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From Folk to Modern British - Desdemona McCannon

Visual Culture Research Group

Members of the Visual Culture group explore theories, histories, practices and reception of the visual manifestations of culture. Our wide-ranging research is linked by the role of visuality in creating and communicating meaning; and by its focus on visual experience and visual literacy.

The Visual Culture Group is concerned with the broad range of knowledge and understanding centred upon images as means of conveying and creating cultural meaning. Members research histories, theories, and practices of the visual manifestations of culture their production, circulation, and reception as well as visuality and spectatorship across various artistic and commercial media and display forms.

The Group explores the dynamics of visual media in contemporary and historical institutions, power systems, discourses and conflicts: political ideology, post-colonialism, commodification, globalisation...

It promotes the study of visual culture at its margins, real and imagined borders, and in its intersections with other disciplines: transnationality, the ‘other’, urbanism, folk culture, the everyday, fashion...

Methodological approaches integrate empirical study with conceptual perspectives: place, modernity, identity, consumption, memory, representation, authenticity...

Encouragement is given to collaborative activity, especially with visual repositories. Work encompasses curatorship and the study of forms of visual presentation. It also includes the interpretation of archives and collections as research resources for the art and design community.

Research Areas

  • Art and geopolitical borders
  • Commodification of culture
  • Dress and memory
  • Gender and representation
  • Graphic propaganda
  • Mapping and movement
  • Museums, collecting practices and psychoanalysis
  • Rural modernity / rural mythologies
  • Textile patterns and merchanting practice
  • Urban space and modernity
  • Visual dimensions of conflict
  • Visuality of magazines
  • Women and the popularisation of folk art

Recent Projects

Simon Faulkner and Jim Aulich are co-investigators in a groundbreaking ESRC-sponsored research team spanning four universities and the private sector that aims to build a research tool to aid researchers in capturing and analysing the visual data of social media for academic study.

Beccy Kennedy leads an AHRC-funded project that will create a new international network of academics, curators, artists and designers from Britain, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore. Five research networking events at the partner venue will culminate in a summative conference at Manchester Metropolitan University. The network aims to produce a body of research on the effects of border crossings upon art and design practice in Greater China.

Rosemary Shirley’s monograph challenges the typical conception of the rural as unchanging, standing apart from the modern, and even its passive victim. She recasts the rural as an active and complex site of modernity, a shift that re-thinks the rural and provides a new perspective on the everyday.

Professor Jim Aulich with Professor John Schostak from ESRI in conjunction with the Co-operative College, are heading up a team of researchers from Education, HLSS and Business and Law interested in the visual and material culture of the co-operative movement.

Dani Child’s used Herbert Read’s classic essay as a starting point to query the role of visual culture under today’s global capitalism. She asks what critcally engaged artists, activists and theorists can do to critique the commodification of culture, and what an art counter to capitalism would look like.

John Davis is a leading visual archivist pioneering the preservation of slide collections as material and visual culture. His popular posts on Flickr give a taste of the staggering visual wealth of the collection he cares for. Recent posts by students and staff explore slides as material objects.


Exhibitions & Publications


Gartside, S., 2018. Atopia Project, Castlefield Gallery.

Gartside, S., 2018. Holden Curatorial Project, Holden Gallery.

van Aitken, J., Manousakis, M., Ward, T., Bokos, C., Kontouris, V., Drymonitis, A., Koutsomichalis, M., Goumpouros, P., Korai, C., Tebinka, M., Poulou, A., Garrelfs, I., Izquierdo, E., Karadedos, T., McCafferty, C., Meirelles, M., Nakou, E., Pechuan Roca,, 2018. Soundscapes Landscapes/City Above-Life Below, Onassis Cultural Centre, Athens, 11/2/2018.

Brake, JA., 2017. Architectures of Displacement: China/UK, Tate Exchange, Tate Liverpool, 7/4/2017 - 13/4/2017.

Shirley, R., Elson, V., 2017. Creating the Countryside: Thomas Gainsborough to Today, Compton Verney, 18/3/2017 - 18/6/2017.

Crompton, E., Brake, J., 2017. Library of Engagements, Tate Liverpool, 10/4/2017.

Gartside, S., 2016. -scape, Holden Gallery, 11th April - 20th May 2016.

Barber, F., McAtackney, L., O'Donnell, K., 2016. Con and Eva: gendering revolution, Public Records Office of Northern Ireland, Belfast and touring throughout Ireland: Irish World Heritage Centre Manchester, Belfast April 2016: Manchester March-June 2017.

Barber, FC., 2016. Con and Eva: Gendering Revolution, Public Records Office of Northern Ireland, Belfast May 2016 ; Irish World Heritage Centre Manchester March-June 2017, 19/5/2016.

