Brief report from recipients of London Art History Society travel/research funds in 2021-22
Albert Brenchat-Aguilar, PhD History of Architecture (research travel bursary, £300)
This London Art History Society bursary supplemented a Paul Mellon Support Grant. With these two grants, I have been able to visit the Robert Gardner-Medwin Papers at the Special Collections and Archives of Liverpool University; the papers of Avinash Chandra at South Asian Diaspora Arts Archive (Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery); and, most importantly, a series of archives in Ghana during the seven weeks I visited the country as a visiting fellow of the Faculty of Architecture at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Kumasi.
Whilst my archival visits in the UK have been very productive to find out about exchanges between architects and artists in the UK and Ghana, it has been the visit to Ghanaian archives what has brought most rewarding results. First, I’ve been able to visit many more archives than expected, including the PRAAD Accra (KNUST and Ghanaian government reports), PRAAD Kumasi (KNUST reports), Ghana Collection at KNUST (KNUST’s reports), George Padmore Library (KNUST and Ghanaian government reports), KNUST Development Office’s archives (Owusu-Addo’s work), and Prempeh II library archives (student’s thesis).
From this research, I’ve been able to trace histories of sociological and artistic knowledge in KNUST, and understand the coexistence of British and Ghanaian artists and architects. I’ve been able to trace the development of the Faculties of Arts and Architecture that are now unified in the College of Arts and the Built Environment. I could find out the influence of British arts and British collectors in the development of artists such as Atta Kwami, a father figure of the Ghanaian art scene.
Additionally, I’ve been able to immerse in the contemporary arts environment of Kumasi and Tamale: first I’ve attended classes and lectures at the Department of Painting and Sculpture at KNUST, led by Prof. kąrî’kạchä seid’ou. Second, I’ve taken part in seminar and organisation meetings of the PerforCraze International Artists Residency (PIAR) led by activist Va-Bene Elkiem Fiatsi. And finally, I’ve been able to visit artists’ studios and galleries in Tamale, Accra and Kumasi.
From these experiences, I’ve been able to engage with artist Ato Jackson who will provide an artistic response to the exhibition ‘As Hardly Found in the Art of Tropical Architecture’ to be held at the Architectural Association of London in 2023. I’m currently looking for additional funding to this contribution and I hope the London Art History Society can help in this endeavour. Also, I’m inviting Prof. kąrî’kạchä seid’ou and artist Bernard Akoi-Jackson to contribute to the exhibition catalogue. Finally, I hope to develop a small iteration of this exhibition in Ghana, continuing the dialogue between the British and Ghanaian art scene, and I’m applying to do this as part of a curatorial residency at PIAR in Kumasi.
Finally, I also had the opportunity to attend seminars and give my own seminar at the Institute of African Studies in the University of Ghana, from where I could engage with Prof. Henry Nii Adziri Wellington who shaped the architectural discipline and engaged with sociologists and artists in the 1970s.
- Engagement with artist Ato Jackson, kąrî’kạchä seid’ou and Bernard Akoi-Jackson for the exhibition ‘As Hardly Found in the Art of Tropical Architecture’ to be held at the Architectural Association of London in 2023.
- Development of networks between the Architectural Association and the Department of Painting and Sculpture in Ghana, the first as an architectural institution strongly influenced by the arts, and the second an arts institution with strong interests in the work in Ghana by British, Ghanaian and Easter European architects.
- Understanding the gaps in the archive of British artist Avinash Chandra part of which will be presented in the exhibition aforementioned in London, and a closer contact with the board of trustees of the South Asian Diaspora Arts Archive.
- A closer look at the networks of financing and architecture and art-making between Britain, the US, and Ghana after Ghanaian independence.
- A first encounter with writings and the built environment that describe the life of artists and architects of the UK in Ghana during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.
James Stewart, PhD History of Art (research travel bursary, £300)
With the help of funding from the London Art History Society, I was able to go on research trips to Powderham Castle and Devon Heritage Centre. During these trips I viewed artworks and archival material related to my project on the collection of William Courtenay, 9th Earl of Devon (1768-1835) that explores how we can approach eighteenth-century country houses using theories of gender, sexuality and queer identity. The funding allowed me to view objects and unpublished documents in person which helped me further piece together 9th Earl’s collection.
