The University of Wolverhampton

Arts Public Lecture Series

The Faculty of Arts at the University of Wolverhampton are pleased to announce the dates for our 2015/6 public lecture series.

Arts public lectures 2015/6


Eddie Chambers: Black Artists: Some History, Some identity

Tuesday 31 May 2016, 6pm-7.30pm, MK045 City Campus

From the early 80s until the mid 1990s, the work of a generation of young British artists was marked out by a particular embrace of explicit social, political, and cultural narratives. Their work was unprecedented and remains unsurpassed in its collective ability to discuss and indeed, critique, what it means to be Black and British. This talk will discuss the work of some of these artists, who included Keith Piper, Donald Rodney, Mowbray Odonkor and Faisal Abdu'Allah.


In Conversation: Owen Martell

Tuesday 24 May 2016, 5pm, MA030 City Campus

Trilingual novelist and translator Owen Martell will be reading from his award-winning novels and discussing his work and the writer’s life with Dr Aidan Byrne. 

Owen writes novels and short stories in English and Welsh, and translates philosophy from French into Welsh and English. He has won Welsh Book of the Year and is a recipient of a Creative Wales award. His work has been translated into multiple languages, and his first English-language jazz novel, Intermission (Heinemann 2013) won the Irish Times Book of the Year. He also played harp and computers on the 2005 album Cywmp y dŵr ar gaol dydd by Rhodri Davies and Traw. 


Caroline Locke: Data, Sound and Motion - An artist talk by Caroline Locke

Tuesday 24 May 2016, 6pm-7.30pm, MK045 City Campus

Sound Fountains brings together the artist’s research from the last ten years. Locke passes sound through water to make sound vibrations appear visible through waveforms and fountains, allowing the spectator to experience the sight of sound. Over the last decade, the work has undergone a number of iterations responding to multiple exhibition opportunities, both in physical form and construction and with regards to the data made visible.  In the past, the work has visualised both recorded (e.g. environmental sounds, heartbeat sounds) and live data (e.g. a person speaking into a microphone, live music, CO2 readings from trees). From the outset, the key aim has been to investigate the relationship between the tangible and intangible, making visible what we normally cannot see. Locke has studied in detail how large audiences respond to her interactive settings. Multiple people experience the work at the same time, the interaction between people with and around the Sound Fountains and how they respond to her performative environment has been a key interest of the artist. 


Francis O'Gorman: What if...? Worrying and the Modern World

Tuesday 17 May 2016, 6pm-7.30pm, MK045 City Campus

Why do we worry? Where did it come from? Why is the word itself only known to us in its current meaning from the middle of the nineteenth century? This lecture will discuss the short history of worrying as a product of the busy, individual-centred world that modern capitalism has created. And it will also discuss the long history that sees worry as a result simply of being human and of having the ability to choose. Ranging across disciplines and historical periods, the lecture will affirm worrying as the peculiarly moth-eaten sign of being a modern human being.


Professor Robin Nelson: Research Excellence Framework (REF) and Practice as Research (PaR)

Wednesday 11 May 2016, 2pm-4pm, MC001 City Campus

Professor Robin Nelson’s presentation is in two parts; the first reflecting on 'Research audit culture: past, present and future' (REF) and the second re-visiting the question of whether and when creative arts and media practices might constitute research (PaR).


Natasha Kidd: Curious about Care

Tuesday 10 May 2016, 6pm-7.30pm, MK045 City Campus

Natasha Kidd offers a close look at her automated painting systems/machines and their production process. Focusing on her most recent work, she will talk about her curiosity around the word “care” in relation to the systems she makes. With reference to Anthony Huberman’s 2011 text Take Care, she will discuss what her machines want and how they behave or misbehave when they are set loose in the world.


Tracy Hill: Strangers and aliens: immigrants in early modern London

Thursday 5 May 2016, 6pm - 7.30pm, MK045 City Campus

London was a fast-expanding metropolis in the early modern period, largely fuelled by migration, domestic as well as from overseas. Certain areas of the City were home to well-established 'stranger' communities, and these locales were sometimes the focus of xenophobic hostility. In most instances, however, strangers made an active contribution to the economic and cultural life of the City. Strangers, or 'aliens', in the terminology of the time, were therefore a reality on the streets as well as being figures available for cultural representation. My talk will explore the cultural significance of strangers in the seventeenth-century London, focusing on civic pageantry. These civic triumphs presented strangers in complex ways: as industrious, quasi-naturalised citizens, as grateful refugees, and as foreign exotics. Such representations were sensitive to state policy, and my talk will also address the portrayal of Protestant migrants from the Low Countries compared to that of Catholic nations such as Spain. 


