‘The Camera: Essence and Apparatus’

On the occasion of the launch of the book The Camera: Essence and Apparatus by Victor Burgin, please join us for a panel discussion between the author and Patrizia di Bello (Birkbeck College, University of London), Clara Schulman (École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux), and Julian Stallabrass (The Courtauld Institute of Art).

Victor Burgin is one of the most influential artists and writers working today. He first came to prominence as a key figure in the Conceptual Art of the late 1960s. After turning to photography in his art practice he produced a series of groundbreaking theoretical essays that drew on semiotics, psychoanalysis and feminism in order to think through the ideological role of photographs in the production of beliefs and values, and in the understanding of memory, history, subjectivity and space.

Burgin’s new book brings together for the first time his writings related specifically to the camera, showing the evolution of his thinking from 1975-2017. In his art practice over the past decade Burgin has worked exclusively with virtual cameras in 3D computer space, and he emphasises the continuity of the Western perspectival system of representation from its quattrocento origins in manual drawing, through its mechanisation via photography, to its now algorithmic expression. He argues that no image is merely an optical experience – all images are psychological events and thus essentially virtual. Inseparable from language, they form the psychical spaces of fantasy and projection, recognition and misrecognition. This panel discussion will explore some of Burgin’s principal ideas, which question commonly received notions of ‘the camera’.

Victor Burgin is an artist and writer. He is Professor Emeritus of History of Consciousness, University of California, Santa Cruz; Emeritus Millard Chair of Fine Art, Goldsmiths College, University of London; and Professor of Visual Culture, Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton. Burgin’s theory books include Parallel Texts: interviews and interventions about art (2011), Situational Aesthetics (2009), The Remembered Film (2004), In/Different Spaces (1996), The End of Art Theory (1986), and Thinking Photography (1982). Monographs on and around his visual work include Victor Burgin’s Parzival in Leuven (2017), Scripts (2016), Palmanova (2016), Projective (2015), Five Pieces for Projection (2014), Components of a Practice (2008), and Objets Temporels (2007).

Clara Schulmann is a writer based in Paris. She holds a PhD in Film Studies (published as: Les Chercheurs d’or. Films d’artistes, Histoires de l’art, Presses du réel, 2014). She teaches art history and theory at the Bordeaux school of Fine Arts (EBABX). She has edited several publications: Jeux sérieux. Cinéma et art contemporain transforment l’essai, (HEAD/Mamco, Genève, 2015), Palmanova (Form(e)s, Paris, 2016). She recently supervised the first French translation of Laura Mulvey’s writings (Au-delà du plaisir visuel. Féminisme, énigmes, cinéphilie, Mimésis, 2017). She has written on Marie Angeletti, Katinka Bock, Victor Burgin, Mike Kelley, Joachim Koester.

Patrizia di Bello is Senior Lecturer in History and Theory of Photography, Birkbeck College, University of London. She is the author of Women’s Albums and Photography in Victorian England, editor (with Colette Wilson and Shamoon Zamir) of The Photobook from Talbot to Ruscha and Beyond, editor (with Gilbert Koureas) of Art, History and the Senses, 1830 to the present and of Illustrations, Optics and Objects in Nineteenth-Century Literary and Visual Cultures (with Luisa Cale). She is co-director, with Lynda Nead, of the History and Theory of Photography Research Centre at Birkbeck and is on the editorial board of the journals History of Photography, Art History and Photographies.

Julian Stallabrass is a Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Courtauld Institute of Art. He is the author of Art Incorporated: The Story of Contemporary Art  (later published and updated as Contemporary Art: A Very Short Introduction) (Oxford, 2004/ 2006), Internet Art (Tate, 2003), High Art Lite: The Rise and Fall of Young British Art (Verso 1999), and other books. In 2013 he edited Documentary (Whitechapel: Documents of Contemporary Art) and in 2008 he curated the Brighton Photo Biennial, Memory of Fire: Images of War and the War of Images. He has written for many publications, including Artforum, Texte zur Kunste, Bazaar Art and the London Review of Books.


The talks will be followed by s drinks reception in the Front Hall.

This event is supported by MACK

6:30pm, 23 May 2018

The Courtauld Institute of Art, Somerset House, Strand, London