2015-16 year in review

2 May

This year the Visual Culture Workshop RIW’s activities included image workshops, chapter workshops, organizing a guest lecture, and co-sponsoring several events. The VCW continued our tradition of hosting image workshops where group members are invited to share and discuss images they are working on. This exercise has been central to building community and generating interest in the field and group. The VCW also organized two chapter workshops with Cass Adair (PhD English Language and Literature) and Joshua Morrison (PhD Screen Arts and Culture). The chapter workshops give group members a space to share their work and to receive focused feedback on their works-in-progress. These workshops help group members situate themselves in the field of Visual Culture, and also allows them to have a conversation with colleagues and peers

This year the VCW also organized a guest lecture by Prof. Anna-Pegler Gordon. Prof. Pegler-Gordon is Associate Professor of Social Relations and Policy at Michigan State University. She is the author of In Sight of America: Photography and the Development of U.S. Immigration Policy among numerous article publications. Her new research project is a study of Asians at Ellis Island, was is the subject of her talk: “Asians at Ellis Island. Seen and Unseen.” Most histories of Asian migration focus on Angel Island in San Francisco and the western United States.  However, Asian immigrants also entered the United States through Ellis Island and, especially in the period from 1924 until the station closed in 1954, Asian New Yorkers, stowaways, smugglers and sailors were detained and deported through Ellis Island.  This lecture is part of a larger book project which asks: What changes in our understanding of Asian exclusion when we view it through Ellis Island?  And what changes in our understanding of Ellis Island when we see it through the prism of Asian migration?  Exploring images of Asians at Ellis Island, as well as the absence of images, this presentation considers how both the seen and unseen challenge historiographies of Asian exclusion and American immigration. As part of this guest lecture, Prof. Pegler-Gordon also met with graduate students to discuss her work and professionalization. This talk was important for building interest and community around new work in Visual Cultural studies.

We take it as a strong indicator of the interest in Visual Culture, as an interdisciplinary space for scholarly work, that we were approached by a number of other groups for cosponsorship of additional events. We helped fund guest speakers hosted by the Digital Studies Workshop (Simone Brown), the English Department (Nicholas Mirzoeff), and the American Studies Consortium (David Alworth).

This year we took note of the growing interest across our humanities departments in exploring new modes of doing and communicating scholarly work outside of traditional formats. As grad students in seminars, we are often invited to create final projects in non-traditional modalities, such as visual, digital, or hybrid forms. Nearing finals season, we held an informal workshop to talk about project ideas that don’t fit the typical seminar paper mold and brainstorm new ways of doing such work. Graduate students and some faculty participated in this conversation, which also aimed to discuss questions about the uses and expectations of final projects in our graduate seminars.

End of the Year Wrap Up!

29 May

Apologies for the lack in updates!

Our activities this year were relatively modest in scale, yet highly generative for our participants’ individual work, and of new collaborations within and beyond UM.

Our largest event in the fall semester was in September. With the new Disability Studies Group, we co-sponsored a lecture by Rosemarie Garland-Thomson on disability in contemporary visual culture and media. This is a productive partnership because our two groups share a good number of regular participants. We have been talking about further VCW/DSG collaborations for the coming year.

In October, in place of a general interest meeting, we held an informal “image workshop” with an open call for presenters. Participants briefly presented images relevant to their work, and we had a productive open discussion about ideas and methods for working with images in a variety of critical contexts. Presenters and other attendees included graduate students in English, American Culture, Comparative Literature, Anthropology, and Romance Languages.

In November we had a one-off meeting to discuss short readings central to the field of visual culture, which offered useful support to students’ current and ongoing coursework in visual studies. In the same month we also developed a working contact with Amanda Krugliak, curator at the Institute for the Humanities, who helped us create a gallery walk and discussion event.

In the winter term, we developed contacts with the Visual Culture Graduate Group at Wayne State University. Members from the Wayne State group came to Ann Arbor for a second gallery event with Amanda, followed by a networking meeting. In April, two UM-VCW members presented papers at Wayne State’s annual Visual Culture Symposium. We look forward to future collaborations with the WSU group.

In March we held our most well-attended pair of events, a “mini-symposium” on the subject of vernacular photography. A guest speaker, artist-collector Nigel Maister, led a seminar on snapshot collecting. The next day, Nigel joined UM American Culture faculty Maria Cotera and Manan Desai, and English PhD candidate Cass Adair, in a panel discussion on vernacular photography in a wide variety of national, historical, and cultural contexts. This standing-room only session produced a lot of excitement for visual culture work among graduate students and faculty in attendance.

Our last event of the term, in April, was a writing workshop of three in-progress conference papers, all scheduled for presentation at conferences later that month. All three authors have reported successful presentations and cited our workshop’s high utility to the progress of their work.

VCW activities will continue throughout the summer with an ongoing reading and discussion group of 8 participants. We are hopeful, too, that these meetings will generate additional ideas for next year’s programming.

Be sure to keep an eye out for our events during the upcoming academic year!

