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Arts Week 2017


  • Mr A Moves in Mysterious Ways: The Adamson Collection is an internationally renowned collection of art objects made by residents of a long-stay British psychiatric hospital between 1946 and 1981 under the guidance of art-therapy pioneer Edward Adamson. Mr A Moves in Mysterious Ways: Selected Artists from the Adamson Collection displayed selected works from the collection to tell the story of Adamson’s groundbreaking use of art as a therapeutic tool; to provide insight into the experiences of the creators of the artworks; and to reflect on the range of factors that may have influenced their production, including clinical, artistic, personal, social and material.
  • Poems without words: a little exhibition: Bronac Ferran curated a mini-exhibition of experimental visual poetry of the twentieth century. 
  • If the walls could talk: This sound installation was created for two listeners at a time, responding to the School of Arts historic building, formerly home to members of the Bloomsbury Group. Listeners were transported into a world of chatter, urban noise and imaginative reflection on what classrooms, bathrooms, corridors and dead ends might say if only they could. Created by BA Theatre and Drama students.

Monday 15 May 2017

  • Doing and thinking: methods in practice-based research: This half-day symposium brought together a range of scholars in theatre, film and creative writing who pursue their research through practice, with contributions from Katherine Angel, Emma BennettKatie Grant and Sophie Hope
  • Zenogami: This is a playful mindfulness origami app developed by artist Coco Sato and interaction designer Dr. Pete Bennett (University of Bristol). Attendees engaged with the creativity of origami, yoga movement and the perspective of Zen philosophy. 
  • Recovering Women for the Digital Age: A Wikipedia Edit-a-thon: Women are sometimes hidden from history. This Wikipedia training workshop and edit-a-thon aimed to increase the digital visibility of women who have been ‘lost’. Attendees were able to create stub articles for historical women who did not have Wikipedia pages.
  • Telling object stories: film, peoples and plants in the Amazon: Kew Gardens holds fascinating artefacts collected by the botanist Richard Spruce, who travelled in South America in the nineteenth century. In this roundtable, Luciana Martins (Birkbeck) and the Derek Jarman Lab’s Bea Moyes and Bartek Dziadosz screened and discussed the making of The Many Lives of a Shield, a short film that follows the story of this ceremonial shield.
  • Underground films from the Barrelstout archive (1968-2016): This screening from the underground offered a rare chance to see a selection of no-budget films from the archive of Barrelstout Productions. Barrelstout’s short films – some comic, some serious - are filled with colour and music.  
  • Japanese identity: fiction and film by Jayne Joso: Aspects of contemporary Japanese identity were explored by Jayne Joso, author of My Falling Down House (2016) and Birkbeck’s Mark Blacklock. There  were three short films, a reading in addition to a discussion with the panellists.
  • Andy Smith: dematerialising theatre: For the last 15 years, both alone and in collaboration with Tim Crouch (An Oak TreeAdler & Gibb), theatre-maker Andy Smith has been involved in creating a large body of work. He refers to this as a ‘dematerialised theatre’ - a theatre that attempts to do more with less. This talk reviewed some of the principles of the practice, and explored some of its origins. 
  • The Jo Spence Archive and Memorial Library: a workshop: Jo Spence was a British photographer, writer and ‘cultural sniper’. This workshop on her archive dealt with the implications of its recent history and dispersal. Birkbeck’s Patrizia di Bello spoke about the archive as ‘feminist family album’, and Steve Edwards reflected on British documentary in the 1970s.
  • Ordinary Digital Humanities: The everyday life of digital technologies: How should humanities scholars respond to the opportunities and intrusions wrought by digitisation? With a lecture from Lesley Gourlay (UCL Institute of Education), and responses from Birkbeck's Grace Halden and Tim Markham, this forum explored the ways in which digital technologies are being used, and are asserting themselves, in everyday academic life.
  • Corkscrew’s Practice Exchange: What discoveries can be made about the world through practice-based research in the arts? Our postgraduate researchers share their work in progress and welcome your feedback. Supported by Birkbeck’s practice-based research network, Corkscrew.
  • Poetry Live!: A stellar line-up of live performance poetry given by Birkbeck postgraduate students and staff. 
  • Exodus, reckoning, sacrifice: three meanings of Brexit: Kalypso Nicolaidis (International Relations, University of Oxford) questioned the Brexit narratives of British exceptionalism, euroscepticism, and transnational pluralism, reading them through stories of Exodus, reckoning, and sacrifice. Nicolaidis articulated a Brexit mythology in a critical attempt to offer the possibility of a bottom-up reconstruction to pluralists of all countries.