Professor Matthew Fuller: Black Sites and Transparency Layers

Tuesday 26 April, 6pm - 7.30pm, MK045
CADRE, Art, Philosophy and Social Practice

Transparency is extolled as a virtue, and one specifically crystallised in the way in which computer interfaces compose relations between users, data, and processes.  This lecture sets out a brief genealogy of transparency in user interfaces and examines the way in which notions of transparency drawn from computational sources provide a means for a more general set of refrains in contemporary architecture, economics, politics, conflict and art.   Coupled with the question of transparency is of course that of what is hidden from view or occluded.  How the two states combine to texture contemporary life has a fundamentally computational dimension to it that this lecture will attempt to address.


Adam Thorpe: Writing out of the past

Tuesday 19 April, 6pm - 7.30pm, MK045
Centre for Film, Media, Discourse and Culture.

The history novel has never been more popular. But the term ‘history’ implies a certain distance. Adam Thorpe prefers to see the past as merely an alternative present; the only reality to those who experienced it. In this lecture, he will be discussing his own approach to writing historical novels, which range from Ulverton (which ranges over three centuries) to Hodd, a rethinking of the Robin Hood legend. He prefers to think of the process, not as looking into a certain period, but as looking out from it: it is our own fleeting present that becomes strange. He will read extracts from Hodd, The Rules of Perspective (set in the ruins of 1945 Germany) and his first work of non-fiction, On Silbury Hill, an exploration of the mysterious prehistoric mound in Wiltshire.


Paul Ward: Animation against Austerity: Critical political thinking about animation creativity.

Tuesday 12 April, 6pm - 7.30pm, MK045
Centre for Film, Media, Discourse and Culture

In this talk, Professor Paul Ward (Arts University Bournemouth) will examine models of creativity in animation education. He argues that a specific type of instrumentalist language has now become the norm for describing and delimiting types of creative activity. How we collectively define what is (or is not) "creative" is a political question. Animation, as arguably the most important art form for the 21st century, should play an important role in helping us build that definition.


Stephen Banfield: Thirteen ways of looking at a musical number: The Trolley Song from Meet me in St Louis

Tuesday 15 March, 6pm-7.30pm, WN004 Walsall Campus


‘The Trolley Song’, as sung by Judy Garland in the 1944 MGM film Meet Me in St Louis, is one of the world’s best-loved production numbers. One is not likely to love it any the less for pursuing or referring to a baker’s dozen of approaches to the research, scholarship and analysis of its material and contexts, and this will be done. Yet thoroughgoing attempts at close reading and documentary study are still surprisingly few where numbers in Hollywood musicals are concerned. Are such scholarly efforts of value, and if so, what do they accomplish? The exploration will be interdisciplinary while paying particular attention to the music, as one would expect of a musicologist.



In Conversation: Novelists Catherine O'Flynn and James Hannah in conversation with Dr Paul McDonald

Monday 14 March, 6pm - 7.30pm, Wolverhampton Art Gallery

Centre for Transnational and Transcultural Research

Catherine O’Flynn reads from and talks about her novels and the author’s life. Hosted by Dr Paul McDonald and introducing new novelist James Hannah.

Catherine O’Flynn is the author of three novels and the editor of a short story collection. Her debut, What Was Lost, won the 2008 Costa First Novel Award and she was named Waterstone’s Newcomer of the Year at the British Book Awards. Her novels have been published in over 20 countries.

Catherine is a regular reviewer for The Guardian and guest on Radio 4’s Saturday Review. Her short stories and articles have appeared in Granta, Good Housekeeping, The Independent and on BBC Radio.  Catherine has been described as ‘the JG Ballard of Birmingham...finding poetry and meaning where others see merely boredom and dereliction".

James Hannah’s debut novel The A-Z of You And Me was published by Doubleday in 2015 to widespread critical acclaim (The Times: ‘absolutely bloody heartbreaking’) and was nominated for several literary prizes. 


Dr Marta Filipova: Images of the Black Country: Wolverhampton and its Great Exhibitions

Tuesday 8 March 2016, 6pm-7.30pm, MK045 City Campus

Outside of the great exhibitions, expositions universelles and world fairs that were organised in London, Paris or Chicago, a number of smaller, yet ambitious exhibitions took place in provincial cities and towns across the world. Focusing on the period between 1840 and 1940, the talk surveys the idea behind organizing grand exhibitions in regional centres. I will overview the so-called exhibitionary cultures of this period and examine the motivations, scope or impact especially of two lesser-known exhibitions that took place in Wolverhampton in 1869 and 1902. I will also look at the role these events played in addressing the regional identity of the Black Country through visual imagery, the displays of arts and design, the role of modernisation and tradition, and the relationship between capital cities and provincial towns. 


