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Visual Culture in Crisis: Britain c.1800-Present

Banksy, Occupy London Istallation, St Paul's, 2011

Friday 10 May 2013, 9.30AM to Saturday 11 May


  • Professor Christopher Pinney (UCL)
  • Dr Eric Stryker (Southern Methodist University)
  • Dr Chad Elias (University of York)
  • Corinne Silva (Artist)


'European mastery is always in crisis – and it is this same crisis that defines European modernity' – Empire, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri

The word ‘crisis’ is frequently invoked to assess Britain’s current place in the world: crises in finance, journalism, politics and geopolitics dominate the media, all of which see the term used both to reflect, and manipulate, a sense of uncertainty and confusion on personal, national, and global levels.

Taking its cue from Hardt and Negri’s location of ‘crisis’ as central to European modernity, this conference seeks to explore how visual cultures from the 19th century to the present have simultaneously responded to – and emerged from – such successive crises.

Crisis might signify avant-garde break-through and embrace of modernity. It might impel artistic breakdown or flight from modernity, anarchic celebration, or resistance in the form of protest. Crisis in visual culture could above all be emblematic of the contingent nature of personal and political identities. As both a product and a precipitant of the inter-state and inter-subjective networks that have emerged in conjunction with imperialism and economic globalisation, crisis can articulate a disharmony between metropole and colony, centre and periphery, state and individual, working constantly to disrupt the geographical, cultural and class boundaries of peoples and nations.

This two-day conference, generously supported by the British Art Research School at the University of York and the Paul Mellon Centre for British Art, aims to begin unpacking some of these issues.

For the full conference schedule and speaker abstracts, please visit the conference website at

Visual Culture in Crisis poster (PDF , 197kb)

Location: University of York, Humanities Research Centre (Berrick Saul Building), Bowland Auditorium and the Treehouse

Admission: Attendance is free but registration is required – in order to register for either both or one day of the conference please email the organisers Sean Willcock and Catherine Spencer at