The International Conference on the Arts in Society will feature plenary sessions by some of the world’s leading thinkers and innovators in the field, as well as numerous parallel presentations by researchers and practitioners.

Judy Chicago Nancy Mithlo
Barbara Fischer Colin Rhodes
Aaron Levy Leoni Schmidt
Mario Antonio Minichiello Tomasz Wendland

Garden Conversation Sessions

Plenary Speakers will make formal 30-minute presentations. They will also participate in 60-minute Garden Conversations - unstructured sessions that allow delegates a chance to meet the speakers and talk with them informally about the issues arising from their presentation.

Please return to this page for regular updates.

The Speakers

Judy Chicago
chicagoJudy Chicago (born Judy Cohen) is an artist, author, feminist, educator, and intellectual whose career now spans four decades. She received her MA from UCLA in painting and sculpture. In 1966, Chicago’s work “Rainbow Pickets” was shown in “Primary Structures,” a major minimalist exhibition at the Jewish Museum. In 1970, Chicago founded the first Feminist Art program at California State University at Fresno. This program was documented in the film “Judy Chicago and the California Girls”, directed by Judith Dancoff and released in 1971. In 1971 Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro jointly founded the CalArts Feminist Art Program for the California Institute of the Arts. Together they organized one of the first-ever feminist art exhibitions - Womanhouse - 30 January-28 February 1972. In 1973, Chicago co-founded the Feminist Studio Workshop, located inside the Los Angeles Women’s Building, a seminal feminist art teaching and exhibition space.

Judy Chicago is most famous for her 1974-1979 work The Dinner Party. It is a homage to women’s history in the form of a large triangular table with symbolic ceramic plates representing 39 famous women guests-of-honor. The work is intended as an elevation to heroic scale of the contributions of women in a way that has been excluded throughout history. Other famous works include Birth Project (which brought together a national network of skilled needle-workers 1980 -1985), the 1993 Holocaust Project personifying the final solution; the 1994 work Resolutions, which returned to the theme of feminism, a thread that runs through all of her work; and the “Envisioning the Future” project in Pomona, California (the project including creating a 140′ x 40′ mural of the Goddess Pomona entitled Pomona Envisions the Future).

In addition to a life of prodigious art making, Chicago is the author of numerous books. In 1999, Chicago coauthored the book Women and Art: Contested Territory, with Edward Lucie-Smith, the well-known British art writer. The book examines images of women by both male and female artists throughout history.

In 1996, the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America at Radcliffe College, Cambridge, MA, became the repository for Chicago’s papers. Chicago is the first living artist to be included in this major archive. In 1999, she returned to teaching for the first time in twenty-five years, having accepted a succession of one-semester appointments at various institutions around the country.

Barbara Fischer
fischerBarbara Fischer is the Director/Curator of the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery at Hart House, University of Toronto, as well as Senior Lecturer in Curatorial Studies in the Department of Art at University of Toronto. She is the curator for Mark Lewis, at the Canada Pavilion, for the 53rd Venice Biennale in 2009.

As a curator, she has worked in galleries and museums across Canada, and in 1999, she took the position as curator and then Director/Curator of the Blackwood Gallery at the University of Toronto at Mississauga, which under her leadership developed as an important, nationally acclaimed centre for contemporary art through exhibitions. She has curated and written catalogue essays for solo exhibitions of Fastwurms, Stan Douglas, Kelly Mark, Euan Macdonald, and Rebecca Belmore, as well as one of the most widely circulated exhibitions internationally: “General Idea Editions 1967-1995” (i.e. Kunstverein Munich, Kunstverein Zurich, Kunst-Werke Berlin, CAAC Seville, Henry Art Gallery Seattle, and the Andy Warhol Museum Pittsburgh). She has curated major group exhibitions of Canadian and international artists such as “Social Space” (1984), “Signs” (1988), “Re-enactment” (1990), “Love Gasoline” (1996), “Foodculture” (1997), “spilled edge soft corners” (1999), “Logo-city” (2000) “New Modular” (2002), and most recently “Projections,” the first major survey on projection-based works in the history of contemporary art in Canada (2007). She co-curated “Soundtracks” (2003) and “Make Believe” (2006) with Catherine Crowston. Fischer has taught courses and lectured across Canada on issues in contemporary art and curatorial studies. Her writings have appeared in exhibition catalogues and anthologies, including Naming a Practice and foodculture.

