Speculation and Forensics: Social Methods for Art History
Art and artists are often cast as scapegoats for neoliberal urban change, including, most prominently, gentrification. While the complex roles played by artists and art economies can certainly catalyze inequitable developments in city dynamics, we need to examine, on a deeper level, how and why cities embrace art, and artists remediate cities, as agents and subjects of urban speculation that has marked the post-WWII period to this day. This seminar addresses one such example in Los Angeles, a city whose arts sector grew along with its social and economic position over that time period to become a global powerhouse of cultural capital. In so doing, it proposes forensics as a deep method for scrutinizing such changes across crucial industries from real estate to philanthropy and beyond.
Susanna Phillips Newbury (she/her/they) is Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and Vice Chair of the board of trustees of the Nevada Humanities Council. She completed her undergraduate degree at Oberlin College, and her Ph.D. at Yale University.
Her research and teaching interests focus on the social history of twentieth and twenty-first century art, histories of photography and architecture, urban studies, and economic geography. Her first book, The Speculative City was published in 2021 by the University of Minnesota Press. Other recent publications include "The Art of Witnessing" in the edited volume Aesthetics of Gentrification (Amsterdam University Press, 2021) and "Anti-Sitcom Video Art" in The Microgenre (Bloomsbury, 2020).
The Architecture / Art History PhD Forum is not a public lecture, but a focused, seminar discussion. The forum provides an opportunity for PhD students within art history and architecture to discuss the work of prominent academics and theorists from an interdisciplinary perspective. Invited speakers will briefly present on their work, focusing in part on pre-circulated articles or book chapters, from the standpoint of "method" -- how they defined the questions to be addressed, in what manner they approached them, by what means they determined their critical stakes -- before opening the floor to questions and general discussion from the seminar participants. These informal, but focused, seminars will provide an opportunity to discuss the production of intellectual material in ways that will inflect, inform, and inspire students' own work.