Oh Canada

Term break is here! And what an eventful term it’s been.

I hope lots of you have had a chance to see the super-stimulating and beautifully installed ‘Cultural Sniping’ exhibition on the collaborative work of the photographer Jo Spence in the Peltz Gallery, which was curated by Patrizia Di Bello with Frances Hatherley and a group of MA students in the department. The opening party was a good one, with people who worked with and knew Jo Spence in attendance.

You can learn more about the show and the work of Jo Spence and her colleagues and ask your own questions at two upcoming roundtable events in the gallery (all welcome – no booking needed):

Thursday 19 April, 6-7:30

Cinderella: Women, Class and Fairy Tales in Jo Spence’s work, with Marina Warner and Frances Hatherley, chaired by Lynda Nead.

Thursday 26 April, 6-7:30

Collaborative Projects: Pleasures and Pains, with Rosy Martin, Carla Mitchell, Ego Ahaiwe Sowinski, and Jacob Bard-Rosenberg, chaired by Patrizia Di Bello

These are both organised by the History and Theory of Photography Research Centre, as is this soon to be held talk, in which my homeland gets some (rare it must be said) attention:

4 April 2018, 6:00-7:30

Keynes Library (room 114) Martha Langford (Gail and Stephen A. Jarislowsky Institute for Studies in Canadian Art, Concordia University in Montreal), Who Can Tell? Histories and Counter-Histories of Photography in Canada.

And now for kudos received by colleagues and students.

Our colleague Peter Fane-Saunders has been awarded the Phyllis Goodhart Gordan Prize by the Renaissance Society of America. This prize – one of the most coveted in the entire field of Renaissance art, literature, history, etc, etc –  is awarded annually for the best book in Renaissance studies. Peter’s book is entitled Pliny the Elder and the Emergence of Renaissance Architecture (Cambridge University Press, 2016).

Katherine Turley (MA Medieval Literature and Culture), submitted her essay  ‘The face of the one who is making for Jerusalem’:  the Angel Choir of Lincoln Cathedral and Joy, written for her Gothic in England MA Option (tutor Zoe Opacic) for the Reginald Taylor and Lord Fletcher Essay Prize and was chosen as the winner. The Reginald Taylor Essay Prize, awarded by the British Archaeological Association since 1934, is given for the best unpublished essay submitted on any subject of art-historical, archaeological or antiquarian interest within the period from the Roman era to 1830. As the winner Katherine has received £500 and a medal and will deliver her paper to the British Archaeological Association at the hallowed premises of the Society of Antiquaries at a future date. The paper will also be published this year in the Journal of the British Archaeological Association. This was not only a great achievement for Katherine but also a double win for Birkbeck:  the runner up was Netta Clavner, PhD student at our department only  in the first year of her study. Her essay Arma AngliaeThe Heraldic Glass in the Great East Window of Gloucester Cathedral received high praise by the RTLF committee and was also deemed worthy of publication.

Congratulations to all three of them!

I myself am writing to you from Canada, where I’m spending a week as a visiting scholar in the Faculty of Arts at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. I have a long-standing interest in the architecture of carceral institutions, so Kingston is a fascinating place for me as the home of an early nineteenth-century model penitentiary and a ‘lunatic asylum’ (as they were called) from the late 1850s. I’ll be visiting these sites and their archives with colleagues from Queen’s, touring with some medical students around the main university hospital (while thinking about power and space), and giving a public lecture entitled ‘When Room Becomes Cell: Solitude and Isolation in Nineteenth-Century Asylum Spaces’.

Hope everyone has a good break, and we’ll see you next term!

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Cultural Sniping

What a term – strikes and snowstorms! Time for all of us to reflect perhaps on forces bigger even than the Department of History of Art. (As you’ll know, today – Friday 9 March – is not a strike day, but the strike continues next week Monday- Friday 12-16 March. More on the strike here, and please watch your email inboxes for updates.)

Meanwhile, in the interstices, our 50th anniversary events continue – fittingly celebrating a vision of the university as a place open to the world and engaged in its struggles. THIS EVENING, our Anniversary Exhibition opens in the Peltz Gallery with a reception at 6pm. ‘Cultural Sniping: Photographic Collaborations in the Jo Spence Memorial Library Archive‘ showcases important materials from the archive (housed in the School of Arts) of the late Jo Spence, British photographer, writer, and self-described ‘cultural sniper’. It traces links and collaborations in activist art, radical publications, community photography and phototherapy from the 1970s and 1980s. Consistent with Spence’s ethos of radical pedagogy, the exhibition focuses on her collaborative working methods. It opens up the archive, displaying books, magazines, journals, collages, photographs, posters, pamphlets, notes, letters and props, to provide insights into Spence’s practices and the culture, politics and activism informing them. This has all come about as a unique collaboration between staff and students, involving Birkbeck History of Art lecturer, Patrizia Di Bello, Associate Research Fellow Frances Hatherly, and a group of History of Art and History of Art with Photography students. It’s on until 28 April so please take a look. (In case you’ve yet to discover it, the Peltz Gallery is in Gordon Square next to the reception area.)

I just snuck in to see how the installation was going, and it looks amazing… Here are the curators in action, eyeballing posters to see if they’re straight.

On Saturday 24 February two of the ‘Forward Looking’ anniversary workshops took place in the cinema, each focused on a distinct aspect of museums and museology. In the morning we heard various positions on ‘Making a Difference: Do Museums Matter in a Changing World?’, organised by Annie Coombes and Gabriel Koureas, while the afternoon, organised by Fiona Candlin, was devoted to ‘Museums Futures in a Time of Austerity’. Both workshops were a compelling mix of academic research and voices from professional practice, and concluded in lively discussions involving the speakers and audience. The day also marked an exciting new development for us: the launch of the department’s newest research centre, the Centre for Museum Cultures  – more on that soon…


The beginning of the UCU strike on 22-23 February meant that the anniversary lecture by V&A director Tristram Hunt and the ‘Future of Studying Old Art’ and the ‘Futures for Publishing in Art History’ workshops were postponed – readers of this blog will be the first to know the rescheduled dates.

Next month own Lynda Nead is giving a major public lecture, ‘Greyscale and Colour: The Hues of Nation and Empire in Post-War Britain’ at the V&A on Monday 9 April 2018 at 7pm – special rates for students.

And here’s a message from the Birkbeck History of Art Society about a great opportunity coming up next week:

Birkbeck History of Art Society has an opportunity to take you to a FREE tour to the Painted Hall ceiling in Old Royal Naval College (Greenwich) next Tuesday (13th of March) at 1 pm.The usual cost of the tickets is 11 pounds, so don’t miss out!

This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to see James Thornhill’s  masterpiece up close, thanks to the conservation project currently in place.

Please note that that the ceiling is 18 high and you will be using steps, so comfortable shoes are a must. Additionally, let us know if you require wheelchair access.

Due to the specifics of the structure we only take a group of 20 people to see the ceiling. Book your place by writing to us at hoartsociety@gmail.com. Places are on first come, first serve basis. See you there!

Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/historyofartbbk/

You can find more about the Painted Hall project here: https://www.ornc.org/painted-hall-project

Kind regards,

Mary, Carina, Ernestina and Tammy

Bye for now!


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