Aaron Levy
levyAaron Levy is the Executive Director of the Slought Foundation in Philadelphia (for more information:, a non-profit organization operating at the forefront of curatorial innovation in North America. Since its founding, Levy has been responsible for the organization’s overall administration and strategic development, which he considers a facet of his practice as a curator and theoretician.

As Senior Curator at the Foundation, his projects topically intervene in contemporary debates around art, architecture, and critical theory. He is respected for an informal and collaborative approach that encourages cross-cultural exchange by bringing communities together in intimate and participatory ways. Exhibitions curated include Into the Open: Positioning Practice, the official U.S. representation at La Biennale di Venezia (, 2008), which traveled to Parsons The New School (2009); Osvaldo Romberg’s Theaters of Transparency at the Neue Galerie, Graz (2009), which travels to the ZKM, Karlsruhe; Cities Without Citizens at the Rosenbach Museum (2002); Braco Dimitrijevic’s The Casual Passer-By I Met at 3.01 pm, Philadelphia, 2007 on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania (2008); and Arakawa + Gins’ Architecture Against Death at Slought Foundation (2005). His many publications edited include William Anastasi’s Pataphysical Society (2005); Rrrevolutionnaire: Conversations in Theory (2006); Helene Cixous’ Ex-Cities (2007); Blood Orgies: Hermann Nitsch in America (2008); Tractatus Post Historicus (2009); and Evasions of Power: On the Architecture of Adjustment (2009, forthcoming). He is also the editor of a series of DVD publications featuring work by Dennis Oppenheim, Vito Acconci, Alain Badiou, and Werner Herzog. He has organized symposia on topics such as cultural activism, urbanism, and geopolitics at institutions including The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, The Drawing Center, and la maison rouge - foundation antoine de galbert. He is currently organizing a symposium on Immanuel Kant’s essay on Perpetual Peace (1795) with the European Union National Institutes of Culture (EUNIC).

Levy is also on faculty at the University of Pennsylvania in the Department of English, where he leads the Seminar in Contemporary Culture, an interdisciplinary course about critical theory and contemporary art that provides students with curatorial experience. Levy also led the RBSL Bergman Foundation Seminar for the Department of the History of Art during the 2007-2008 academic year. He has lectured widely, most recently at the Graham Foundation, the inaugural Aspen Institute Cultural Diplomacy Forum, the European Union Culture Commission at The Vera List Center for Art and Politics, the Austrian Cultural Forum New York, Sciences-Po, the American University of Paris, the Syracuse University School of Architecture, Humanities Corridor, and Columbia University’s School of Architecture. He has recently penned articles and interviews for Cabinet magazine,, Tank, and build, among others. He is completing a doctorate in History of Art and Cultural Studies at the University of Leeds.

Mario Antonio Minichiello
mariominichielloMario Minichiello is the Head of Department and Chair of Visual Communications programmes at Birmingham City University BIAD, faculty of Art and Design, Britain. He is also a visiting research Fellow at the University of Sydney, School of art. An award winning artist and designer producing both inspirational and often controversial reportage artwork for broadcast media including television, broadsheet newspapers and magazines. Professor Minichiello has recently been a guest on a number of broadcast debates on the role of art in society and has most recently taken part in an interview with Press TV, this was broadcast on a number of international channels including al-Jazeera.

Professor Minichiello’s work for BBC Newsnight¹s coverage of the ŒSpy Catcher trial was described by the leading human rights barrister, and Law Lord Anthony Lester QC: “a political cause célèbre, a clash between Government, the media and the courts - demonstrating for many the need for a Human Rights Act - one of the most memorable contributions were the works by Mario Minichiello.” He was been involved in reportage work and academic discourse concerning the Afghanistan conflict, focusing on the impact of conflict on global media networks and its psychological effects on viewers. The resulting work has been featured in a number of academic publications as well as in collections of political and cross cultural art sites around the world. Most recently his work caused controversy when he drew at the APEC international summit as part of his research work with Sydney University School of Arts, a selection of these drawings were published in the Sydney Morning Harold and some original works are in the British Council¹s art collection.

