Social Sciences and Art History: Methodological Connections?

Panel Discussion on “Social Sciences and Art History: Methodological Connections?”

17.30, Wednesday 4 June 2014
Research Forum South Room, The Courtauld Institute of Art, Somerset House, Strand, WC2R 0RN London

This event is part of the Peripheral Visions lecture series.

Contemporary art extends beyond the visual and aesthetic and operates in multiple areas of human activity. In order to study contemporary art in its multifariousness, art historical research needs to reach beyond its disciplinary boundaries and make use of methodologies of other research traditions. Following the Peripheral Visions lecture series, this panel brings together teachers and researchers in the fields of arts and social sciences to discuss some of the questions raised.

With a cross-disciplinary discussion, we aim to address the question of what other disciplinary bodies of knowledge and the ‘expanding field’ of contemporary art mean for the research of art, and consequently, what research skills beyond aesthetic theories and methods of visual analysis are needed and should be taught. How do the research methods taught at the art institutions prepare students for cross-disciplinary approach? How do specific terms and concepts ‘translate’ between disciplines? What are the risks of misunderstanding, and what are the benefits of exploring art through concepts from other disciplines?

Speakers: Dr Marquard Smith (Royal College of Art), Dr Rebecca Arnold (The Courtauld Institute of Art), Dr Victoria D. Alexander (University of Surrey), Dr Anthony Gardner (The Ruskin School of Art, University of Oxford).

Organised by Kaija Kaitavuori and Liz Kim with Professor Julian Stallabrass (The Courtauld Institute of Art). Sponsored in part by the Sfumato Foundation.

Open to all, free admission

For further information see here.


Marquard Smith is Research Leader and Head of Doctoral Studies in the School of Humanities at the Royal College of Art, London, and Founder and Editor-in-Chief, journal of visual culture. His interest in the idea of research as praxis has led to a number of projects including What Is Research in the Visual Arts? Obsession, Archive, Encounter (edited with Michael Ann Holly), public programming at Tate, ICA, and Whitechapel, and exhibitions such as ‘How We Became Metadata’ (2010) and ‘The Global Archive’ (2012). His interest in the convergence of art, visual culture, the medical humanities, and the history of the philosophy of technology has led to publications such as The Prosthetic Impulse (The MIT Press), Stelarc: The Monograph (The MIT Press), The Erotic Doll: A Modern Fetish (Yale University Press), and a forthcoming exhibition at MK Gallery in 2015 entitled ‘How to Construct a Time Machine’.

Dr Rebecca Arnold is Oak Foundation Lecturer in History of Dress & Textiles at The Courtauld Institute of Art. She has lectured and published internationally on 20th and 21st century fashion, including, The American Look: Fashion, Sportswear and Images of Women in New York in the 1930s and 1940s (IB Tauris, 2009). She is currently working on another book entitled, Documenting Fashion: Modernity and Image in America, 1920-60.

Victoria D. Alexander (AB, Princeton; AM, PhD, Stanford) is Senior Lecturer, Sociology Department, University of Surrey. Her books include Sociology of the Arts; Museums and Money; and Art and the State. Research interests include sociology of art, creative industries, and visual sociology and current research involves everyday creativity, change in art worlds, and the culture of change in urban environments. She is Decana of the Research Network on the Sociology of the Arts, European Sociological Association, and with the Surrey Light Project, worked with a visual artist to create a light sculpture inspired by the science of light, which was exhibited in Guildford Castle.

Anthony Gardner is Associate Professor of Contemporary Art History and Theory at the University of Oxford, where he is also the Director of Graduate Studies at the Ruskin School of Art. He writes extensively on postcolonialism, postsocialism and curatorial histories, and is one of the editors of the MIT Press journal ARTMargins. Among his books are the anthology Mapping South: Journeys in South-South Cultural Relations (Melbourne, 2013), Politically Unbecoming: Postsocialist Art against Democracy, a study of European installation art in relation to postsocialist political philosophy (MIT Press, 2015), and (with Charles Green) Mega-Exhibitions: Biennials, Triennials, Documentas(Wiley-Blackwell, 2015).


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