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'Desert Generation' exhibition, MMU. 2008 - Simon Faulkner

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., 2019. Atopia Project, Castlefield Gallery.

Gartside, S., 2019. Holden Curatorial Project, Holden Gallery.

Gartside, S., 2018. Holden Gallery Project (revised 2018 version), 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.

Creating the Countryside Exhibition, Compton VerneyCreating the Countryside Exhibition, Compton VerneyCreating the Countryside Exhibition, Compton VerneyCreating the Countryside Exhibition, Compton VerneyCreating the Countryside Exhibition, Compton VerneyCreating the Countryside Exhibition, Compton Verney

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


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.


Child, D., 2019. 'Working Aesthetics: Labour, Art and Capitalism', Bloomsbury Academic.

, 2017. 'Artistic Research. Being There. Explorations Into the Local'.

Creating the Countryside

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

Book Chapters

Slater, A., 2020. 'Listening to dress: unfolding oral history methods'. In Mundane Methods Innovative Ways to Research the Everyday, Manchester University Press.

Aulich, J., 2019. 'Protest and Political Transformation since 1789'. In McGarry, A., Erhart, I., Eslen-Siya, H., Jenzen, O., Korkut, U. (eds.) The Aesthetics of Global Protest: Visual Culture and Communication, Amsterdam University Press.

Faulkner, S., 2019. 'Visibility, Photography, and the Occupation: The Case of Activestills Collective'. In Visioning Israel-Palestine: Encounters at the Cultural Boundaries of Conflict, I. B. Taurus/Bloomsbury.

Hunt, L-A., 2018. '"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 Chitwoog, Z., Pahlitzsch, J. (eds.) Ambassadors, Artists, Theologians: Byzantine Relations with the Near East from the Ninth to the Thirteenth Centuries, Eds. Z. Chitwood and J. Pahlitzsch, Schnell & Steiner.

McCullagh, J., Macbeth, P., 2018. ''Where all things are always possible''. In FITNESS FOR WHAT PURPOSE? Essays on design education celebrating 40 years of the Sir Misha Black Awards. Edited by Mary V Mullin and Christopher Frayling., Eyewear publishing.

Gartside, S., 2018. '978 1 910029 35 0'. In Break in Transmission, Holden Gallery Publications.

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.

Faulkner, S., Vis, F., D'Orazio, F., 2018. 'Analysing Social Media Images'. In Burgess, J., Marwick, A., Poell, T. (eds.) The SAGE Handbook of Social Media, SAGE.

Shirley, RA., 2018. 'Electricity Comes to the Countryside: Visual representations of a Connected Countryside in the Early Twentieth Century'. In Bluemel, K., McCluskey, M. (eds.) Rural Modernity in Britain: A Critical Intervention, pp. 50-65, Edinburgh University Press.

Faulkner, S., 2018. 'Photographic witnessing, the occupation and Palestinian politics'. In Schankweiler, K., Straub, V., Wendl, T. (eds.) Image Testimonies: Witnessing in Times of Social Media, Routledge.

Oliver, E., 2018. 'Tasting - A Thinking Process'. In Oliver, E. (eds.) Tasting Joyce, pp. 15-25, Manchester Metropolitan University, Sheffield Uk.

Shirley, RA., 2018. 'The Wide Margins of the Century; Rural Modernism, Pastoral Peasants, and Economic Migrations'. In A 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.

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.

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.

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

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.

Trustram, M., Saloranta, E., 2017. 'Windows. A correspondence between Elina Saloranta and Myna Trustram'. In Artistic Research. Being There. Explorations Into the Local.


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

Junior, CG., Greenfield, L., Roar, P., Trustram, M., 2018. 'Four Approaches to the Journal',

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,

Journal Articles

Macbeth, P., 2019. 'A Matter of Life and Death', TEXTILE, 17 (4), pp. 340-346.

Atkin, SL., 2019. 'Fashion in Motion', tbc.

Faulkner, S., 2019. 'Late photography, military landscapes, and the politics of memory', The Open Arts Journal, 3 (3), pp. 123-136.

Kennedy, B., 2019. 'Pavilioning Manchester: boundaries of the local, national and global at the Asia Triennial', Open Arts Journal, 2.

Oliver, E., 2018. 'From Gaze to Witness: Masculinity and Loss in George Shaw's Paintings of Tile Hill', FORUM: University of Edinburgh Postgraduate Journal of Culture & the Arts, 27.

Barber, F., 2018. 'Performative Self-Portraiture, Femmage, and Feminist Histories of Irish Art: Amanda Coogan's Snails, after Alice Maher (2010)', Etudes Irlandaises, 43 (1).

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.

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

Child, D., 2017. 'Art, politics and the public square: From decoration to declaration!', Art & the Public Sphere, 6 (1), pp. 19-31.

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

Child, D., Reckitt, H., Richards, J., 2017. 'Labours of Love', Third Text, 31 (1), pp. 147-168.

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

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


Child, D., 2018. ''Fabricating Value (The Invisible Hand of the Maker)'', King's College London/Courtauld Institute of Art.

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.

Other Outputs

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