Skip to main content

Arts Week 2018


  • Transitional States: Hormones at the Crossroads of Art and Science: This video art exhibition presented the work of 15 artists and collectives who explored the immense role hormones have on our everyday life.
  • Taking my mind for a walk: Sketches, prints and personal effects chart the artistic progress of John Greenwood in this concentrated exhibition that explored the thinking activities of his everyday.

Monday 14 may 2018

  • The Destruction of Memory: Screening of the film Destruction of Memory (2016) followed by a panel discussion. Taking its lead from the book by Robert Bevan, Architecture at War, the film investigated the impact of war on cultural heritage.
  • Casting Code: reflections on 3D printing: Artists, activists and researchers working in the fields of art history, cultural heritage and law explored aesthetic and theoretical issues raised by digital 3D technology.
  • Rehearsed Readings: New works from emerging artists, including Greek chorus cabaret Myth Independent, and Spoils examined sexual deviancy and destructive forms of male power.
  • Plantae Amazonicae: art, ethnobotany and biocultural artefacts: Artist Lindsay Sekulowicz and panellists Antje Southern (Royal Drawing School), William Milliken (Royal Botanic Gardens Kew) and Luciana Martins (Birkbeck) discussed the encounter between academics, artists and scientists.
  • Bee Composed Live: honeybee communication: A presentation on honeybee communication included extracts from an interpretive language performance created by Birkbeck Artist-in-Residence Lily Hunter Green and students.
  • Cook's Camden: The Making of Modern Housing: Mark Swenarton spoke about his recent book Cook's Camden: The Making of Modern Housing. Covering a remarkable period in urban public housing when Sydney Cook, Camden's borough architect, brought in several young and talented architects to design housing that broke with the conventions established since the war, Swenarton examined what its legacy offers today.
  • After Word: audiovisual study in the arts and humanities: The arts and humanities have long been dominated by the written word, and more recently, computer-mediated word processing. In this symposium, Birkbeck's Professor Catherine Grant explored how relatively affordable, usable and accessible audiovisual technologies might open up new pedagogical approaches to critical thinking via doing, making, remix and creativity.
  • Camden People's Theatre: the St James' Garden Project: Camden People's Theatre's playful new docu-theatre event excavated the hidden histories of St James's Gardens, where famous names such as Lord George Gordon (of the Gordon Riots) Matthew Flinders (who first identified Australia as a continent) and 'Britain's first black sporting star', the boxer Bill Richmond, are buried. 
  • The Mechanics' Institute Review Live (MIRLive): MIRLive was a stimulating spoken-word event, showcasing the best in creative writing. 

Tuesday 15 May 2018

  • (Or)landscapes: Taking Woolf's time travelling Orlando as a cue, this active event speculated upon the life (and death) of landscape in Bloomsbury. Led by Corinne Noble and Simon King, the walk was drew upon archive images, quotation and memory, casting fresh light on what the group encountered.
  • Curating sound for difficult histories: Focusing on the Holocaust, this event explored how soundscapes have the ability to evoke difficult histories. Scholars and practitioners considered the use of sound and sonic landscapes in the arts to address questions around representation, remembering, authenticity and affect. 
  • Paper peepshow: make your own: Attendees were able to recreate the popular nineteenth-century optical toy, the paper peepshow. Led by Su Blackwell, the workshop used hands-on learning to explore Victorian visual culture.
  • Modernism in Bloomsbury? A counter-intuitive walking tour (Part 1): Behind demure Georgian facades lay stories of gentle liberation, false starts and fraught battles. Attendees were able to take one of two paths on offer through Bloomsbury's streets and squares with walk leaders Leslie Topp and Nic Sampson (Birkbeck), to trace the hidden and not-so-hidden features of architectural modernism in Bloomsbury.
  • Paper peepshow: peep into the rabbit hole: This panel discussion investigated the popular optical toy, the paper peepshow. A curator, a collector, an academic and an artist discussed the toy and highlighted its role in expanding our understanding of nineteenth-century visual culture.
  • Gaelic hardship: Flann O'Brien's 'The Poor Mouth': In this workshop, Birkbeck's Tobias Harris, Joseph Brooker and guest speaker Eoin Byrne (Galway) led an exploration of An Béal Bocht (1941): a slim novel parodying peasant memoirs of the West of Ireland.
  • Theatre scratch night: Students from our theatre and creative writing programmes – ranging from undergraduate to PhD level – shared their work in progress. The evening included the first showing of several short new plays. 
  • Visual protest: art and militancy in the Suffrage campaign: Militant suffragettes' public demonstrations often deployed the visual arts. Exploring their campaigns, Gillian Murphy (Women's Library, LSE) introduced the Artists' Suffrage League and banners from their archive, while Monica Walker (Old Operating Theatre Museum) investigated links between art and militancy through the defacing of the Rokeby Venus.