Krupa Desai, PhD History of Photography, thesis submitted (research travel bursary, £300)
My doctoral research studied mid-twentieth-century photographic archives in India. Many of these archives are significant for understanding visual culture in south Asia and illuminate the functional use of photography in the Cold War/Non-Alignment period. Prior to my thesis, most of these photographic collections had not been studied as art historical objects, and their historical/social significance was not accounted for. From 2019-21, I benefitted from the London Art History Society research travel bursaries to visit different sites in India and access a range of photographic material, helping me to expand the historical study of visual culture and photographic art.
Mark Liebenrood, PhD History of Art (research travel bursary, £300)
I’m very grateful to the London Art History Society for two separate payments towards research expenses in 2021, as part of my doctoral research. The grants supported travel and accommodation for a week-long trip to Wigan and Leigh to examine the archives of The Way We Were, also known as the Wigan Pier Heritage Centre, and to visit the site of the former museum. The archives are extensive and provided substantial insights into the circumstances that led to the founding of the museum, its early years, and later developments. The opportunity to visit those archives was extremely valuable for clarifying the direction of my doctoral research.
Morag McLintock, PhD History of Art (research travel bursary, £300)
I am extremely grateful to the Society for their generous bursary which I used to part fund a research trip to Italy. The visit included several sites from the fourteenth century in Padua associated with the family who are the subject of my PhD; but the most important component was to aid my research into the tomb of one of the family which is elsewhere. The remains of this tomb are now in the Rocca di Soragna, about 30 km from Parma, but they have been moved at least twice, having originally been in the church of San Francesco del Prato in Parma. There are no images of the tomb in its previous locations and none published of it as presently assembled showing all the elements. The tomb is not complete, and has been arranged for display, set into a wall, and appears to have at least one component which may be a later addition – this being judged from a photograph taken by a very helpful secretary from the castle. It was therefore necessary to view the tomb myself as currently displayed, and to visit its original site in Parma in order to be able to complete what will be the first chapter of my theses.
Although the chapel of the castle was not open to the public at the time of my trip the administration had kindly agreed to allow me access, and I was able to spend time examining and photographing the tomb remains. This particularly fruitful visit opened up new questions and avenues of research, more specifically concerning the armour of the tomb effigy and certain details regarding the inscription, which I have since followed up. I was also able to visit the church of San Francesco del Prato in Parma, the tomb’s original location. Although this church had been used as a prison for over 200 years, it is now being restored enabling me to see the apse where I propose the tomb initially resided and to judge the significance of that position.
Together the ability to view these two sites has enabled me to assess what is and is not original to the tomb, work out what the initial layout was most likely to be, and to identify and focus further research. This has allowed me to evaluate how the tomb was intended to reflect the status of the family – the main focus of my theses – and permit me to complete the first chapter.
Irem Gülersönmez, PhD History of Photography (research travel bursary, £300)
My dissertation, “Historical Imagery of Violence: Armenians from the Ottoman Empire to France (1909-1928),” studies the imagery of Ottoman Armenians in relation to vulnerability, resistance, and survival from the Adana massacres (1909) to the dismantling of the refugee camps in Marseille in 1928. By looking at photographs the dissertation seeks to write a potential history—a term I borrow from Ariella Azoulay (Azoulay )— in which the violence Ottoman Armenians were subjected to is understood not as a form of passive victimisation but in which their vulnerabilities and their “drive for life” [Didi- Huberman, 2016] are understood as acts of resistance. As such, I examine how overlooked photographs, photographs that do not show explicit violence or seem unrelated to the event, located in state and military archives, local and diaspora archives, can offer a novel understanding of the existing narrative of the Genocide and post-genocide period.
