Collaboration and Art History

9 December 2021, 10:00:00 pm

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Session Convenors

Dr Robert Wellington, Australian National University
Marni Williams, Australian National University

Session Moderators

Dr Robert Wellington, Australian National University
Marni Williams, Australian National University

Session Speakers

Professor Ann McGrath, Australian National University
Dr Mike Jones, Australian National University
Assoc. Prof. Tara McDowell, Monash University
Dr Charlotte Galloway, Australian National University

Collaboration has always been an essential element of art-historical study. From the scholarly networks of early-modern humanists to recent interdisciplinary and comparative projects that traverse languages and cultures, the interpretation and theorisation of art and design has always been discursive. Ideas are never the property of a single mind; they are built upon and refined in reference to the work of our predecessors and peers. Like all academic disciplines, the impact of art-historical work is measured by the engagement of our peers with our published works. And yet, despite those networked aspects of our work—encouraged anew by impact and engagement factors and ideas around ‘socially-engaged practice research’, ‘mutual engagement’, ‘generous scholarship’ and ‘communities of practice’—the single-author monograph remains the gold-standard measurement of academic achievement. This panel will engage with the history of collaboration in our discipline as both method and practice. Papers will discuss aspects of collaboration as it relates to the development of art-historical knowledge, which may include collaborations between academic and non-academic professions; collaboration as a critique of colonial knowledge structures; new dynamics of collaboration through technology and computational methods; collaborative writing and publication; professional openness, non-hierarchical structures and mentorship; attribution and the measures of academic excellence.

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PAPER #1
Marking Country: Rock Art and the Mapping of Deep History

PRESENTERS
Professor Ann McGrath and Dr Mike Jones, Australian National University

People have inhabited this continent for tens of thousands of years. Today we see evidence of some of the significant sites where people lived, ate, loved, and played for generations in the marks they left behind—the paintings, drawings, engravings, and stencils in caves and rock shelters across the land. Though in recent generations the study of rock art has been largely the realm of archaeologists and scientists, now historians are looking beyond textual archives and asking what the history discipline can add to the study of these places. At the Australian National University, the Research Centre for Deep History brings together historians, Indigenous custodians, and collaborating scholars from many disciplines to explore the deep history of the continent. One of the Centre’s key projects is a ‘digital atlas’, including a digital mapping project titled Marking Country which will focus primarily on Indigenous sites rich in rock art. This paper will explore our findings from the first phase of that collaboration. In doing so, we ask what historians might contribute to a study of this art, not only for the ‘historical period’, but for the deep past.

PAPER #2
Relationality and Concealment: On Dale and Kate Harding

PRESENTER
Assoc. Prof. Tara McDowell, Monash University

This paper closely reads one exhibition, Dale Harding: Through a Lens of Visitation, held at the Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA) from April to June 2021. There are two strategies, or perhaps better, currents of belief transformed into practice, in this exhibition which I argue are instructive for art history and curatorial practice, occurring as they now do within untenable planetary conditions of toxicity, inequality, and extraction. The first bears directly on the panel topic of collaboration, and is the act of bringing others into the gallery—notably, the artist’s mother, whose strong presence through a series of sophisticated quilts decisively decentres the solo exhibition format—and insisting upon the value of relations or relationality that sharing space makes palpable. The second current is concealment, which courses through the exhibition and stems from a sense of responsibility to collaborators, to Country, and to protocols for engaging both. This paper has benefitted from conversations with both Dale and Kate Harding, and seeks to understand how non-Indigenous art historians and curators can listen to, learn from, and amplify Indigenous curatorial and artistic practices, without recourse to extractive or re-traumatising methods.