Wednesday 16 May 2018

  • Plant theory and thinking with the territory in Amazonian literature: This session looked at botany and the philosophy of plants practised by indigenous communities in the Western Amazon as non-modern responses to anthropocentric theories of knowledge. 
  • Creative writing as research: Discussing creative writing as research, writers Julia Bell (Birkbeck) and Honor Gavin (University of Manchester) shared aspects of their processes and practices. 
  • Marilyn Monroe: an unlikely feminist?: Was Marilyn Monroe a feminist? Birkbeck alumna and screenwriter Gabriella Apicella joined in conversation with Catherine Grant (Birkbeck) and Michelle Morgan to discuss.
  • Modernism in Bloomsbury? A counter-intuitive walking tour (part 2): Behind demure Georgian facades lay stories of gentle liberation, false starts and fraught battles. Attendees were able to take one of two paths on offer through Bloomsbury's streets and squares with walk leaders Leslie Topp and Nic Sampson (Birkbeck) to trace the hidden and not-so-hidden features of architectural modernism in Bloomsbury.
  • The Archive Project: 50 years of film and photography in East London: Legendary collectives FourCorners and Camerawork are brought together in a major heritage project revealing the important histories of oppositional filmmaking and photography as emerging in 1970s London. Patrizia Di Bello (Birkbeck) introduced Carla Mitchell (project director) for insightful discussion on independent activity, past and present, in FourCorners, Bethnal Green.
  • The Renaissance life of things: David Saxby (Lead Archaeologist Museum of London) shared everyday and exotic London finds from Southwark and the Rose; Birkbeck's Gillian Woods examined the theatrical life of things, and Sue Wiseman traced the early modern token. 
  • Renaissance Political Bodies: Sex, Politics and Divorce in Seventeenth-Century England: Exploring the relationship between sex, scandal and political transformations from bedroom to battlefield, this event explored Charles I and Henrietta-Maria's marriage and the start of the road to divorce. Samuel Fullerton (University of California) and Birkbeck's Judith Hudson discussed real and fake news of Charles I's marital bliss and his subject's strategies for weaselling out of wedlock. 
  • Rare Books London 2018: a talk on printing and book-binding: A panel discussion on printing and book-binding as part of a series of talks by Rare Books London. Panellists included fellows from the Designer Bookbinders Society and binding collectors. This event was sponsored by the Private Libraries Association.
  • Learning from Robin Hood Gardens: This panel discussion featured conservationists, curators, architects and critics to re-consider the estate in Poplar and its architects, Alison and Peter Smithson to speak about the architecture of the Robin Hood Gardens estate, the campaign to save it.
  • Landscape storytelling: the story of an 'enemy alien' set designer: The story of British set designer Ralph Koltai, a refugee who arrived in the UK on the Kindertransport in 1939 and translated at the Nuremburg Trials was shared. Writer, dramaturg and translator Sophie Rashbrook discussed her new play exploring his life.
  • Black Lives Matter and contemporary ghosts in the writing of Jesmyn Ward: This session explored the work of the award-winning writer Jesmyn Ward. When #blacklivesmatter took off on Twitter in 2012, Ward was completing a memoir, Men We Reaped, about five young black men close to Ward – including her brother and cousin – who died in the space of four years. Ward's work has since been associated with the movement but also offers an important corrective to a campaign whose narrative has often been limited to 140 characters. This discussion explored Ward's literary engagements with Hurricane Katrina, racialized poverty, police brutality, mass incarceration, and the generally precarious status of black life in the 21st century US.

