A Vision for Europe: Academic Action and Responsibility in Times of Crises is an AHRC-funded research network. It is tasked with examining the scholarly use of image-led practices to comment and shape political reality through a unique engagement with the material archive of a photograph exhibition mounted in 1941 by the Warburg Institute in London.
The exhibition, English Art and the Mediterranean was organised by refugee scholars working in England during the second world war, with the aim of asserting Britain’s European identity. The exhibition consisted of 500 black and white photographs of art and architecture mounted on panels in the Reading Room of the Warburg Institute (then situated in the Imperial Institute buildings in South Kensington) and was open to the general public. Their argument was based on the Mediterranean influences on British art through the ages and thus countering nationalistic conceptions of art and cultural histories in a time of crisis.
The exhibition holds a particular pertinence in Britain’s current political landscape and its faltering relationship with Europe. As Kenneth Clark reminded his audience at the opening of the exhibition on 2 December 1941,
“(…) as this exhibition shows we are not only materially part of the Continent, but we are spiritually dependent upon it too.”
But it also speaks to the more widespread and rising issue of nationalism and populism Europe-wide that threatens the notion of a common European culture.
English Art and the Mediterranean prove to be a hit in London and it went on to tour around Britain, stopping at 20 cities. The review (above left) speaks to the exhibition stop in Cardiff.
The network brings together artists, historians, media theorists, curators, journalists, photographers and activists to reactivate this unique archival resource and to make it accessible to a broad public.
Aby Warburg, Gertrud Bing and Franz Alber, Rome 1929.
© The Warburg Institute, London.
The Principle Investigator, Mick Finch (UAL) is an artist, Reader in Visual Art Practice at the University of the Arts London and the BA Fine Art Course Leader at Central Saint Martins, London. His recent writing and studio work focuses on the relationship between technical apparatuses and image production. His work can be accessed through his website.
The Co-Investigator, Joanne Anderson (WI) is Lecturer in Art History, specialising in artistic patronage and production in the late medieval Alps, with a particular focus on the circulation of imagery by migratory workshops. Joanne also works on 20th-century exhibition history, and specifically the travelling exhibition, Frescoes from Florence (1968-72). Her full profile is available on the Warburg Institute website.
The Project Partner (PP), Johannes von Müller works on the migration of images, political iconology and Medieval Southern Italy and the Mediterranean as well as historiography and intellectual history in the 19th and 20th centuries. He is based at the Warburg Institute and coordinates the research project ‘Bilderfahrzeuge: Aby Warburg’s Legacy and the Future of Iconology’.
Network Core Members
Jeremy Adler, Kings College London, specialises in Comparative Studies and Exile Studies. He has worked on areas such as iterature and the visual arts, literature and science, and literature and law. He is especially interested in long-term continuities and cultural transformations — whether from one medium to another, or from one culture to another. His earliest work took the methodology of Aby Warburg as a starting-point.
Julius Bryant, is keeper of Word & Image Department, at the Victoria and Albert Museum, since 2005. His responsibilities include paintings, prints, drawings, photography, the National Art Library and the Archive of Art and Design. He has been the V&A’s lead curator for exhibitions on William Kent, James ‘Athenian’ Stuart, John Lockwood Kipling and on the history of the V&A.
Victor Claass holds a PhD in art history from the Sorbonne University. A former member of the research project Bilderfahrzeuge: Aby Warburg’s Legacy and the Future of Iconology, he currently works in Paris as a postdoctoral fellow at the Louvre Museum. His research focuses on art historiography, art circulation, as well as on the history of museums and exhibition practices.
Stuart Franklin is a Magnum photographer and professor of documentary photography, teaching at Volda University College – Norway, the University of Applied Arts and Sciences – Hannover, and SPEOS, Paris. He is the author of The Documentary Impulse (Phaidon, 2016). Currently completing a book on ambiguity in art and photography.