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Arts Week 2014

Missed an event at Birkbeck Arts Week 2014? Take a look at some of our blog posts or listen to podcasts to find out what happened.

Shell Shock, Celluloid and World War One: The discomforts of being a spectator

In 1918, the physician Hurst filmed shell-shocked soldiers at Netley Hospital. The footage is generally presented as evidence of alarming illness. But a closer look reveals patients shamming their symptoms for the cameras, and laughing at their fellow invalids. Theatre expert and cultural critic Tiffany Watt-Smith  explored how film-making was part of Hurst’s therapeutic approach, and considers the uncomfortable role of the spectator. Rebecca Royle, who is starting Birkbeck’s BA Creative Writing in September, gives a detailed account of what she describes as an 'enriching evening' here.

Composing Performance

How do we shape performance? What potential dramaturgies might a compositional rather than a narrative approach open up?  This practical workshop for theatremakers looked at how we montage performance material both for the performer and for an audience. Jeremy Mortimer, a student on Birkbeck’s MA Shakespeare and Contemporary Performance describes the event here.

Clouds: Objects, Metaphor, Phenomena

Clouds are not only meteorological phenomena: they are also ethereal bodies with a long history of association with the emotions and with literary and social metaphor. Dr Vladimir Jankovic (Manchester), Dr Richard Hamblyn (Birkbeck)and Professor Esther Leslie (Birkbeck) discussed  clouds from eighteenth-century meteorology and Romantic poetry to nuclear mushrooms and cloud computing. As well as the recordings below, the event was reviewed by Rebecca Royle, who is starting Birkbeck’s BA Creative Writing in September.

The Body in Performance

Lewis Wheeler, who completed a Foundation Degree Contemporary Dance Performance at Birkbeck in April 2014 describes this 'highly stimulating evening that reflected the quality, insightfulness and diversity of the engaging programmes of study in performance that Birkbeck has to offer.'

After the Battle: Soldiers' homecoming in poetry and prose

Soldiers have been coming home in literature since Homer’s Odysseus. Much anticipated, the homecoming does not always turn out as envisaged. In this talk, Dr Kate McLoughlin (Birkbeck) looked at the joyful and not-so-joyful reunions, the misrecognitions and rejections, the relief and the difficulties depicted by writers from Homer onwards as they portray the veteran’s return. Bryony Merritt, from Birkbeck’s Department of External Relations, blogs about the event here.

Let us Pray: Representations of Prayer in Word and Image, 1300-1900

In our secular world, prayer has become unfamiliar, and past cultures where prayer was more central are harder to understand.  Dr Isabel Davis (Birkbeck), Revd Dr Jessica Martin and Dr Nicola Bown (Birkbeck) discussed representations of prayer in literature and art in the Middle Ages, the seventeenth century and the Victorian period.Clare Brown, a student on Birkbeck’s MA History of Art, blogs about the event here.

The Way We Read Now

Panel discussion on the way in which we read and research texts in the 21st century: what approaches and methods should we take? How can new digital technologies reframe our discussions online? And how are new forms of publishing changing 21st-century scholarship?

From Text to Screen and Back: Adaptations across media

Dr Richard Taws (UCL), Dr Silke Arnold de Simine (Birkbeck), Dr Ann Lewis (Birkbeck) explore the contested but highly productive concept of intermediality, and its relation to ideas of adaptation, through case studies taken from across English, French and German-speaking cultures.

What is so special about the Arts and Humanities?

What is the point of studying the arts and humanities? What relevance do they have to society today? Should universities adapt their courses to suit changing demands by, for example, increasing the focus on ‘employability skills’? If they defend the intrinsic value of studying subjects such as art, history, philosophy and literature, are they just upholding elitism? A panel of distinguished speakers debate these contentious questions.

The Mediated City: A Tour of Media and Mediation in West End London

This tour explored West End London as a lens into the appearance of media in city life and its environments. Jeremy Mortimer, a student on Birkbeck’s MA Shakespeare and Contemporary Performance blogs about the tour and an event later in the day which asked whether London was a Renaissance city.

The Future of the Book

Can publishing innovation save the book? What are the implications for writers and readers? Rebecca Rouillard, editor of the Writers’ Hub, chaired a panel of guests including Emma Wright (The Emma Press), Adam Freudenheim (Pushkin Press) and Dan Kieran (Unbound) to discuss the future of the book. The event was blogged by Megan McGill, who will be starting Birkbeck’s MA in Modern and Contemporary Literature this summer - you can read her account here.

Curating 'Empire' at the Tate: Dissonance and British Art

Can works of art confront the troubling legacies of Britain's imperial past? In this talk Birkbeck’s Dr Sarah Thomas discusses some of the challenges encountered during preparations for a major exhibition planned at Tate Britain for 2015. Podcasts are below and Dr Sarah Thomas briefly describes the event in this blog post.

Natural Histories of the Book

This Material Texts event considered the animal nature of books from medieval to modern. Whilst everybody knows that medieval manuscripts were often made from sheep, goat or calf skin, who has ever heard of dog books? While books are sometimes edible, there are a few, much rarer examples of man-eating books. This event uncovered the curious animal life of books.

Writing for a Shakespearean Stage: New plays for the Globe

For the past seventeen years, the reconstructed Shakespeare's Globe has played host to many productions of plays originally written for Elizabethan and Jacobean theatres. But what is the Globe like as a space for the presentation of new writing? How do playwrights approach the task of writing new plays for this distinctive stage? Learn more, listen here.

The Acts Between

The Acts Between is a performance exploring the themes of mental health and the passing of time.  It responded to the spaces of 43 Gordon Square, making links to the building's history and former Bloomsbury resident Virginia Woolf. For Arts Week 2014, the company presented a 90 minute installation version of the performance. Audience member and student on Birkbeck’s MA Arts and Policy Management, Éimear Doherty, reviews the performance here.

Fire Walk with Me: Trauma, Catharsis and the Fantasy of Fantastical Kinship

Andrew Asibong (author of Mameluke Bath, 2013) and Hannah Eaton (author of Naming Monsters, 2013) discussed the impact of David Lynch's frequently dismissed 1992 film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me on their work, and considered Lynch's importance for imaginative reponses to trauma, fantasy and catharsis. The event formed part of Birkbeck Arts Week 2014. As well as the podcast below, we have a blog post about this event, written by Louise Smith, a student on Birkbeck’s MA Creative Writing.

Listen to the podcast here.