John Smith: It is what it is, but what is it?

Tuesday 1 March, 2016, 6pm- 7.30pm, MK045 City Campus

John Smith will present a selection of his short films made between 1975 and 2015, focussing on works that playfully explore ambiguity and the construction of meaning in cinema. His films and videos, known for their formal ingenuity and oblique narratives, create mysterious and sometimes fantastical scenarios from the raw material of everyday life. Over four decades he has developed an extensive body of work that defies easy classification, blurring the perceived boundaries between documentary and fiction, representation and abstraction. 


  • Om  (1986, 4 mins)
  • Associations  (1975, 7 mins)
  • Gargantuan  (1992, 1 min)
  • The Girl Chewing Gum  (1976, 12 mins)
  • Dad’s Stick  (2012, 5 mins)
  • White Hole  (2014, 6 mins)
  • Steve Hates Fish  (2015, 5 mins)‌

Michał Krzyżanowski: On Politicisation and Mediatisation of ‘Refugee Crisis’ in Poland: Right-Wing Populism in/and Social/Online Media 

Wednesdsay 24 February, 6 - 7.30pm, MK045

My presentation looks at the politicisation of migration as a way of making it into the core element of European right-wing populist agendas. I look specifically at the case of Poland and argue that, while in many European right-wing populist movements anti-immigration stance has long been among the core elements of political rhetoric (see e.g. Krzyżanowski & Wodak 2009; Ruzza 2009), it has often been emphasised that Poland has largely escaped that dynamics. This has happened due to several factors incl. the general lack of discursive traditions of talking about diversity/difference in Polish post-1989 politics and the media (Krzyżanowski 2014) but also due to the fact that relatively low levels of immigration into Poland long prevented Polish political parties from politicisation of that topic as a ‘threat’ or a ‘problem’. However, the second half of 2015 brought an outright eruption of right-wing populist discourses of discrimination and hate towards the (potentially) incoming refugees and asylum seekers in Poland. Taking place in the multiple context of (a) the 2015 EU-wide refugee crisis, (b) of the EU actions towards tackling it and (c) of Poland’s 2015 national election campaign, the discursive change in Polish political discourse was mainly initiated by the PiS (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość / Law and Justice), Poland’s now government party. In my presentation, I therefore analyse how PiS deployed various channels of political communication – in particular online and social media – to mediatise and thereby politicise its anti-immigration and anti-refugee rhetoric. My analysis draws on critical discourse studies of right-wing populism (Krzyżanowski 2012, 2013) and points to, inter alia, the presence of discursive patterns of the often-imagined Islamophobia often coined with right-wing discourses of e.g. Euro-scepticism or anti-internationalism (e.g. anti-German rhetoric). I show how all these have been used to radically argue against incoming migrants and refugees as non-belonging in Poland and the wider Europe.


Peter Davies: A Northern School Revisited

Tuesday 23 February, 6 - 7.30pm, MK045

The lavishly illustrated talk will focus on a century of art in Liverpool and Manchester, in particular, and in Lancashire generally. The pivotal position of L. S. Lowry has seen an industrial landscape painting school develop in his wake. Many talented and painterly
artists like William Turner, Brian Bradshaw, Alan Lowndes, Roger Hampson, and Theodore Major have made the old Lancashire industrial scene a powerful subject in their art.

The lecture discusses their contribution and that of a younger generation such as Stephen Campbell, Ben Kelly, and Liam Spencer who have captured the very different post-modern corporate environment of current day Manchester. Also discussed are the very different artistic complexions of Liverpool and Manchester. Liverpool's own artistic contribution has
been less about the industrial landscape and more about an avant garde dialogue with international modernism. Merseyside artists have engaged with French and American Abstract Expressionism during the 1950s and Pop Art and photorealism during the 1960s and 70s.


Professor Ian Haywood: Pandemonium: radical soundscapes and satirical prints in the Romantic period

Wednesday 17 February 2016, 3pm -4.30pm, MC224 City Campus

This talk will investigate how Romantic-era satirical prints used different types of sound to both attack and defend radical politics. It is axiomatic that the use of speech bubbles required caricatures to be read as well as viewed, but we are unaccustomed to thinking about the prints as an aural medium that exploited the noisiness of political activism and conflict. To its opponents and detractors, radical discourse was demonised as a Jacobin Pandemonium, a dangerous and disorderly hubbub in which the vox populi is the carnivalesque Other of reasoned debate. This myth justified repressive measures aimed at regulating and even silencing radical speech-acts. Conversely, the aim of the radical movement was to make its voice heard in the political public sphere (indeed, its goal was literally to speak in the House of Commons through elected representatives). This clash of soundscapes came to a spectacular climax in the Peterloo massacre of August 1819. Caricature responses to the event use ironic allusions to popular songs and balladry to create a loud, dissonant soundtrack to the tragedy. The debacle also echoed in the poetic soundscape of ‘England in 1819’, including Shelley’s masterpiece Mask of Anarchy. 


