tales and are now more the attempt to discover all there is to know about proto-historical civilisations. Archaeologists at Sissi, Crete celebrated their tenth year of excavation this past summer; a summer I am proud to say I was able to take part in, a summer which fueled my love for archaeology.

The second object I found – a Lithic Tool (© EBSA; photo by M. Georgiadou)

The excavation is directed by Professor Jan Driessen from the Université catholique de Louvain under the auspices of the Belgian School at Athens and in collaboration with the Archaeological Service of East Crete (Ministry of Culture of Greece). This past season, there was an impressively large team consisting of 69 volunteers in addition to the permanent team and workmen. The Sissi Project consists of the archaeological site and the Apothiki. The Apothiki is located off-site and is where all samples and objects found on site are brought each day; cleaned, identified, dated and stored.

Each day on (and off) site was structured with a specific timeline to ensure productivity. Everyone was expected to be there and ready to work at 06:00. We would work until Kollatzo (breakfast provided by the excavation) at 10:30 which lasted for half an hour; after which we would work until 14:00. All bags containing samples and objects found during the day, as well as supervisor notes, had to be provided to Professor J. Driessen by 14:00 and no later. After excavation was done for the day, we would have a break and were provided lunch back at our respective dig hotels. For those that did not have to go to the Apothiki, the rest of the day was free. Those on the afternoon Apothiki rotation would rest until 16:00 and then would be driven to the Apothiki to clean pottery until 18:30, leaving the remainder of the evening free. Every volunteer that wasn’t already permanently working at the Apothiki was put on rotation to work selected full days at the Apothiki. Full Apothiki days started half an hour later than excavation, at 06:30. We would be picked up and driven to the Apothiki, wash pottery, break for Kollatzo at 11:00, rest between 14:30-16:30 until the afternoon shift of Apothiki workers began to arrive, and continued to wash pottery or to help organize the finds until work was done for the day.

Working hard and having fun! (© EBSA; photo by M. Georgiadou)

This season, Sissi was split into six dig areas, called zones. I was assigned to Zone 16: the Central Court. My Zone Supervisor and Toughbook Assistant were well versed in explaining and guiding new volunteers regarding excavation, explaining individual tasks and creating a wonderful daily working environment. The volunteers in my zone had diverse backgrounds, academically and in terms of excavation experience, which made for an exciting summer of getting to know one another. In my trench, the goal was to extend the Central Court to the south to discover the South Wall (if there was one left). Toward the end of the six-week dig season, my trench found the South Wall of the Central Court! Prior to discovering the southern end of the court, we discovered a western access point to the Central Court which was beautifully paved, and can be argued to be a processional walk way leading into the Central Court!

Washing pottery at the Apothiki (© EBSA; T. Thoennes)

Though there was a lot of worked involved, there was also plenty of time for fun. I was delighted that weekends were ours to do with as we pleased. I spent almost every weekend travelling around Crete to various other cities and archaeological sites with fellow volunteers, my newfound friends. We used the first weekend as a time to relax and give our bodies some rest after being thrown into physical labour and Greece’s extremely hot summer climate. On the second weekend, we went to Rethymnon and to a Minoan cemetery at Armeni (which had over 200 chamber tombs!). The third weekend we went to Knossos, traveled around Heraklion and Malia. The fourth weekend we went to Palaikastro and hiked up to the Peak Sanctuary of Petsofas. On the second-last weekend, a very close friend that I met from the USA and I went to Phaistos: we had contemplated if the long distance would be worth the trip for one day, and was it ever! The last weekend of the excavation, there was a beach party for everyone on the team as a farewell and close to a fantastic excavation season.  In addition to free time on weekends, having the evenings free meant there was time to have group dinners with fellow volunteers, time to go to the beach, and time for an awe-inspiring tour of the entire site of Sissi by its director, Professor J. Driessen.

At Petsofas Peak Sanctuary overlooking Palaikastro (© EBSA; E. Sevastakis)

I am often asked about how I found out about the excavation, how I got on it, and how much it cost. Like many people I did not know how to get onto an excavation: I also had no idea that someone without any archaeological background or previous experience would be accepted onto a dig site. It wasn’t until I met with a professor from one of my classes and asked very basic questions about how he had found his path in the academic world: it was him that suggested I try excavating, and it was him that put me in touch with the director of Sissi. Once I was in contact with Professor J. Driessen, we established I was available for the entire six-week excavation season and that I was able to (and expected to) fund my own way to Crete, and my stay during the unpaid excavation. Although funding my own way to and during the excavation proved to be rather expensive, booking my flights in advance and grocery shopping instead of eating out for every dinner brought the cost down significantly.  Lesson learned: go talk to your profs! They are wonderful people that are there to answer your questions, however basic they may seem!

Having the opportunity to live and work in a small town in Greece was a fun and eye-opening experience that had an immense impact on me. Dining at family run venues (my personal favourites were Remezzo, Paradosiako and Stam Stam!) created an atmosphere of intimacy and wholesomeness that left one feeling rejuvenated and one with Greek cultural traditions. The experiences I accumulated during excavation as well as on weekends exploring the Cretan environment re-established my passion for ancient history and has since helped direct my interest moving forward into graduate studies.

In the six-week excavation at Sissi, I grew a lot as an archaeologist and as a person. I found that I had pushed myself mentally and physically more than I had ever originally anticipated when I had left Toronto. The experience to work hands-on with history, being in the dirt trying to find quite literally the foundation of proto-historical societies, was an astounding feeling. Volunteering on this excavation introduced me to an aspect of history which I will continue to study, and hopefully, will continue to excavate.

Sissi Team photo taken on the Central Court (© EBSA; Gavin McGuire)

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