Women, Art, Visibility – The Workshop

Women, Art, Visibility is an exhibition run by current MVAC students at Durham University, opening on the 11th June 4.30-7pm, in the Ustinov Room, Van Mildert College, and a workshop on the 12th of June around the exhibition will take place the following day. If you would like to come to our workshop, please register at this Eventbrite link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/women-art-visibility-workshop-tickets-46576692140

Women, Art, Visibility will present women taking control of their own representation with key works from Durham University’s Collection, alongside art by Durham students. In our workshop, we aim to induce discussion on how women can be represented in the University’s art collection in the future, as well as wider issues around visibility and inclusion. Events will include presentations by four Durham CVAC PhD candidates on their research, and a special talk and taster workshop by the Nasty Women North East group will conclude. There will be coffee and tea to start and a light lunch provided around 12.30pm. 



Director of Middlesborough Institute of Modern Art – Laura Sillars

The Centre for Visual Arts and Culture offers its warmest congratulations to Laura Sillars, who has been appointed Director of Middlesborough Institute of Modern Art. Laura is a student on the Leverhulme Doctoral Programme in Visual Culture and will be completing her doctorate while undertaking her new post, which she will take up on July 2nd.

Follow these links for more information:




Portraiture Conference Programme

Friday 13th July to Sunday 15th July 2018.  Business School, Durham University.

The study of portraiture is beginning to come into its own now that old assumptions about the low status of the genre have been challenged and contextualised. The ubiquity and diversity of portraits means that they can be used as evidence to address a wide range of questions, while the very idea ‘portrait’ is immensely rich. The conference is designed to open up fresh perspectives on a potent form of visual culture that is of continuing importance yet unevenly distributed in time and place.

The programme is avaliable here.

Booking for this conference is now avaliable here.

Bodies Re-formed: Materiality, Transformation and the Performative

3rd November 2018, 09:00 to 18:00, Lindisfarne Centre, St. Aiden’s College, Durham University.

The body, along with its visual representations, has been a central communicative vessel throughout history. The fluidity of bodily movement allows for instant transformative changes from one pose to the next, which can be interpreted according to a specific set of meanings. This highly constructed performance articulates cultural understandings of the Self and society at large.

The interaction of the body with clothing or other materials complicates the dynamic visual language of physical movement. Entwined in careful choreography, the two elements merge into a third entity. Separately, the body and its materials invoke certain associations, but together the two combine to form a distinct set of meanings. Devoid of familiar postures and orientations, the body’s new movements and dimensionality are suggestive of something beyond the mundane. This interaction is crucial to the creation of a performative act, a representation that is dependent on the relationship between both components.

A Call for Papers for this conference is avaliable here.

Call for Papers: Visual Intersections 3

The Centre for Visual Arts and Culture, Durham University and Leverhulme Durham Doctoral Training Programme in Visual Culture invites scholars and early career researchers to submit their papers for Visual Intersections 3

11-13 of July 2018 in Durham, United Kingdom

The Centre for Visual Arts and Culture presents the third in a series of Summer Schools which brings scholars together to explore the interdisciplinary nature of visual culture and exchange current ideas and approaches in the field.

We welcome proposals from researchers working in a wide range of disciplines, including art, history, anthropology, philosophy, archaeology, sociology, management, business, economy, computer science, chemistry, physics, and psychology, among others.


We invite proposals for short contributions (maximum of 20 minutes in the form of presentations, demonstrations, participatory engagements or other presentation styles) on any aspect of visual culture pertaining to the following:

  • Constructions of Knowledge, Identity and Memories
  • The Sacred and the Profane
  • Politics of Visual Culture
  • Materiality of Vision
  • Landscapes and Experiences
  • Visual Methodologies and Interdisciplinarity
  • Critical Approaches to Visual Evidence

The summer school provides an open and welcoming intellectual space in which postgraduate and early career researchers can explore current issues in visual culture. Invited speakers include Professor Michael Crang (Durham University); Dr. Mark Westgarth (Director of the Centre for the Study of the Art and Antiques Market, University of Leeds) and Neil Taylor (TAP Architects, Edinburgh). Presentations will be complemented by workshops aimed at enhancing visual research methodology skills. The event will also include tours of Durham architecture, Durham Castle, Ushaw College and a drinks reception at the Oriental Museum.