His current research interests include the globalizing affect of visual communications media and the potential empowering nature of handmade art - in particular its ability to reveal and retain cultural identity and communicate human values. He is investigating the application of art and design process to medical and social needs, including the functions of drawing as a mediator for the expression of cultural diversity and as an analytical tool. Publications and website based collections are available at: and And at

Nancy Mithlo
mithloNancy Marie Mithlo Ph.D., an Assistant Professor of Art History and American Indian Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has produced, documented and theorized the emergence of an indigenous arts presence at the Venice Biennale from 1999 to 2009. Her current project defining indigenous curatorial standards titled “American Indian Curatorial Practice” is one of nine Ford Foundation “Advancing the Dialogue on Native American Arts in Society” initiatives. For over 20 years, her research has been associated with the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA), a congressionally chartered tribal college. She has taught courses in museum studies, repatriation, American Indian film, visual anthropology, and cultural anthropology at the IAIA, the University of New Mexico, Santa Fe Community College and Smith College. Mithlo’s recent book “‘Our Indian Princess’ – Subverting the Stereotype” is published by the School of Advanced Research Press, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Colin Rhodes

Colin Rhodes research is primarily in the areas twentieth century and contemporary art history and theory. He has written and lectured widely on Modernism, especially Expressionism in its many forms, and Outsider Art. His books include the influential Outsider Art: Spontaneous Alternatives (2000), which has also been published in Spanish, French and Finnish editions, and Primitivism and Modern Art (1994), which has also been translated into French. He has a particular interest in the ways in which western art and culture has interacted with that of its perceived others, and in those cultures of production that exist in the margins of the dominant artworld. He is a regular contribitor to Raw Vision, Création Franche and The Burlington Magazine. He has a keen commitment to drawing and exhibits his own work occasionally.

His awards include British Academy research grants 2002, 2003 Arts and Humanities Research Council research grants, 2002, 2005 Hohenberg Grant, University of Memphis, 2002. His publications include ‘Vicios y virtudes del imperativo autodidictica, Expressionismo Brücke, ed., Aya Soika, Madrid, 2005; Les fantômes qui nous hantent: en écrivant Art Brut et Art Outsider, Ligeia: Dossiers sur lart, July-December 2004; Burlington Primitive: non-European art in The Burlington Magazine before 1930, The Burlington Magazine, February 2004,4; Fulfilments of Desire in the Work of a Self-Taught Artist: the intimate existence of Malcolm McKesson, Art History, 2002; Ian Breakwell: Vocals (4CD set of artist’s soundworks), Loughborough University School of Art & Design, 2003; Outsider Art: Spontaneous Alternatives, 2000; Primitivism and Modern Art, Thames & Hudson, 1994.

Leoni Schmidt
schmidtProfessor Leoni Schmidt is currently the Academic Director: Research & Postgraduate Studies in the School of Art at Otago Polytechnic in Dunedin, New Zealand. She is particularly interested in the pedagogical and locational possibilities of the visual arts, specifically in how contemporary drawing and its theoretical and historical underpinnings can facilitate studio and study integration. Leoni has been responsible for the establishment of the Master of Fine Arts Programme at her current institution, a programme which has earned praise from candidates, supervisors, and international monitors and external examiners for its academic rigour and integration of studio practice and theory. She holds a doctorate from the University of Johannesburg (RAU), an MA (Fine Arts) from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and a BA (Fine Arts) from the University of South Africa. Her research focuses on contemporary drawing and its relationships with other materialities in the visual arts and architecture, its intersections with geography and its functions in particular socio-political contexts. Her article entitled “Relational Drawing as Pedagogical Action” (International Journal of the Arts in Society) explores three particular drawing practices sharing a strong sense of community and addressing geopolitical issues specific to the sites in which they are located. Leoni is the winner of the International Award for Excellence in the area of the Arts.

Tomasz Wendland
wendland Dr. Tomasz Wendland, hold degrees from the UK, Germany and Poland, where he has served as key organizer and director of MEDIATIONS Biennale in Poznan (Poland), since 2007. In addition to being a lecturer and arts organizer, Dr. Wendland is a practicing artist who works in various media: Video, installation, drawing, sculpture, photography, object, performance. His range of media contributes to his language of communication in an artistic quest for a presence of the secret and its sensual experiences. His works are featured in major collections around the world, such as FusionArts Museum Collection in New York Duolu MoMA Shanghai, and private collections throughout the EU. He is the recipient of the Pozana Council’s “Medal of New Art” (1998), and a 2005 Minister of Arts Scholarship. He joins the Arts Conference from his summer lectureship at the Akademie in Rheinau, Switzerland.