Imaging Identity: Media, Memory and Visions of Humanity in the Digital Present



Imaging Identity Lecture Series

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Recorded Keynote Lectures are now avalaible at:

Keynote Speakers
WJT Mitchell, Gaylord Donnelley Distinguished Service Professor of English and Art History, University of Chicago
David Elliott, Independent curator and Artistic Director of the 2010 Biennale of Sydney
Didier Maleuvre, Professor of French and Comparative Literature, University of California, Santa Barbara

Understandings of self and other occur universally through images. Traversing history and cultures, the production, presentation and apprehension of images has been essential to how we come to know ourselves and make sense of our relations with others. Images reflect different conceptions of what it is to be human and reveal continuities and discontinuities over time. At a moment of deep global uncertainty, images from the past and present provide a vital and potent medium for envisaging our collective future.

This symposium is concerned with the many ways in which humanity images identity. Within this broad frame lies a more particular interest, to understand what images of personhood are and how particular kinds of images operate in diverse social contexts. Can it be said that certain image making practices are associated with particular ways of being human? Do imaging media have different effects cross-culturally? What kinds of pictures of self and other emerge from such understandings of images? Under what conditions can images produce or encourage empathy?

In posing these questions we invoke debates about the efficacy, impact and agency of images. How do images mean? What does an image carry with it? In what ways do context and temporality influence our regard of images?

The digital age presents both new possibilities and new challenges to the way we image identity, enabling new kinds of multi-media production and distribution, providing unprecedented access to visual information, but also carrying with it what might be perceived as a new cultural attitude to images, in which the properties of material form and particularities of context can be overlooked.

This symposium seeks to explore this potent and complex set of issues around the relationship between persons and images in the present.

  • The possibilities of portraiture: what can a portrait reveal about past and present understandings of the human condition?
  • Relations between images and persons: how are these understood at the interface between the humanities, social and natural sciences?
  • Persons and place: how is this relationship figured visually across and within cultures, and in the precariousness of the present?
  • Empathy and conflict: how do images function as sites of contestation or reciprocal understanding between persons?
  • Art museums and their audiences: how are these relations being reconfigured in the digital era?
  • Seeing and temporality: does digital mediation influence the way we regard other kinds of images?
  • If there is such as thing as an image for our times what might it look like?

Melinda Hinkson RSH, ANU
Howard Morphy RSH, ANU
Louise Doyle NPG
Pamela Clelland Gray NPG
Michael Desmond NPG
Caroline Turner RSH, ANU

Date & time

Thu 15 Jul 2010, 10am – Sat 17 Jul 2010, 10am


National Portrait Gallery, Canberra


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