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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.

Members