Current Postgraduate Research
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Doctor of Philosophy
My dissertation focuses on a series of fresco cycles by Vitale da Bologna (c.1309-1361), one of the most important northern Italian painters working in the middle decades of the Trecento. I am interested in Vitale’s role as a mediator between northern and central Italian approaches to picturemaking, particularly in relation to the construction of pictorial space. I will argue that Vitale’s work achieves a fragile (often unstable) synthesis between competing pictorial traditions: the iconic, surface-oriented northern devotional image, and the deep empirical perspective of the Giottesque model. The resulting narratives are compelling and highly malleable, ultimately transcending and problematising the formal logic of artists working exclusively in either mode.
Semester 2 2015 - ARHT 2610 – Art in Trecento Italy
Semester 1 2015 - ARHT2613 – Art of France
Semester 2 2014 - ARHT 2602 – Romanticism and Visual Art
Semester 2 2014 - ARHT 2612 – Seventeenth Century Art
Semester 1 2014 - ARHT 2612 – High Renaissance Art
Doctor of Philosophy
Scenographies of Revolution and Empire: Stage Designers and Visual Artists in France, 1780-1815
Through a community of Franco-Italian artists based in Paris, and focusing especially on the the activity of the Italian stage designers Ilario and Ignazio De Gotti, my research aims to explore the ways in which a tradition of innovative stage design took root in France in the late 18th century, transforming the scenic ambitions of the official theatre. The De Gotti brothers completed their apprenticeships in the later eighteenth century in the court and civic theatres of metropolitan centers in Italy such as Rome, Naples and Turin. They were raised in court theatre traditions and came to work in France on the eve of the Revolution. However, it was the transformation of their practice and ambition in the Revolutionary years that established them as innovators and the height of Ignazio De Gotti’s fame was reached in the politically-driven and privileged space of the French Opéra in Paris under the Empire. My study is exploring the complex artistic, social and political conditions of the development of their practice and it will fit in the broad literature on the “cultural history of the French Revolution”. I seek to investigate the links that brought the De Gotti and other Italian designers and musicians into proximity with the painter David and a circle of Italian and French artists, and discuss the ways in which they embraced new political and aesthetic demands. Many of the figures who transformed theatre aesthetics at the turn of the nineteenth-century are little researched, and no study has specifically focused on the De Gotti Brothers and their impact on stage design in the early nineteenth century. Through a systematic archival research focused on their ground-breaking work I aim to give new light to much material from this era which still remains under-researched. I will argue that opera décors became a key concept, both in theatre and more generally in Revolutionary and Empire culture and should be more integrated into histories of seeing and experiencing, rather than simply playing a role in theatrical history.
Doctor of Philosophy
Between Time and Eternity: Modes for Music and the Cinematic Body
Upon which thresholds do music and the silent, “spectral” cinematic body meet? What makes their relation uniquely special for ancient problems such as presence, representation, restoration, death, memory, time, eternity, truth, desire, and meaning? Through the concept of liminality, my research aims to rethink cinematic realism beyond binary structures and hierarchies, by forging an existential, conceptual relation between the forms of music and the cinematic body.
Working across the frameworks of continental philosophy and anthropology, and focusing on experimental, avant-garde, art-house and early silent films, I am attempting to articulate an ambivalent, aporetic and polymodal territory between and within music and the cinematic body through the following modes: the ineffable, the sublime, the absurd, nihilism, metamorphoses, the grotesque, utopia, and the uncanny. Imbricated with the problem of presence, and irresolvably paradoxical, these modes will form the ground where music and the cinematic body may be seen as encounters that problematise, rather than resolve, the relation between the time of the self, the inevitable truth of death, and the myth of immortality.
2015. 'Towards Indeterminacy: Modes of Presence between Music and the Cinematic Body'. Presented at Current Work in Film Music/Sound Studies, May 2015, ANU, Canberra.
Doctor of Philosophy
The Australian Landscape: A Peculiar Trip-Wire into the Sublime
Lesa-Belle Furhagen’s background includes the study of religion, by way of a Bachelor of Divinity from London University (2006), where her principal focus was on the role of religion in art history. This inspired her to undertake a Master of Arts (Art History & Theory) from Sydney University that she completed in 2010 with merit. Her interest in the sublime and transcendent has continued and converged with her interest in religious art history, in particular the strands that have had an impact on Australian art and artists.