The London Art History Society Fund enabled me to conduct my archival trip to Marseille, where thousands of Armenian genocide survivors arrived in 1922. Since then, Marseille has remained a crucial city for the Armenian population in France. During my research trip, I visited an important local archive Association pour la recherche et l’archivage de la mémoire arménienne, which was established by the initiation of the Armenian diaspora in Marseille. There, I consulted photographs and documents from the early years of the Armenian diaspora in France. In particular, I looked at photographs taken from Camp Oddo, one of the three camps where Armenians were placed upon arrival. Today, there are no physical traces left from these camps but a register of Camp Oddo’s inhabitants with their names, parents, ages, sex, place of birth, date of birth, and profession, all carefully noted down by (possibly) a camp member. The photographs captured by genocide survivors explore the multiple ways in which Armenians expressed themselves through the construction of life both literally (in the form of buildings in the camp and outside) and metaphorically (as survivors), through the reimagination of everyday life, as in cooking, as in giving a fresh hair cut or in the weaving of carpets. Furthermore, the photographs, together with the register, show how the mechanisms of documenting, controlling, and surveilling were transformed by Armenians into new forms of identification and subjectivities. Effectively, I aim to contribute to the visual history of resistance and its relationship to survival (survivance), challenging the notions of the vernacular and vulnerability. I am indebted to the London Art History Society for giving me the opportunity of conducting this research trip.
Rebecca Aveson, MA Museum Cultures (work placement travel bursary, £ 227; and research travel bursary, £150)
I received two lots of the London Art History Society funding this academic year (2021-22); one for travel reimbursement on my placement, and the other as research funding for my dissertation.
I was thankful for the financial aid as it allowed me to travel into London each day for my placement, rather than work from home, giving me access to hands on experience in a museum I would not have been able to gain without the funding.
The research fund I was granted allowed me to travel to Oxford and spend two days there using the archives and collections at the Bodleian Libraries, as well as visit some interesting museums. This trip greatly enhanced my dissertation research because it provided good ephemera sources to demonstrate how my arguments answered my chosen questions (the main theme was discussing ideas of ‘race’ on display in human exhibitions during the 19th century). Some of the museums that I visited in Oxford, such as the Pitt-Rivers museum, were able to demonstrate the legacy of ethnographic displays in museums today and how museums are challenging historical perspectives.
Richard Laikin, MA History of Art (research travel bursary, £150)
I used my grant to fund research as part of my first year MA Research Exercise. I was was researching a series of Henry Moore graphics that appeared in various portfolios published to celebrate his 80th birthday in the context of Moore’s broader drawing and graphic practices, and the development of the reclining figure motif within his later work. The grant funded a number of trips to work with the archivists at the Henry Moore Foubdation, and attendance at several academic conferences and workshops relating to postwar modernist art. This enabled me to engage with the research we’ll beyond the secondary literature. For example I was able to examine Moore’s correspondence and other materials and portfolios relating to the specific graphics and his 80th birthday celebrations, as well as being able to engage with academics working on the period in question.
Valerie Lee, MA History of Art (work placement travel fund, £88)
The funding helped me with my travels to various events that were organized during my work placement as an Event & Marketing Assistant at the Peltz Gallery.
Through the work placement, I was able to experience my first professional exhibition installation/de-installation where I learned how to unpack/pack, handled, record, and photograph artworks for insurance purposes. During the installation of artwork, it was my privilege to talk with the artists, discussed, and gave comments or suggestions so they were able to have a second opinion. I was also able to observe art technicians using different methods to hang paintings and adjust the lighting in the exhibition room. During events such as exhibition openings, talks, workshops, and online events, I liaised with speakers and handled participants’ emails for reminders or when they have some inquiries to make sure things run smoothly. I was also the Photographer and videographer of the events for the gallery’s archive.
On the marketing part, I was asked to research potential target audiences such as organizations and research institutes that would be interested to visit the exhibition. Together with team members, we brainstormed ideas for content that could be posted on social media, and I volunteered to create a promo video for the Instagram account of the gallery. Other than that, I’ve managed to edit artists’ videos and write social media captions and scheduled a calendar to upload them on social media.
I found my interest in the planning and discussion of art exhibitions with artists. Through my conversations with the artist were able to discuss the “picture frame” that played a role in their artwork. The opportunities further helped in finding interesting topics for research writing, where I’ve decided to write about the Framing and Unframing of Art, to discuss how “picture frame” can affect the artwork and spectators of the space. I would like to thank London Art History Society for the funding that helped to broaden my knowledge and experiences in art gallery settings.