Performativity of Images in Public Spaces – Workshop

Birkbeck Interdisciplinary Research in Media and Culture (BIRMAC), Pears Institute for the study of Antisemitism and the School of Arts, Birkbeck, University of London

Event Information and Booking

11th June, 2019
1:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Birkbeck, University of London, The Keynes Library, School of Arts, 43 Gordon Square, London, WC1H 0PD
Ruth Beckermann, Filmmaker; Maiken Umbach, University of Nottingham; Lisa Peschel, University of York

The archival image communicates across different regimes: the static nature of the photograph, the movement of the audio-visual, and more recently the immersive experience of augmented reality. In each case, the historical image is deemed to shed light on the past, to change public perception and to lead to a deeper understanding of past events.

This workshop brings together scholars, artists, museum professionals and the public to reflect on the challenges and power of presenting difficult and unsettling archival images in the public realm. What is the impact of using images which depict discrimination, racial hatred or genocidal violence? Why and how should such images be framed or staged in public space? What is their social and educational value? Should the dissemination of archival content be the responsibility of educational and archival institutions alone? How can artistic practice be used to challenge viewers to think critically about what is shown, and about how it is shown?

Workshop participants are invited to:

  • Consider the ethical, curatorial and representational dilemmas raised by using difficult archival materials in the public realm
  • Explore the curatorial, artistic and research-based approaches which can encourage reflective and critical thinking among visitors and viewers.
  • Reflect on the impacts of archival images in relation to educational, political, emotional, and preventive outcomes.


1:00-1:10  Welcome & Opening Comments (Organisers)

1.10-2.30  Panel 1

James Bulgin (Content Leader Holocaust Galleries, Imperial War Museums) and Rachel Donnelly (Holocaust Learning Manager, Imperial War Museums)

Lisa Peschel (Lecturer in Theatre, Film and Television, University of York)

2.30-3.00  Coffee & Tea break

3.00-4:30  Panel 2

Ruth Beckermann (Filmmaker, Vienna)

Maiken Umbach (Professor of History, University of Nottingham)

4:30-5:00  Concluding Remarks (Organisers)

Event Organisers: Dr. Diana Popescu (Pears Institute for the study of Antisemitism), Dr. Janet McCabe (BIRMAC, School of Arts), and Dr. Silke Arnold-de Simine (BIRMAC, School of Arts).

Associated event

On the evening of the 11 June, commencing at 6.00pm, there is a screening of Ruth Beckerman’s film, The Waldheim Waltz (2018). This will be followed by Ruth Beckermann in conversation with Laura Mulvey, Senior Professor of Film Studies, Birkbeck, University of London. For more information, click here.

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