Representing Home: Art, Visual Culture, and the Interdisciplinary Study of Home

Jekyll Room, Winterbourne House & Garden
Thursday 8 November 2018 (09:30-16:30)

If you are interested in a place at this workshop please email

representing home

WORKSHOP LEADER: Dr Greg Salter, School of Languages, Cultures, Art History and Music

The shifting spaces, objects, and relationships of home provide significant challenges for researchers seeking to understand the experience of contemporary homes and the homes of the past. Home can be a stable place of comfort that nurtures a developing sense of self, be transitory, a place of conflict, and of negotiation. Although not conforming to the rules and etiquettes that govern the public sphere, it is inevitably shaped by external factors. At the same time, different cultures and eras have varying notions about what constitutes a home. Far from being a static entity, home might be experienced and negotiated across spaces – particularly when it is formed and affected by experiences of migration and displacement – and across timeframes – shaped by memory, previous generations, the loss or return of homes, and homes imagined in the future.

Given the shifting, unstable, and complex nature of home, this workshop intends to explore the extent to which art and visual culture might allow this complexity to be made visible, to be set down or negotiated (though inevitably with a degree of loss or incompleteness), and enable, perhaps, understanding. Home and related concepts such as the interior and domesticity have become increasingly productive concepts in the study of global contemporary art (Gill Perry, Imogen Racz, Lauzon) and have been used to interrogate the narratives and categories of modernism (Berry, Pollock, Lajer-Burcharth and Sontgen). In the contemporary art world, artists and exhibitions have turned increasingly towards questions of home and the housing crisis (in Britain, Assemble won the Turner Prize for their Granby Four Streets project in 2015; Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art’s Idea Home Show examined how artists and architects might contribute solutions to the housing crisis in 2017-18). Home has also been a prominent area of study in geography (Blunt and Dowling, Massey, Tolia Kelly), history (Vickery, Tosh, Hamlett), and literary studies (Mezei and Briganti, Wiley and Barnes).

While these individual studies have inevitably drawn from each other, there has been little direct collaboration across these disciplines. How might an art historian’s close, complex, and often unstable readings of visual sources benefit the work of historians, literary scholars, and geographers? How might historians’ shifting conceptions of home – including the interior and, in the early modern period, the household – speak to more contemporary studies of home? And how can art and visual culture enable trans-historical understanding of home? How might geographers’ work on spatial practices and contested sites of home and community help to shape the methodologies of humanities researchers? And how might art and visual culture be a sphere for the negotiation of these questions? As debates around home continue to feel distinctly vital – given the ongoing housing crisis in Britain on a national scale, and centrality of migration and movement to politics on a global scale – this workshop will explore and exchange ideas on how art and visual culture might be a focus for interdisciplinary work in this area.

With these questions and contexts in mind, this workshop will bring together the significant number of researchers working on questions of home across a range of disciplines at the University of Birmingham, across Birmingham more widely, and beyond – including but not limited to art history, fine art, history, literature, and geography – in order to explore the relationship between the study of home, identity and visual culture and to develop ideas for future collaboration.