Conference: Visual Culture in Crisis – Britain c.1800 – Present

Banksy, Occupy London Istallation, St Paul's, 2011 - 300

Friday 10th – Saturday 11th May 2013, Bowland Auditorium, Berrick Saul Building, University of York.

Keynote Speakers: Professor Christopher Pinney (UCL), Dr Eric Stryker (Southern Methodist University), Dr. Chad Elias (University of York), and Corinne Silver (artist).

‘European mastery is always in crisis – and it is this same crisis that defines European modernity’ – Empire, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri

The word ‘crisis’ is frequently invoked to assess Britain’s current place in the world: crises in finance, journalism, politics and geopolitics dominate the media, all of which see the term used both to reflect, and manipulate, a sense of uncertainty and confusion on personal, national, and global levels. Taking its cue from Hardt and Negri’s location of ‘crisis’ as central to European modernity, this conference seeks to explore how visual cultures from the 19th century to the present have simultaneously responded to – and emerged from – such successive crises. Crisis might signify avant-garde break-through and embrace of modernity. It might impel artistic breakdown or flight from modernity, anarchic celebration, or resistance in the form of protest. Crisis in visual culture could above all be emblematic of the contingent nature of personal and political identities. As both a product and a precipitant of the inter-state and inter-subjective networks that have emerged in conjunction with imperialism and economic globalisation, crisis can articulate a disharmony between metropole and colony, centre and periphery, state and individual, working constantly to disrupt the geographical, cultural and class boundaries of peoples and nations.

This two-day conference, generously supported the British Art Research School at the University of York and the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, aims to begin unpacking some of these issues.  See below for a full timetable of the event, or visit our website for more information:

All welcome – there is no fee.  Please register by emailing

Day 1: Friday 10th May

1.15 – 1.30pm: Registration

1.30 – 1.40pm: Welcome and Introduction (Sean Willcock and Catherine Spencer)

Panel 1: Landscapes of Ruin

1.40 – 2.00pm: Lynn Hilditch (Liverpool Hope University

‘Surrealism in Crisis: An Analysis of Lee Miller’s Grim Glory Photographs of the London Blitz’

2.00pm – 2.20pm: Ian Barnford (University of Ulster)

‘Sketching Suffering: The Illustrated London News and the Visual Representation of the Great Irish Potato Famine’

2.20 – 2.40pm: Tim Buck

‘Imagining Empire in the 1920s: Gerald Spencer Pryse’s Ambivalent Registering of Modernity in his West Africa watercolours of 1927.’

2.40 – 3.05pm: Panel 1 Discussion (Chair: Michael White)

3.05 – 3.25pm: Coffee Break

Panel 2: (Dis)locating Identity

3.25 – 3.45pm: Greg Salter (University of East Anglia)

‘“We Set Up Our Own World”: Crisis and Kinship in the Art of Keith Vaughan in the 1950s’

3.45 – 4.05pm: Rachel Rose Smith (University of York)

‘St Ives 1938-60: Crisis and the Colony’

4.05 – 4.25: Eoin Martin (University of Warwick)

4.25 – 4.45: Discussion (Chair: Amy Tobin)

4.45 – 5.00: Comfort Break

5.00 – 6.30: Eric Stryker (Southern Methodist University) Keynote and Discussion (Chair: Robert Sutton)

6.30 – 7.00: Wine Reception

8.00pm: Speaker Meal

Day 2: Saturday 11th May

9.55 – 10.00am: Welcome and Introduction

Panel 3: Cultural Negotiations

10.00 – 10.20am: Elizabeth Robles (University of Bristol)

‘Disruptive Restaging’

10.20 – 10.40am: Eva Bentcheva (School of Oriental and African Studies)

‘Performing Diaspora Struggles: Diaspora Experience as Performance Art in ‘Kali’

10.40 – 11.00am: Kostas Stasinopoulos (University of York)

‘The Negotiating Table: Speech, War and Violence in the Performance Work of Mona Hatoum’

11.00 – 11.25am: Panel 3 Discussion (Chair: James Boaden)

11.25 – 11.45am: Coffee Break

11.45 – 1.15pm: Christopher Pinney (UCL) Keynote and Discussion (Chair: Sean Willcock)

1.15 – 2.00pm: Lunch

Panel 4: Social Unrest / Social Reform

2.00 – 2.20pm: Cicely Robinson (University of York)

‘National Anxieties in the Wake of War: The Foundation of the National Gallery, c. 1823-1845’

2.20 – 2.40pm: Jeong-yon Ha (University of Edinburgh)

‘The Old House by the Thames: The Thames Imagery as Response to the Capitalist Nation in Crisis, c. 1880-1990’

2.40 – 3.00pm: Andrew Witt (University College London)

‘Riots, Strikes and Mass Mobilization: A Contemporary Account of the “Conflict Image”’

3.00 – 3.25pm: Panel 4 Discussion (Chair: Kate Nicholls)

3.25 – 3.45pm: Coffee Break

3.45 – 4.45pm: Chad Elias (University of York) in discussion with artist Corinne Silva

4.45 – 5.15pm: Group Discussion and closing comments (Chair: Catherine Spencer)

5.15pm: Wine Reception

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