Natural History of Memory Inaugural Seminar

The Natural History of Memory Inaugural Seminar (hosted by the Cultural Memory Seminar Series, sponsored by the Department of English, Linguistics, and Cultural Studies, University of Westminster)

17th May, 11 am – 4 pm. Room G37, Senate House, University of London.

Speakers:

Professor Anna Reading (King’s College London), ‘Where Do Clouds Come From? A Natural History of Digital Memory’

Dr Frank Uekoetter (University of Birmingham), ‘The Boll Weevil, the Post-Slavery Plantation, and the Global World of Monoculture’

Dr Jakob Stougaard-Nielsen (UCL), ‘London Submerged: Eco-Fictions of a Vanishing Present’

Chairs: Drs Lucy Bond (Westminster), Rick Crownshaw (Goldsmiths), Jessica Rapson (King’s)

The Natural History of Memory explores the ways that environments register and mediate the memories of catastrophe and injustice. Moving beyond Walter Benjamin’s conception of natural history as the naturalization of historical events and their representation in teleological fashion, the project examines the manifold imbrications of landscape and the lived experience of violence over time. While memory studies typically positions historical sites and landscapes as the places where past catastrophes unfolded, this project understands these environments as the very media through which these disasters took place, lent agency and co-opted by the perpetrators of those events, thereby enabling their occurrence. Challenging the construction of ‘nature’ as a passive canvas for the inscription and organization of history, this research seeks to develop an environmental literacy for reading (or reconstructing) memory where landscapes and experiences have become indistinct. The Natural History of Memory thus frames strands of research that seek to examine environmental agency in both catastrophic events and their remembrance.

The Natural History of Memory Partner Institutions: Goldsmiths University of London, King’s College London, University of Westminster, and University of Ghent.

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The Art School and the Culture Shed book

John Beck (University of Westminster) and Matthew Cornford (University of Brighton) have been tracking down and photographing the sites of British art schools for around five years. While many towns in the UK used to have a dedicated art school, now there are only a handful left; most of the buildings have been repurposed or, in some cases, demolished. This 48pp book, published by Kingston University’s Centre for Useless Splendour, is the latest bulletin from their ongoing project. While there is a historical side to Beck and Cornford’s investigations that seeks to situate the history of art education in the UK within a broader cultural history (the massive impact of art school education on postwar British culture, for example), there is also, the book argues, a contemporary relevance to seeking out old art school buildings. Instead of educational institutions dedicated to the study of art and design, British towns are now more likely to contain signature gallery and museum buildings intended, in part, to contribute to local regeneration, heritage, and/or tourist agendas. What does the decline of the local art school and the rise of the ‘destination’ art gallery tell us about changing ideas about the function of art, its possible civic purpose, and the relationship between participation and spectatorship? What can old buildings tell us about new ones? How did the ‘creative economy’ come to replace ‘art school’ as a descriptor of local cultural value and why does it matter?

For a copy of the book, please contact Dean Kenning, Faculty of Art, Design & Architecture, Kingston University (D.Kenning@kingston.ac.uk).

For further information on Beck and Cornford’s art school project, email John Beck (j.beck@westminster.ac.uk) or Matthew Cornford (m.cornford@brighton.ac.uk).

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Photography and Abstraction: A Symposium, May 9th

Photography and Abstraction: A Symposium

Friday 9 May 2014, 10.00 – 6.00 (followed by drinks)
Room 501, University of Westminster, 309 Regent Street, London W1B 2UW

Participants include:
Peter Adey (Royal Holloway)
David Bate (Westminster)
Clare Birchall (Kings)
Ella Chmielewska (Edinburgh)
Mark Dorrian (Edinburgh)
Andy Fisher (Goldsmiths)
John Roberts (Wolverhampton)
Joanna Zylinska (Goldsmiths)

Hosted by:
John Beck, David Cunningham, Sas Mays (IMCC, Westminster)

There are at least two ways in which photography might be said to address abstraction. The first is at the level of appearance: photographs that are not recognisable as straightforward representations. This mode of abstraction might include the deployment of modernist strategies of abstraction; photographs that appear to be abstract due to issues of scale, such as aerial or microscopic images; the direct capture of light without a camera; the combination of photographic images with other media; the use of found images; the manual or electronic manipulation of images; the framing of images to stress formal arrangement.

