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Apocalyptic Skies and the Decay of Public Symbolism

A public lecture by Prof. Richard Read at The University of Western Australia.


Date: Monday 22 October 2018
Time: 6pm
Venue: Arts Lecture Room 8 (Room 1.60), First Floor (off southern verandah), Arts Building, The University of Western Australia
Enquiries: mgerzic@gmail.com
Registration: Not required. All welcome.

Do representations of clouds in Western art and architecture bear out Foucault’s claim of a split in the stable relations of words and images after the seventeenth century with drastic consequences to shared public meanings? This talk offers an answer to this question through an environmentalist survey of the changing significance of clouds in the art and architecture
of many cultures over several centuries. From a predominantly religious significance in ancient art, the meaning of clouds shifts towards science in the era of industrial progress and global warming. Thus from clouds as premonitions of an ideal after-life, the man-made clouds of industrial pollution and nuclear warfare create a paradoxical restoration of shared
meaning through bleak nostalgia for uncontaminated skies and terror of cloudless ones. The lecture will conclude with a discussion of a Lars Von Triers’ movie Melancholia (2011), invite discussion of An Te Liu’s Cloud (2008) installation and report some responses to the lecture when it was recently delivered in Ekaterinburg and Perm, Russia.

Emeritus Professor Richard Read is a full term Associate Investigator, and a Senior Honorary Research Fellow at The University of Western Australia.  Having been Winthrop Professor in Art History in the Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Visual Art, he has published in major journals on the relationship between literature and the visual arts, nineteenth- and twentieth-century European and Australian art history, contemporary film, popular culture and complex images in global contexts.

Presented by the Perth Medieval Renaissance Group, the UWA Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies UWA and the ARC Centre for
Excellence for the History of Emotions.

Image: From Melancholia (2015) courtesy of Zentropa/Memfis Film.