Invisible Cultures: Seeing the Unseen

April 8 – 9, 2022 | FREE
Room 4210 – SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts
149 West Hastings Street, Vancouver

Please join us for a FREE two-day symposium that examines the relationship between what is visible and invisible, featuring a keynote presentation by Dr. Alberto Toscano.

Keynote: Dr. Alberto Toscano

Presenters: Dave Biddle, Torien Cafferata, Chris Caruth, Christophe Devos, Mélika Hashemi, Matt Horrigan, Julien Iliev, William Latham, Josephine Lee, Tamara Lee, Joni Low, Andrea Rideout, Moroti Soji-George, Antonina Stoiber, Carina Xu, and Katie Yeo.

Organised by students from the SCA Graduate Student Seminar, with Claudette Lauzon.

*This will be an in-person symposium, subject to provincial health guidelines*

The relationship between what is visible and (in)visible has never been more urgent. With advances in scopic technologies and exponential growth in the production and circulation of image-based media – a saturation of a particular kind of visible – it has become necessary to attend not only to how images and visual culture live and what they do, but what exceeds the image: that which has been overlooked, concealed, or remains unconquered or ‘useless’; that which flies under the radar undetected, or points to the also invisible structures of technology, power and warfare; that which circumvents the dominance of visual capitalism to convey otherwise ways of finding agency in this world.

Our contemporary language is abundant with metaphors of visibility in relation to perception, understanding, and knowing, revealing an ocular-centrism within capitalism that persists to this day. Yet far more exists beyond the visible. How is the visible also multisensorial? How are artists prompting our awareness towards the invisible – things sensed and not yet representable, or deliberately hidden from view? How do they explore invisibility and a poetics of opacity as strategies of refusal against hypervisibility, cultural appropriation, surveillance, and the ‘regimented attention’ demands of 21st century screen and pandemic realities? How do we investigate the recurrence of invisibility within our broader socio-political frameworks, histories, technologies, accessibilities, and critically engage with their existence?

We are interested in creating a discussion around invisible cultures – how they act as seeds for creative and political insurrection, and how they attune our awareness to that which has been obscured, hidden, repressed in society – and why.


Closed caption will be available through Zoom. Please bring your own laptop for closed captioning.

Masks are recommended when possible.

The building is accessible at street level on the Hastings Street side or via a ramp on the Cordova Street Courtyard side (across from JJ Bean Coffee). There are 2 ramp entry points, one is located against the building, near the entrance to the Woodward’s Westbank Atrium (which houses London Drugs and Nesters) and one is located against the building, beside the alley. Both the Hastings Street doors and the Cordova Street Courtyard doors can be operated by accessibility buttons located beside the doorways. For more information, please CLICK HERE.



13:00 – 13:15 – Welcome

13:15 – 14:45 – Session #1: Empathy, Documentation, and the Circulation of Images (Session Chair: Joni Low)

  • Katie Yeo – Competing Ghosts: Haunted by Surveillance and Circulation of Images in North Korea
  • Nina Stoiber – Does Beautification of Images Desensitize Audience to Horrors?
  • Dave Biddle – Freedom Convoy, Mass Media Event, Autopoietic Negetropy

14:45 – 15:00 – Break (catered)

15:00 – 16:30 – Session #2: Parasociality and Performance (Session Chair: Tamara Lee)

  • Christophe Devos – Jump: Parkour, Subversion, and the Art of Flight
  • Andrea Rideout – The Explicit body in Cassils and Dobkin's Trans/Queer-Feminist Performance
  • Torien Cafferata – Enter Your Name: Parasociality and Interpassivity with Game Characters under Simveillance Capitalism


10:00 – 10:30 – Breakfast (catered)

10:30 – 10:45 – Welcome back

10:45 – 12:15 – Session #3 Docile / Effaced / Ineffible Subjects (Session Chair: Torien Cafferata)

  • Chris Caruth – Artwork Stimulus: {glossalalia} and déspaychant
  • Julian Iliev – Cultivating Docile Bodies in The Matrix trilogy
  • William Latham – An Errant Humanism: Philippe Grandrieux, Richard Mosse, and the Effaced Other
  • Matt Horrigan – In Defense of the Sublime

12:15 – 13:30 – Lunch break

13:30 – 15:00 – Session #4: Racial Capitalism (Session Chair: Josephine Lee)

