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Arts Week 2015


  • Women Lawyers, The Athena Project at Birkbeck: This exhibition of portraits by Leonora Saunders (together with Birkbeck and Cameron McKenna lawyers) championed women who have succeeded in a variety of ways in a profession where women remain significantly unrepresented in senior roles. The exhibition aimed to celebrate these women and challenge our ideas on gender and ability.
  • Mid-century Modern Copper Jewellery: small exhibition: Ever heard of Matisse and Renoir? Of course you have - at least, the famous French painters. You are less likely though to have heard of Renoir of California, a brand founded in 1946 by artist Jerry Fels, which specialised in opulent costume jewellery made from copper and sterling metals. Attendees were able to visit a small 'boutique' exhibition to find out more about mid-century modern jewellery and its glamour, to admire a few pieces, and to learn something new.

Monday 18 May 2015

  • Environmental Futures: Oil, Ecology, Petrocultures: In the 21st century oil shapes our geopolitics and impacts upon the cost of day-to-day living. This panel considered literature's engagement with the oil economy and the opportunities for a participatory democratic citizenship that a cultural critique, and monitoring, of oil affords.
  • Curiosity: The term curiosity refers to both a quality of attention and a type of object. It concerns novelty and knowledge, secrecy and display, desire and the intellect. In an interdisciplinary symposium Brian Dillon, Laura Mulvey, Marina Warner and Fiona Candlin discussed curiosity with regard to museums, art, myth, literature and film.
  • Polly Samson in conversation with Russell Celyn Jones: Polly Samson is the acclaimed author of two collections of short stories. She read from and spoke about her first novel, The Kindness, published in March 2015 by Bloomsbury. 
  • Is the playwright dead?: The playwright may (or may not) be dead. Four writers, including David Edgar, David Eldridge, Dan Rebellato and Lyn Gardner came together to discuss several issues with their unique approaches to theatre.
  • Realisms of Precariousness: Exilados do Vulcão de Paula Gaitan: This film programme presented four contemporary film narratives from Brazil and Colombia over three days. The four unique views which provided different accounts of the thresholds that can be reached by free images of Latin America. 
  • A reflection on veiled time and emotions, on memory finding its path.: An event organised by Hambre and Colombian Film Panorama, Twitter: @ColFilmPanorama
  • Adapting Diderot's Le Neveu de Rameau/Rameau's Nephew: This roundtable explored notions of edition, translation and adaptation (to new media, for new audiences). It focused on one of Diderot's best known, and most enigmatic texts Le Neveu de Rameau. 
  • Scribblers by Steve Waters: A script-in-hand performance of a new radio play which charted the stormy relationship between two real life characters: young playwright Henry Fielding and the First Minister Robert Walpole. 
  • Found in Translation - The Man Booker International Prize: On the eve of the prize announcement some of this year's Man Booker International Finalists discussed the impact of translation and read from their novels in English and the original. 
  • 'From Lilliput to Brobdingnag and Back again – My Travels through Children's Literature and National Newspapers' : In a career spanning thirty years, Chris Riddell has written and illustrated picture books, co-authored a series of bestselling Fantasy novels and produced weekly political cartoons for The Economist, New Statesman, The Independent and, currently, The Observer. Using examples of his work for both children and adults, Chris discussed how Jonathan Swift's great satirical body of work has influenced him at key stages in his career.
  • Portraiture, Women and the Professions: Picturing Women in the Law: This event celebrated the exhibition of the Women Lawyers' Athena Project at Birkbeck. Photographer Leonora Saunders, the artist commissioned to produce the work shown in the Peltz gallery exhibition, joined Leslie Moran and Michele Everson (School of Law) in a discussion which explored the aesthetics, traditions and purposes of legal portraiture, representing gender, power and authority in contemporary portraiture.
  • Coffee and Commonwealth?: Exploring the changes in places of sociability from the English Revolution to Waterloo, this panel examined commercial and private locations with associated gendered, political...sexual and insurgent possibilities. Speakers examined the complex politics and politeness of pre-modern pubs, coffee houses, salons and more.