Thursday 17 May 2018

  • Thinking with dance, moving with fairy tale: Gingerella (RockaFela) (65', Dir. Alex Reuben, Wellcome Trust/ACE, UK 2018) explored cognition, motion and imagination as expressed in fairytales. The screening was followed by a panel discussion with Alex Reuben, Marina Warner and psychologist and neuroscientist Chris Frith.
  • Literary 'Mythophysics': a masterclass with Prof. Juan Duchesne-Winter: In the second of two sessions, this talk explored the novel by Peruvian author César Calvo, The Three Halves of Ino Moxo Wizard of the Upper Amazon, and the ways in which it adopts and plays with the indigenous oral thought traditions of the Amazon basin.
  • Lubetkin's architecture in Finsbury: A walking tour around three of Berthold Lubetkin's projects for the former borough of Finsbury, spanning from the 1930s to the 1950s - the Finsbury Health Centre, to the Spa Green Estate, and Bevin Court. Led by Mark Crinson (Birkbeck), walk with us to consider the topography and pre-twentieth-century architecture of Finsbury.
  • 'Gigantic children of the sun': Kew's Palm House: Opened in 1848, Kew's Palm House staged a tropical landscape just outside London. Kate Teltscher (University of Roehampton) reconstructed a visit to the Victorian Palm House to explore the nineteenth-century commercial and cultural obsession with palms, in conversation with Luciana Martins (Birkbeck).
  • Pharmacosexuality: sex and hormones: Accompanying the Transitional States exhibition (Peltz Gallery), experts discussed the pharmaceuticalisation of sexuality and recreational drug use in sex. Speakers included Erika Johnson (Linköping University) and Alex Dymock (Royal Holloway).
  • The relationship between author and illustrator: how does it work?: Can an author and illustrator see eye-to-eye? In the publication week of her new novel The Brondesbury Tapestry, author Helen Harris and illustrator Beatrice Baumgartner-Cohen discussed their collaboration on this unusual work.
  • It Repeats on You: an installation: An installation of artworks on self-reflexivity in research, in which research student Sarah Scarsbrook explored the self as subject and object. 
  • Landscapes of culture: Raymond Williams 30 years on: The death of Raymond Williams in 1988 robbed Britain of one of its most influential cultural critics. The screenings of three rare documentaries on Williams captured his stirring political and cultural lyricism and celebrated the career of this remarkable public intellectual.
  • Decolonising Shakespeare?: Due to unforeseen circumstances Decolonising Shakespeare was cancelled. 
  • Experiments with art and empathy: This performance reanimated the work of aesthetic theorist Vernon Lee (1856-1935) as she experimented with our bodily responses to art works - a process Lee described as 'experimenting in the galleries'. 
  • In conversation with Ian Martin.: Award-winning comedy writer Ian Martin spoke to Daragh Carville (Birkbeck) about writing for TV series such as Veep and The Thick of It (for which he was official 'swearing consultant') and films including In the Loop (2009) and The Death of Stalin (2017).

FRIDAY 16 MAY 2018

  • On reflection: a wander with a black mirror: Attendees held a black mirror in the palm of their hand and looked, listened and thought on this walk led by interdisciplinary artist Sheila Ghelani. Sketch like a landscape painter, look like a tourist: what do you see and what remains just off to the side - hidden, overlooked, forgotten, unnoticed?
  • Anima shorts: a selection of animated short films on mental illness: Animation offers endless possibilities in the visualisation of feelings and states of mind. The short films in this screening explored the facets of mental illness in a manner that is poetic, abstract and, at the same time, familiar and engaging.
  • Floating islands in contemporary art: This lecture explored ways in which modern and contemporary artists have adopted the theme of the 'floating island'. Looking at some vivid examples of installation and performance art, film and sculpture, Gill Perry speaks about so-called 'island' works by artists and considers ways in which various fabricated, floating constructions can provoke and engage the viewer to think critically about our relationship with the natural – and the artificial – world.
  • Wrestling with words: Toby Litt (Birkbeck) spoke to writer and professional wrestler Wes Brown about writing, fighting and being a man.
  • Thinking with the young girl in new South American fiction: This talk by Juan Duchesne-Winter considered theories and representations of the 'young girl' in Western philosophy and art and explored how some recent Latin American fiction can teach us to think with the young girl instead of inquiring what to think about her.
  • The Corners: Chris Dorley-Brown: Architecture and pedestrians at London street corners are distilled studies in movement, history and archetype in photographer Chris Dorley Brown's new work The Corners. He presented a slideshow of these pictures taken in East London between 2009 and 2017 and touched on his edition of previously unseen kodachrome slides, The East End in Colour 1960-1980 by David Granick.
  • Renegade: Austin Collings: Mark E. Smith, who died in January this year at the age of 60, recorded 32 studio albums as frontman of legendary independent band The Fall. To celebrate a body of work that is at turns highly literary, unconventional, mischievous and abrasively honest, Austin Collings discussed the experience of ghost-writing Smith's memoir.
  • Imagined trials: a panel discussion: Members of the Guilt Group and novelist Rachel Malik discussed how trials loom large in fiction and film. Yet what's at issue in a fictional trial is seldom what it would be in reality, for the audience or reader also sits in judgement.
  • Last night music: Some of the School's finest performers played live.