Tuesday 16 May 2017

  • An Inconvenient Truth: documentary screening: Al Gore delivered his legendary lecture on global warming before it became an 'alternative fact'. This was a timely screening of the award-winning and, for some, life-changing documentary by Davis Guggenheim. 
  • Bee Composed: can we survive if bees are gone?: Composer and sound installation artist Lily Hunter Green and Birkbeck's Seda Ilter hosted a workshop-discussion. 
  • A Country Road, A Tree: a reading by Jo Baker: Novelist Jo Baker read from her novel, A Country Road, A Tree, hosted by Birkbeck's Peter Fifield. The story of Samuel Beckett's wartime experiences, the book was shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize and was chosen as one of the fiction highlights of 2016 by The Guardian and New Statesman. 
  • Developing a successful artist-researcher collaboration: In collaboration with Bow Arts, this masterclass explored patterns of collaboration between academics and artists, presenting case studies of good practice along with pitfalls to avoid. 
  • What does an animator do? A masterclass with Shay Hamias: Shay Hamias is a London-based animation artist, and Leverhulme Artist-in-Residence at Birkbeck. In this masterclass, Shay introduced the animator's working methods and discussed his project on animating medieval manuscripts with Anthony Bale (Birkbeck). 
  • Science as Spectacle: Ghosts, Goblins and the Mysteries of the Universe: Using an original triunial (triple) magic lantern, Jeremy Brooker explored the interface between science and spectacle in Victorian London- as practised by two of its greatest champions, the scientist John Tyndall of the Royal Institution and the Royal Polytechnic Institution's most famous and flamboyant son, John Henry Pepper. 
  • Fifty years of The Third Policeman: 2017 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Flann O'Brien's remarkable novel The Third Policeman. This workshop, led by Birkbeck-based researchers Tobias Harris and Joe Brooker, explored the bizarre landscape and weird science of Flann O'Brien's masterpiece, and considered its significance in Irish and world literary history.
  • The Contemporary: an exhibition: This special exhibition used creative work to reflect upon the question and definition of the contemporary in life and culture. 
  • Theatre scratch night: Students from our theatre and creative writing programmes – ranging from undergraduate to PhD level – shared their work in progress. 
  • Victorian Things: Inspired by Asa Briggs' Victorian Things (1988) Dr Anne Witchard (University of Westminster) and Dr David McAllister (Birkbeck) celebrated fascinations with Victoriana. Past and present students from MA Victorian Studies brought, displayed, described and discussed why they loved their favourite Victorian things.
  • Editing women: Reflections on the Birkbeck International Women's Day Wikipedia edit-a-thon: Reflecting on the Birkbeck International Women's Day edit-a-thon, designed to increase awareness of nineteenth-century women on Wikipedia, speakers discussed the importance of making these historical figures visible and accessible through digital resources.
  • 'How long are you staying?' European cultural exchange on the front line: In the wake of Brexit, Europeanists from Birkbeck considered the stakes of researchers' engagement with European culture. The discussion explored a range of urgent political issues and was hosted by the Centre for Comparative Research in European Cultures and Identities.
  • Political Shakespeare in the classroom: Tackling the subversive and violent content of Shakespeare's drama, Catherine Belsey (Swansea University) and Tom Barnes (Kingsmead School) led a discussion on the challenges of addressing the early modern and modern political questions raised by Shakespeare's works in the classroom.

