Ms. Melissa Heer is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Art History at the University of Minnesota specializing in the areas of contemporary art and theory and South Asian art and culture. She received her M.A. in art history from the University of Minnesota and her B.A. in art history, with a minor in philosophy, from Saint Catherine University. In addition to the educational background in the field of art history, her research draws from broader interdisciplinary approaches, as she works across the fields of geography, cultural studies, history and performance studies. She is particularly interested in understanding the complex relationship between visual culture and post-colonialism, which she has studied primarily within the context of contemporary urban India. Her dissertation aims to examine the complicated intersections between histories of performance and histories of photography in India and the ways in which they participate in trans-national cultural encounters.
Ms. Heer's doctoral dissertation looks at the use of photographic reenactment across a group of contemporary Indian artists. The stylistic, technical and conceptual methods of reenactment used in their artworks resonate with broader global trends among artists who similarly direct settings, scenes and subjects in a self-conscious and staged manner, often drawing upon highly recognized visual culture. The artists in her dissertation draw particularly from nineteenth century photography, painting and print culture of colonial India. Her Fulbright-Nehru research is titled as "Restaging History: Photographic Reenactment in Contemporary India." In her visual reading, theoretical analysis, and historical contextualization of these contemporary artworks, as well as the nineteenth century sources that artists reenact, she will examine the performance of national memory and history, the politics of gender representation, and other forms of exhibition in a global art economy.