Application process

The closing date for proposals is 28.02.2018. Please submit an abstract of no more than 250 words, including 5 keywords, and a one-page CV. Submissions and queries should be directed to visualintersections@gmail.com. Applicants will be notified of the outcome of their submission within two weeks of the closing date.


For more information on the Centre for Visual Arts and Culture, please refer to our website https://www.dur.ac.uk/cvac



Call for Papers: Portraiture: an Interdisciplinary Conference

Durham University July 13th-15th 2018

Hosted by the Centre for Visual Arts and Culture

Keynote speakers: Professor Elizabeth Cowling and Professor Viccy Coltman

Conference outline

The study of portraiture is beginning to come into its own now that old assumptions about the low status of the genre have been challenged and contextualised. The ubiquity and diversity of portraits means that they can be used as evidence to address a wide range of questions, while the very idea ‘portrait’ is immensely rich.  The conference is designed to open up fresh perspectives on a potent form of visual culture that is of continuing importance yet unevenly distributed in time and place.

We invite contributions of short papers for the conference. Please send an abstract – maximum 250 words – together with a one page CV by March 1st 2018 to cvac@durham.ac.uk and include ‘portraiture conference’ in the subject line.  Proposals may deal with any period and location.  Papers are especially welcome that explore the interdisciplinary potential of studying portraiture and that address the following themes:

The ways portraits create, sustain and comment on occupational identity

Portraits and/in institutions

‘Portrait’ as an idea and its metaphorical dimensions

Portraits where the face is not present

Portraiture in the North East of the UK

Comparative approaches to portraiture, which might focus on place, time, occupation, race, social status and/or gender, for example.


Please note presenters of short papers will need to cover their own costs, which will be kept as low as possible. There will be no conference fee for speakers.

This conference follows the summer school Visual Intersections 3 (July 11th-13th).  Early career researchers are especially welcome at both events.


Ethical issues in using visual methods in participatory research

In November 2017, the Centre for Social Justice and Community Action and the Centre for Visual Arts and Culture, Durham University, UK held a workshop on Visual Methods on Participatory Research: ethical and practical issues on working with refugees and other groups. The workshop proved very popular,  attended by representatives from community organisations, national charities, local government, museums and postgraduates and academics from universities. Keynote speakers were Caroline Lenette (University of New South Wales, Australia)  and Caitlin Nunn (Durham University, UK) with a team of Syrian young people and an artist, who discussed ethical issues, including tensions arising with institutional ethical processes when using visual methods and challenges when using film and photographs. A choice of workshops covering different visual methods included performing family stories, digital storytelling with refugee women, the walking interview biographical method (WIBM), participatory video with young migrants and refugees and participatory drawing.

Report of workshop available here: www.dur.ac.uk/resources/socialjustice/VisualMethodsinParticipatoryResearchReport.pdf


Visual Culture of the Classical World at Durham

CVAC awarded £470 toward the running of the second research conversation day on 23 June 2017, this year entitled ‘Visual Culture of the Classical World at Durham’.


The day-long workshop, also supported by the Department of Archaeology and the Centre for Classical Reception at Durham, took place at St. Mary’s College. It was attended by 45 people including the speakers, and the audience included undergraduates, graduate students, alumni and staff, including a number from the library services.  Twelve scholars from four departments of Durham (see programme, below) presented short talks on their research, with the aim of enhancing awareness of each other’s work and comparing approaches to various kinds of visual culture.  The funding was spent on catering costs, covering a coffees and teas and lunch for all attendees.


The last day of the academic year, the day was a busy one for many, and a date earlier or just outside of term might suit the next research conversation day, if the event is to become a regular one in the calendar of CVAC. The day was well-received, especially by undergraduates who commented to the organiser on their enjoyment.  The event was certainly successful in its aims of increasing awareness of the work of scholars on themes pertaining to the Classical world and fostering greater cooperation between departments, although that sort of impact is soft and slow, requiring more events of this nature.  Additionally, the event created an opportunity to advertise CVAC to people inside and outside the university.  The organisation of the papers was roughly chronological, leading from studies of the visual culture of the ancient world to the reception of Classical visual culture and the visual culture of Classical reception in the modern era.  A final discussion touched on a gap: reception in the present day, in digital media (films and gaming, for example).


