The Birkbeck Hours, biopolitics, and Bolivia

I want to open this blog with a big thank you to the three alumni who took time out of their demanding schedules to come back to the History of Art department at Birkbeck, and to give talks to students about their careers – about what they do, and how they have developed their careers in the Arts: Sonia Solicari, Alice Payne and Jacqueline Riding. I was able to go along to the last in the series, and hear Jackie Riding, freelance art historian, author, and historical consultant, speaking about her diverse career: from curatorial work at the Palace of Westminster and her position as founding Director of the Handel House Museum – through her experience of the Clore Leadership Programme – to the recent publication of her book on the Jacobites, her curatorial work at Wilton’s Music Hall (the oldest surviving Music Hall in the world, in Whitechapel) and her work as historical consultant on Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner film. I thought I had a busy professional life, but, as Jackie laid out her current projects, I wanted to go and have a lie down! Highlights include: involvement in the restoration of J.M.W. Turner’s house in Twickenham, opening soon – consultancy work on Mike Leigh’s forthcoming film about the Peterloo Masacre of 1819 – and curating an exhibition at the Foundling Museum, which opens on 29th September this year: ‘Basic Instincts: Love, Lust and Violence in the Art of Joseph Highmore’.

Work continues apace on the other elements of our Careers and Employability programme. I look forward to announcing work shadowing opportunities in the summer term in due course, and the next of our workshops is coming up on 15th March: CVs for Arts (4-5pm, room 106, Gordon Square). Do sign up for your free place if you haven’t already!

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A couple of news items before I whet your appetites with the wide range of events coming up over the next couple of weeks. Just before Christmas, I included the exciting fact that the School of Arts building was to be used as a film set in this blog – and the tantalising detail that this would involve an actor being thrown through Gabriel Koureas’s window! We were all sworn to secrecy about the precise nature of the filming – but I can now formally reveal that 42-47 Gordon Square will be seen playing the part of Baker Street in the upcoming Sony film, ‘Holmes and Watson’ – a comedic take featuring Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly.

The other piece of news is that the Derek Jarman Lab have made a short film about the rediscovery of four medieval books in Birkbeck’s library by Professor Anthony Bale in the English and Humanities department. Anthony brought these to light when teaching a class on ‘Medieval Material Texts’ on the MA Medieval Literature and Culture – three of them had never been catalogued, and did not seem to have been viewed since about 1991! They include a book of hours from northern France, dated c.1400, and a history of the Trojan War, printed in Venice in 1499, Dictys Cretensis & Dares Phrygius. Do take a look at the film about this exciting find – it’s fascinating!

Birkbeck Hours; Pentecost (fol. 105r)Birkbeck hours; King David at Prayer (fol. 85r)

from the Birkbeck Hours

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So, onto upcoming events. The Architecture, Space and Society Centre is as busy as ever! The next annual ‘Thinkers in Architecture’ lecture will be held on Monday 20th March (6pm, Keynes Library). Professor Peg Rawes, from the Bartlett School of Architecture at UCL, will be talking about ‘Housing Biopolitics and Care’, engaging with Spinoza’s seventeenth-century philosophy and Foucault’s writings on technologies of the self within a biopolitical discussion of the UK housing crisis.

Figure2_HofvanWouwCourtyard_2015

It’s also well worth heading to the ASSC’s website, to read Leslie Topp’s write-up of the most recent event in the ‘New Books’ series, held to mark the publication of a collected volume entitled Healing Spaces, Modern Architecture and the Body (Routledge, 2016).

Meanwhile, the next Murray seminar is coming up next week, on Wednesday 15th March: Péter Bokody, speaking on ‘The Politicization of Rape: Giotto’s Allegory of Injustice in Padua’. Dr. Bokody, from the University of Plymouth, will be looking at the allegory of Injustice in the Arena Chapel in Padua, by Giotto di Bondone, and the allegory of War in the Palazzo Pubblico in Siena, by Ambrogio Lorenzetti (1338-39), as key allegorical images of rape. These two monuments are well-known amongst scholars, but they have not, to date, been fully explored as representations of sexual violence – Dr. Bokody’s focus in this paper.

In my blog, I concentrate on events organised by my colleagues in the History of Art department, but it’s always worth keeping an eye on what’s going on in the School of Arts more broadly. Colleagues in Film have been working hard on this year’s Essay Film Festival, which runs from 24th March until 1st April. They’ve got some great filmakers coming to Birkbeck to show and share their work, including Babette Mangolte and Jocelyne Saab. Screenings will be taking place at the ICA, the Birkbeck Cinema, and the Goethe-Institute, and some events are free. As well as going to the website, you can also follow what’s happening on Twitter and/or Facebook.

Finally, as you’ve been negotiating your way around our currently non-functional front door (at least the attendants on the front desk are warmer than usual!), you may have spotted that there’s a new exhibition on in the Peltz Gallery, here in the School of Arts: ‘Decolonising Witchcraft: Portraits of Traditional Healers in Bolivia‘.

Bolivian pic.jpg

This display is a collaboration between the photographer  David Green, and the geographer, Dr. Kate Maclean, who has worked in Bolivia since 2006. It portrays the women whose livelihoods involve the traditional rituals, artefacts and medicines that play a central role in culture and health in Bolivia. The portraits are accompanied by quotes from the women themselves, discussing how they came to this profession and their role in the community. The exhibition opened on Friday, with a panel discussion, and will run until 25th March, so do drop in when you’ve some time on your way in or out of the building. The closing event, on 22nd March, will also be of great interest to everyone interested in the history and theory of photography. Join David Green, our own Patrizia di Bello and others for ‘Photographing the Rituals of Healing and Dying in Latin America‘, to consider some of the visual and ethical challenges of documentary photography.