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ARTHIST 3BB3 Indig Art\Vis Cult 1960 - Pres

Academic Year: Winter 2016

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Prof. Carol Podedworny


Office: McMaster Museum of Art A201

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 26452

Office Hours: Thursdays 11am - 1 pm

Course Objectives:


Museums can effect change even before there is widespread acceptance within the political mainstream and in so doing, can influence public debate.
Des Griffin. The Native Unive
rse and Museums in the Twenty-First Century: The Significance of the National Museum of the American Indian. Washington, D.C. & New York: NMAI Editions, 2005: 19.

Indigenous efforts to transform the very foundational notions of the museum – have changed museums forever.
Elaine Heumann Gurian. The Native Universe and Museums in the Twenty-First Century: The Significance of the National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, D.C. & New York: NMAI Editions, 2005: 24.

Aboriginal art is innately political. It is the culmination of lived experiences, from pre-contact customary societies through the colonial enterprise. It is tied up in histories that include both pre- and post-contact epistemologies, narratives empowered by continuity, inextricably interlinked; and it is the assertion of cultural autonomy and sovereignty. Steven Loft, Trudeau Fellow, Ryerson Image Centre, 2013.

AH3BB3 looks at the principal artists and genres of contemporary First Nations art practice in Canada since circa 1960 to the present day. Beginning with the careers of artists associated with the “Woodland School,” through those considered the first generation “modernists,” and including recent activities in painting, sculpture, photography, film, performance and hip hop, the course examines a range of practices and concerns. How First Nations’ artistic practices are framed in the context of museums in the twenty-first century is an issue of central concern in this course. 


  1. Analyze and identify works of art by the major First Nations artists in Canada, 1960 through the present.
  2. Examine the intersection of art, politics and the museum as they pertain to the practice of First Nations artists in Caanda since 1960.
  3. Develop research and writing skills that demonstrate an ability to analyze works of art in depth in their socio-cultural context.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:


Bennett, Tony. The Birth of the Museum: history, theory, politics. London & New York: Routledge, 1995.

Phillips, Ruth. Museum Pieces: Towards the Indigenization of Canadian Museums. Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queens University Press, 2011.

NB Course readings include chapters from the above two required publications + bulk of READINGS TO BE COMPILED IN A COURSEWEAR PACK FOR THE CLASS.


Method of Assessment:


20% - 4 In-class assignments – January 13th, January 27th, February 10th, March 16th 

20% - Take Home assignment – February 24th

20% - Mid-Term exam – March 2nd

20% - Presentations - March 9th, 16th and 23rd

10% - Final exam - April 6th 

10% - Class participation & attendance

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Missed work will incur a 5% deduction per week.

A Student must speak to the instructor PRIOR to handing an assignment in late.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

Week ONE - Introduction

Week TWO - The Politics of First Nations Art, Setting the Scene – The Socio-Political, Part I

Week THREE - The Politics of First Nations Art, Setting the Scene – The Socio-Political, Part II

Week FOUR - The Politics of First Nations Art, Setting the Scene – The Post-Modern Museum

Week FIVE - Contemporary Art I - Carl Beam

Week SIX - Early Contact & Woodland School


Week EIGHT – Take Home Assignment


Week TEN – Contemporary Art II – Boyer et al

Week ELEVEN –  Contemporary Art III – Photography, Pefromance & Hip Hop

Week TWELVE – Contemporary Art IV – Short Film

Week THIRTEEN – Contemporary Topics - Curatorial Practice

Week FOURTEEN – Final Exam