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Symposium: Visualising the Past

19 July 2019 | 09:15 - 16:45

The Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries‘ Conflict and Culture Research Group at the University of Portsmouth warmly invites you to Visualising the Past, a symposium devoted to historical representation across a range of visual media.

Featuring presentations from historians, artists and designers, this interdisciplinary event explores the ways in which images can create significant and impactful historical narratives. From photographs, posters, films and fashion to illustrations, statues, digital designs and marketing campaigns, traces of our collective histories pervade the visual landscape. As heated debates on the past remain at the centre of public life, join us in exploring the role of history, the visual historian, and the image as bearers of political and cultural meaning.

At a time of heated debate over the meaning of the past, there are high stakes involved in any historical representation. As Stephen Harper, Senior Lecturer in Media and head of the Conflict and Culture research group, explains, popular histories are often put “in the service of particular political or ideological agendas.” Harper’s book Screening Bosnia examined western media portrayals of the Bosnian war and the ways in which images of past conflicts appeared to “haunt” these portrayals. “In the case of the Bosnian war of 1992-95, much of the journalistic commentary in Western countries was filtered through the lens of the Nazi Holocaust”, he explained. “A similar sort of remediation is evident in US and Western European film and television treatments of Bosnia”. Several speakers at the symposium will address the theme of conflict. From photography exploring Lebanese city Beirut’s turbulent history to plays about Portsmouth during the Civil War, echoes of past battles reverberate across the contemporary visual landscape.

The power of images to influence collective memory is central to the day’s discussion. Beatrice Ashton-Lelliott, whose PhD research explores the lives of 19 th century magicians, will explore the role of visual media in shaping our understandings of the Victorian era. “Most people will be familiar with Christopher Nolan’s film adaptation of The Prestige, and perhaps Neil Burger’s The Illusionist which came out the same year”, she said. “For this symposium I was interested in thinking a bit more about whether, to a general audience, these visual representations depict a ‘true’ history of magic in the Victorian period, filtered through a Neo-Victorian lens.”

Featuring talks from historians, artists and designers, the symposium is concerned with sparking a debate across disciplines. If there is a typical idea of a “historian” as someone who writes lengthy academic tomes, Visualising the Past will seek out new ways of retelling history. Louis Netter, an illustrator and Senior Lecturer in Illustration, will discuss how his own practice has served as a visual historiography. “History matters because the dialogue between the present and past is vital for our understanding of who we are and what we have done”, he said. And, through a wide-ranging programme of talks focusing on illustration, film, television, digital media, graphic design and theatre, the symposium will interrogate the ways in which visual historians might contribute toward these larger debates on the power of the past to shape individual and collective identities in the present.

Kremena Dimitrova, Art and Design Lecturer, will be talking about her illustration work in relation to history in the museum and heritage sectors and will be presenting her PhD research.

When: Friday 19 July

Where: Eldon Building, room 0.106.


Coffee 9.15-9.45,
Welcome 9.45.
Panels begin at 10am.
Lunch 12.45-1.30pm.
Event ends 4.45.

A full schedule is Visualising the Past Schedule.  All welcome.

For further info, contact Olly Gruner at oliver.gruner@port.ac.uk

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19 July 2019
09:15 - 16:45
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Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries


Eldon Building
Winston Churchill Avenue
Portsmouth, Hampshire PO1 2DJ United Kingdom
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