Wednesday 17 May 2017

  • Mapping Black lives in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries: Bloomsbury and beyond: Researchers estimated that in the late eighteenth-century, London was home to approximately 20,000 Black people. The discussion explored a map of their dwelling places, their lives, writings and activities. The workshop also located the residences of key anti-slavery activists and reformers.
  • John Beverley's masterclass: the politics of theory: A series of masterclasses run by Professor John Beverley (University of Pittsburgh), renowned scholar of Hispanic literature, explored structuralism and postcolonialism. It explored crucial issues in identity, critical theory, politics and the arts, ranging from the status of cultural studies in the academy, to the emergence of discourses of neoconservatism in the Latin American world. This series marked the inauguration of a scholarly exchange between Birkbeck's Iberian and Latin American Studies scholars and the University of Pittsburgh.
  • Art Nouveau and modernist architecture: Speakers explored how women engaged with architecture around the turn of the twentieth century in order to produce professional identities. This session focused on two iconic buildings: the Jugendstil Photo Studio Elvira in Munich (1896 by August Endell) and E-1027 (1926-1929) built in the south of France by Eileen Gray with Jean Badovici to discover the ways in which the personal and the professional coincided in these bold architectural designs. 
  • Something to chew on: Virginia Woolf's teeth: Attendees learned why Woolf's enduring recognition as a key modernist is not only due to formal devices but her intersection with a very specific moment in medical history. Discussion focused on some of Bloomsbury's most famous resident, dentistry, mental health, and toothsome characters by Birkbeck's Peter Fifield. 
  • Secrets of the Warburg Photo Collection: Dr Paul Taylor guided this tour of the Warburg Institute's incomparable collection of photographs of paintings, sculptures, prints and drawings. Initiated in 1887 by Aby Warburg, the collection provides an overview of the subject matter of European and non-European imagery.
  • The Poetics of Fragility, a film by Nicolas Grandi and Lata Mani: The Poetics of Fragility used story, poetry and performance to explore the question of human existence and its fragility. The film featured contributions from many artists, activists, musicians, writers and thinkers including Angela Davis, Cherrie Moraga, Nora Cortiñas, Greg Manalo, Thao P. Nguyen, Martha Rynberg and Jisha Menon.
  • Will 2017 be 1984? Rethinking Orwell's dystopia: A panel of experts from Birkbeck's Departments of Politics and English & Humanities re-examined Orwell's 1984 and its meaning in the brave new world of 2017. Speakers includes Professor Jean Seaton (Prof Media History, University of Westminster), Ben Worthy and Caroline Edwards.
  • Conceiving Histories: Speakers discussed the curious history of unpregnancy, presenting a work in progress from a collaboration between visual artist Anna Burel and literary historian Isabel Davis (Birkbeck) about the use of urine in pregnancy testing.
  • The rise of non-fiction: Non-fiction has risen to prominence in recent years. This event discussed reasons why with Birkbeck writers Katherine Angel and Julia Bell, and poet Sarah Howe by asking questions about truth-telling and artifice, representation and voice, in relation to both prose and poetry.
  • Renaissance lives from the archives: grime, crime and a pirate: Panellists including Molly Murray (Columbia University), and Birkbeck's Anthony Bale, Sue Jones and Robert Maniura examined fragments, trial transcripts, testimony and the crimes and misdemeanours that got the underclass noticed. 
  • The transformation of London, 1500-1700: Between 1500 and 1700 London underwent massive population growth and emerged as a global trading city. Ian Archer (University of Oxford) illuminated the changing configurations of social relations in the capital at this dynamic moment in its history.
  • Myths in research: beliefs, bias, and assumptions: Beliefs, bias and assumptions shape the making of academic and every-day knowledge. These 'myths' are often problematic, but, at times, also productive. The discussion led by Justin Schlosberg (Birkbeck), Martyn Hammersley (Open University) and Maria Tamboukou (University of East London) shared the myths and biases they encountered in their work on media, sociology and feminism.

Thursday 18 May 2017

  • John Beverley's masterclass: the politics of theory: The second in a series of masterclasses run by Professor John Beverley (University of Pittsburgh), renowned scholar of Hispanic literature, explored structuralism and postcolonialism. It explored crucial issues in identity, critical theory, politics and the arts, ranging from the status of cultural studies in the academy, to the emergence of discourses of neoconservatism in the Latin American world. This series marked the inauguration of a scholarly exchange between Birkbeck's Iberian and Latin American Studies scholars and the University of Pittsburgh.
  • Stories from the birthing room: Though the scene of birth is often understood as secret, a surprising number of texts tell us its story. Scripted and directed by Emma Whipday (UCL), actors performed writings from seventeenth-century courtrooms, plays and songs to disclose how women understood birth and was followed followed by a discussion with the director.
  • Mr A moves in mysterious ways: artists from the Adamson Collection: In association with the Bethlem Gallery, a panel discussion introduced a new exhibition of works from the Adamson Collection displayed in Birkbeck's Peltz Gallery. The Adamson Collection is an internationally renowned archive of art objects made by residents of a long-stay British psychiatric hospital between 1946 and 1981, under the guidance of art-therapy pioneer Edward Adamson. 
  • Double Book Launch: Radical French Writers: A celebration of the simultaneous release of two books on alternative communities of radical French writers: Flaubert, Beckett, NDiaye: The Aesthetics, Emotions and Politics of Failure and Poètes français du 21ème siècle: entretiens. Both books emerged from symposia organised by Birkbeck Research in Aesthetics of Kinship and Community. 
  • He Doesn't Talk Politics Anymore: the role of politics in contemporary US fiction: Birkbeck's Martin Paul Eve explored the issue of politics in contemporary US fiction followed by Q&A featuring Joseph Brooker and Catherine Flay.
  • Speaking in brogues: Universities tend to be multilingual communities, but for the most part, English is taught and studied. Maria Aristodemou (Birkbeck), Mattia Gallotti (School of Advanced Study, University of London), and Rut Blees (UCL) Luxemburg (Royal College of Art) explored these topics with Birkbeck's Marina Warner.
  • Four radical poets: book launch: Four poets read from their new books of radical, challenging poetry. Featuring Helen Dimos, Stephen Mooney, William Rowe and Verity Spott.
  • Eyes, hands, hearts: Anatomy, aesthetics, and the organization of life in the Hunterian Museums: This talk examined the work of William Hunter and his younger brother John, two of the most important anatomists of the eighteenth century. Dahlia Porter (University of Glasgow) assessed museum displays of preserved organs alongside visual resources which contributed to the emergence of comparative anatomy.
  • Beauty and ugliness as the origin of empathy: A performance by Birkbeck's MFA Theatre Directing students explored the work of aesthetic theorist Vernon Lee (1856-1935) as she experimented with our psycho-physical responses to art. 
  • Landscape and power: Swati Chattopadhyay (University of California Santa Barbara), David Haney (University of Kent) and Joel McKim (Birkbeck) shared new research on the politics of landscape in colonial Bengal, Nazi Germany and post-9/11 America. 
  • The Sublime Real: painful excitements in eighteenth-century art and criticism: This talk explored the slippery relations between art and reality starts from a much misunderstood paragraph on 'real sympathy' in Edmund Burke. Speaker Aris Sarafianos (University of Ioannina, and visiting research fellow at Birkbeck) investigated the many interpretations and transformations of real sympathy in several cases.