PAPER #3
Art History, Collaboration and Creation of ‘New’ Histories in Myanmar

PRESENTER
Dr Charlotte Galloway, Australian National University

Collaboration and inter-disciplinary approaches are new in Myanmar. During decades of military rule higher education institutions were compartmentalised. The outcome resulted in research systems that remained fixed in disciplinary fields. In recent years reform of the higher education sector has been made to develop integrated programming and interdisciplinary approaches. However, there are many barriers to overcome. This paper draws on perspectives from an art historian and an architect working within an archaeological and heritage framework in Myanmar, and engaging with historical research that sees pre-and post-colonial narratives conflicting with each other as new state actors endeavour to create their own histories. Utilising ‘art history’ as a means of enriching broader historical knowledge is a relatively new concept in Myanmar and there has been slow but positive progress made towards accepting the benefits of integrative research methods. However, art historical approaches such as material culture methodologies can also throw up challenges for a state system that is trying to re-claim its own heritage and create a new historical narrative.

Biographies

Dr Robert Wellington, Australian National University

Robert Wellington is Senior Lecturer and DECRA Fellow in the Centre for Art History and Art Theory at Australian National University. He is an art historian whose research on early modern France intersects with material culture studies, digital humanities, and interdisciplinary collaboration. He has presented invited lectures around the world at venues including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Courtauld Institute, London, and the Institut Nationale de l’Histoire de l’Art, Paris. His current projects include a transcultural study of diplomatic gifts presented at the Court of Louis XIV. Robert is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, London.


Marni Williams, Australian National University

Marni Williams works across research and professional roles to support the communication of art-historical research to diverse audiences. She has 15 years’ experience working in arts publishing and for the last five has been editor and publisher at Power Publications, the academic imprint of the University of Sydney's Power Institute. She is currently undertaking a PhD at the Australian National University, Canberra, through which she is developing a ‘generous model of publishing’. Her research considers the potential for co-designed, multimodal and networked digital storytelling, when combined with digital humanities tools and methodologies, to produce community-centred research outcomes with social impact.


Professor Ann McGrath, Australian National University

Ann McGrath AM is the WK Hancock Distinguished Professor in the School of History at the Australian National University, where she is Director of the Research Centre for Deep History. McGrath holds the 2017-2022 ARC Kathleen Fitzpatrick Laureate Fellowship, leading the program Rediscovering the Deep Human Past: Global Networks, Future Opportunities. She is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences and the Academy ofHumanities. With Mary-Anne Jebb, she edited Long History, Deep Time (2015). She has co-produced and co-directed the films Frontier Conversation and Message from Mungo (Ronin Films), has worked in museums and contributed to national enquiries.


Dr Mike Jones, Australian National University

Mike Jones is an archivist, historian, and collections consultant with extensive experience collaborating with the GLAM sector (galleries, libraries, archives, museums) and digital archival and public history projects. He is currently a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Research Centre for Deep History (Australian National University) exploring the links between deep history and collections, and leading the development of the Centre’s digital outputs. In addition to his role at the ANU, Mike remains an active member of the GLAM and digital humanities communities. His first book, Artefacts, Archives, and Documentation in the Relational Museum, was published by Routledge in July 2021.


Assoc. Prof. Tara McDowell, Monash University

Tara McDowell is Associate Professor and Director of Curatorial Practice at Monash University. She publishes and lectures frequently, and has held curatorial appointments at the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts in San Francisco, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. Her recent books include The Artist As (Sternberg Press, 2018) and The Householders: Robert Duncan and Jess (The MIT Press, 2019), which was awarded the Millard Meiss Award and was a nominee for the Charles C. Eldredge Prize for outstanding scholarship in the field of American art, Smithsonian American Art Museum.


Dr Charlotte Galloway, Australian National University

Dr Charlotte Galloway researches and teaches in the fields of Asian art history, museums and heritage, and curatorial studies. An Honorary Associate Professor in the College of Arts and Social Sciences, Australian National University, Charlotte has over 20 years specialist expertise in Myanmar working on collaborative research projects supporting capacity building across the museums and heritage field, and teaching at the University of Yangon. Charlotte is currently working with colleagues to develop models for heritage education in Myanmar.