Tuesday 19 May 2015

  • Visual Artists Today: a Symposium on the Artist Identity: The symposium examined new, creative and divergent approaches to the notion of artistic identity. 
  • Deborah Levy: Form and Content in the 21st-Century Novel: Marguerite Duras wrote 'I think what I blame books for, in general, is that they are not free. One can see it in the writing: they are fabricated, organized, regulated; one could say they conform.' Booker Prize nominated author Deborah Levy explored the 21st-Century novel.
  • The Ex- of Experimental Cinema: the 1970s Films of Antoni Padrós: This talk focused on the politics of marginality in the 1970s work of Catalan experimental filmmaker Antoni Padrós. 
  • The Rime of the Ancient Mariner: a performance: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is about transgression and compulsion. A random, unmotivated act of destruction begets a compulsion to speak. This performance explored the poem's handling of guilt in terms of speech and listening. 
  • Interpreting Shakespeare through Performance: A panel of university lecturers and school teachers investigated the dynamic relationship between page, stage and screen, and the implications for understanding Shakespeare inside and outside the classroom. Panellists included Dr Emma Smith (Oxford University), Paul Larochelle (South Hampstead High School) and Gillian Woods (Birkbeck).
  • Carole Tongue: Challenges of the digital era for creatives, legislators and citizens in Europe: Carole Tongue discussed the Digital Single Market. Carole was an MEP for fifteen years and deputy leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Party from 1989-91. She played a leading part in coordinating audiovisual policy across Europe, when the MEDIA Programme was launched and continues to take a close interest in audiovisual policies and practices in the digital era, advising trades unions and rights holders in the creative industries. 
  • Theatre Scratch Night: Students from our theatre and creative writing programmes (BA to PhD) shared their work in progress.
  • Going Westward for Smelts: A Fishy Tale of Cheap Print, Sex and Text in Seventeenth-Century London: Speakers mapped the tales of Jacobean fishwives travelling down the Thames and searched a 1620 text to ask questions about the people of early modern London. 
  • Ruins: This talk analysed ruins in which poignant remains have been preserved and turned into reminders of violent acts as well as memorials in which the iconographic traditions of the ruin are consciously reproduced. 
  • Realisms of Precariousness: Otto de Cao Guimarães: This was the second of four contemporary film narratives from Brazil and Colombia, being shown as part of a programme that presents four unique views that provided different accounts of the thresholds that can be reached by free images of Latin America.

Wednesday 20 May 2015

  • Photographs of London: A panel discussion between photographers and historians of the medium which included Tom Allbeson (Nottingham) on Herbert Mason, 'St Paul's', 29 December 1940; Lynda Nead (Birkbeck) on Bert Hardy, 'Life in the Elephant', Picture Post, January 1949; Ian Walker (Newport) on Thomas Struth, 'Clinton Road' 1977; Responding: Mike Seaborne (Freelance, formerly Museum of London).
  • Globalization and Contemporary Culture: This panel revisited and re-evaluated the idea of cultural globalization. A series of short talks and a film screening asked how artists engaged with each other in a global context.
  • Renaissance Ways of Seeing: In this panel discussion Joanne Anderson (Birkbeck) asked who coloured Mary Magdalen and why it mattered, looking particularly at early Renaissance artworks produced in Alpine Italy. Paul Taylor (Warburg Institute) examined the multivalent idea of 'imitation' in relation to life and art in the Renaissance. Stephen Clucas (Birkbeck) discussed the visionary 'seeing' (or 'skrying') of John Dee's angelic conversations. Gill Woods (Birkbeck) investigated how characters went invisible on the Renaissance stage, and what that tells us about theatrical seeing.
  • CANCELLED: Keeping it in the family: Renaissance writing dynasties?: Dr Neil Kenny lecture was cancelled. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.
  • Blake's Dream: Vala or the Four Zoas: A performance of approximately 30 minutes explored Night II of Blake's prophetic illuminated manuscript 'Vala or the Death of Judgement of the Ancient Man: A Dream of Nine Nights'. In Night II Blake's 'visionary forms dramatic' take their motions from Albion's couch of death.
  • Gendering Austerity: Cultures of Coping and the Work of Consumption: A half-day symposium explored the effects of austerity on perceived futures, the home, and care, as well as artistic and performative responses as a form of coping and resistance. Speakers from different disciplines presented their research, and artists Jemma McDonnell (Paper Birds) and Alinah Azadeh (creator of Burning the Books) spoke about their recent projects.
  • Realisms of Precariousness: Señoritas and Mambo Cool: The final two of four contemporary film narratives from Brazil and Colombia, that were shown as part of a programme that presents four unique views that provided different accounts of the thresholds that can be reached by free images of Latin America.
  • Guilt and Utopian Space: Jonathan Hoskins, visual artist and member of the Guilt Working Group at Birkbeck presented new work which followed research into 19th-century utopian communities. 

