Leading Expert in Visual Culture to Address Issues of Temporal Iconology at NUI Galway

Professor W.J.T Mitchell from University of Chicago. Photo Professor Mitchell
Jun 02 2021 Posted: 15:16 IST

Professor W.J.T Mitchell from University of Chicago will discuss politics, race, the environment, and creativity, and how images have represented these events in time

Italian and The Moore Institute at NUI Galway have invited the leading expert in visual culture, Professor W.J.T Mitchell from University of Chicago, to an all Ireland event addressing issues of temporal iconology, the images representing time in culture and society. Professor Mittchell will present two lectures and join a panel of local and international experts to discuss politics, race, the environment, and creativity in two webinar events on the 9-10 June.

Both lectures will look at how critical time can be understood, and how we can learn to shape the future justly and more sustainably. In an increasingly visual world, images can lead us to make sense of where we are and what we are, through an iconology of time. They can show what our time looks like.

Crisis is around us. It’s the medical crisis generated by Covid-19, the demise of democracy, increasing economic, social, racial and gender inequalities, climate changes and environmental disasters. Times of crisis are also times of opportunity, renewal, and understanding.

When is it a good time to think about time? The answer provided by these lectures is that there is no time like the present, especially the crazy, tense present of the year 2020. In this year four distinct scales of temporality converged:

1. A global pandemic that devastated the world economy and killed over two million people.
2. An infodemic of mass delusion and political madness launching an upsurge of authoritarianism in tyranny, especially in the United State.
3. An upsurge in the endemic condition of systemic racism and white supremacy in the U.S.
4. A global ecodemic that threatens the stability of the environment as a sustainable habitat for thousands of species, including humans.

The first lecture on 9 June will offer an anachronistic gathering of images of time from ancient and modern sources, and in so doing suggests an iconology of time that may provide some useful tools for keeping our bearings in the midst of our epoch. Quarantined in monkish isolation by the pandemic, W.J.T. Mitchell has engaged in a set of reflections on convergent time scales. Instead of the classic (and unanswerable) philosophical question “what is time?” this lecture reflects on the ways we picture time in metaphors, figures, personifications, and diagrams. The lecture will be followed by a discussion with Dr Nessa Cronin from NUI Galway and Professor Jeannine Kraft, Columbus College of Art and Design, Ohio, US.

The second lecture, on 10 June will reflect on the role artists can play in building community and on the most important targets of resistance. This lecture will survey the role of activist artistic practices in a number of different sites, including demonstrations, murals, exhibitions, archives, and educational facilities. On the South Side of Chicago, the work of Theaster Gates and the Rebuild Foundation, and the recent collaboration of the Invisible Institute with Forensic Architecture will be discussed. In Israel-Palestine, the work of filmmakers, photographers, performance artists, and other groups that work across the Green Line will be central. The lecture will be followed by a discussion with Dr El Putnam from NUI Galway and Dr Timothy Stott from TCD.

Dr Paolo Bartoloni, Established Professor of Italian at NUI Galway, said: “We are honoured and proud to host these two events with Tom Mitchell. He initiated the pictorial turn in the 1990s, emphasising the centrality of images in contemporary culture. He continues to pay witness to the challenges facing us with great passion, commitment, and knowledge. His scholarly work speaks to life in ways that remind us all of the humble but precious role academia plays in the world.”

Professor Mitchell is Gaylord Donnelley Distinguished Service Professor of English and Art History at the University of Chicago. He is the editor of the leading journal of cultural studies Critical Inquiry, author of the seminal books Picture Theory (1994), What do Pictures Want? (2005), and Image Science (2015) and editor of the ground-breaking volume On Narrative (1980). He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the American Philosophical Society. His books have been awarded several prizes including the Gordon E. Laing Prize and the Charles Rufus Morey Prize.

The first lecture will take place at 4pm on Wednesday, 9 June and is titled 'Present Tense 2020: On the Iconology of Time'. 'What is time?' Register at https://tinyurl.com/uha5fd.

The second lecture will take place at 4pm on Thursday, 10 June and is titled 'Art, Community, and Resistance. Register at https://tinyurl.com/3zr7jfhk.


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