Cities of Light Symposium on 31.10.18 by Paul Halliday and Peter Coles

Cities of Light is an ongoing collaboration between partners in cities across Europe. Having started out as a conversation around the nature of urban research and visual arts practice, it turned into a series of seminars and workshops, each with its own very distinctive character.

Image by Mia Irmgard Klit

Lisbon, October 2018

On 31 October we will be holding the third in the Cities of Light series at Culturgest in Lisbon. This promises to be a very lively event, with an exciting range of speakers and artists. The event, curated by Carla de Utra Mendes, UPA Writing Fellow and Susana S. Martins from the Institute of Art History, FCSH Universidade NOVA de Lisboa, is an ambitious mix of theoretical and creative responses to the anniversary of the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 and the issues around the Enlightenment and its contemporary repercussions. Speakers such as Victor J. Seidler, UPA Writing Fellow and Emeritus Professor of Goldsmiths, will respond to notions of sudden change, catastrophe and trauma followed by a keynote by artist Hiwa K. There will also be a number of related events for MA students from Goldsmiths and Lisbon.

Paris Shadows 2.jpg
image by Becky Morris Knight

The UPA exhibition Charting the Invisible, held at the APT Gallery in Deptford as part of UrbanPhotoFest 2017, will travel to Lisbon in another iteration, curated by Stefano Carnelli and Tanya Houghton from UPA, and co-curated by Susana S. Martins with a Portuguese response. This event will be held at P31 gallery. Details of the symposium and Hiwa K’s keynote are available from the main Culturgest website and via UPA social media hashtag:  #CitiesofLightLisbon.


Paris, May 2018

The series kicked off in May 2018, when Peter Coles (CUCR Visiting Fellow and an Urban Photographers Association Director), Carolina Sanchez Boe (Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Paris V) and Anne Zeitz (Lecturer at the University of Rennes 2) brought together an impressive group of scholars and artists at the Sorbonne in Paris for a one-day symposium.  Over 80 people came for the presentations, including almost all of the Photography and Urban Cultures MA students at Goldsmiths and all of Carolina’s MA students at the Sorbonne.

Through sheer synchronicity, the event coincided with the 50th anniversary of the people’s protests of May 1968, when students occupied the Sorbonne and barricaded surrounding streets. Back in ‘68, the aggressive police response sparked similar protests in cities around the globe. The timing wasn’t all good news for us, though. Having scheduled the symposium for the Sorbonne’s Durkheim amphitheatre, we found ourselves looking for an alternative venue at the last minute. The university – and its amphitheatre – had gone into lock-down mode, in anticipation of a new student occupation. But the inimitable Carolina found great spaces in the Faculty of Medicine nearby and all went ahead as planned, albeit with a frisson of a close shave for the organizers.

Artist and photography scholar Theresa Mikuriya gave a thought-provoking keynote address, fittingly entitled Three Entries in the History of Light, followed by further stimulating presentations, discussions and video screenings (see programme).

becky morris knight Paris - under wraps
Image by Becky Morris Knight

The symposium was followed the next day by well-attended photo-walks around the 13th arrondissement’s Chinatown, with its 1970s tower blocks, food markets and hidden Buddhist temples, and another along the trajectory of the lost Bièvre river, led by Peter Coles. In the 15th arrondissement, David Kendall, (CUCR Visiting Research Fellow, and UPA director), Abbas Nokhasteh, UPA Research Fellow and Dr. Moustafa Traore ran a highly successful workshop in the shadow of the Montparnasse Tower (see some of the Paris Shadows work by Mia Irmgard Klit and Becky Morris Knight arising from it, here).

becky morris knight Paris - view through
image by Becky Morris Knight


London, July 2018

Fast forward to The Photographers’ Gallery in London, for the second Cities of Light seminar in the summer. Again, we had a maximum capacity audience with some lively debate around the symposium’s theme of Welcome to the Fake. The conference organisers, Gill Golding and Paul Halliday, were impressed by the audience’s participation and a large crowd stayed on for a wine networking reception, kindly hosted by the gallery. Joseph Kendra, a curator at The Photographers’ Gallery, helped to put together a fascinating line-up of speakers from a wide range of practice and theoretical backgrounds. For details of the event please see The Photographers’ Gallery website.

Image by Mia Irmgard Klit

Barcelona and Düsseldorf, 2019.

We are planning two more symposia in the Cities of Light series, for Barcelona and Düsseldorf, to be held in 2019. We will post details of these events on the CUCR website and the soon-to-be-re-launched UPA website once the programme is confirmed.

Peter Coles is Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Urban and Community Research at Goldsmiths, University of London.

Paul Halliday is a film-maker and photographer and course leader of MA in Photography and Urban Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London.





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