Actions and Detail Panel
Media History: Amateurs and outsiders
Wed 27 April 2016, 16:00 – 18:00 BST
Prof. Steve Hawley (Manchester Metropolitan University) - The outsider as visionary;The films of George Higginson, 1920s amateur filmmaker and pioneer of media studies
George Higginson made the first ever film made in and about an art school in the world, at the Manchester School of Art in 1929, four years before Norman McLaren’s celebrated film about the Glasgow School of Art. He was unusual by the standards of the day -a full time mature student, when most students were part time, and aged 35 when he entered the School. He had served with distinction in the army and RAF in the first war, and travelled all over Europe as a cotton engineer. He was a painter and an engineer, held prophetic views on the future of film, and continued to make films until the end of his life as an amateur, refusing the commercial film world. Free from the confines of professional filmmaking, his work ranged widely across different genres – art and science, the educational documentary, experimental film, animation, and even amateur newsreel. He published highly innovatory views on the educational film and promoted an early vision of media studies. I examine Higginson’s immensely varied work and explore some of the contradictions of his life and amateur status.
Eleanor Massie (Queen Mary, University of London) - Ham Acting: A Circum-Atlantic Genealogy
This paper explores the hammy, an aesthetic category that developed in the circum-Atlantic performance industry from the mid nineteenth to early twentieth century. Much usage in this period, either in performance texts or in critical and spectatorial accounts of performance, connects the hammy to performance practices associated with blackface minstrelsy. Discussion of the hammy arises especially in moments where the representation of race onstage troubles the value ascribed to performers’ labour. This paper argues that this aesthetic category has had a shaping influence on how professionalism is articulated in the circum-Atlantic performance industry, particularly regarding connections between the construction of a professional identity and the unstable construction of whiteness. Moving from discussions of nineteenth-century “ham” banjo players, to the hamminess of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, this paper considers a range of cultural forms in which concerns over race, labour, and aesthetics converge.
About the speakers:
Prof. Steve Hawley is an artist/filmmaker and early video artist, who has shown his work at galleries and on broadcast TV worldwide since 1980. He is the Associate Dean for Research at the Manchester School of Art, part of Manchester Metropolitan University.
Eleanor Massie (firstname.lastname@example.org) is completing an AHRC-funded PhD in the Department of Drama at Queen Mary University of London, supervised by Professor Nicholas Ridout. Her thesis examines the circum-Atlantic genealogy of amateur/professional binaries in UK performance. She has presented on her research at IFTR, ASTR and TaPRA; published in Performance Paradigm (2015); and is currently co-editing an issue of Performance Research, ‘On Dialectics’ (forthcoming June 2016).
Date and Time
P424, 4th Floor Parkside Building
Birmingham City University
5 Cardigan Street