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Durham University

Centre for Visual Arts and Culture

Previous Events

List of months

Tuesday 7 March 2017

Extractive Seeing: On the visual culture of oil with Professor Janet Stewart

6:00pm to 8:00pm, 405 Business School , Professor Janet Stewart

This paper is part of a larger research project, Curating Europe’s Oil, which sets out to investigate the role that archives (of different kinds) and museums have in constructing and potentially deconstructing existing narratives about fossil fuels that make possible particular behaviours and responses, while closing down or erasing others. It considers the role that oil plays in twenty-first century cultural memory in Europe, investigating how Europe’s oil history is being archived, narrated and displayed in key cultural institutions, showing how an understanding of the processes through which the experience of ‘living with oil’ in Europe has been catalogued, controlled and challenged are invaluable in imagining new narratives of possible energy futures. This paper explores one aspect of the larger project, arguing that a particular way of seeing, linked to the 20th century’s dependence on fossil fuels, in general, and oil, in particular, comes to dominate in the construction of the visual record of Europe’s oil dependencies, and in the way in which that visual record is interpreted. The paper introduces the concept of ‘extractive seeing’, and employs it to frame an investigation of the visual culture of oil in Austria, a country not often immediately associated with Europe’s oil history.

Professor Janet Stewart is the Head of School in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures at Durham University.

Contact for more information about this event.

Saturday 18 March 2017

IAS Scale of Nature Conference

9:00am to 7:00pm, Pemberton Rooms

Keynote Address: Professor Peter Bowler (Queen’s University, Belfast)

Amongst the paradigms current in nineteenth-century culture the Great Chain of Being frequently held pride of place, vying against Darwinian approaches in what historian of science Peter Bowler described broadly as the ‘non-Darwinian revolution’. Arming scientists with a scale of nature - a fixed hierarchical arrangement of the natural world from the lowest rudimentary forms of life to its apogee in man – the Great Chain helped Victorian Britain reassert order and control in the face of perceived threats by the inherent randomness, chance and uncertainty of Darwin’s evolutionary theory. Paradoxically, in the battle between The Great Chain and Darwin, it was the Great Chain of Being that was frequently the fittest survivor. This one-day interdisciplinary conference examines this phenomenon, exploring Britain’s understanding of the Scale of Nature by investigating the Great Chain of Being in the context of the pre-, non- and post-Darwinian as well as Darwinian evolutionary culture in the long nineteenth century. It pays particular attention to visual representations of natural hierarchies.

For more information, please contact Bennett Zon at or

Ludmilla Jordanova at

Visit the conference webpage:

Further information at the Centre for Nineteenth-Century Studies can be found at:

Further information about the Centre for Visual Arts and Culture may be found at:

This event is supported by the Institute of Advanced Study at Durham University

Bowes Lecture Series to accompany 'Only in England' exhibition: Mark Sealy, OBE 'A Different England'

2:30pm, The Bowes Museum , Mark Sealy, OBE

About the speaker

Mark Sealy is interested in the relationship between photography and social change, identity politics, race, and human rights. He has been director of Autograph ABP (London) since 1991 and has produced artist publications, curated exhibitions, and commissioned photographers and filmmakers worldwide, including the recent critically acclaimed project Human Rights Human Wrongs exhibition.

He has served as a photography jury member for World Press Photo, the Carmignac Gestion photojournalism award, and the Sony World Photo award. In 2015, he chaired the Kraszna-Krausz Foundation Book award. He is in high demand internationally as a speaker, and recently gained a PhD from Durham University for a thesis examining the relationship between photography and cultural violence.

More information from the Bowes Museum.