Thursday 21 May 2015

  • Vasari Centre Past and Future: 25 Years of Digital Arts Research at Birkbeck: Founded as part of a major EU project in late 1989, the Vasari Research Centre has pioneered the area of digital art history. The symposium and exhibition of digital artworks included current practitioners and academics to discuss digital art and design and digital humanities research. 
  • Maria Zambrano amongst the philosophers: a reconsideration: This symposium introduced Spanish philosopher and essayist María Zambrano to an English audience. An important twentieth-century thinker, Zambrano was exiled by Franco for her part in the Civil War.
  • Historical Fictions: The historical novel is a major presence in the contemporary literary landscape. Joe Brooker (Birkbeck) and Martin Eve explored the fascination of historical fiction today with Caroline Magennis (Salford).
  • Moons, Magpies and London: Three poets read from their new works looking to Montmartre, London and Outer Space . . .: Liane Strauss, Sue Roe and Jill Mylius read from their latest collections, all three from London's Paekakariki Press, established to continue the tradition of letterpress printing that is in danger of disappearing in the digital age.
  • Popular Art and Portuguese Identity. Anatomy of an Exhibition: In this talk, the University of British Columbia's Museum of Anthropology Director, Anthony Shelton, discussed the complex mixture of ideologies which underlie the representation of popular art during the dictatorship (Estado Novo), its re-accommodation after the establishment of democracy in 1974, and the challenges of curating an exhibition that deals with historical imaginations.
  • Talking Mr Turner: A discussion of Mike Leigh's recent film, Mr Turner. Jacqueline Riding, Historical Consultant, Sarah McBryde, Production Manager, and Tim Wright, who taught Timothy Spall to paint, discussed the film, and its representation of the great artist.
  • Codes of Conduct : Andrew McKinnon (Birkbeck) and Martin Lewton (Theatre North) returned to Birkbeck Arts Week with a double bill of short performances referencing internalised and externalised gay sub-cultures. Cock and Code of Conduct are performance pieces specifically developed for Arts Week 2015 by Lewton and McKinnon from projects originally commissioned by Brighton Festival and The Point Eastleigh.
  • What is Global in World Cinemas?: Dr Isolde Standish (SOAS) and Dorota Ostrowska (Birkbeck) discussed diverse notions of world cinema in relation to current production, curatorial practices and scholarship in a talk illustrated with film clips. 
  • Material History: Henry VIII at Windsor Castle: Dr Richard Williams (Royal Collection, Windsor) spoke about what objects – from Holbein's drawings to paintings, prints, buildings and armour – disclosed about the huge changes in church and state that Henry VIII brought about.

Friday 22 MAY 2015

  • Developing a Career in the Arts: At this event, graduates from Birkbeck's School of Arts shared and reflected upon their experiences of work in the creative industries. It was an opportunity for students to understand the various ways further study can help develop career paths.: Panel One: Access and Change: Hannah Cross (Camden Arts Centre), Anisha Chalisey (Birkbeck Talent), Stella Sideli (Tenderpixel Contemporary Art Gallery), Leslie Primo (National Gallery and other venues): Panel Two: Career Change: Sadia Sadia (Chimera Arts), Shain Shapiro (Sound Diplomacy), Verity Slater (Modern Art Oxford): Panel Three: Collaboration and Transferability: Victoria Thornton (Open-City), Sarah Weir (Rothschild Collections) and David Heineiman (Index on Censorship): Register for your free place at the seminar on Eventbrite.
  • Experimental Literature Today: A special event with international guests Professor Louis Armand and Dr David Vichnar, editors of the Prague-based journal VLAK which evaluated what experimental literature looks like and the most vital literary innovations emerging from from different languages and locations in Europe.
  • Introducing The Book of Margery Kempe: The Book of Margery Kempe(c.1436-8) is often described as the first autobiography in English. It describes the life and trials of an English mother, wife, mystic and pilgrim. Anthony Bale introduced his new translation of The Book of Margery Kempe and discussed why she remains relevant today.
  • Séance and Seanceability: Magic Lantern: A rational entertainment in which the learned *Professor H..... * and his clever assistants offered a spirited account of that popular Gothic confection known as the phantasmagoria, which has recently become the favourite of London . . . notwithstanding that the audience may still remain completely in the dark. Dr Mervyn Heard is a magic lantern showman, historian of popular entertainment and the author of Phantasmagoria the Secret Life of the Magic Lantern. In the past he has devised performance projects for the Tate, Royal Opera House, British Library, Old Vic, the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, international festivals, cemeteries, department stores, fairground tents, TV and feature films.
  • Shadow Portrait Workshop: Attendees were able to create traditional eighteenth/nineteenth-century style silhouette portrait in 20 minutes sessions led by expert Simon Warner.
  • World Factory: the Politics of Conversation: A new multimedia performance project by METIS explored consumer capitalism through the lens of China's role in the global textile industry. To coincide with World Factory's run at the Young Vic, Birkbeck Centre for Contemporary Theatre hosted a conversation about the performance and its response to the conditions of western consumerism and fast fashion.

Saturday 23 May 2015

  • Paying for Prayer: the Later Medieval Chapel (Birkbeck Medieval Seminar 2015): This interdisciplinary symposium featured four talks from leading medievalists on the topic of the chapel. What were these extra spaces for? Frequently customised for or by particular individuals, families or other groups, chapels have a lot to tell us about medieval people's tastes, and their experiences and expectations of a religious life.