Institute of Advanced Study: Theme 2015/206: Evidence


The Centre for Visual Arts and Cultures will be leading a sub-theme on Visual Evidence as part of the IAS’s 2015-2016 focus on ‘Evidence’.

This sub-theme takes as its point of departure the ubiquity of visual practices across the university and beyond and sets out to address the ontological and epistemological challenges related to the construction and interpretation of ‘visual evidence’ from a range of disciplinary perspectives.

The subtheme builds upon existing disciplinary literatures on the nature and status of visual evidence and, in particular, on areas of expertise in the Centre for Visual Arts and Culture. They are derived from works such as Ludmilla Jordanova’s (2012) The Look of the Past: Visual and Material Evidence in Historical Practice, which offers a nuanced and comprehensive account of the use of visual evidence in historical research, as well as related work in the History of Science (Bredekamp, 1995; Daston and Galison, 1992; Kemp, 2002; Latour, 1986) and a wide critical literature on the status of the documentary image in film and photography (Austin 2007; Azoulay 2008; Tagg, 1993; Sekula, 2004), which informs the work of Durham’s Centre for Advanced Photography Studies.

The subtheme seeks to use these disciplinary perspectives as the basis for making connections across the university and beyond. In so doing, it will draw upon and extend James Elkins’s (2007) study on Visual Practices Across the University, in which he makes a strong claim for the necessity of thinking about images beyond the disciplinary confines of Art History or, indeed, he argues, of the new humanities-led field of Visual Studies. His aim is to bring together ‘the humanities’ passion for image theory with the many modest and local practices that constitute image-making throughout the university’ (Elkins 2007: v). His work offers a starting point from which to reflect upon the place of ‘visual knowledge construction’ across the university curriculum.

We now invite contributions to the sub-theme that aim to think through the construction, use and interpretation of visual evidence in areas of current debate, taking up the pressing question of the status of visual evidence across the university and beyond.

The deadline for submission of activities for approval by the IAS is 13th March 2013. We would, therefore, like to receive any expressions of interest in organising workshops or ideas for any other related events by Friday 28 February. Please send these by email to

We will hold a workshop on Wednesday 5th March 2013, 12-2, in the meeting room at the IAS to discuss the subtheme.

For details of IAS procedures, including access to forms for proposing activities, see:


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