“Historical Photographs of China” A Talk by Professor Robert Bickers

26 Mar
Lunch & Talk, “Historical Photographs of China” Digital Archives Project 
Wednesday 4/2 at 12:30 in 3222 Angell Hall
Co-sponsored by the Reorientations Interdisciplinary Workshop

hpc-proxy                      University of Bristol – Historical Photographs of China reference number: Ta01-17.

In this informal talk, Professor Bickers will discuss the origin, objectives and methods of the Historical Photographs of China project and the Visualising China, 1850-1950 website. He will highlight some specific collections, reflect on challenges that the project has faced, and discuss opportunities for use, re-use, and collaboration. Lunch will be served.

RSVP: Katie Lennard (klennard@umich.edu). 

Speaker Bio: Robert Bickers is Professor of History at the University of Bristol. He specializes in modern China and the history of colonialism, and in particular of the British empire and its relations with China and the history of Shanghai (1843-1950s). Work in this field includes the books Britain in China (1999), Empire Made Me: An Englishman adrift in Shanghai (2003), and The Scramble for China: Foreign Devils in the Qing Empire, 1832-1914 (2011). His interest in the world of British colonialism more broadly underpins the new volume in the Oxford History of the British Empire companion series that he has edited on British communities across the worlds of formal and informal empire. He is also interested in cemeteries and photographs and their post-colonial lives, clipper ships, lighthouses and meteorology in China.

“Eadweard Muybridge, Zoopraxographer” (1975) @ AAFF

26 Mar
This year, we are again serving as a community partner to the Ann Arbor Film Festival, introducing next Thursday’s screening of Eadweard Muybridge, Zoopraxographer the 1975 essay-film by Thom Andersen about the early pioneer of motion pictures.eadwardmuybridgephotos1
Thursday, March 27, 3:00pm Michigan Theater Screening Room
This is a 35mm print, newly restored by the UCLA Film & Television Archive. 
“Thom Andersen’s first feature announced the arrival of one of America’s most significant documentary auteurs. Eadweard Muybridge, Zoopraxographer is at once a biography of Muybridge, a re-animation of his historic sequential photographs, and an inspired examination of their philosophical implications.” –Ross Lipman
“The Ann Arbor Film Festival is the longest-running independent and experimental film festival in North America, established in 1963. Internationally recognized as a premiere forum for independent filmmakers and artists, each year’s festival engages audiences with remarkable cinematic experiences. The six-day festival presents 40 programs with more than 180 films from over 20 countries of all lengths and genres, including experimental, animation, documentary, fiction, and performance-based works.”
For more information on this year’s festival, see:

“Modernism and Aesthetic Experience: a Workshop” with Prof. Justus Nieland (Michigan State) and Prof. Burke Hilsabeck (Oberlin)

11 Mar

Friday, March 14
3241 Angell Hall

Lunch will be served.

Charles and Ray Eames LCW (Lounge Chair Wood)      Frank Tashlin, still from Artists and Models (1955)/Charles and Ray Eames, Lounge Chair Wood  (1945)

In this collaborative workshop, two scholars will visit to present and discuss new scholarship on modernism and visual culture. Justus Nieland will present material from a new book project about a midcentury modernism that seeks to design the senses for the new natures and media environments of Cold War modernity, with a particular focus on American designers Charles and Ray Eames. Burke Hilsabeck will present work-in-progress about modernism and self-reflexivity in the films of Frank Tashlin and Jerry Lewis.

Hilsabeck is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Cinema Studies at Oberlin College. He is at work on a book project on the modernist context of slapstick film comedy.
Nieland is an Associate Professor in the Department of English at Michigan State University, where he focuses on Modernism and Film Studies. He is the author of Feeling Modern: The Eccentricities of Public Life (Illinois, 2008) and David Lynch (Illinois, 2012).
Please RSVP to Katie Lennard: Klennard@umich.edu
11 Mar

The VCW is co-sponsoring this upcoming event, which will discuss race and sexuality in the field of vision.

Please join us!

Inline image 1

Professor Alison Hoffman-Han: “Hollywood Signs and Hotel Stories: Sofia Coppola’s Psychogeographies”

29 Oct
Friday, November 1
3241 Angell Hall

For a filmmaker who says she does not make “political films,” Sofia Coppola nonetheless sketches out a politics of contemporary celebrity and media culture through her expressive character and production design.  Place is central to her films’ cultural and visual politics.  Alison Hoffman-Han’s presentation will consider Coppola’s cinematic “psychogeographies” of Los Angeles and Tokyo by looking closely at The Bling Ring (2013), Somewhere (2010), and Lost in Translation (2003). Focusing on Coppola’s intertextual dialogues with other artists’ renderings of these cities, Hoffman-Han questions how Coppola visualizes the monumentality of mobility and immensity of intimacy in our “supermodern” age.

Dr. Hoffman-Han is an Assistant Professor of Cinema Studies at Oakland University, and the author of the upcoming Sofia Coppola: Reveries in Pink (University of Illinois Press).

Lunch will be served.Please RSVP to Katie Lennard: Klennard@umich.edu


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