History of Art


Research Seminar Series 2020-21

2020 Autumn Term

DateSpeaker(s)TitleRegistration Link
Wednesday 7th October 2020Stephanie Schwartz, Steve Edwards, Tamar Garb and John David Rhodes

Autumn 2020 Research Seminar Series: Politics and the Image

With special inaugural book launch, 'Walker Evans, No Politics' by Dr Stephanie Schwartz.

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Wednesday 18th November 2020 Professor Briony Fer and Dr Nicholas Robbins. 

Autumn 2020 Research Seminar Series: The Politics of Scale. 

Please email our Events Officer Helena Vowles-Shorrock for details about how to access this event. 

2021 Spring Term 

DateSpeaker(s)TitleRegistration Link
Thursday 28th January, 5.30pmJennifer Sichel (University of Chicago)‘The Disintegration of a Critic: Gene Swenson, Jill Johnston, and Antipsychiatry’

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Wednesday 3rd February, 2pm Alice Procter, with the participation of Aparna Kumar, Emily Floyd and Bob Mills The Whole Picture: A Conversation with Alice Procter of Uncomfortable Art Tours


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Thursday 11th February, 5.30pm Pamela Corey (Fulbright University Vietnam)‘Affective Communities: Imagining Saigon/Vietnam’

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ABSTRACT: During the attack on the United States Capitol on 6 January 2021, an alarming range of extremist signs and symbols of hate adorned the garments of pro-Trump supporters and the flags they paraded. Among these was the flag of the former Republic of Vietnam, more commonly known as South Vietnam, whose capital city of Saigon fell to communist forces in 1975 and spurred the exodus of over a million Vietnamese to the United States and other parts of the world. The participation of these former refugees in the riot appears bewildering, but it represents what Viet Thanh Nguyen describes as the radicalized nostalgia fostered within these diasporic communities for the lost homeland, and their virulent hatred of communism, stoked by Trump’s fearmongering about the demise of American democracy under Biden’s presidency.

This talk examines the ways in which contemporary Vietnamese artists have deconstructed these potent registers of feeling anchored to the image of a city, Saigon, as a metonym for Vietnam. Deliberate invocations and deconstructions of emotionality magnify the nostalgic residues of Saigon as a site of interrupted modernity, and as an object and form of historical recollection and sentimental projection. I discuss a selection of works ranging across mediums to consider the deliberate ambiguities, ironies, and blurring of temporalities invoked by artists to illuminate how national, diasporic, personal, and collective memory accrete through the urban image of Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City. These artworks contribute to an exploration of how Vietnam has been conditioned to be, following Sara Ahmed’s conception, a sticky object, saturated with and conceived through affective frames.

Thursday 4th March, 5.30pm Susanna Berger (University of Southern California)‘Anamorphic Revelations and Justifiable Obscurity’

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ABSTRACT: In late sixteenth-century Italy, the rhetorical foundations of sacred visual art were laid out directly by Gabriele Paleotti (1522–1597), the Bishop of Bologna, who wrote in his famous post-Tridentine treatise that images "are supposed to move the hearts of observers to devotion and the true cult of God". Given the longstanding elevation of clarity in the West from Aristotle onwards as a rhetorical virtue and the concomitant denigration of obscurity as a hindrance to persuasive discourse, the popularity in Counter-Reformation circles of anamorphic images, which submerge observers into states of perceptual confusion, is somewhat counter-intuitive. This talk argues that the contrast between confusion and clarity evoked by anamorphoses made the experience of distinctness or clear perception without obscurity particularly palpable. I also contend that visual discernment gained through anamorphoses was understood to assist in a movement toward an experience of an inner, spiritual discernment.

Thursday 25th March, 5.30pmMia L. Bagneris (Tulane University)‘Imagining the Oriental South: The Enslaved Mixed-Race Beauty in British Art and Visual Culture, c. 1865-1880'

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ABSTRACT: Using works like John Bell’s Octoroon (1868) and Robert Gavin’s Quadroon Girl (ca. 1872) as case studies, this talk explores Britons’ pronounced and continued fascination with the figure of the enslaved American mixed-race beauty—even and especially afterthe abolition of slavery in the United States made the potential political suasion of such figures moot. It analyses marked visual and rhetorical echoes between representations of the so-called “tragic” mulatto, quadroon, or octoroon and concurrent expressions of Orientalism. Ultimately it argues that, against the upright image of Victorian England, the American South—and especially Catholic Louisiana—could be imagined as a place of luxury, debauchery, and desire, a perfect echo to the Orient in the British popular imagination and one made stronger by the perceived association of both regions with the traffic in pretty women as sex slaves.


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