Brake, JA., van Aitken, J., 2016. Promising Home, People's History Museum, 19/10/2016.

Gartside, S., 2016. Up/Down, Holden Gallery, 15th January - 4th March 2016.


van Aitken, JV., Campbell, B., Boughton, J., Clewer, N., Bratchford, G., Charlston, L., Faulkner, S., Glynn, S., Lately, D., Lees, L., Roe, L., Russell, D., Suggitt, K., 2017. 'All Materials of Value', distributed artists publication.


Brake, JA., van Aitken, J., 2018. 'Shanghai Y: everyday life in the vertical city', Culturescape Press.

Elson, V., Shirley, R., 2017. 'Creating the Countryside The Rural Idyll Past and Present', Paul Holberton.

Barber, F., 2016. 'Constructing Constance (and some other women)', HIghlanes Gallery, Drogheda.

Book Chapters

Aulich, J., 2018. 'A Ring of Paper. East Central European Posters from the First World War: Identity and Identification'. In catalogue Emotions in Arms - Poster art in the First World War (1914-1918), Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest.

Aulich, J., 2018. 'A Ring of Paper. East Central European Posters from the First World War: Identity and Identification'. In Emotions in arms - Poster art in the First World War (1914-1918), Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest.

Shirley, RA., 2018. 'Cultures of Connectivity: Visual Representations of a Networked Countryside in the Early Twentieth Century'. In Rural Modernity: A Critical Intervention, Edinburgh University Press.

Shirley, RA., 2018. 'The Wide Margins of Modernity'. In Companion to Modern Art, Wiley Blackwell.

Macdonald, GE., 2018. 'Traces, tiles and fleeting moments: art and the temporalities of geomedia'. In Gekker, A., Hind, S., Lammes, S., Perkins, C., Wilmott, C., Evans, D. (eds.) Time for mapping : cartographic temporalities, Manchester University Press.

Hunt, L-A., 2017. '"The emperor Michael VIII (1261-1282) and Byzantine/Melkite-Genoese cultural agency between Constantinople and the Near East: Art at Sinai, Behdaidat, and the pallio of San Lorenzo in Genoa, and in Egypt"'. In Ambassadors, Artists, Theologians: Byzantine Relations with the Near East from the Ninth to the Thirteenth Centuries, Eds. Z. Chitwood and J. Pahlitzsch, University of Mainz.

Barber, F., 2017. 'After They've Gone: : W.B. Yeats’ The Circus Animals’ Desertion, Gender, Creativity and Irishness in the Work of Ghislaine Howard'. In Michael Howard< Ghislaine Howard, Micah Purnell (eds.) Ghislaine Howard: the Human Touch. Paintings, Drawings and Prints 1980-2016, 226-228, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester.

Faulkner, S., Vis, F., D'Orazio, F., 2017. 'Analysing Social Media Images'. In Jean Burgess, Alice Marwick, Thomas Poell (eds.) Sage Handbook of Social Media, Sage Publishing.

Shirley, RA., 2017. 'Artists Interviews with: Rebecca Chesney, Anna Fox, Hilary Jack, Sigrid Holmwood, Ingrid Pollard, Delaine Le bas, Andy Sewell.'. In Creating the Countryside: The Rural Idyll Past and Present, Paul Holberton Publishing.

Hunt, L-A., 2017. 'Arts in the Eastern Mediterranean before the Crusades: Approaching Christian-Muslim relations through visual representations'. In Thomas, D. (eds.) Routledge Handbook on Christian-Muslim Relations., pp. 135-148, Routledge.

Brittain, D., 2017. 'Citizens' photojournalism: History's New First Draft'. In Companion to Photography, Blackwell.

Shirley, RA., Elson, V., 2017. 'Creating the Countryside: Introduction'. In Creating the Countryside: The Rural Idyll Past and Present, Paul Holberton Publishing.

Trustram, MB., 2017. 'Each day at a time - A daily intervention into loss'. In Psychoanalysis and the Unrepresentable. From culture to the clinic, pp. 222-230, Routledge.

Barber, FC., 2017. 'Race, Irishness and Art HIstory: Margaret Clarke's 'Bathtime at the Creche' (1925), Motherhood and the Matter of Whiteness'. In Langford, M. (eds.) Narratives Unfolding: National Art Histories in an Unfinished World, McGill University Press.

Shirley, RA., 2017. 'Smells Like Rural Idyll'. In Creating the Countryside: the Rural Idyll Past and Present, Paul Holberton Publishing.

Barber, FC., 2017. 'Surrealist Ireland: the Archaic the Modern and the Marvellous'. In A Companion to Modern Art, Wiley-Blackwell, Hoboken NJ.