Programme of speakers

  • Catherine Draycott (Archaeology): Art and landscapes of empire in Achaemenid Anatolia
  • Eris Williams Reed (Classics and Ancient History): The environment as visual culture: examples from the Roman Near East


    1. Peter Heslin (Classics and Ancient History) – Public and private art in the Roman World
  • Anna Leone (Archaeology): Statues and urban decorum in late antique North Africa
  • Rebecca Usherwood (Classics and Ancient History): Scratching the surface


    1. Dame Rosemary Cramp (Archaeology): A late Roman or Medieval relief?
  • Edmund Thomas (Classics and Ancient History) – Rethinking the “Baroque”, ancient and modern
  • Marc Schachter (MLAC) – The illustrated Ass: Apuleius’ Metamorphoses from manuscript to print


    1. Stefano Cracolici (MLAC) – Aeneid 1819: a landscape avant-garde
    2. Tom Stammers (History) – Augustus and Cinna in the Bowes Museum: painting, politics and theatre at the fall of Napoleon
    3. Seren Nolan (Classics and Ancient History) – The Roman matrona in eighteenth-century visual culture
  • Richard Hingley (Archaeology): Building Roman Britain; urbanism, militarism, industry and barbarity in Victorian imagery


CM Draycott

October 2017

The Centre for Visual Arts and Culture Celebrated Refugee Week 2017 with a public screening of award-winning documentary ‘They Will Have To Kill Us First’ at The Gala Cinema on Wednesday 21st June, followed by panel discussion.

To celebrate Refugee Week 2017, an annual nationwide celebration of the contribution of refugees to the UK, The Centre for Visual Arts and Culture hosted a public screening of award-winning documentary ‘They Will Have To Kill Us First’ by director Johanna Schwartz at the Gala cinema in Durham.

The screening was followed by a panel discussion led by CVAC doctoral student Nelli Stavropoulou and discussants Dr Elisabeth Kirtsoglou (Durham University, Anthropology Department) and Dr Francisco-J. Hernández Adrián (Durham University, School of Modern Languages & Cultures).

The documentary explores the occupation of most of the north Mali by Islamic extremist groups in 2012 and their subsequent banning of all forms of music; radio stations were destroyed, instruments burned and Mali’s musicians faced persecution, torture, even death.

Overnight, Mali’s musicians were forced into exile, where a large percentage remains until this day. However, music is “the beating heart of Malian culture”, a form of self-expression and communication, which following the music bans becomes an act of resistance and collective solidarity.

The film’s narrative landscape follows the paths of four key characters who have fled in search of safety. Through a rigorous, visually enticing montage we witness their journeys and new lives across refugee camps, bombarded cities leading into the first public concert in Timbuktu since the music ban- an act of resistance and a space for celebration. The film’s commissioned soundtrack from some of Mali’s most daring artists, accompanied their stories and hopes for the future.

According to the film’s director, ‘They Will Have To Kill Us First’ aims to offer an insight into the current situation in Mali as portrayed through personal testimonials: “I am so proud to bring these musician’s stories to the world. They’ve been through hell and survived to sing about it. Though the conflict in Mali is still far from over, with extremist attacks continuing in the north and south to this day, I have no doubt that these musicians will continue to stand up and fight for their right to sing.”

Production still of Director, Joanna Schwartz

The post-screening discussion engaged the audience in insightful provocations by both discussants who reflected on the visual language of the film, the tensions between documentary storytelling and visual aesthetics, as well as addressed the methodological challenges of visually representing experiences of forced displacement in relation to ethics of storytelling.

This screening was part of CVAC’s annual events programme including conferences, public talks and exhibitions among other, that explores and engages with different elements of visual culture.

For future events organized by the Centre for Visual Arts and Culture please visit the centre’s website: https://www.dur.ac.uk/cvac/events/eventslisting/

Nelli Stavropoulou, July 2017

An Interdisciplinary Workshop on ‘Violence and Knowledge of the Senses’ in engagement with The Spectral Wound

ON 6th of December 2016, an interdisciplinary cohort of colleagues from different universities: Durham [Nayanika Mookherjee, Elisabeth Kirtsoglou, Paolo Fortis, Alex Flynn, Bob Simpson, Bob Layton, Michael Carrithers, Ben Hildred, Anthony Rizk, Felix Ringel (All from Anthropology), Divya Tolia-Kelly (Geography)], Newcastle (Anselma Gallinat, Political Science), Lancaster (Brian Black, Religious Studies), University College London (Prof. Christopher Pinney – an eminent visual anthropologist https://www.ucl.ac.uk/anthropology/people/academic-teaching-staff/christopher-pinney)and Johns Hopkins University (Prof. Veena Das – known by all for her work on Anthropology of violence http://anthropology.jhu.edu/directory/veena-das/)) came together for this workshop on Violence and Knowledge of the Senses in engagement with The Spectral Wound. Prof. Veena Das was part of Anthropology’s 70/50 Anniverssary celebrations at Durham.