Alongside this category of abstract photographs or photographs that depict abstract form, a second dimension to the relationship between photography and abstraction is associated with issues of the visible and the invisible. This involves photography’s capacity to give form to unseen relationships and to register otherwise undetectable currents, flows, and networks. How does photography visualize the real abstractions of capitalism? In what ways are photographic images deployed to capture and control data through, for example, electronic monitoring devices? How is the indexical function of the photograph mobilized in order to serve as evidence across a range of scenarios, including military and police action, juridical, biopolitical, and radical political modes of representation? Can, then, photography address and give visible form to the quasi-ontological abstractions that structure economic and social relations? Finally, is there a relationship between the two scenarios outlined above? In other words, what, if any, is the relationship between non-figurative images and photography’s political, institutional, or theoretical histories?

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Roundtable on Violence, March 26th

Wednesday 26 March, 2014, 1 -3 pm
The Westminster Forum, 5th Floor, University of Westminster, Wells Street, London W1T

On Violence: A Roundtable
With David Cunningham, Harriet Evans, Andreas Philippopoulos-Mihalopoulos, Ben Pitcher

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Crowds and Violence seminar, March 19

Wednesday 19 March, 2014, 1 -3 pm
The Westminster Forum, 5th Floor, University of Westminster, Wells Street, London W1T

Illan rua Wall (Warwick)
“Crowds and Violence”

Dr Illan rua Wall is an Associate Professor in the School of Law, University of Warwick. His current research focuses upon the relation between law and disorder. Thinking about Occupy, the Indignados and the many current sites of unrest, it begins to develop the novel field of the ‘law of disorder’. This is not simply a collection of the various different legal apparatuses that repress or capture disorder, rather the ‘law of disorder’ thinks about law through and as disorder. He has published on critical legal theory, theories of constituent power, the Arab Spring, protest and transitional justice in Colombia, theories of human rights and revolt, and new Andean constitutional apparatuses. Illan is one of the editors of the blog www.criticallegalthinking.com, and is on the editorial board of Law and Critique, and the editorial advisory board of the Journal of Critical Globalization.

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Art and the Second World War seminar

The next Group for War and Cultural Studies seminar may be of interest to IMCC followers:

Wednesday 19 March 2014, 6 pm – 8 pm, Room 156
University of Westminster, 309 Regent Street, London W1B 2UW

Monica Bohm-Duchen
Art and the Second World War

Art and the Second World War is the first book in English to provide a comprehensive and detailed international overview of the complex and often disturbing relationship between war and the fine arts during this crucial period of modern history. With ample illustrations, this talk will examine the art produced in reaction to the Spanish Civil War (often viewed as ‘the first battle of World War 2′), and then looks at painting, sculpture, prints, and drawing in each of the major combatant nations, including Japan and China. It will also place wartime art within its broader cultural, political, and military contexts while never losing sight of the power and significance of the individual image and the individual artist.

Monica Bohm-Duchen is an independent writer, lecturer, and curator. Based in London, she has worked for such leading institutions as the Tate, the National Gallery, and the Royal Academy of Arts. Her many books include After Auschwitz: Responses to the Holocaust in Contemporary Art. She teaches a course on art and war at Birkbeck, University of London, and at New York University in London.

Entrance free. To reserve a place, please R.S.V.P. Dr Caroline Perret: C.Perret@westminster.ac.uk

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Archives for the Future: An Art and Visual Culture Conference, March 29

Saturday 29th March 2014, 9.00-5.00
Fyvie Hall, University of Westminster, 309 Regent Street, London W1B 2HW

Organised by Mnemoscape with the support of the Institute for Modern and Contemporary Culture and the International Association for Visual Culture.

Keynote Speakers: Francis Gooding (Birkbeck) and Uriel Orlow (Westminster)

Archives are becoming increasingly fetishized and (an)aestheticized in contemporary art practice and academic discourse. Archives have generally been considered as conservative institutions aimed at preserving the past in the present – and so perpetuating the traditional structures of power. In contrast, this conference is interested in bringing to light the generative and creative side of the archive. How can archives be used to generate the ‘new’ and to convey possible alternatives to the present status quo? How can we turn archives from historical records into instruments of future planning and agencies of radical thinking?

