University of Alberta
Advancements in biomedicine and digital technology have done much to improve human health and welfare, but this field of scientific innovation has also raised complex legal, ethical and philosophical questions that societies around the world must address. Cutting-edge digital technology and research in the health sciences is upsetting the foundations of liberal democracies, impacting issues around privacy, equality, and the democratic process itself. Perhaps more significantly, these emerging technologies are challenging the very idea of what it means to be human or to have consciousness – particularly in relation to the rapidly expanding field of artificial intelligence. Much of the discourse around these pressing issues can become highly polarized and complex, with the media presenting issues in simplistic black and white terms. Art and creative research has an important role to play in these debates because of its capacity to articulate nuanced emotions, such as anxiety and hope, in a manner that compliments and expands on knowledge translation occurring in other modes of communication, such as academic journals. In this and other ways, creative work can foster knowledge and understanding alongside science that enables society to envision positive responses to technological innovation.
In order to explore these questions Professors Sean Caulfield and Marilene Oliver initiated the creative research project Dyscorpia: Future Intersections of the Body and Technology. This innovative interdisciplinary project brings together creative and academic researchers including scientists, musicians, cultural theorists and visual artists in order to examine the ways contemporary society is reframing the body through precision medicine, artificial intelligence and evolving imaging and communications technologies. Over the last two years this interdisciplinary team has been working collaboratively to produce both academic writing and creative works that investigate the complex ways technology is shifting perceptions on humanity and the human body, as well as speculating on how this technology will transform the body of the future.
Funding for Dyscorpia came from the Social Sciences Research Humanities Research Council of Canada and the University of Alberta, and was used to support the production and dissemination of visual/sonic art works, literature, and academic writing, produced by the Dyscorpia research team, as well as invited senior undergraduate and graduate students. The invitation to participate in Graphica Creativa 2019 exhibition came at an ideal time as the Dyscorpia project was unfolding as it enabled the research team and participating artists to envision making work for two exhibitions. The first exhibition took place at Enterprise Square Gallery from April 20 – June 30 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The work in the Jyvaskyla Art Museum represents a selection of artists from the larger Dyscorpia initiative who made work with a focus on printmaking and which was designed specifically for the Graphica Creativa 2019 exhibition.
Professors Sean Caulfield and Marilene Oliver, Department of Art and Design, University of Alberta
University of Alberta
Department of Art and Design
The University of Alberta is a public, research-intensive institution located in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The broader university contains a wide range of departments focused on teaching and research across the fine arts, humanities, social sciences, medicine, engineering, natural and biological sciences, among others. The Printmaking Area is part of Department of Art and Design, which is situated with the larger Faculty of Arts, and is made up of three areas of focus: Design Studies, Fine Arts and the History of Art and Visual Culture (HADVC). At the undergraduate level, the Department of Art and Design offers Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA), Bachelor of Design (BDes) and Bachelor of Arts degrees (BA). At the graduate level, the department offers Master of Fine Arts (MFA) and Master of Design (MDes) degrees, as well as Masters of Arts (MA) and Doctorate (PhD) degrees in the HADVAC area.
Through its four studio streams, the BFA program’s curriculum balances discipline-specific experience with cross-media exploration—particularly in the senior level studio classes. Students are initially trained in traditional fine art mediums, followed by opportunities to experiment with emerging/new media and expanded art forms, such as installation and performance. After completing a foundation year which focuses on fundamental principles in visual art and design, BFA students select upper-level studio courses in the areas of 1) Drawing and Inter-media, 2) Painting, 3) Printmaking, and 4) Sculpture.
The MFA is a thesis-based program in which students are required to develop individual creative research projects through in-depth academic and creative/studio research, under the guidance of a supervisor and/or co-supervisors. The MFA culminates in a major solo thesis exhibition in the Fine Arts Building Gallery, supported by a brief thesis statement. Students must also defend their creative research in an oral defense to their thesis committee, which consists of five members—including an external committee member from outside of the department. The program is a minimum of 2 years and a maximum of 4 years, with most students completing their thesis in 2.5 years.
Within this broader context, the Printmaking Area at the University of Alberta provides students with training in both traditional printmaking techniques and relevant digital technologies. Coursework develops proficiency in relief, silkscreen, etching, lithography, letterpress, book-arts, digital output, and laser engraving techniques, among others. Students begin the program with project-based assignments that focus on technical and formal development, working towards self-directed projects that cultivate a studio practice rooted in creative and academic research. At the senior undergraduate and graduate level, students are encouraged to explore a variety of methodologies, offering the freedom to employ both traditional techniques and interdisciplinary approaches that incorporate installation and/or time-based elements.
Furthermore, students in the Printmaking Area are encouraged to take advantage of the resources available at a large research institution and look to other disciplines for thematic and conceptual motivation to support their studio work, engaging in interdisciplinary collaboration in the actual production of their work as needed. This creative methodology and collaborative spirit are reflected in the Dyscorpia projects featured in the exhibition, where students and faculty built cooperative relationships with a wide array of researchers across the fields of biomedicine, medical humanities/cultural studies, and artificial intelligence.
Students from the U of A’s Printmaking Area regularly maintain active careers through extensive exhibition and teaching; past graduates of the program have gone on to work for prominent cultural institutions around the world, including The Alberta College of Art and Design, Concordia University in Montreal, The University of Tennessee, and Binghamton University, to note a few examples. Participation in the Graphica Creativa 2019 exhibition is a tremendous honour that contributes to this history of international collaboration and research dissemination. Inclusion in this significant cultural event provides invaluable opportunities for students and faculty to build new partnerships that will undoubtedly lead to further cultural and creative exchanges.
Professors Sean Caulfield and Marilene Oliver
Department of Art and Design
Holly de Moissac
Photos on this page
Main image in this page is a detail from “Evolving Anatomies” by Sean Caulfield and Marlene Oliver. You can access the artist’s pages by clicking the small images.
The Graphica Creativa 2019 Web Exhibition is produced by Jyväskylä Art Museum | Webdesign Harjula web & dev