Our cultures are awash in spectacular visual display. From the first exhibition of the cinematograph in 1895 to the web, video games and the iPhone, a succession of screens has been the site for the creation, reproduction and transmission of meaning and emotion, and a key medium for the contestation of power. These media have been imbricated in profound global cultural change, new ways of imagining and understanding human society, and a dramatic reconsideration of the ways in which knowledge is, and can be, constituted.
Images continue to explode across our screens, engaging multiple audiences, made by new kinds of producers, animating new imaginaries and normative structures, enabling new surveillance techniques, and being ‘put to work’ in innovative ways. The multiple and contradictory effects of these developments are evident across the globe, yet their implications are only beginning to be grasped. What visions of the human are being produced and enacted? How have new approaches to visual knowledge influenced existing disciplines and altered the intellectual landscape of public and academic life?
Now Showing, the Humanities Research Centre theme for 2014, incites a comprehensive evaluation of the impact of digital screens: on culture and cultures, their representation and construction; on the formation and practices of social judgment including legal, political, and aesthetic judgment; and on the implications of these modalities for the future of the humanities themselves, both as fields of scholarly research and in the public sphere.
In connection with this theme, the HRC will host four major events: Law and the Visual (convened by Desmond Manderson); History, Cinema, Digital Archives on 23-25 July (convened by Jill Julius Matthews); Visual Expression in the Disciplines of Words (convened by David MacDougall); and Where Are We? Visual Cultures of Place-Making in a Precarious Age (convened by Melinda Hinkson). All events will be held at the Australian National University, Canberra, Australia.