Faulkner, S., 2017. 'The Politics of Here and There'. In Jane Brake (eds.) All Materials of Value: Responses to Walking in Salford, Institute of Urban Dreaming, Manchester.

Faulkner, S., 2017. 'Visibility, photography, and the occupation: The case of the ActiveStills collective'. In Gil Pasternak (eds.) Insight Palestina, I. B. Taurus.

Kennedy, RMC., 2016. '' "What is Chineseness?" and Other Rhetorical Questions.''. In CFCCA 30 Year Anniversary, CFCCA.

Faulkner, S., 2016. ''Contentious Displays: Activestills' Street Exhibitions', pp. 74-87.'. In Active Stills Photography as Protest in Palestine/Israel, Pluto Press (UK).

Aulich, J., 2016. ''Ducking and Diving: The imagery of aerial and submarine warfare in posters issued by Britain and the Central Powers during the First World War''. In K.Hoffmann, H.Mehrtens and S.Wenk (eds.) Myths Gender and the Military Conquest of Air and Sea, 69-94, BIS-Verlag der Carl von Ossietzky, University of Oldenburg, 2015, pp69-94.

Hunt, L-A., 2016. 'An Icon and Gospel Book: The Assimilation of Byzantine Art by Arab Christians in Mamluk Egypt and Syria'. In Studies in Coptic Culture: Transmission and Interaction. Ed. Mariam Ayad, American University in Cairo Press.

Aulich, J., 2016. 'Ducking and Diving: The imagery of aerial and submarine warfare in posters issued by Britain and the Central Powers during the First World War'. In Wenke, S., Mehrtens, H., Hoffmann, K. (eds.) Myths, Gender and the Military Conquest of Air and Sea, University of Oldenburg, Germany, Oldenburg, Germany.

Barber, F., 2016. 'Painting, History and a Fistful of Grass'. In John Hyatt and Sam Windrim (eds.) Ammemoriam, 4-7, Righton Press, Manchester School of Art.

Shirley, RA., 2016. 'Pylons and Frozen Peas: The Women's Institute Goes Electric'. In Transforming the Countryside The Electrification of Rural Britain, Routledge.

Macbeth, PA., Ryall, H., 2016. 'The Digital Print Room - A Bespoke Approach to Print Technology'. In Crafting Textiles in the Digital Age, Bloomsbury Academia.


Jane Brake, van Aitken, J., Garrelfs, I., Izquierdo, E., Karadedos, T., McCafferty, C., Meirelles, M., Nakou, E., Pechuan Roca, A., Pizarro, M., 2017. 'Soundscapes Landscapes / Rhizome II / Kerameikos/Metaxourgeio'.

Internet Publications

Aulich, J., 2017. ''The Life of Images: the Iconography of the photograph of Aylan Kurdi’s Body and the Turkish polIceman'', The Iconic Image on Social Media: A Rapid Research Response to the Death of Aylan Kurdi (eds) F.Vis & O.Goriunova,

Kennedy, B., 2017. 'Retelling Ancillary Stories', Black Artists and Modernism website,

Mike Thelwall, M., Goriunova O., Vis, F., Faulkner, S., Burns. A., Aulich, J., Mas-Bleda,A., Stuart, E., D'Orazio, F., 2016. ''Chatting through pictures? A classification of images tweeted in one week in the UK and USA', Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology,

Kennedy, B., 2016. ''Return of the Condor Heroes and Other Narratives.'', Third Text,

Aulich, J., 2016. 'Graphic Arts and Advertising as War Propaganda', 1914-1918-online. International Encyclopedia of the First World War,

Faulkner, S., 2016. 'Images at a Distance', Regarding Spectatorship: Revolt and the Distant Observer,

Child, D., 2016. 'Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism: Entries on Collage, Michael Fried, Allan Kaprow and Jackson Pollock',

Journal Articles

Atkin, SL., 2018. 'Fashion in Motion', tbc.

Hunt, L-A., 2017. '"Thirteenth-Century Wallpainting at the Church of St. Theodore, Behdaidat (Crusader County of Tripoli): Configuring Confraternity, Community and Commerce".', BAAL: Bulletin d'Archéologie et d'Architecture Libanaises, 17, pp. 393-436.

Child, DL., Reckitt, H., Richards, J., 2017. ''Labours of Love': A Conversation on Art, Gender, and Social Reproduction', Third Text, 31 (1), pp. 147-168.

McCannon, DR., 2017. 'A History of Everyday Things in England: Illustrators of mid-twentieth-century social history books', Journal of Illustration, 4 (1).

Trustram, M., 2017. 'Accounting for the museum', Journal of Social Work Practice, 31 (2), pp. 265-273.

Child, DL., 2017. 'Art, Politics & the Public Square: From decoration to declaration!', Art and the Public Sphere, 6 (1-2), pp. 19-31.

