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Podcasts from past Arts Weeks


  • The Trial: The State of Russia vs Oleg Sentsov (2017)
    Speakers Molly Flynn (Birkbeck), Rory Finnin (Cambridge), Olesya Khromeychuk (Kings College), Josephine von Zitzewitz (Cambridge) drew attention to the links of Sentsov’s case to the past and current political persecutions in the region including the outrageous repressions against Crimean Tatars in Russia-annexed Crimea. The event was hosted by Sasha Dovzhyk.
  • Telling stories about syphilis
    An exploration of syphilis as a disease whose symptoms and circumstances, across the centuries, made it peculiarly compelling and challenging to understand. 
  • Thinking (about) automata in Descartes, Shaftesbury, and Diderot
    From Descartes to Diderot, the automaton crystallised the problem of what was soul and what was body. Dr James Fowler discussed this Enlightenment crisis in how philosophers imagined non-human and human animals as 'bêtes-machines', clockwork and living statues.
  • Too much/not enough: neurodiversity and cultural production
    A screening and workshop with artist Kai Syng Tan, curator Alessandra Cianetti, and literary researcher Sophie Jones that explored the aesthetics of neurodiversity and discussed the place of invisible disabilities in the cultural industries.
  • Reading bad men
    Speakers Katherine Angel, Caspar Salmon and Jodie Kim discussed reading and teaching the works of so-called 'bad men' – literary and artistic figures whose behaviour has been shown to be discriminatory, misogynistic or illegal.
  • Digital Afterlives and Genealogy Industries
    A discussion which followed the screening of Data Mining the Deceased: Ancestry and the Business of Family (2016) which explored the popularity of genetic testing for ancestral heritage. 
  • Sickness and cure in Emile Zola’s Rougon-Macquart Novels
    Focusing on Emile Zola’s twenty-volume Rougon-Macquart cycle, this discussion traced the transformation from sickness to redemption from the first to the final book, in the context of Zola’s France in the late nineteenth-century.
  • Japanese Transnational Cinema Part 1
    This workshop challenged the old paradigm of National Cinema and highlighted the limitations of studying Japanese film as a cinematic phenomenon confined to its national borders.
  • Patrons and Lovers of Art
    Sarah Thomas (Birkbeck), Catherine Roach (VCU), and Susanna Avery-Quash (National Gallery) discussed Pieter Christoffel Wonder’s Patrons and Lovers of Art (1830) painting from different perspectives within the context of British cultural history.
  • Organic systems: science fiction and ecology today
    This event formed part of a short series of CHASE-supported events aimed primarily at supporting postgraduate research students and was followed by the London Science Fiction Research Community screening.
  • Architecture and dust: a discussion with Teresa Stoppani
    Teresa Stoppani (Architecture Association) discussed the idea of dust in relation to architecture, the body and the city. An Architecture, Space and Society Centre event with a response by Birkbeck’s Joel McKim.


  • 'Plantae Amozonicae: Art, Ethnobotany and Biocultural Artefacts' 
    What do art and botany tell us about the Amazon? Artist Lindsay Sekulowicz's latest exhibition is the culmination of a decade of work with botanists at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and a wider research team in the UK and Brazil who are examining the collections of 19th century botanist and explorer Richard Spruce. 
  • '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 paper peepshow and highlighted its role in expanding our understanding of nineteenth-century visual culture. 
  • 'Curating Sounds for Difficult Histories' 
    Focusing on the Holocaust, this event explored how soundscapes - music, noise, voices, speech and silence - 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. How do film, music composition, installation art and museum exhibitions tackle what is unspeakable?
  • '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. Hosted by Corkscrew: practice-based/led research at Birkbeck.
  • 'Marilyn Monroe: An Unlikely Feminist?' 
    Was Marilyn Monroe a feminist? Birkbeck alumna and freelance screenwriter Gabriella Apicella discussed the topic with Catherine Grant (Birkbeck) and Michelle Morgan author of The Girl: Marilyn Monroe, The Seven Year Itch and the Birth of an Unlikely Feminist. 
  • 'Landscape Storytelling: The Story of An "Enemy Alien" Set Designer' 
    Writer, dramaturg and translator Sophie Rashbrook discusses her new play exploring the life of British set designer Ralph Koltai, a refugee who arrived in the UK on the Kindertransport in 1939 and translated at the Nuremburg Trials.
  • 'Renegade: Austin Collings
    Mark E. Smith, who died in January this year at the age of sixty, 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 discusses the experience of ghost-writing Smith's memoir, Renegade.
  • 'Gaelic Hardship: Flann O'Brien's "The Poor Mouth"' 
    The Irish comic writer Flann O'Brien's third major work was An Béal Bocht (1941): a slim novel parodying peasant memoirs of the West of Ireland, published under the name Myles na gCopaleen. Forty-five years ago, Patrick C. Power produced what remains the only full English translation of this work.


  • 'The Jo Spence Archive and Memorial Library: A Workshop
    Jo Spence was a British photographer, writer and 'cultural sniper'. In this workshop on her archive, and 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.
  • 'Andy Smith: Dematerialising Theatre
    For the last fifteen years, both alone and in collaboration with Tim Crouch (An Oak Tree, Adler & 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 explores some of its origins.
  • 'Renaissance Lives from the Archives: Grime, Crime and a Pirate
    How can we reconstruct the lives of Renaissance people from the archives? 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 Poetics of Fragility: A Film by Nicolas Grandi and Lata Mani
    Panellists discuss The Poetics of Fragility - a film which uses story, poetry and performance to explore the question of human existence and its fragility. Is fragility a problem to be surmounted, or should we accept it as fundamental to our world and being?
  • 'Will 2017 be 1984? Rethinking Orwell's Dystopia
    1984 was conceived as a warning, not a prophecy. But are we now in Orwell's dystopia? Hear our panel of experts from Birkbeck's Departments of Politics and English & Humanities re-examine Orwell's novel and its meaning in the brave new world of 2017.
  • 'Speaking in Brogues
    Maria Aristodemou (Birkbeck), Mattia Gallotti (School of Advanced Study, University of London), and Rut Blees (UCL) Luxemburg (Royal College of Art) discuss the role language can play in a period of increasing tensions over immigration and Europe with Birkbeck's Marina Warner.
  • 'Mr A. Moves in Mysterious Ways: Artists from the Adamson Collection
    In association with the Bethlem Gallery, a panel discussed a new exhibition of works from the Adamson Collection on show 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.
  • 'Eyes, Hands, Hearts: Anatomy, Aesthetics, and the Organisation of Life in the Hunterian Museums
    This talk examines 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) assesses museum displays of preserved organs alongside manuscript catalogues and plans, plaster casts, chalk drawings, and engravings – visual resources which contributed to the emergence of comparative anatomy.
  • 'The Sublime Real: Painful Excitements in Eighteenth-Century Art and Criticism
    This talk on 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) investigates the many interpretations and transformations of real sympathy in cases as diverse as George Stubbs's paintings, William Hunter's anatomical lectures at the Royal Academy, Diderot's writings, De Loutherbourg's theatrical machines and Charles Bell's surgical drawings.
  • 'America in Crisis
    Hear two Birkbeck authors discuss 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).
  • 'Public Talk by John Beverley: A New Orientalism
    One of the legacies of postcolonial criticism is the proposition that modern literature itself was complicit in the processes of European colonization of the world, that literature and literary education are a "mask of conquest." This talk uses that insight to explore the representation of an Islamic or Arab subject in three texts from the first decade of the 21st century.
  • 'Bill Gaskill Symposium: Panel 1: Welcome to a Life in the Theatre
    Theatre artists, critics and scholars discuss Bill Gaskill's work.


  • 'Theatre Conversation: The Complete Deaths' 
    Listen to the show's director Tim Crouch (An Oak Tree, The Author, Adler & Gibb) and critic Andrew Dickson (New Yorker, New Statesman, Guardian) discuss the deaths incarnated in Shakespeare's plays and the show's distinctive approach to re-imagining them.
  • 'You Must Mutate: The Future of Fiction
    Toby Litt and Caroline Edwards (Birkbeck) discuss developments in contemporary fiction as it attempts to deal with an increasingly fast-paced technological world.
  • 'Brutalism: From New to Neo
    This talk from Professor Mark Crinson sifts through  a wealth of publications and exhibitions about Brutalism, and attempts to separate what they say about our present preoccupations from what they say about the past. What was Brutalism? Why does it still seem to separate us into either ardent advocates or angry critics? 
  • 'Max Porter: Grief is the Thing with Feathers
    Poetic and formally innovative, Grief marks the emergence of a radically original literary talent. Hear Max Porter discuss his critically acclaimed book with Birkbeck academic and novelist Mark Blacklock.
  • Local Government Sustaining the Arts: an Oxymoron for Heretics
    Local government in England invests more in the arts than the Arts Council. How is local government support for the arts changing? What will the future look like? Carole Stewart, Assistant Director of Arts Heritage and Libraries at London Borough of Ealing explores the changes and the ways in which councils are responding to the choices in funding and sustainability for the arts.


  • '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. Listen to Brian Dillon, Laura Mulvey, Marina Warner and Fiona Candlin discuss curiosity with regard to museums, art, myth, literature and film.
  • 'Adapting Diderot's 'Le Neveu de Rameau'/Rameau's Nephew
    This roundtable explores notions of edition, translation and adaptation (to new media, for new audiences). It focuses on one of Diderot's best known, and most enigmatic texts Le Neveu de Rameau. 
  • 'Found in Translation: The Man Booker International Prize
    Some of the 2015 Man Booker International Finalists, including Alain Mabanckou and Marlene van Niekerk discuss the impact of translation and read from their novels in English and the original. The Man Booker International Prize rewards an author for an achievement in fiction.
  • 'The Ex- of Experimental Cinema: The 1970s Films of Antoni Padrós
    This talk focuses on the politics of marginality in the 1970s work of Catalan experimental filmmaker Antoni Padrós. It seeks to draw parallels between formal experiment and political militancy in Padrós' two full-length features from this period, Lock Out (1973) and The Shirley Temple Story (1976).
  • 'Interpreting Shakespeare Through Performance
    This panel of university lecturers and school teachers investigates the dynamic relationship between page, stage and screen, and the implications for understanding Shakespeare inside and outside the classroom. 
  • 'Photographs of London
    A panel discussion between photographers and historians of the medium.
  • 'Globalisation and Contemporary Culture'
    This panel revisits and re-evaluates the idea of cultural globalization.
  • 'Popular Art and Portuguese Identity. Anatomy of an Exhibition
    In this talk the Museum's Director, Anthony Shelton, will discuss 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.
  • 'Historical Fictions
    The historical novel is a major presence in the contemporary literary landscape. Why should this genre possess such appeal? And how can we best define it?Speakers explore the fascination of historical fiction today.
  • 'Birkbeck Voices Part 1
    Featuring Dr Silke Arnold-de Simine on the matter of Ruins, Niki Zanti, who was one of the team behind the Visual Artists Today symposium and Dr Liane Strauss, who gave a special poetry reading ahead of the Moons, Magpies and London poetry event.
  • 'Birkbeck Voices Part 2
    Featuring Dr Jaqueline Riding, Birkbeck alumna and historical consultant about her work on Mike Leigh's highly acclaimed movie, Mr. Turner, reaction from participants at the Visual Artists Today Symposium and Dr Rosie Cox who spoke at the Gendering Austerity Symposium.
  • 'Environmental Futures'
    Listen to a recording of the panel discussion which 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.
  • 'Renaissance Ways of Seeing'
    Listen to a recording of renaissance specialists examining a fascinating selection of art works, theatre and poetry.
  • 'Talking Mr Turner'
    Listen to a podcast of the event focused on Mike Leigh's acclaimed recent film Mr Turner (2014), including a discussion and audience questions.
  • 'Developing a Career in the Arts
    Listen to a podcast of the event which included graduates from Birkbeck's School of Arts who shared and reflected upon their experiences of work in the creative industries.