Full programme now available at: http://archivesforthefuture.wordpress.com/programme/

For any further information about the conference, please contact the conveners, Elisa Adami and Alessandra Ferrini at mnemoscape@gmail.com

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Rescheduled Seminar on Blanchot and the Phantom Limb, March 12

Wednesday 12 March, 4pm
Room 106, University of Westminster, 32-38 Wells Street, London W1T

Monika Loewy, Goldsmiths
“The Problem with Unity: Body Identity Integrity Disorder, The Phantom Limb and Maurice Blanchot”

Body Identity Integrity Disorder (BIID) is a condition in which a person desires to amputate a limb because she feels that it does not belong to her body. A phantom limb can be identified when someone who loses a limb feels as though she still has one, which causes her pain. Together, the phantom limb and BIID syndromes foreground examples of individuals who cling to fictional concepts of wholeness as a result of their perceived incompleteness. This paper connects these situations to an idea central to poststructuralist thought: that language is composed of false images of unity that hide its negation, the eternal referent. The paper explores this relationship through the writings of Maurice Blanchot, arguing for a conceptual framework through which language can be seen as a physical and mental coping mechanism – a compensatory system that offers a tentative ‘presence’ to the unknown or the absent signified. Developing these thoughts through Blanchot’s essay “Orpheus’s Gaze” (1982), it is argued that like the text and the limb sufferers, Orpheus lives in a broken body that is both present and absent at once, implicating the referential structures of language in (traumatic) encounter with the physical body.

NOTE: This seminar was originally due to take place in February but had to be rescheduled due to the tube strike. Apologies again for the inconvenience.

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Martin Willis Professorial Lecture: Imagination & the Sciences, March 26

Wednesday 26th March 2014, 6pm
Fyvie Hall, University of Westminster, 309 Regent Street, London W1B 2HW

“Imagination and the Sciences, or, Why Frankenstein May Still Be the Modern Prometheus”
Professor Martin Willis (University of Westminster)

Two distinct but related themes have emerged in recent discussions of the relationship between the sciences and the humanities. First, there has been a sustained rejection in academic communities of the perceived dominance of the ‘two cultures’ debate that split scientific and humanist pursuits in the second half of the twentieth century. Second, and with a very different trajectory, political and institutional rhetoric has driven a wedge between the sciences and the humanities on the grounds of the utility and vitality of the former and the impractical passivity of the latter. Neither these themes, nor the positions taken, are entirely new, but their strange contemporary conjunction provides an opportunity to reconsider the long historical and present relationship between the humanities and the sciences from new perspectives. Looking backwards to the beginning of the nineteenth century as well as to the contemporary world, this lecture will consider the role of the imagination in knotting together the sciences and the humanities. In doing so it will consider the imagination not, as may be expected, as moments of inspiration or flights of fancy, but variously as a method for practice, as a cultural product, as political cache and as a mode of communication. Giving privilege to the imagination from a viewpoint somewhat aslant reveals networks and communities, both actual and of feeling, that illuminate the reductive nature of contemporary neo-liberal discourses and the detrimental effects of these on both the humanities and the sciences.

Professor Martin Willis was appointed to a Chair in Literature, Science and Communication in the Department of English, Linguistics and Cultural Studies in January 2013. Primarily a Victorianist, Professor Willis’s research has focused on the relationships between literary narrative and scientific writing and practice. His work has received international acclaim; his most recent book, Vision, Science and Literature, 1870-1920: Ocular Horizons was awarded both the British Society for Literature and Science Book Prize and the European Society for the Study of English Cultural Studies Book Prize in 2011. Professor Willis is a central figure in the field of literature and science: he was one of the original committee members who formed the British Society for Literature and Science in 2006; directed the Research Centre for Literature, Science and the Arts at the University of Glamorgan from 2006-12; founded the new Centre for Science and the Imagination at Westminster in 2013; and is editor of the Journal of Literature and Science.

