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Arts Week: 20-24 May 2019

The annual summer showcase of Birkbeck’s varied arts enterprises is here again.

A box of old photographs depicting memories

Arts Week, Birkbeck's annual celebration of arts and humanities culture, will return to the College on 20-24 May 2019. The week sees Birkbeck open its doors to the public, offering them a chance to experience the creativity of research and teaching in the arts at Birkbeck. 

The broad theme of 'memory' runs through this year's programme, which is particularly important as Birkbeck approaches its 200th anniversary in 2023. More than 50 events will take place, including lectures, performances, screenings, book launches, workshops and discussions. It features contributions from Birkbeck's own academics and guest artists and scholars from all over the world. All events are free to attend and are open to anyone with an interest in arts and culture.

Professor Anthony Bale, Dean of the School of Arts said: “Arts Week is an opportunity for us to showcase, and for you to experience, the creativity of research and teaching in the arts and humanities at Birkbeck. Each year we offer a thrilling range of events, from the local to the global. As ever, the arts engage with contemporary social and political debates, and this year explore, in broad terms, the idea of memory.”

This year we want to hear from students who have memories of Birkbeck School of Arts in all its different times and places. If you have a story to tell contact us on

Some highlights from the week will be:

Accidental Gardens: Nature Urbana
Monday 20 May, 5.45-7.20pm

Natura Urbana: The Brachen of Berlin (dir. Matthew Gandy, 2017) explores the ecology of ‘accidental gardens’ haphazardly flourishing in post-war Berlin. The changing vegetation serves as a parallel history to war-time destruction, geopolitical division, and the newest phase of urban transformation.

Telling Stories About Syphilis
Monday 20 May, 4.00-5.00pm

What was it? How did we find it? And who had it? Syphilis is a disease whose symptoms and circumstances, across the centuries, made it peculiarly compelling and challenging to understand. How do we analyse something so deeply mythologised?

Siren voices with Aura Satz: rewiring memories of technology
Wednesday 22nd May, 6.00-9.00pm
With Marina Warner, artist and Royal School of Art lecturer Aura Satz will discuss her project 'Preemptive Listening’, a sound and film work on siren signals in relation to hyper-vigilance and emergency. She posits the siren’s loud glissando wail as a conditioned and learned signal, one that can potentially be rewired.

Patrons and Lovers of Art: nineteenth-century collecting and the wealth of empire
Thursday 23 May, 6.00-7.20pm
Pieter Christoffel Wonder’s Patrons and Lovers of Art (1830) commemorates the foundation of the National Gallery (1824). Sarah Thomas (Birkbeck), Catherine Roach (Virginia Commonwealth University, USA) and Susanna Avery-Quash (National Gallery) discuss the painting from different perspectives within the context of British cultural history.

Laura Mulvey in Conversation
Thursday 23 May, 6.30-8.30pm

Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen’s work of the 1970s-1980s explores ‘film as theory’, as did ‘essay films’ by Jean-Luc Godard and Harun Farocki, and contemporary manifestations of audio-visual thinking. Join Laura Mulvey, Catherine Grant (Birkbeck) and Erika Balsom (Kings) in discussion.

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