Lesa-Belle’s professional background has also enriched her relationship with Australian contemporary art. She has held senior positions in the Australian theatre and film industries including an administrative position for the Australian National Playwrights Conference (1983), administrative associate at the Theatre Workshop at Sydney University (1984), where she also co-produced a number of independent productions. In the same year she assumed the role of assistant administrator at The Performance Space. In 1985 she worked as publicist and sponsorship coordinator for the Belvoir St Theatre and in 1986 she became the publicist for Film Australia and was instrumental in the revitalization of the national film unit.
In addition Lesa-Belle has over fifteen years experience in the media industry in Australia. She co-founded Front Publishers, which secured the license to publish Rolling Stone in Australia in 1987. She also went on to hold the position of Managing Director of Terraplane Press and Terraplanet Limited from 1990-2000. She is currently a board member of The Blake Society who administers The Blake Prize.
2012. 'A Gaze Turned Upside Down and On Itself'. A One-Day Interdisciplinary Symposium Artworlds, Australian National University
Master of Philosophy
Historical Authenticity in the Costume Designs of Walter Plunkett
Doctor of Philosophy
Title of thesis: Photography and the Industrial Uncanny in Hungary c1890-1939
This dissertation investigates the concept of an uncanny modernity and the existence and character of an industrial and urban uncanny in Hungarian photography between the late 1890s and 1939; and seeks to demonstrate the suitability of the photographic medium to convey the spirit and images of modernity in a changing pre- and post Habsburg Hungary.
This study examines the photography of urban and industrial sites in late nineteenth and early twentieth century Hungary from a photographic-art historical perspective, and within a socio-historical framework, drawing from the theoretical work of Walter Benjamin, Henri Lefebvre, Louis Althusser, as well as contemporary theoretical writing on the modern and architectural uncanny. It examines the nature and beginnings of urban and industrial-themed photography in the work of György klösz, Mór Erdelyi around the turn of the century and follows the evolution of modernist photography of the postwar rural and urban environment in the work of Rudolf Balogh, Ferenc Háar, Olga Máté and Imre Kinszki in the 1920s and 1930s.
2012 - AHRT 1002 - Modern Times: Art and Film
Doctor of Philosophy
The Anzac Cinema: The Heroic Depiction of Australia's Film Industry
The thesis emphasises the historical relationship between the national identity and the Australian film industry, based on the theme of the Anzac legend. My argument is that not only has the film industry reflected the national identity in the period between the First World War and the late 1950s, but that it has also sought to culturally construct itself in the heroic image of the 'digger'. I further argue that the tendency of the film industry to build an image for itself has coincided with moments of crisis in local cinema production, including the First World War, the advent of sound cinema in the late 1920s and early 1930s, and the years during and immediately after the Second World War.
I have taught in media/journalism-related courses since 2009, reflecting my professional background as a journalist along with my broader research interests in the cultural studies/communications areas. I have taught at four universities since 2009, including at Sydney University, UNSW, Macquarie University and Griffith University (in Queensland).
2009. 'Marketing and the Fate of Locally Produced Films in Australian Cinemas'. Researching Australian Film Exhibition and Distribution, Griffith University, Brisbane.
Master of Arts (Research)
The Peripatetic Aesthetic, Counter-Mannerism and the Myth of the Carracci Reform
In the spirit of the late historian Eric Cochrane, my thesis is a rejection of the perception of Italy in the mid-to-late sixteenth century as a period of cultural “decline.” Not only did a new interest in the writings of Aristotle, in the mid-sixteenth century, see the birth of modern literary criticism but also the emergence of a peripatetic aesthetic that would define the visual arts until the end of the seventeenth century. The peripatetic aesthetic was associated with cultural currents that were working to break down the elite domain of humanism in the courts of Italy, by positively proclaiming Aristotle’s conception of the democratisation of both aesthetic judgment and reason. Coupled with an emphasis on the importance of legibility, this led painters to adopt Counter-Mannerist approaches to painting, which in turn complemented the concerns of the Counter-Reformation Church.
In this context, the art historian Elizabeth Cropper has acknowledged, that ‘the essential working definition of art stated by Varchi, Barbaro, or Zuccaro had not changed by Bellori’s day.’ This continuity within the period has led me to question the so-called exceptional nature of the Carracci as reformers of painting - who supposedly instigated the baroque style at the end of the sixteenth century. In fact, I argue that the stylistic models of reform, adopted by the Carracci, were apparent in the work of artists living in many of the major cultural hubs of the Italian peninsula. The marked tendency of past historians to downplay these reformers in order to promote a Carracci exceptionalism I argue has more to do with the cultural value judgments of these scholars, who both covertly or overtly, sought to establish heroic Carracci-based narratives of reform as a means of “rescuing” the arts from the perceived cultural decline of the mid-to-late sixteenth century.
