'Monumental materiality: the legacies of Victorian public sculpture', Association of Art Historians, Tate Britain, April 2008. 'The Body of the Citizen: Trafalgar Square 1840/2005', North American Victorian Studies Association annual conference, Victoria B.C., Canada, October 10, 2007
This is the first element in a book-length project which will examine the art of Victorian England that lies outside of the domain of the conventional art object - art which was developed and sustained without concern for the production of a beautiful piece of work, but was created instead to support social economies. It has been prompted by my interest in contemporary artists' practice in public art, feminist art and 'relational aesthetics' - practices which operate outside the imperative to produce visually compelling objects - and also by the debate amongst art historians about the extent to which modernist (or other) notions of beauty might pertain to nineteenth-century English art.
My first area of research is portraits of public men, as examples of art objects which explicitly resisted any recognizable forms of aestheticization. If we accept that these objects were not made for the purpose of promulgating 'beauty', what were they made for? I am researching the histories of the commission and production of sculptures of national heroes in Trafalgar Square, and also the production of portraits of John Stuart Mill and other 'public' figures, to analyse the extent to which physical beauty was important to the creation of the artwork, and to what extent it seems to be designed to serve other purposes.