Posts from March 2014

Photography and Abstraction: A Symposium, May 9th

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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?

Roundtable on Violence, March 26th

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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

Crowds and Violence seminar, March 19

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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, and is on the editorial board of Law and Critique, and the editorial advisory board of the Journal of Critical Globalization.

Art and the Second World War seminar

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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:

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

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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:

For any further information about the conference, please contact the conveners, Elisa Adami and Alessandra Ferrini at

Rescheduled Seminar on Blanchot and the Phantom Limb, March 12

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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.

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

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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: