Wishing you all a great summer vacation!

It’s the final day of the summer term – and I write this just ahead of our BA exam board, this afternoon, and our History of Art summer party this evening! (Friday 1st July, 6-8pm, room G01 in Gordon Square). I look forward to seeing members of staff and students, to raise a glass to the end of the academic year – and, hopefully, to put political turmoil out of our minds for an hour or two. I do want to take this opportunity, though, to draw your attention to the statements put out by the College, following information about the position of EU students issued by the government at the start of the week – http://www.bbk.ac.uk/news/birkbeck-and-the-eu. At Birkbeck, we are very proud indeed of the diversity of our staff and students, and are firmly committed to welcoming and supporting colleagues and students from across the EU, as well as beyond. The Referendum result will have no immediate impact on the immigration status of any applicant, student, or member of staff. Birkbeck also will not be changing the published 2016/17 tuition fees for EU students. EU students who are registered at Birkbeck in 2016/17 (either as a new or continuing student) will be charged the home student fee for the duration of their course. Furthermore, if you are an EU student on one of our courses, you will continue to receive any loans and grants you have been awarded, until you have completed your programme of study. If you do have any questions about how the result will affect you, then please do contact the Student Advice centre.

At least the summer awaits us, and I hope you all have the opportunity to have a good rest from your studies – as well as to get ahead with dissertations and research projects, and preparation for the modules you’ll be taking next year. I normally pack these blog postings with news of events being organised within the department and School – these are winding up now, although I hope you’ve either had a chance to see, or are planning to see the great exhibition now on in the Peltz? Tejas Verdes: I was not there is a collaborative project, bringing together sociologist Margarita Palacios’s research on violence, and visual artist Livia Marin’s work around loss and care, and it’s on until 15th July.

Tejas Verdes: I was not there

I shall, however, take the opportunity of the quiet of the coming break to tell you a little about what one of our PhD students has been up to recently. Jane Quinn is undertaking a practice-based PhD, entitled Shared Spaces: War Art and the Imagery of Conflict since 1991 – and she has recently been awarded an ArtLess Bursary, by the School of Arts here at Birkbeck, to support her work. Congratulations Jane! The ArtLess Group was established in 2014 to develop creative, entrepreneurial and project possibilities for PhD students across the Arts. It secured AHRC funding for the Arts of Experiment Project, to translate research into potential exhibitions for the art market in partnership with Bury Museum of Art in Manchester. I shall hand you over to Jane, to tell you more about her work, and the bursary….

Jane Quinn, The ArtLess Bursary and Images of Conflict

“I am researching a practice-based PhD on war art and the imagery of conflict since 1991, which combines a written element and a website. Understanding the effect of the images on the audience is an important aspect of the research, and I am building a site which will include the opinions of users who might not be regular museum or gallery visitors, alongside the views of artists and curators. There will be video, audio, stills and text, together with interactive feedback. Aware of the danger of spreading myself too thinly across the different media elements of my research, I have been looking for funding for a web editor to help edit and load the content.

The ArtLess Bursary scheme seemed to fit with the public engagement element of my work. As a way of gathering audience views, my Images of Conflict ArtLess project involves working with sixth form students in the art and photography department at Corelli College in Kidbrooke, Greenwich. Corelli College is a tough school, an Academy, with students from a wide variety of social backgrounds. With the Headteacher’s agreement, I’m collaborating with one of the art teachers there, Alex Davies, to identify a group of 16-18 year olds, show them a range of images of conflict, and ask them to speak about what they see and understand. I’ll then give them more background information about the images, and see how their response to them changes. These interviews will be filmed and loaded onto the Images of Conflict site. The bursary will enable me to get a web editor to edit and post the film alongside text as the basis for an ongoing online discussion amongst an invited audience. If anyone would like to become part of the conversation, starting in late summer, please let me know: Jane@spinningdogs.org.

Because of the ArtLess bursary, I will be able to move the video and audio content off my camera and computer and onto the site in an accessible, edited form. The bursary will help develop a public engagement model which I can roll out as part of my research to other audiences. Thank you ArtLess!”

I also can’t resist squeezing in a small anecdote from one of my own PhD students, Hannah Armstrong, which I particularly enjoyed the other week. Hannah is coming up to the end of a PhD on Wanstead – a major eighteenth-century house, once on a par with Chatsworth or Houghton, but razed to the ground in the early 1800s, and now effectively a hole on an east London golf course. Hannah has been painstakingly using a wide variety of sources to reconstruct this property, its furnishings and art collection, and its grounds, and has been finding all manner of fascinating material. Having located a manuscript of eighteenth-century music, written for Wanstead House by one Samuel Poole, she tweeted about the discovery – and someone, out there, had played, recorded and posted the piece online within a matter of days! To imagine yourself, for a moment, at an eighteenth-century assembly in a Palladian mansion, click on this link.

That’s nearly it from me for 2016-17 – but I want to end this final blog by reiterating the news of the exciting, momentous development in the History of Art department at Birkbeck this year: the appointment of not one, but two new Professors! A truly transformative moment. Do have a look at our news story for full details. Today, Friday 1st July, Professor Mark Crinson takes up his post as Professor in the History and Theory of Architecture, joining my colleagues Dr. Leslie Topp, Dr. Tag Gronberg and Dr. Zoe Opacic in the Architecture, Space and Society Research Centre, to consolidate this as one of the department’s great strengths in research and teaching.

Professor Mark CrinsonMark will be taking up a one-year Leverhulme/British Academy senior fellowship in September, to work on a project called ‘Shock City: Image and Architecture in Industrial Manchester’, but I am delighted to announce that his duties next academic year will be covered by Dr. Peter Fane-Saunders, coming to us from the University of Durham. Our other new Chair is Steve Edwards, who will be joining us as Professor in the History and Theory of Photography in the Autumn. Together with Dr. Patrizia di Bello, and other colleagues in the History and Theory of Photography Research Centre, this will secure our place in this area of research and teaching excellence also.

A warm welcome to our new colleagues, and we look forward to introducing them to our students.

Wishing you all great summers – I shall be blogging again in the Autumn!

Kate Retford, Head of History of Art