FRIDAY 19 MAY 2017

  • America in Crisis: Two of Birkbeck authors discussed two key moments of crisis in recent US history, the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island (1979) and Hurricane Katrina as it devastated the US Gulf Coast (2005). Authors used these events to explore larger narratives of self-destruction, environmental degradation, and displacement. 
  • Reformation London walk: power, fire and the book: Attendees walked the paths of Reformation London to explore the places where Henry VIII, Mary Tudor and Elizabeth I made part of the world we know.
  • Film screening: The Price of Desire (2014): Directed by Mary McGuckian, starring Orla Brady and Vincent Perez, this film dealt with Eileen Gray's iconic modernist villa E1027 in the south of France (recently opened to the public), and in particular with the controversial subsequent interventions in that building by Le Corbusier. 
  • Talking photography: reality check: The event which included embers from Ph: The Photography Research Network, questioned ideas on reality through contemporary installations that explored real and imagined encounters with wilderness.
  • Poetry and ruins: an ancient villa in Renaissance Tivoli: Celebrated in antiquity as a place of studied leisure, Tibur (modern-day Tivoli) became known during the Renaissance for the spectacle of its ruined temples and villas. Birkbeck's Peter Fane-Saunders explored the contrasting cases of two sixteenth-century architects, Antonio da Sangallo the Younger and Pirro Ligorio, and what their analyses of sites in Tivoli tell us about Renaissance engagement with antique texts, poetry and architecture – and about the workings of the Renaissance mind.
  • Public Talk by John Beverley: A new Orientalism: This talk explored the representation of an Islamic or Arab subject in three texts from the first decade of the 21st century. The lecture ended with some thoughts on the representation of an Islamic Other in Cervantes's Don Quixote.
  • Saint Oscar: a rehearsed reading of Terry Eagleton's play about Oscar Wilde:In a BiGS/Guilt Group presentation, Brown revisited the play's exploration of sexuality, nationalism, power and identity.
  • Tudormania: the Beheadings: Panellists discussed why Tudor heads rolled and why the axe fell. Speakers included novelist and Birkbeck alumni Liz Fremantle, publisher George Morely, teacher Noeleen Murphy, and Judith Hudson and Lou Horton.
  • Writing well and writing to get well: Nathan Filer and Agata Vitale in conversation: Nathan Filer, author of the prizewinning novelThe Shock of the Fall (2013), and Agata Vitale, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Bath Spa University brought their personal and professional experience into a wide-ranging discussion of the relationship between creative writing and mental health.
  • Marge & Jules: Theatre duo The Queynte Laydies' performance explored the meeting of two medieval mystics – Margery Kempe who wrote the first autobiography in the English language and Dame Julian, the renowned anchoress. Marge & Jules resurrected the historic moment where — as writings record — Margery met Julian.
  • Last Night Music: Some of the School's finest performers played live and unplugged. James Pepper and Anthony J Shepherd headlined.