Register online at: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/inaugural-lecture-series-2013-2014-imagination-and-the-sciences-or-why-frankenstein-may-still-be-tickets-7899691189

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Reflections on Politics and Violence seminar, March 5th

Wednesday 5th March, 13:00-15:00
The Westminster Forum, 5th Floor, University of Westminster, 32-38 Wells Street, London W1T 3UW

Kimberly Hutchings and Elizabeth Frazer
“Reflections on Politics and Violence”

Kimberly Hutchings is Professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics. Her main research interests are in international ethical and political theory, feminist ethical and political theory, and the work of Kant and Hegel. She is the author of Kant, Critique and Politics (Routledge, 1996), Hegel and Feminist Philosophy (Polity, 2003), Time and World Politics: Thinking the Present (Manchester, 2008) and Global Ethics: An Introduction (Polity, 2010).

Full list of the Faculty ‘On Violence’ seminars can be found online here

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Reminder: Cold War Systems Symposium, Feb 27th

The Continuities of Cold War Systems: A Symposium
Thursday 27th February 2014, 9am-6pm.
The Boardroom, University of Westminster, 309 Regent Street

Hosted by John Beck (Westminster) and Ryan Bishop (Winchester School of Art), participants include Ele Carpenter (Goldsmiths), Fabienne Collignon (Sheffield), Mark Coté (King’s), Dan Grausam (Durham), Ken Hollings (Middlesex), Adrian Mackenzie (Lancaster), Jussi Parikka (Winchester), John Phillips (Singapore), Adam Piette (Sheffield), Jennifer Pybus (Winchester), James Purdon (Cambridge), Aura Satz (London Consortium), Neal White (Bournemouth).

From the late 1940s through the 1980s systems analysis, cybernetics, and information theory came to shape military, business, government and academic thinking on a wide array of subjects. The influence of such thinking is also evident in the arts, from the so-called systems novels of the 1960s and 70s, to minimalist and electronic music, conceptual art, and the emergence of electronic media. The end of the Cold War did not end systems thinking; indeed, given the phenomenal expansion of computer technologies into every aspect of contemporary life it is fair to say that we are now living in a world imagined and engineered during the Cold War. This event seeks to address the ways the Cold War, particularly through a consideration of systems thinking, continues to shape the contemporary.

RSVP John Beck: j.beck@westminster.ac.uk.

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Violence Seminars 3: Michael Dutton on China, Feb 26th

Wednesday 26th February, 13:00-15:00
The Westminster Forum, 5th Floor, University of Westminster, 32-38 Wells Street, London W1T 3UW

Michael Dutton (Goldsmiths)
“Becoming Political: My China”

Michael Dutton is Professor of Politics at Goldsmiths, University of London, and author of, among other texts,  Beijing Time (Harvard, 2008) and Policing Chinese Politics (Duke, 2005).

Full list of the Faculty ‘On Violence’ seminars can be found online here

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Professor John Beck Inaugural lecture, March 5th

Wednesday 5th March 2014, 6pm
Fyvie Hall, University of Westminster, 309 Regent Street, London W1B 2HW

“Catastrophic Futures and Applied Fiction”
Professor John Beck (University of Westminster)

Asteroid impact, pandemic, earthquake, resource depletion, nuclear war, toxic waste, bioterrorism: the list of potential global catastrophes is long and seemingly unlimited. The scale of such threats is so immense that the possibility of grasping their implications is often beyond everyday comprehension. Yet there are experts and organisations around the world grappling with plausible catastrophic scenarios, from asteroid tracking facilities and geo-engineering enterprises to space colonisation projects and repositories for genetic information and long-term nuclear waste sequestration. Each of these projects requires the extraordinary task of linking the quotidian to the unimaginable, of moving from fact to fiction. How are these links made? How is the fantastic grounded in the material world of real places and people? How does the kind of thinking more commonly found in the arts and humanities contribute to projects involved in catastrophe prediction and management? Writers, artists, and architects are often an integral part of projects dealing with long-term solutions to catastrophic threats. This involvement goes beyond the functional role of illustrating or articulating scientific and engineering proposals, and is intrinsic to the epistemological challenges faced when attempting to imagine and shape notionally unthinkable scenarios. This lecture considers a range of ‘applied fictions’ in order to explore how arts and humanities methodologies are embedded in any critical engagement with the prospect and prevention of future catastrophe.

