Spiral Clock Past Imperfect, dictionary definition

We invite you to join our visual culture research seminar in which we hope to share and explore recent concerns with the past and its place in the present, a present increasingly over-invested in the value of the contemporary. With the critique of official histories and the conjoining of history and fiction behind us, we now confront new imperatives for what is at stake in thinking across historical, current and future perspectives. We start from the premise of the verb tense ‘past imperfect’, in which a past that is unfinished constantly challenges the idea of the ‘new’ and embraces the presentness of the past.

We will experiment with format and practice and hope to engage with current debates on changing conceptions of time, including history, modernity and memory.

All events will take place in Seminar Room 6, 21 Gordon Square unless otherwise stated.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Obsolescence in the City

Speakers/Titles of Papers:  

  • Rose Marie San Juan "Cinematic Verticality & the Re-emergence of Public Space"
  • Caspar Pearson "Continental Drift: Image & Obsolescence in Clacton-on-Sea"
  • Anthony Vidler "Surface Sensibilities: Smooth & Rough in béton brut"

Medewar G01 Lankester LT

Start time 16:00

poster for the event

Monday, 11 May 2015

Surface Tension

Speakers/Titles of Papers:  

  • Pasi Väliaho (Goldsmiths) "Sor Juana's Magic Lanterns"
  • Carla Benzan (UCL) "Surface and Obsolescence: 1600/1900"

Recommended Reading:

Start time 18:00

poster for the event

Monday, 9 March 2015

Film - Colour - Technologies

Screening of 

Rainbow's Gravity (dir Mareike Bernien, Kerstin Schroedinger, Germany/UK 2014, 32 min)

Introduced by Kerstin Schroedinger

Elizabeth Watkins (University of Leeds)

‘Imaging the Antarctic: uncertainty, obsolescence and landscape in expedition films of the early 1900s’.

18:00-21:00 (including wine and nibbles break)

poster for the event

Monday, 9 February 2015

When the 'Preposterous' Meets the 'Obsolete': The Examples of Eleanor Antin and Philip Haas

Henry Keazor

poster for the event

Monday, 26 January 2015 - CANCELLED 

Obsolescence in Microseconds:

How Trading Algorithms Affect Temporality

Professor N. Katherine Hayles, Duke University

This event was cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances.

poster for the event

Monday, 10 November 2014

One for Sorrow, Two for Joy;

Obsolescent Histories and Hitchcock's Vertigo

Dr. Maria H. Loh, History of Art UCL

poster for the event

Monday, 24 November 2014

Film, Obsolescence and Rear Projection

Professor Laura Mulvey, Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image

poster for the event

Monday, 8 December 2014

Remaking Bodies / Remaking Films

A Discussion on Filmic technologies and Wax

We will view The Mystery of the House of  Wax (1933), directed by Michael Curtiz  using two colour Technicolor; and excerpts from the 1953 House of Wax (colour 3D), and the 2005 House of Wax

Previous events

Friday, 21 March 2014, 3-6pm

On Forgetting

Speakers include:

Alexander Nemerov (Stanford University), The Lost Cause of Lewis Hine

Michael Ann Holly (Clark Art Institute), At the Still Point of the Painted World

The event will be followed by a reception

Monday, 10 March 2014, 6-8pm

Time and the Image

Workshop with various participants

Tuesday, 25 February 2014, 6-8pm

Media, Capture, and Radical Forgetting

Dr. Seb Franklin (King's College)

Monday, 27 January 2014, 6-8pm

Reading discussion

  1. Friedrich A Kittler, 'Forgetting', pp. 88-116
  2. Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, 'The Enduring Ephemeral, or the Future is a Memory', Critical Enquiry, 2008, pp. 148-171

Friday, 13 December 2013, 3.30-8pm

Workshop: Posthumanism and the Viewing Subject


3.30 Introduction and welcome

3.45   Steve Baker (Emeritus Professor of Art History, University of Central Lancashire)

Is the Idea of Posthumanism of Any Use for Artists?

5.45  Tea Break

4.30 Jason Edwards (Professor of Art History, University of York)

The Circum-Polar World: Victorian Arctic Post-Humanism?

5.45  Jamie Lorimer (University Lecturer, School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford)

Evoking Elephants: The Affective Logics of Moving Animal Imagery

Posthumanism and the Viewing Subject, poster

Friday, 22nd November 2013, 6pm

The Past Imperfect seminar will be making a trip to the Michael Landy exhibition Saints Alive at the National Gallery to view the show, meet the artist and the curator. We'll meet just in front of the exhibit entrance.

Monday, 11 November 2013, 6pm


Bob Mills: "Cows, Martyrs and Other Animals"
Petra Lange-Berndt: "Swarming Fever"
Related text for discussion:
Giorgio Agamben The Open, trans. Kevin Attell, pp. 1-3, 13-16, 33-38.

Monday, 21 October 2013, 6pm

Joint reading discussion:

Derrida, That Animal Therefore I Am, trans. David Willis, pp. 1-52
Giorgio Agamben, The Open, trans. Kevin Attell (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2004), pp. 1-3, 13-16, 33-38.

Monday, 13 May 2013, 6pm

Filmscreeining of "Siliva Zulu" (1927)

a silent film by Attilo Gatti
(with Giuseppe p. Vitrotti, and advised by the anthropologist Lido Cipriani)

Introduced by Tamar Garb and followed by discussion.

Wednesday, 20 March

We regret that the session due to take place on Wednesday 20 March has been postponed to the summer term. Details will be announced as soon as possible.

Christopher Pinney: The Civil Contract of Photography in India

Related text for discussion:

Ariella Azoulay: The Civil Contract of Photography, MIT Press, pp. 88-135.

Monday, 4 March 2013, 6pm

Simon Werrett: Picturing Pyrotechnics

Related text for discussion:
Kevin Salatino: Incendiary Art: the Representation of Fireworks in Early Modern Europe, Los Angeles: Getty, 1997, pp. 1-45.

Monday, 4 February 2013, 6pm

Filmscreening of Alain Resnais' Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959) introduced by Rose Marie San Juan

Monday, 21 January 2013, 6pm

Marcia Pointon Artefacts at the Edge - Thinking about Death Masks

Related text for discussion: George Didi-Huberman, L'Empreinte, pp. 52-72,
or alternatively Didi-Huberman, 'The Molding Image'.

Tuesday 4 December 2012, 6.15 pm

Public Sphere/Public Space: Historical entanglements and current possibilities

A discussion with short presentations by
Rose Marie San Juan and Fred Schwartz
Related texts: Oskar Negt and Alexander Kluge, The Public Sphere and Experience, Judith Butler, The Politics of the Street.

Tuesday 30 October 2012, 6.15 pm

"Screening History"

Bob Mills
Derek Jarman's Medievalism
Richard Taws
The Spectacle of History: Peter Watkin's La Commune (Paris, 1871)

Tuesday 9 October 2012, 6.15 pm

This seminar will examine debates associated with
Bruno Latour’s We have never been Modern (1991)
Natasha Eaton
Iconoclash|Rubbish: Collecting and Colonialism
Mechthild Fend
Contagious Contacts: Dermatological Wax Moulages and the Never-Modern Indexical Image