I further contend that these scholars took justification for this from the seventeenth century Roman antiquarian circle of Angeloni and Bellori. These antiquarians, I argue, had sought to promote Annibale Carracci as a means of reinforcing their own desired personal links to Rome’s antiquarian past and in turn as a means to further associate themselves with the belief in its present cultural immanence. In all these instances of cultural appropriation – whether by art historians or Roman antiquarians - I argue that the advancement of a “Carracci reform” of painting, said more about the identity of the advocates than about the initial cultural context and identity of the artists in question.
Doctor of Philosophy
The Ethics of Cultural Heritage in Indonesia
This research examines how cultural heritage is valued in Indonesia. Indonesia is notably absent in discussions about the ethics of cultural heritage, an omission that can be attributed to the contradictory treatment of cultural heritage in Indonesia. This research aims to (re-)establish Indonesia’s position within contemporary discussions about the ethics of cultural heritage, and draws upon two case studies to reveal differences in how value is ascribed to heritage in Indonesia. The case studies also expose important commonalities. Most significantly, in each case, objects have been removed from these sites – some with the permission of the state, and others illicitly. To what extent can these scattered objects be considered as representative of Indonesia’s cultural heritage, and how should they be valued?
The first case study focuses on the temples of Borobudur and Prambanan in Central Java, which have been spiritually and politically charged since their construction in the 9th century. While their significance has changed over time, these sites have never been neutral. More recently, these Hindu-Buddhist monuments have emerged as national icons in majority-Muslim Indonesia, and are the most popular tourist destination for both domestic and foreign visitors. These temples are characterised by centuries of encounters with people who sought to claim a piece for themselves; some of these objects now reside in locations as diverse as Jakarta, Bangkok and London. Inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage list has prompted greater regulation of these sites, but cannot entirely prevent the ongoing illicit removal of objects by visitors. These removed objects are imbued with new histories of their own, and prompt a questioning of the extent to which the histories of these objects remain entwined with those of the heritage sites, or whether they require a different approach altogether.
The second case study examines the 9th century ‘Belitung’ shipwreck discovered off the Sumatran coast in 1998. Unlike prominent terrestrial archaeological sites, the value of underwater cultural heritage as a cultural or historical informant is greatly compromised by its invisibility and virtual inaccessibility. Indonesia permits the commercial excavation of its underwater cultural heritage sites, and the Belitung wreck – Arabian in origin, with Chinese cargo – was sold to Singaporean authorities for over $30 million and now attests to Singapore’s nationalist narrative. Ownership of ‘hidden heritage’ is asserted and sold for a profit, revealing an entirely different approach to cultural heritage in which commercial value, rather than historical or political significance, is prioritised.
Tutor, Understanding Southeast Asia
Postgraduate Coordinator, Sydney Southeast Asia Centre.
November 2014. ‘Heritage to Order: The mythologising of Indonesia’s monuments’. Division of Humanities and Social Sciences – Student Run Conference. The University of Sydney.
July 2015. ‘Out of sight out of mind: The ethical implications of commercial underwater excavation in Indonesia’ as part of a panel on ‘Ethics and Sensibility in Indonesian Arts and Cultural Heritage’. Indonesia Council Open Conference. Deakin University.
July 2015. ‘Hidden heritage: The ethics of underwater archaeology in Indonesia’. The 9th International Convention of Asia Scholars. Adelaide.
Natali Pearson is a PhD candidate whose research is focused on the illicit trade in cultural heritage in Indonesia. She is jointly supervised by the Museum Studies and Asian Studies program at The University of Sydney.
She holds a Master of Museum Studies (2013, USyd); a Master of Arts in Strategy and Policy (2006, UNSW); and a Bachelor of Arts (Asian Studies) with Honours Class 1 in History and Indonesian Studies (2002, UNSW). Natali participated in the Australian Consortium for In-Country Indonesian Studies in 2001, and was a Fellow of the Asialink Leaders Program in 2009. She has worked at the Asia Society’s galleries in New York and Hong Kong. Prior to this, she worked in Asia-focused defence and anti-money laundering roles in the Australian Federal Government.
Master of Arts (Research)
The South Bronze Entrance Doors of the Mitchell Library, Sydney: A Hidden Artistic, Literary and Cultural Treasure
The building of the major part of the Mitchell Library (1939 - 1942) resulted in four pairs of bronze entrance doors, three on the northern facade and one on the southern facade. The three pairs of bronze doors on the northern facade of the library are obvious to everyone entering the library from Shakespeare Place and are well documented. However little has been written on the pair on the southern facade apart from brief mentions in two books of the State Library buildings, so few people know of their existence. Although the south doors are heritage listed there is a gap in the research of the significance of these doors.