John Beck joined the Department of English, Linguistics and Cultural Studies at the University of Westminster in 2013. He writes mainly about modern and contemporary art and literature that is concerned with the politics of place. In his first book, Writing the Radical Center (2001), the avant-garde constructivism of American modernist poet William Carlos Williams is read as a means of situating the local – in this case industrial New Jersey – as the bedrock of creative democracy. More recently, Dirty Wars (2009) approaches the permanent militarisation of the Western US after Pearl Harbour through analysis of literary responses to the military-industrial de- and reformation of purloined Western landscapes. Overlapping issues of war, environment and secrecy continue to shape Beck’s research, which is currently focused in two main areas: exposure and hiddenness in landscape photography, and the imagination of catastrophe. His latest work in these areas has been concerned with abstraction in aerial imaging, projects for terraforming Mars, and contemporary ruinenlust.

Register online at: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/inaugural-lecture-series-2013-2014-catastophic-futures-and-applied-fiction-tickets-7899384271

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On Violence seminars: The Crime of Genocide Denial, Feb 19th

Wednesday 19th February, 13:00-15:00
The Westminster Forum, 5th Floor, University of Westminster, 32-38 Wells Street, London W1T 3UW

Paola Forgione, Pavia
“The Crime of Genocide Denial”

Paola Forgione is a PhD candidate at the University of Pavia in Italy, where she researches genocide prevention. Her thesis focuses on genocide denial and incitement to genocide. Paola is also a lawyer in Italy and worked as an intern in the Pre-Trial Division of the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Full list of the Faculty ‘On Violence’ seminars can be found online here

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Laura Hird literature research seminar, Weds 19th

Wednesday 19th February, 4.00pm
Room 106, University of Westminster, 32-38 Wells Street, London W1T

No Horizons: Queering the Scottish Devolutionary Moment in Laura Hird’s Born Free
Kate Turner, University of Westminster

Taken from a broader research project entitled ‘The Queer Moment: Post-devolution Scottish Literature’, this paper seeks to queer the nation which, in Lauren Berlant and Elizabeth Freeman’s words, ‘touts a subliminal sexuality more official than a state flower or national bird’ (‘Queer Nationality’ 195). Specifically, my research explores the queer potential that stems from Scottish devolution in 1999 and tracks this through to the referendum on Scottish independence to be held 18th September 2014. The paper considers Scottish devolution a site of rupture for Scottish nationhood; so often imagined into being with reference to its lack or loss of statehood, it is argued that Scotland finds itself at a disorientating moment of introspection in the wake of its own devolution. Within this context the paper offers a queer reading of Laura Hird’s Born Free (1999) using Lee Edelman’s No Future and Judith Halberstam’s In a Queer Time and Place. This analysis examines the breakdown of the nuclear family, uses Edelman’s term ‘reproductive futurism’ to regard devolution as queerly ‘beyond the horizon’, and uses Halberstam’s ideas to explore Hird’s characters as ‘queer subjects’. Through attention to the Scottish devolutionary setting of the text, the paper then draws links between Born Free’s queer aspects and this moment in order to conceptualise the disorientating impact of devolution, and the queer potential of this.

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Photography in Rwanda After the 1994 Genocide seminar, Weds 12 Feb

Wednesday 12th February, 1.00-3.00pm
Westminster Forum, 5th Floor, University of Westminster, 32-38 Wells Street, London W1T

“Enduring Violence: Photography in Rwanda After the 1994 Genocide”
Zoe Norridge, King’s College London

Dr Zoe Norridge joined King’s College London in 2012.  Prior to King’s she was a Lecturer in Modern and Contemporary Literature and Director of the Aftermaths Research Strand at the University of York, Department of English and Related Literature. Since being selected as one of ten inaugural “New Generation Thinkers” by the BBC and AHRC in 2011, Zoe has made several short pieces for Radio 3.  She also writes book reviews for The Independent and The TLS.

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Roundtable on Violence, Feb 5th POSTPONED

NOTE: Apologies – due to the tube strike, the cross-faculty seminar ’on violence’, scheduled is postponed. Instead of an opening round-table, we shall have a rounding up table at the end of the series, on Wednesday 26th of March.

