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John Thomson: Reframing Materials, Images, and Archives

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Wellcome Trust Gibbs Building,

215 Euston Road

London

NW1 2BE

United Kingdom

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John Thomson’s (1837-1921) large surviving archive has helped to secure his place in the canon of British photography. The Archive includes some 600 negatives at the Wellcome collection, as well as an extensive list of published works, surviving glass-plate negatives, cartes de visites, and album prints. Such an archive has generated interest in Thomson’s photographs as historical and cultural documents, an illustration of how the existing discourse on Thomson’s work remains tied to the perceived indexical values of his photographs.

This event is organised in conjunction with the 2018 exhibition at the Brunei Gallery, SOAS (13 Apri - 23 June 2018), Through the Lens of John Thomson 1868-1872: China, Siam and Angkor.

The key themes are the production, reproduction, circulation, exhibition, and the archival value of John Thomson’s work. As such, this study day will provide an opportunity to contextualise and stimulate new research questions around the materiality and visuality of photography. These discussions also have wider implications within the scholarship of photography across the fields of Art History, Anthropology, Visual and Material Cultures, History, Architecture and Dress History. Critically, the programme will endeavour to illuminate and problematise new debates on Thomson’s work.

Academics, curators and practitioners will present research and engage in discussion around four specific key themes: The Interrelation and Interaction of Making, Translating and Transforming Images into Objects, Reading and Reframing of Images - Issues of the Archive, and Constructing and Conceptualising East and Southeast Asia. As such, this Study Day will provide an opportunity to contextualise and stimulate new research questions around the materiality and visuality of photography. These discussions also have wider implications within the scholarship of photography across the fields of Art History, Anthropology, Visual and Material Cultures, History, Architecture and Dress History.

Key Note Speaker: Dr. Roberta Wue (Associate Professor of Art History, University of California, Irvine)

Key Note Lecture: “Pagodas, Paintings, and Produce: John Thomson and Chinese Things”

Panel 1. The Interrelation and Interaction of Making

This panel addresses the concept of making. By this we mean to consider and investigate the relationship between photographic technologies and the historiography of visual representation.

Panel 2. Translating and Transforming Images into Objects

This panel addresses the materiality of photography and its relationship to the dichotomous qualities of ephemerality and permanence.

Panel 3. Reading and Reframing of Images - Issues of the Archive

The aim of this panel is to uncover alternative frameworks in the response and use of the ‘photographic archive’. We encourage interdisciplinary approaches to understand the cultural constructs hidden within such archives. Panellists are invited to engage with different methodological approaches in the reading of photographs, both singular and in collections, and to elaborate on issues raised.

Panel 4. Constructing and Conceptualising East and Southeast Asia

The aim of this panel is to consider how different types of visual schema (including sketching, drawing and photography) of specific sites in Asia have participated in conceptualisations of heritage and modernity, often engendering ‘pre-modern Asia’.

Registration will open at 08:30 AM and the day’s proceedings will start at 09:00 AM. The John Thomson exhibition at the Brunei Gallery will be open until 08:00 PM that evening.

This event is made possible by the generous support of:

The Sir Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art, SOAS China Institute, SOAS Centre of Southeast East Asia Studies (CSEAS), Birkbeck History of Art department, The Wellcome Collection, Sino-British Fellowship Trust, and Professor Gungwu Wang Grant.

http://www.johnthomsonexhibition.org

For further information, please contact organisers:

Angela Cheung and Lupt Utama: ThomsonStudyDay2018@gmail.com


History of Art and Archaeology, SOAS, University of London

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Wellcome Trust Gibbs Building,

215 Euston Road

London

NW1 2BE

United Kingdom

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