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Practicing Theory: FauHaus and Sensiotics

April 15, 2013 @ 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm

Portrait image of Henry Drewal outdoors wearing a blue shirt

Monday Seminar:

Henry Drewal

Senior Fellow (2010-2014)

Art History; Afro-American Studies, UW-Madison

Faisal Abdu’Allah



The theory and method called sensiotics, coined in 2003 by Henry Drewal, explores how the senses are engaged in the creation and reception of the arts, and the making of culture. Sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste, and motion continually participate, though we may often be unconscious of them, in the ways we literally make sense of the world, and art. Seeing (hearing, tasting, etc.) is thinking, sensing is theorizing, because in the beginning, there was no word, only sensations.

FauHaus (F = Faisal, H = Henry, Haus = WI), a riff on the BauHaus concept of interdisciplinary arts and born out of the theory of sensiotics, is an arts laboratory that demonstrates the poetic dalliance between theory and practice. Thinking, making and dissemination are integrated and reconciled to insure the clarity and longevity of artistic ideas.


After graduating from Hamilton College, Henry Drewal joined the Peace Corps, taught French and English and organized arts camps in Nigeria. While in Nigeria he apprenticed himself to a Yoruba sculptor, an experience was transformative (and ultimately led to his present project at IRH on art and the senses). He returned for graduate studies at Columbia University with an interdisciplinary specialization in African art history and culture, receiving two Masters’ degrees and a Ph.D. in 1973. He taught at Cleveland State University (where he was chair of the Art Department), and was a Visiting Professor at UC-Santa Barbara and SUNY-Purchase. He also served as Curator of African Art at The Cleveland Museum of Art and the Neuberger Museum. Since 1990 he has been Evjue-Bascom Professor at UW-Madison and Adjunct Curator of African Art at the Chazen Museum of Art. He has received numerous awards (Fulbright, NEH, Guggenheim, AIIS, Smithsonian, and Sainsbury fellowships) and published several books, edited volumes, and many articles on African and African Diaspora arts including Yoruba: Nine Centuries of African Art and Thought (1989) and Beads, Body and Soul: Art and Light in the Yoruba Universe (1998). He curated and wrote the catalogue for the major traveling exhibition — Mami Wata: Arts for Water Spirits in Africa and Its Diasporas (2008) and edited the volume Sacred Waters: Arts for Mami Wata and other Divinities in Africa and the Diaspora (2008) that won the 2011 Arnold Rubin Distinguished Publication Award from ACASA. His latest exhibition project, Dynasty and Divinity: Ife Art in Ancient Nigeria (2009), for which he wrote the catalogue, opened in Santander, Spain in 2009, traveled to Madrid and the British Museum in 2010 before its 2011-12 US tour to Houston, Richmond, and Indianapolis. He co-curated with Sarah K. Khan Soulful Stitching: Patchwork Quilts by Africans (Siddis) in India, a traveling exhibition shown at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, NY and the Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco, both in 2011. He is currently preparing with colleagues another major traveling exhibition entitled Striking Iron: The Art of African Blacksmiths. In Spring 2013, he will be hosting the Arts Institute Artist-in-Residence Faisal Abdu’Allah and co-teaching a seminar on “bodies, minds, senses and the arts.”


The work of Faisal Abdu’Allah repositions ideologies relating to representation and memory through the interface of photography, printmaking, moving images and performative installation. Since his acclaimed graduation show at the Royal College of Art, he has won numerous prizes including the first prize at the Tallinn Print Triennial 2010 and The Mayors prize for Sustainability for his film ‘Double Pendulum’. He has exhibited extensively in the UK, Tate Modern, and Serpentine Gallery. Recently his first retrospective ‘Art of Dislocation’ was shown at the CAAM, Spain. CAAM published his second monologue for which he was awarded a doctorate. He is represented by Magnolia Editions, California, USA and Autograph ABP, London.


April 15, 2013
3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
Event Categories:


University Club, Banquet Hall (lower level)
803 State Street
Madison, 53703 United States
tel:+(608) 262-5023