Thursday 14th March (wk 9), Dr Rowena Kennedy-Epstein (Bristol) ‘So Easy to See: Muriel Rukeyser and Berenice Abbott’s Unfinished Collaboration’

This talk will focus on the lost collaboration between Muriel Rukeyser and Berenice Abbott, So Easy to See, which pairs Abbott’s innovative Super-Sight photographs with Rukeyser’s poetic-theoretical discussions of ‘seeing’ in order to discuss lesbian desire, the atomic bomb, the relationship between art and science, and female genius. Their project was repeatedly rejected by male editors and curators, who demeaned and undervalued its innovative nature, in part because Abbott and Rukeyser dared to assert themselves as scientific experts; nevertheless, it is an intellectually rich and artistically innovative collaboration by two of the twentieth century’s most versatile artists. Through their collaboration, Rukeyser and Abbott worked against accepted gendered and disciplinary boundaries, in order to show how ‘science and art meet and might meet in our time’ as sources of imaginative possibility and social progress. In doing so, they engendered questions about what kinds of collaborative and artistic practices are sanctioned, about the ontology of things and the everyday, about materialist philosophy and about the radical possibilities of interdisciplinarity. By making visible this lost collaboration, this essay participates in the recovery of an innovative and exciting modernist collaboration, and asks us to see both the lost potential of its inventiveness as well as to contextualise its disappearance. In order to see their work on ‘seeing’, we must also undertake an exploration into the cultural mechanisms that obfuscated it at mid-century.

5-6pm, Edith Morley, G44

All welcome!

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