Other colleagues who were interested n the workshop but could not participate due to prior commitments: Admir Jugo, Claudia Merli, Steve Lyon, Tom Widger (Anthropology), Ernesto Schwartz-Sydney Calkin (Geography), Geoffrey Scarre (Philosophy), Clare McGlynn (Law), Nicole Westmarland, (CRIVA/ASS), Justin Willis, Chery Leonardi (History), Jutta Bakonyi (SGIA), Abir Hamdar (Arabic studies) and Jennifer Terry (English).

In The Spectral Wound (Mookherjee 2015), the photographer Naibuddin Ahmed’s famous ‘that hair photograph’ of the birangona (meaning brave women, a term ascribed by the newly formed Bangladeshi government in 1971 to women who had been raped during the Bangladesh war of 1971) brings to the forth how violent events like wartime sexual violence is sensed beyond an interior and exterior experience. Felt as a bhoyonkor (horrific) sublime figure, the birangona in this photograph stands in as a ruptured being who can be subconsciously internalised and imagined as one marked only by the horror of the violence of rape. It is this inherent relationship between an event of violence and the knowledge of what the senses make of this violent encounter which informed this interdisciplinary workshop. Two keynotes were given by Profs Christopher Pinney (UCL) and Prof. Veena Das (Johns Hopkins University) along these lines. I also wanted to include and was in touch with the Durham Sexual Violence Group in this workshop. They were not available in the end due to maternity leaves.

This interdisciplinary workshop explored the inherent relationship between an event of violence and the knowledge of what the senses make of this violent encounter. Instead of understanding violence on its own and only as a physical manifestation, the workshop seeks to ask what is violence and what constitutes it? Is it determined by the knowledge of the senses or can it exist beyond the senses? By senses we refer to visual, embodied, sensual, fragmented, experiential non-literary ways of ‘knowing’ violence. What is the role of mediation, circulation, encoding in this understanding of violence and the senses? How is the nation imbricated between the violence and the knowledge of its senses? What is the significance of historical political-economic contextualizations, power and powerlessness, hierarchies and exclusions in these instances of making sense of violence? Overall the workshop sought to suggest new ways of interrogating violence through the knowledge of its senses by showcasing the ethnography of Spectral Wound in conversation with interdisciplinary scholarship present in Durham across departments.

Prof. Pinney in his keynote discussed Ariella Azoulay and brought to light the relationship between vision and flawed citizenship by discussing Palestinian photographs. Prof. Michael Carrithers sought to address resonance and presence through the Jewish Museum in Berlin. Dr Divya Tolia Kelly identified the disruptive character of performance art and made the powerful argument how the more we see the less we feel. Dr Alex Flynn expanded on the significatory potential of images in art exhibitions in Brazil. Dr. Elisabeth Kirtsoglou on embodiment and performed the Spectral Wound by crisscrossing two ethnographies. Dr Anselma Gallinat expanded on the visuality of Public memory work in East Germany. Dr Brian Black in talking through the epic Mahabharata and its aesthetic dimension expanded on initimate and spectacular violence and showed how violence is carried out through dialogue. Prof Veena Das gave a keynote on thinking as conceptual experience and how violent experiences are conceptualised.

All the presentations made complex contributions to the theorisation of visuality and violence. Hence the visual contribution to CVAC is multiple through the following intended outcomes:

  •  To start a network on Violence and Knowledge of the Senses including visual senses
  •  To showcase the various interdisciplinary research existing on this theme in Durham University including visualities.


    •  To foster academic and non-academic engagement with the Spectral Wound and its visual debates.
  •  In due course consider publishing a Special issue of a Journal/edited book which would include a visual component.
  •  I branded the event as a CVAC event.


Overall I am immensely grateful to CVAC for their support for food and tea and coffee for the workshop participants.


Dr Nayanika Mookherjee, February 2017