VISUAL CULTURE in EUROPE


Originated in London under the direction of Professor Marquard Smith, VCinE promotes and encourages collaborative research, cross-institutional exchanges and teaching activity in the field of Visual Culture Studies between established and emerging scholars, curators, educators, and editors from across a number of European universities and cultural institutions. This network was established in 2009 with a commitment to Visual Culture Studies in/about Europe. The members of the network are dedicated to fostering activities and projects that strengthen expertise and interest in visuality as a transnational and trans-disciplinary issue.


AIMS


» Track the ongoing, uneven emergence in Europe of Visual Culture Studies as a field of inquiry across the Arts and Humanities and explore the ways in which these diverse trajectories in the emergence of the study of visual culture are historically and theoretically distinctive because of the unique characteristics of a specific country, location, language, peoples, their histories of migration, governmental policies, and the contexts within which universities function as sites for interdisciplinary learning.

» Interrogate some of the hazards of this distinctiveness –around, for instance, the hegemony of the Anglo-American, English as the lingua franca of the academic humanities, and questions of publishing and dissemination.

» Discuss how the advent of Visual Culture Studies, with its new ways of seeing, knowing, understanding, and participating might (1) extend our studies beyond the university (2) generate particular kinds of cultural practices, and (3) be itself responding to activities in anything from art and curating to policy making and industry initiatives.

» Inquire into the economic imperatives (university priorities, increases in student numbers, government policy, etc.) that are playing a part in embedding Visual Culture Studies as a paradigm for research, learning, and making in universities, art colleges, and cultural institutions.


TOPICS


TRANS-DISCIPLINARITY


During the late 1990s as Visual Studies emerged fully as an academic field of expertise, several disciplinary-defined scholars claimed that such new studies lacked a specific object of study. After a decade of intense conceptual and institutional debates, academics acknowledge that the emergence of Visual Studies represented and still represents a major challenge for standardized understandings of multi-disciplinarity. Visual Studies not only embarks on a scrutiny of the hierarchies of objects that imbues some with a greater value than others but also denounces hierarchies and disjunctions between disciplines and promotes new interdisciplinary encounters. From this point of view, the trans-disciplinary dimension of Visual Culture Studies has nothing to with reestablishing the privilege of a discipline (for instance Visual Studies) or set of disciplines over others, but rather with fostering new junctions between institutionalized academic knowledges, emerging research areas, and forms of cultural practice. Thus, a trans-disciplinary approach to visuality implies 1) the rejection of genealogical/departmental oppositionalities between visual studies and art history, anthropology, sociology, etc. and 2) the critical examination of the multidisciplinary ‘nature’ of Visual Studies


VISUALIZING EUROPE


At around the same way as the making of the imperial nations required visual mediations, cultural identifications and subjective affiliations with symbolic constituents such as the territory, the historical foundations of the State’s power, and the specificity of a shared language, among other modern/colonial visual representations, the rebuilding of Europe in a globalized world economy attempts to deal, not without controversies, with postcolonial diversity and alterity by means of representational discourses and visual statements. By virtue of the symbolic burden of European colonial expansionism and because of the inherited legacies of ethnographic eurocentrism, visual studies are required to engage carefully and critically with a series of dilemmas concerning the nature of intercultural story telling, visual translation and the geopolitical orchestration of Europeanness nowadays. Moreover, visual studies in/about Europe should not avoid or ignore the existence of the following paradox: when enhancing diversity and inclusiveness within its cultural territory, Europe simultaneously demands recognition of its matchless role in modernizing ‘the rest of the world’ and fosters the sense of unity, coherence and cultural homogeneity of the region by flaunting its exceptional role in commanding the progressive development of the world. In examining the postcolonial remaking of Europeanness through visual practices, the network looks to open up a dialogue on the production of cultural narratives that characterize today’s Europe as an enlarged/expanded/terrratorialized and deterratorialized project. The expansion of Europe requires not only a political and economical international agenda but also a broader understanding of the transcultural purpose and visual strategies behind the idea of living with diversity. Visual Culture Studies in/about Europe has nothing to do with disseminating abroad a particular understanding of visuality but rather with problematizing the Europeanness as a Westernized global imaginary and provincializing Eurocentric visual regimes linked up with modern colonialism. From this point of view, the European scope of Visual Culture Studies stands in need of a renewed transnational approach determined by and determining of a decolonizing impulse. reed more


INTER-MEDIALITY


Authors such as W. J. T. Mitchell have criticized the conceptual and theoretical ambiguity of so-called ‘visual media’. In a nutshell, it has been argued that cinematic, pictorial, televisual, story telling, photographical, performative, or telematic social practices are, sensorially speaking, mixed media experiences. Thus, Intermediality Studies focuses on the interplays and cross-pollinations between audio, visual, and verbal media on the one hand, and deals with recombinations, integrations, mediations and transformations of ‘old’ and ‘new media’ on the other. From this point of view, Intermediality could operate as a homeostatic counterpoint for visual studies, since it questions ocularcentric understandings of the media and the arts. Hand in hand with analyzing concepts such as multimodality and intertextuality, we propose that Intermediality should be understood not only as a cross-media social phenomena but as well as a theoretical tool for cultural analysis.


EDUCATION


Radical pedagogues have criticized a sort of ‘depraved obsession with pictures’ when traditional educators come to introduce art history, visuality, visual culture, or ‘visual media’ into the classroom. Moreover, they question the effectiveness and pertinence of generalist programs and syllabus on visual studies when departments attempt to comprise and extend over a huge diversity of images, imaginaries, visualities and visual cultures that shape daily life. To what extent can visual culture education empower students and scholars to perceive and engage meaningfully in the cultural struggles embedded within the everyday visual experience? What’s the role of the so-called ‘new media’ and new visual technologies in transmitting new practices of looking and de-linking them from acquired visual skills? Whatever the answers are, innovation and experimentation in teaching and learning visual culture has less to do with updating visual technologies as a part of in-class activities and more to do with generating students’ awareness and insights in connection with their everyday visual experiences. In analyzing diverse technological dispositions, education on visual culture should entail the idea of overcoming the self-evidence regime of everyday looking in order to make it accessible to analysis.


ECOLOGIES


During the last few years, concepts such as Visual Ecology, Media Ecology, or Ecology-Based Art have erupted into the language and rhetoric of critical theory, art theory and cultural policies. Everyday, we acknowledge that ecologies of seeing, the visual and communicative ecologies have a strong and direct impact on the way in which we process scientific ‘truths’ and assess sociological knowledge, and therefore on the way we interact with the world. By means of sophisticated visual strategies, scientists, museographers, and editors display and show invisible (or at least, very hard to see) micro and macro elements of the physical world. In the same way, social scientist use visual representations (such as tables, schemes, drawings, timelines, etc.) in order to draw out our perceptions of daily life. Consequently, empirical and non-empirical knowledge production and transmission requires expertise not only on visual display and dissemination but also in visual ethics and visual ecology. From the point of view of Visual Culture Studies, artistic practices and regimes of arts exhibiting should be taken much more into consideration when scholars came to analyze visual ecology. Similarly, Visual Ecology should be fully concerned with the huge amount of images that are in full flow throughout for instance the Internet and electronic social networks.


 
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