  • Joni Low – Gabi Dao’s Last Lost Time: Sensing Otherwise through Archival Hauntings
  • Olumoroti Soji-George – Secrecy Is Incredibly Important To All Of Us: Black Satire as a Tool of Resistance against Cultural Hyper-visibility and Exploitation
  • Carina Xu – Haunted Landscapes & Bodies: Spectralities in Land Dispossession and Erasure

15:00 – 15:15 – Break

15:15 – 16:45 – Session #5: Refusal and Ethics (Session Chair: Olumoroti Soji-George)

  • Mélika Hashemi – Performing Shades of Green
  • Josephine Lee – Out of Sight: Optical Technologies and Speculative Materialities to Resist Hypervisibility
  • Tamara Lee – Glitch Methodologies and the Queer Aesthetics of Refusal

16:45 – 17:00 – Break

17:00 – 18:15 – Keynote address: Dr. Alberto Toscano – Evidence of Things Unseen: On Some Regimes of Invisibility (Session Chair: Claudette Lauzon)

Contemporary investigative art practices and critical theories have problematised in multiple ways the function of invisibility in the production and reproduction of apparatuses of domination, as well as in tactics and strategies of opposition. In this talk, I want to explore the differences and articulations between regimes of invisibility across three registers: (1) that of state violence, security, and secrecy, from incarceration to warfare; (2) that of capitalist value and the violence of abstraction; (3) that of praxes of resistance oriented towards evading or disactivating the gaze of the state and the metrics of accumulation. I will interrogate the image work of some contemporary artists and researchers – including Ahlam Shibli, Trevor Paglen and Allan Sekula – to explore how different regimes of invisibility come to be rendered as visible and/or intelligible, with a particular focus on the functions of opacity and the limits of revelation in the political aesthetics of the present. In what sense, I will ask, are regimes of invisibility also “racial regimes” (Cedric J. Robinson), which are in turn correlated with the “racial schematization of the visible field” (Judith Butler)?

18:30 – 20:30 – Closing party (catered)

Exhibition: too much light is blinding

Invisible Cultures: Seeing the Unseen is presented in conjunction with the exhibition too much light is blinding, which runs 10 April – 8 May, 2022.


Alberto Toscano is Professor of Critical Theory in the Department of Sociology and Co-Director of the Centre for Philosophy and Critical Theory at Goldsmiths, University of London, and Visiting Faculty at the School of Communications at Simon Fraser University, where he is also a visiting scholar at the Digital Democracies Institute. He is the author of The Theatre of Production: Philosophy and Individuation Between Kant and Deleuze (Palgrave, 2006), Fanaticism: On the Uses of an Idea (Verso, 2010; 2017, 2nd ed.), Cartographies of the Absolute (with Jeff Kinkle, Zero Books, 2015), Una visión compleja. Hacía una estética de la economía (Meier Ramirez, 2021), La abstracción real. Filosofia, estética y capital (Palinodia, 2021), and the co-editor of The Italian Difference: Between Nihilism and Biopolitics (with Lorenzo Chiesa,, 2009), the 3-volume Handbook of Marxism (with Sara Farris, Bev Skeggs and Svenja Bromberg, SAGE, 2021), and Ruth Wilson Gilmore's Abolition Geography: Essays in Liberation (with Brenna Bhandar, Verso, 2022). He is currently completing two projects: an exploration of theories of authoritarianism in the light of the present, Late Fascism (Verso, 2022) and a critical annotated edition in Italian of Cesare Pavese's mythological fiction Dialogues with Leucò (Garzanti, 2021). In connection to his studies on fascism, he has has recently translated and provided an afterword for a graphic novel on Primo Levi (Between the Lines, 2021) and an extensive new introduction for the reprint of Leo Löwenthal and Norbert Guterman's Prophets of Deceit: A Study of the Techniques of the American Agitator (Verso, 2021). Since 2004 he has been a member of the editorial board of the journal Historical Materialism: Research in Critical Marxist Theory and is series editor of The Italian List for Seagull Books. He is also the translator of numerous books and essays by Antonio Negri, Alain Badiou, Franco Fortini, Furio Jesi and others.

The School for the Contemporary Arts recognizes that we are on the unceded and occupied territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations.

April 09, 2022