History of Art



Spiral Clock

Past Imperfect, dictionary definition

Poster for Autumn 2017 events (pdf)

New Approaches to Ruskin on Art and Architecture

A two-day conference, 1 and 2 December, 2017

Organised jointly with The Courtauld Institute of Art

Open to all, free admission, bookings are required

Making and Destroying Enlightenment Photography in the 1860s

Monday 4 December, 2017

Dr. Matthew C. Hunter (Art History and Communications Studies, McGill University)

poster for the event (pdf)

Noah's Anarky: Community and Climate Change

Friday 17 November 2017, 4pm

Professor Jeffrey Jerome Cohen (English Department, George Washington University)

Poster for the event (pdf)

Cinematic Demolitions - Screening of Francesco Rosi's Hands over the city (Le mani sulla città, 1963)

Monday 30 October, 2017

Introduced by Jacob Paskins and Rose Marie San Juan

Followed by discussion of the film and of issues about film and demolition

Poster for the event (pdf)

Rococo Adrift: The Late Shipwrecks of Jean Pillement

Wednesday 18 October, 2017

Dr. Iris Moon (European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)

Poster for the event (pdf)

Monday, 20 March 2017, 6-8pm

Gold Flow

Allison Stielau (UCL History of Art)

Metallic Loss and Gain in the Fiery Furnace

Alison Wright (UCL History of Art)

Gothic Gold

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.

Monday, 13 March 2017, 6-8pm

Elina Gertsman (Case Western Reserve University Department of Art History and Art)

Nothing is the Matter: Emptiness on Parchment

The impulse to fill in visual lacunae - an omnipresent horror vacui, or fear of empty space - has long been seen as a defining trait of late medieval imagery. Yet, empty loci are many and multifarious in the visual culture of medieval Europe, and they invade its material universe persistently and exultantly. Taking as a point of departure the fourteenth-century manuscript of Eustache Deschamps's Le double lay de la fragilité humaine (1383), and focusing on images on parchment, this talk explores several such empty spaces that treat absence as a generative presence. Contextualizing these spaces within discourses on imagination, natural philosophy, mathematics, and theology, I will suggest that because all emptiness bears traces - visual, cognitive, material - it often functions as a footprint of its makers and beholders, of their viewing practices, and of their sensorium.

Poster for the event (pdf)

Monday, 6 March 2017, 6-8pm

Katherine Ibbett (Reader in Early Modern Studies, UCL SELCS)

River-rains: Residency and Water in Early Modern France

Monday, 6 February 2017, 6-8pm

Lynda Nead (Birkbeck, Department of History of Art)

Dickens Noir: The Persistence of Victorianism in Post-War British Art and Culture

Monday, 21 November 2016, 6-8pm

Hans-Christian Hönes (Warburg Institute, Bilderfahrzeuge project)

Drowning Tradition. Girodet, the Deluge and the Quest for Originality

Thursday 10 November 2016

Visit to the Flesh exhibition at York Art Gallery

The exhibition exploring the ways artists engaged with flesh was curated by Jo Applin and Laura Turner, and Mechthild Fend was on the advisory board.

We are taking the 9:08 train from Kings Cross and will be at the Gallery at noon.

Thursday, 3 November 2016, 6-8pm Film Screening

As a follow-up to Bob Mill's presentation at Past Imperfect last Monday, we will be screening the film Hieronymus Bosch: Touched by the Devil (2016, Dir. Peter van Huystee, 1 hour 26 minutes).

The documentary concerns the research, conservation, and curatorial decisions behind the recent Bosch exhibitions in Spain and the Netherlands.


Monday, 24 October 2016, 6-8pm Blue Sky Thinking

Richard Taws

Cloud Atlas: Conté's Egyptian Atmospherics

Bob Mills

Imaging the Void in Bosch's Visions of the Hereafter

Monday, 9 May 2016

The Potosi Principle: An Evening with Alice Creischer

Colonial Image Production & 21st century Globalisation

6-8pm, Seminar Room 3, 20 Gordon Square

The Potosi Principle, a 2010 traveling international exhibition, asked visitors to navigate across its display rooms with a map, in order to trace the continuations of colonial image production and globalisation in a non-linear, non-chronological fashion. Focused on Potosi, the capital of the Latin American mining industry from the 16th to 18th century, the exhibition explored the parallels between the ideological functions of colonial-era painting and 21st century globalisation, bringing together displays that ranged from Baroque paintings to contemporary installations. 

Alice Creischer, one of the curators of The Potosi Principle, will be speaking about the unique exhibition, and particularly its focus on the migration of images, and their reappropriation and distortion. 

poster for the event (pdf)

Friday, 18 March 2016

'Inverted lands and queer objects': Mirages, Digital Maps, and the Historical Problem of Location

Carolyn Dinshaw (NYU) and Marget Long

5.30-7.30pm, Seminar Room 3/4, 20 Gordon Square

poster for the event (pdf)

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

The Waterless Sea: A Cultural and Political History of Mirages

Christopher Pinney

6-8pm, Seminar Room 3/4, 20 Gordon Square

poster for the event (pdf)

Monday, 8 February 2016

Joint reading discussion:

Friedrich Kittler, chapter 'Film' in Gramophone, Film, Typewriter and Michelle Warren 'Shimmering Philology' in postmedieval: a journal of medieval cultural studies 5 (2014).

Required Reading:

  • Friedrich A. Kittler, chapter 'Film' in Gramophone, Film, Typewriter
  • Kaja Silverman, The Miracle of Analogy or The History of Photography, Part 1 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2015), pp. 1-38

Friday, 11 December 2015

Abstraction to the Notional - David Summers's Principle of Art History

Professor Whitney Davis (Berkeley)

Whitney Davis' talk 'Abstraction to the Notional: David Summers' Principle of Art History' will engage in part with David Summers' book, Real Spaces: World Art History and the Rise of Western Modernism (Phaidon: 2003). In advance of the lecture, we are holding a reading group on Friday afternoon from 2pm onwards in order to discuss a chapter from this book. The reading group will take place in the Common Ground, UCL Institute of Advanced Studies, and Professor Davis' lecture that evening will take place in seminar room 3/4 of the department.

poster for the event (pdf)

Monday, 23 November 2015

Jean-Etienne Liotard exhibition visit

Visit to the Jean-Etienne Liotard exhibition at the Royal Academy

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 (pdf)

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:

  • Pasi Väliaho, "Biopolitical Visual Economy: Image, Apparatus, and the Cerebral Subject" in Biopolitical Screens: Image, Power, and the Neoliberal Brain (MIT Press, 2014), 1-25.

Start time 18:00

poster for the event (pdf)

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 (pdf)

Monday, 9 February 2015

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

Henry Keazor

poster for the event (pdf)

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 (pdf)

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 (pdf)

Monday, 24 November 2014

Film, Obsolescence and Rear Projection

Professor Laura Mulvey, Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image

poster for the event (pdf)

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

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

poster for the event (pdf)

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 2013

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.

poster for the event (pdf)

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