Shirley, RA., 2017. 'Festive Landscapes: The Contemporary Practice of Well-Dressing in Tissington', Landscape Research, 42 (6), pp. 650-662.

Slater, AJ., Setterington, L., 2017. 'Stories of Collaborative Making: Two Rochdale Quilts', Quilt Studies, 18, pp. 7-36.

Manley, J., Trustram, M., 2016. ''Such endings that are not over': The slave trade, social dreaming and affect in a museum', Psychoanalysis, Culture and Society, Online First article 2016.

Kennedy, B., 2016. 'Border praxis: Negotiating and performing 'Hong Kongeseness' and 'Taiwaneseness' in contemporary, political 'Chinese' art practices', Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art, 3 (1), pp. 111-129.

Thelwall, M., Goriunova, O., Vis, F., Faulkner, S., Burns, A., Aulich, J., Mas-Bleda, A., Stuart, E., D'Orazio, F., 2016. 'Chatting through pictures? A classification of images tweeted in one week in the UK and USA', Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 67 (11), pp. 2575-2586.

Trustram, MB., 2016. 'Performing the Psychosocial', Journal of Psychosocial Studies, 9 (1), pp. 53-72.

McCannon, DR., 2016. 'The jobbing artist as ethnographer: Documenting 'lore'.', The Journal of Illustration, 3 (1), pp. 107-128.

Kennedy, B., 2016. 'Zones of seeing: Artistic, touristic and digital images of the DMZ', East Asian Journal of Popular Culture, 2 (2), pp. 287-303.

Non-Peer Reviewed Articles

Kennedy, RMC., 2016. 'Return of the Condor Heroes and Other Narratives', Third Text.

MacDonald, G., 2016. 'Touching at a distance: a response to Hind and Lammes', Global Discourse, 6 (1-2), pp. 98-100.

Conference Papers

Brake, JA., van Aitken, J., 2017. 'Pulling Down the People's House: Tales of Creative Destruction in the Age of the Commodified Home', Continuity in Architecture Annual Symposium: The Way We Live Now, Manchester Metropolitan University, 9/3/2017, in

Brake, JA., van Aitken, J., 2016. 'Picturing Change: Photographic Discourses and Urban Transformation', Dakam: Eastern Mediterranean Academic Research Centre, Istanbul, Turkey, 5/2016, in International Journal of Studies on Art and Humanities, Volume 1, Number 1, pp. 32-43.

Brake, JA., van Aitken, J., 2016. 'Picturing Gentrification: Representations of Urban Change, Pendleton Salford', Contested Cities to Global Urban Justice, Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, 4/7/2016 - 7/7/2016, in

Brake, JA., van Aitken, J., 2016. 'The War at Home', Photography and the Left, University Nova de Lisboa, 16/6/2016 - 17/6/2016.


Trustram, M., 2017. ''Museum is where we start from'', Artistic research symposium of the Nordic Summer University, Saxnas, Sweden, 9-12 March 2017.

Child, D., 2017. 'Sculptor at work: Ghisha Koenig and the Representation of Labour', Henry Moore Institute Evening Lecture, Henry Moore Institute, Leeds, 31st May 2017.

Faulkner, S., 2017. 'The Iconic Image on Social Media workshop (with Farida Vis, Anne Burns, Ray Drainville, Alexandra Boutopoulou)', CCCBLab, Centre de Cultura Contemporánia, Barcelona, 18 February.

Child, D., 2016. 'Art & the Public Square: From decoration to declaration!', Artists' Critical Interventions into Architecture and Urbanism, University of Warwick, 15-16th July 2016.

Child, D., 2016. 'Demystifying Labour in Contemporary Art History: Unproductive Labour and Social Reproduction', Association of Art Historians Annual Conference 2016, University of Edinburgh, 7th-9th April 2016.

Trustram, M. Saloranta, E, 2016. 'Exploring slow museum time', Nordic Summer University, Orivesi, Finland, 29 July 2016.

Faulkner, S., 2016. 'Palestinian press photographers, Facebook, and the presentation of the political self', Picturing the Social 2016, The Whitworth, Manchester, 20 June.

Faulkner, S., 2016. 'Photography, politics, and visibility in Israel/Palestine: Activestills street exhibitions 2006-2014', Art, Expression, and Democracy, University of Sheffield, April.

Vis, F., Faulkner, S., 2016. 'The Iconic Image on Social Media: The Death of Aylan Kurdi', Understanding Visual Culture, University of Bologna, April.

Other Outputs

Brake, JA., van Aitken, J., 2017. 'Artist's Led Walk - Castlefield Art Gallery to Islington Mill'.

Barber, FC., 2016. 'Constructing Constance (and Some Other Women)'.