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.