Sadly the excellent bronze doors on the south facade of the library cannot be opened and are largely hidden from view due to the 1987 construction of the Glass House between the newly built main building of the State Library of New South Wales and the Mitchell Library. Each door consists of six square panels featuring bas-reliefs of different early printers’ marks and two rectangular panels at the bottom with NSW wildflowers. Because the south doors were constructed in 1942 as part of a building with neo-classical architecture they reflect the culture of the time and are an artistic, literary and cultural treasure of the State Library of New South Wales and are being neglected when they should be cherished.
The three areas of research I have followed are late 19th and early 20th century library building architecture, the invention of printing in Europe including early printers’ marks, and bronze doors. These all intersect on the bronze south doors of the Mitchell Library.
I have followed the two main personalities in the production of these doors. Firstly the benefactor, Sir William Dixson, who donated money for the three north doors with sufficient residual funds for the south doors. Secondly. William Ifould, Principal Librarian of the Public Library of New South Wales 1912 - 1942, who was the driving force behind the construction of the Mitchell Library during changing times with conflict between tradition and modernism. He was a confirmed traditionalist who selected the artists and images for all the bronze doors and personally designed the south doors.
In my conclusion I offer resolution to the problem of their visibility and accessibility with a simple plan for the readers and visitors to the library to be able to see the heritage listed south doors and understand their significance.
Doctor of Philosophy
The Great Synagogue in Sydney and its 18th Century Dutch Silver Rimmonim: A Provenance Case Study in History of Art
My thesis has been inspired by a beautiful rare silver object of immense cultural significance, yet with an unknown past. The Great Synagogue in Sydney safeguards an important collection of ritual objects brought to Australia from Europe and many historical documents pertinent to the congregation. One of the most significant artefacts at the Synagogue is a pair of ornate silver-gilt Torah rimmonim. The work is undoubtedly of a highly skilled silversmith, and the hallmarks pre-date the First fleet arrival in Australia. My aim is to understand the 18th – mid 19th century milieu which inspired an object of such a significance appearing on our shores, to this point unrecorded and anonymous. Examining the style and decoration, analysing the technology and researching the provenance of the rimmonim are the main topics of my thesis. Studying related historical, political and social circumstances of its arrival in Sydney will take me to many sources, including archives, museums, synagogues, silversmith workshops, private inventories, migration records, itineraries and insurance documents both in Australia and overseas.
History Postcard from Berlin, History Teachers' Association of Australia Journal, June 2012, p.47-50
Restoration and Renewal in Dresden, World of Antiques & Art, March 2012, p. 78-81
Rescued from obscurity: Hand Written Illuminated Prayer Books from Bohemia and Moravia, World of Antiques & Art, August 2009, p. 12-17
Precious Legacy: Treasures from the Jewish Museum in Prague, with Suzanne Rutland, Powerhouse Publishing, Sydney, 1998
Doctor of Philosophy
Between Two Memories: The Nation in New Palestinian Film
My research examines a body of Palestinian cinema produced in the period after 1981, predominantly by filmmakers living in geographically and politically diverse states of exile. This particular periodization captures an era of great change for both the nascent Palestinian nation and its cinema. At a time when the project of nation has faltered through political arbitration, Palestinian cinema rises as a considerable force in contemporary world cinema. And yet the circumstances of its emergence unfold a multitude of questions that have remained largely unanswered by contemporary film scholarship. New Palestinian film’s structurally exilic character, propensity to speak largely to audiences in the West along with the geopolitical turmoil of its nation yoke cause earlier methodologies for examining national cinemas to break down. Consequently, this thesis attempts to understand the expression of national emergence in new Palestinian film via a radical re-think of the nation and cinemas.
2013-2015 - KCDE 2101 - Visual Literacy: Cineliteracy
2014 - ARHT2656 - Film Genres and National Cinemas
‘Diasporic geographies and émigré bodies: the politics of memory in Mona Hatoum’s Measures of Distance’, Philament, Issue 19: Surface/Depth, March 2014, Sydney
'A Revolution in Motion: the Political Orientations of Palestinian Film From 'Third' to 'World''. XVIIth Film and History Association of Australia and New Zealand Conference, July 2015, QUT, Brisbane
'Spaces Between: Trauma as Interstice'. Screen/Performance/Politics Symposium, December 2013, UTS, Sydney