Erica Scourti: Systems Vulnerable

Tuesday 16 February, 6 -7.30pm, MK045 City Campus

Grounded in her ongoing research into the notion of a subject entangled within technosocial systems, Erica Scourti will draw on unintelligible gestures, encryption and feminist strategies of refusal to present recent projects exploring automatic archives, the maintenance of digital infrastructures and the limitations of rhetorics of exposure and visibility.


Prof. Thomas Docherty: On critical responsibility and criminal irresponsibility: the managed university

Tuesday 2 February 2016, 6 - 7.30pm, MK045, City Campus

This lecture will explore how ethical questions concerning responsibility in our time have been systematically emptied of moral qualities and political significance. Responsibility, in effect, has been shrunk to mere 'accountancy' or 'giving an account' of ourselves. There are historical political precedents for this, deriving essentially from the period just after the Second World War; and I explore the consequences of a situation in which there are structural similarities between the camps and some contemporary institutional practices and norms. This allows for an attempt to effect a return of responsibility in our critical practices, but one that is only possible if we succeed in changing the managerial  norms of modern and contemporary institutions, especially the university.

Scott McLaughlin: Material Agency and Indeterminacy as Musical Structure

Tuesday 19 January 2016, 6 - 7.30pm, WN004, Walsall Campus

Composing ‘with' unstable sounds; a post-Cagean framework. My practice explores the behaviours of musical instruments (any vibrating objects really) in their unstable zones of sound production, devising ways to identify behavioural hierarchies, and strategies to compose within them. This seminar will examine several of my recent works as composing along instruments' "contours of material agency”, framing the discussion with Andrew Pickering’s concept of Material Agency, and Jane Bennett’s Vital Materialism.

Dr Veronika Kapsali: Design with information - lessons from Biology 

Tuesday 8 December 2015, 6 - 7.30pm, MK045, MK Building, City Campus

The nature of information storage and management has altered dramatically from the time of the cave man to the digital revolution. The vast quantities of data generated by advances in information sensing and capturing technologies such as mobile devices have become a new commodity that can be exchanged, stored and mined. As we transit from analog to digital platforms, data management remains unaltered in biology. Information in nature is expressed through physical conditions, forms and structures from nano to macro scale. DNA is an iconic example of information rich material, slight differences in connections between the molecule’s double helix is what makes us different from each other.

A novel field of programmable systems is emerging that explores ways of introducing information into materials and structures through and for design. Initial outcomes promise to enable advanced life like behaviors such as self-assembly, self-repair and autonomous motion without circuitry, motors and electricity. This talk shares my initial thoughts, resulting from my recently completed publication titled: Biomimetics for Designers, on a shift toward information rich design that could enable us to do more with less in a way that does not trap resources or draw on depleting energy supplies.

Caroline Archer: John Baskerville: international man of mystery

Tuesday 24 November 2015, 6 - 7.30pm, MK045, MK Building, City Campus

This talk is about John Baskerville – the complete printer, who did so much to progress the industry of his day. He created a typeface which bears his name; improved the printing press; helped produced the first wove paper; reconsidered the production of printing inks; and took a wholly new approach to the design of end papers. But he was much more than that – Baskerville was the embodiment of an Enlightenment man

Dr Bryn Harrison: Mazes and pathways in which to dwell: some thoughts on the application of musical processes in Vessels and related works

Tuesday 10 November 2015, 6 - 7.30pm, MK045, MK Building, City Campus

Anthropologist Tim Ingold has spoken of differences between building and dwelling, illustrating how the former manifests itself in an architectural prior design whilst the latter is more transitive; the result of being. Crucially, he draws on the notion that dwelling emerges from the very process of working whereas building presupposes the hypothetical completion of the design of work prior to its execution. 
My paper will consider how these different approaches might be applied to ways of thinking about musical processes and how these in turn might impact upon our perception of form and structure.
I will consider my own methods of working, drawing principally on the audibility of process in my extended piano work Vessels (2012/13) as well as related works by Morton Feldman and others. I will outline an interest in singular approaches to musical material that utilise high levels of repetition and draw upon aspects of perception that take into account the immersive properties of these systems. I will seek to demonstrate the ways in which form becomes an emergent by-product of the self-similar compositional processes being utilised.