Wednesday 5th February, 1.00-3.00pm
Westminster Forum, 5th Floor, University of Westminster, 32-38 Wells Street, London W1T

Special Roundtable on Violence to launch the new Faculty Seminar Series.
Participants including David Cunningham, Sasha Darke, Harriet Evans, Debra Kelly, Ben Pitcher, Tom Moore and Andreas Philoppopolous-Mihalopolous
Chaired by Lucy Bond (Westminster)

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Reading and Exhibiting Nature: An International Conference, Feb 7-9

February 7-9 2014
University of Westminster, 35 Marylebone Road, London NW1 5LS

Reading and Exhibiting Nature: An International Conference

In January and February 2014 Ambika P3, the flagship exhibition space at the University of Westminster, will present Out of Ice by visual artist Elizabeth Ogilvie. This new commission will involve environments created with ice and ice melt, constructions, films of ice systems, film of scientific expedition from Antarctica, and poetic film, much of it created through collaborations with Inuit in Northern Greenland, and reflecting on their deep and sustaining relationships with ice. The exhibition will portray the psychological, physical and poetic dimensions of ice and water and draw attention to ice processes. It will describe the presence of ice in the world from a human perspective in which the observational traditions of fieldwork will be combined with the artist’s trademark visual splendour.

In concert with the exhibition, the University of Westminster is convening ‘Reading and Exhibiting Nature’, a three-day conference examining how nature is being understood in contemporary cultural and artistic production. With a focus both in and beyond the polar regions, we will explore how artists and scientists are apprehending and representing natural phenomena, engaging with emerging non-human materialities and translating environmental data into aesthetic experience. The conference seeks to explore the shifting definitions of nature and how nature, including plants, animals, land, water/ice and weather inserts itself into human affairs and is represented culturally.

The ‘Reading and Exhibiting Nature’ conference is planned in association with the University of Westminster and co-hosted by Universities of Aberdeen and Edinburgh and Anchorage Museum, Alaska.

Keynote Address will be by Professor Tim Ingold, Chair of Social Anthropology at the University of Aberdeen

Full conference: Standard rate £200. One day rate £110; Student rate £90. One day rate £65.

Please see the draft programme and some hotel suggestions.

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English Research Seminar: Blanchot and Phantom Limbs, Weds 5 Feb POSTPONED

NOTE: Apologies – due to the tube strike, the seminar is postponed. We will arrange with Monika to reschedule this at another time.

Wednesday 5 February, 4pm
Room 106, University of Westminster, 32-38 Wells Street, London W1T

Monika Loewy, Goldsmiths
“The Problem with Unity: Body Identity Integrity Disorder, The Phantom Limb and Maurice Blanchot”

Body Identity Integrity Disorder (BIID) is a condition in which a person desires to amputate a limb because she feels that it does not belong to her body. A phantom limb can be identified when someone who loses a limb feels as though she still has one, which causes her pain. Together, the phantom limb and BIID syndromes foreground examples of individuals who cling to fictional concepts of wholeness as a result of their perceived incompleteness. This paper connects these situations to an idea central to poststructuralist thought: that language is composed of false images of unity that hide its negation, the eternal referent. The paper explores this relationship through the writings of Maurice Blanchot, arguing for a conceptual framework through which language can be seen as a physical and mental coping mechanism – a compensatory system that offers a tentative ‘presence’ to the unknown or the absent signified. Developing these thoughts through Blanchot’s essay “Orpheus’s Gaze” (1982), it is argued that like the text and the limb sufferers, Orpheus lives in a broken body that is both present and absent at once, implicating the referential structures of language in (traumatic) encounter with the physical body.

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Autobiography and the Archive screening, Thurs 30th January

A reminder of ‘Autobiography and the Archive’, a screening of work by Uriel Orlow, Miranda Pennell, and Sarah Purcell exploring the archive, collective memory, and personal history, curated by Mnemoscape for our regular partners at the Whitechapel Gallery and sponsored by the Institute. The screening is from 7-9pm on Thursday 30th January 2014, tickets £8.50/£6.50 concessions. Flier attached here: MS — Autobiography and the Archive (1).

The screening will be preceded by a drinks reception in the Creative Studio at the Whitechapel to celebrate the publication of the Journal of Visual Culture’s ‘The Archives Issue’. The special issue features contributions from Sas Mays and Marquard Smith, alongside Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme (with Tom Holert), susan pui san lok, Uriel Orlow, Chris Horrocks, Shezad Dawood (and Mark Bartlett), Nina Lager Vestberg, Gary Hall, and Trevor Paglen and Juliette Kristensen.

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