Visual Culture Studies in Europe

Scientific Research Project
Director: Marquard Smith
Kingston University, London, UK

The Center for Visual Studies has been invited to participate in a scientific research project entitled Visual Culture Studies in Europe. This is the first systematic initiative set out to define the status and reach of visual studies on the Old Continent and join the most modern forms of research of visual phenomena today. This call was prompted, on the one hand, by the unimagined development of mediatized visual expressions and the ever stronger domination of the American school of visual studies, and, on the other hand, by the Center’s present and past projects which prove it to be an able collaborator.

The project initiator is Marquard Smith of London’s Kingston University, Editor-in-Chief of the influential Journal of Visual Culture and author of numerous books, among which a recent collection of interviews on the topic of visual culture and visual studies led with leading figures of the field, such as W.J.T. Mitchell, Martin Jay, Mieke Bal, Hal Foster, Nicholas Mirzoeff, Lisa Cartwright and others (Visual Culture Studies – Interviews with Key Thinkers). As research institution in the field of visual media, the Center for Visual Studies has been invited to contribute specific insights into the current state and the possibilities of development of this relatively young discipline, insufficiently known in the Southeast European region as well as in the integration processes in scholarly fields of the entire European continent.

In his initial call, Marquard Smith briefly defined the objectives of this pan-European research porject.

The project will create a collaborative network composed of established and rising scholars across a dozen or so European universities, colleges, and centres with a commitment to Visual Culture Studies in Europe, and the study of visual culture. (I am well aware of the importance of many of the individual and collaborative projects you have all driven in the past, hence this invitation.)

The plan is for us to get together in order to:

  • track the ongoing emergence of Visual Culture Studies in Europe across the Arts and Humanities
  • explore the ways in which these diverse trajectories in the emergence of the study of visual culture are historically and theoretically distinctive because of the unique characteristics of a specific country, location, language, peoples, their histories of migration, governmental policies, contexts within the university, and so on.
  • interrogate some of the hazards of this distinctiveness – around, for instance, the hegemony of the Anglo-American, questions of publishing and dissemination, etc.
  • discuss how the advent of Visual Culture Studies, with its new ways of seeing, knowing, understanding, and participating might (1) extend our studies beyond the university (2) generate particular kinds of cultural practices, and (3) be responding to activities – from art and curating to policy making and industry initiatives.
  • inquire into the economic imperatives (university initiatives, increases in student numbers, government policy, etc.) that are playing a part in its growth.

The outcomes from this project I’m anticipating provisionally are:

  • a workshop to consider these matters informally
  • a stream at the large Visual Culture Studies conference I’m co-organising in London towards the end of 2009 (co hosted with New York University at Stony Brook, and University of the Arts London)
  • an edited publication composed of select proceeds from the previous event.

List of Proposed Participants
Professor Mieke Bal, Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis, University of Amsterdam
Professor Elisabeth Bronfen, University of Zurich
Joachin Barriendos, Centre d’Art Santa Monica and University of Barcelona
José Luis Brea, Editor of “Estudios Visuales” and Professor at the Universidad Carlos III, Madrid
Professor Iain Chambers, Universita degli Studi di Napoli, Italy
Professor Oliver Grau, Department of Image Science, Danube University Krems, Austria
Professor Anna Maria Guasch, Art History and Art Criticism, University of Barcelona
Dr Nina Lager, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway
Dr Joanne Morra, Founder and Principal Editor of “Journal of Visual Culture”, Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, University of the Arts London
Dr Almira Ousmanova, Laboratory of Visual and Cultural Studies, European Humanities University, Belarus/Lithuania
Krešimir Purgar, researcher at the Centre for Visual Studies, Zagreb
Dr Vivian Rehberg, Founder and Editor of “Journal of Visual Culture”, Department of Liberal Arts, Parsons Paris, France
Dr Marquard Smith, Founder and Editor-in-Chief, “Journal of Visual Culture”, Visual and Material Culture Research Centre, Kingston University, London
Dr Oyvind Vagnes, Centre for Visual Studies, University of Bergen