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Tappan Flash Talks

"Touching, Cutting, and Stamping Images of Mecca and Medina in the Ottoman Empire" - Sabiha Göloğlu

Summary: Depictions of Mecca and Medina appeared in a variety of media and served myriad functions in the Ottoman Empire. As textual evidence and traces of devotional engagement in prayer books and pilgrimage manuals indicate, printed and painted images of the Islamic holy cities were used as talismans, among their other functions. This talk will demonstrate how several Mecca and Medina images catered to those wishing to secure intercession, blessings,cures, and protection by focusing on their accompanying texts and signs of physical intervention. Viewers engaged with manuscript paintings and stamped images in many ways, for instance by kissing, touching one’s face to the image, rubbing the image with one’s finger, or simply carrying the image on the body. These devotional acts often resulted in the removal and smudging of pigments or, less commonly, excision of easy-to-carry images.   

About: Sabiha Göloğlu is a recipient of the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship (Global) for her research project at the University of Hamburg and the University of Michigan. Formerly, she was a postdoctoral university assistant at the University of Vienna and a CAHIM (Connecting Art Histories in the Museum) fellow of the KunsthistorischesInstitut in Florenz and the Museum für Islamische Kunst in Berlin. She holds a PhD in Art History from Koç University in Istanbul.


March 10th, 2022 || Click here to watch lecture

"People, Paper, Cloth: Mixed Courtrooms and Materiality in Colonial Indonesia" - Sanne Ravensbergen

Nineteenth and early-twentieth century photos of mixed law courts (landraad) in colonial Indonesia display spaces that were transformed into legal arenas using a plurality of materials. Thick lawbooks, papers piling up, the black gown of the judge, but also a green tablecloth, payongs, a Quran, forbidden patterns on batik, hats, hybrid uniforms, invisible amulets and more. This talk offers a distinct way to think about legal pluralism through exploring the visual dimensions of law making in a colonial context. Beyond merely staged curiosities, the materials in the landraad photos show a courtroom where different actors were signaling distinct messages to multiple audiences. Studying these objects, with their visible and invisible messages, provides insight into the various layers of (mis-)communication that were inherent to the mixed courtroom. Filled with people, paper, cloth as well as a plurality of languages, symbols, political interests, and legal cultures, this was a courtroom where objects often spoke louder than words.

Sanne Ravensbergen is a cultural historian of law in colonial Indonesia. Her interdisciplinary research connects the study of legal pluralism, materiality, and Dutch empire in the Indian Ocean world. She obtained her PhD in History from Leiden University in 2018. From 2018-2021, she worked as a postdoctoral researcher on spatial and material encounters in law making tied to colonial commissions of inquiry in South- and Southeast Asia. She is the co-editor of Islamic Law in the Indian Ocean World: Text, Ideas, and Practices (Routledge 2021) and has published articles and book chapters on colonial legal cultures in Indonesia and the postcolonial legacies of Dutch empire. She is currently a lecturer in the Museum Studies program at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. 

February 14th, 2022 || Click here to access lecture

"Home Rule Contemporary: Experimental Art and Self-Determination in Kalaallit Nunaat" - David Norman

With the Home Rule Act of 1979, Kalaallit Nunaat (Greenland) achieved an unprecedented level of political autonomy. Curiously, in the midst of this long-awaited confrontation with Danish colonial rule, the generation of artists whose careers began under expanded sovereignty shied away from political and cultural imagery. But not all was as it appeared. As I will discuss, Kalaallit and Tunumiit artists applied their commitment to self-determination toward redefining the conceptual foundations of media like installation and video, inventing formal and technical language that facilitated the continuity of cultural knowledge, but which also challenged colonial inequalities that persisted during the Home Rule era. Extending questions raised by these projects, in this talk I will ask how art should respond when colonialism adopts more opaque forms of power, masking control over land and resources through the strategic recognition of cultural difference.

David W. Norman is a Forsyth Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of the History of Art at the University of Michigan. His research focuses on modern and contemporary art in Greenland and the circumpolar north. He is particularly interested in the politics of form and media, as well as the broader histories and geographies of Indigenous conceptual art. He earned his PhD from the University of Copenhagen in 2021.

October 26th, 2021 || Click here to access lecture

"Negotiating Offense of Rhodesian Proportion" - Daniel Herwitz

The essay on which this talk is based explores the multiple positions of offense across
racial and artistic lines in Cape Town's Rhodes Must Fall Campaign of 2015, raising questions about how offense might best be negotiated.

What Can You Actually Accomplish During an Epidemic? Art at the Venetian Plague Hospitals, 1450–1750 - Jennifer Gear

During the Early Modern period, it was widely believed that visual art could offer powerful protection against disease, both preventing it and hastening recovery for those who were already sick. Following the Black Death in the 1350s and through the eighteenth century, the creation of countless works of art and material culture registered the importance of images to fight the plague. Knowing this, one would expect that the two Venetian lazzaretti—the most sophisticated hospitals devoted to the management of plague in the Early Modern world—would have been sites where visual art proliferated. In fact, the opposite appears to be true. This talk will explore what we know about visual art at the Venetian plague hospitals, from graffiti to state-commissioned works, to consider what this suggests about productivity and motivation during major outbreaks of disease and afterwards.

Jennifer Gear is a Lecturer in the Department of the History of Art at the University of Michigan, where she received her PhD in 2018. She specializes in Early Modern Venice and its regional cities in the 15th–18th centuries. Her research and publications examine the relationship between plague and art production, particularly commemorative works that engage with the disease as an historical phenomenon.  

Dust Bowl Murals: Environmental Disaster and Settler Colonialism on the American Plains - Michaela Rife

Dust Bowl Murals: Environmental Disaster and Settler Colonialism on the American Plains

What does a community want from their public art in the midst of an environmental disaster? To begin to answer that question, Dust Bowl-era post office murals in towns and cities on the American Plains offer compelling case studies. With settler faith in local industries and agricultural productivity frayed by environmental and economic woes, government-sponsored artists designed murals intended to mend that faith through scenes of pioneers, bountiful harvests, and working oil fields. In this talk, I will discuss how these public artworks functioned in the context of an environmental disaster, but I will also explain how the 1930s Dust Bowl was but one symptom of the condition of settler colonialism, a long and ongoing “disaster.”

Michaela Rife is a postdoctoral fellow in the Michigan Society of Fellows and an assistant professor in the Department of the History of Art. Her research focuses on the art and visual cultures of the American West, particularly surrounding resource extraction and settler colonialism. She is also interested in the larger fields of environmental art history and ecocriticism. She earned her PhD from the University of Toronto in 2020. 

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