In theories of spectatorship the viewer is often assumed to be static, having arrived at a correct viewing position before a given object.
In fact, art, vision and movement are inseparable.
Travel is often required in order to be in a position to see something or to see it properly; physical effort is required to address the object or image. Works of art usually inhabit spaces that necessitate adjustment of the viewer’s position. Institutions of art require active engagements such as entering, scanning, exploring, traversing, perusing, surveying, and other forms of behaviour. When such contingencies of viewing are acknowledged, it becomes clear that the idea of a static viewer engaged in motionless contemplation is a Modernist, ocularcentric paradigm that fails to take into account movements of the body as a precondition to sight.
Research topics include:
- The flâneur, an archetypal figure of the viewer whose identity is defined by his or her urban wandering. Topics include the interrelation of viewing, walking and writing up such experiences; writing about ideas of mobility; and the ways in which such viewing corresponds to visual representations and how compatible these activities which inhabit different media are.
- The transferability of the flâneur to contexts outside Paris, and outside Europe, or to the contemporary world, including in digital contexts.
- Objects that compel or require a viewer's physical engagement for their activation and the production of meaning. These might include objects that are not traditional works of art, such as toys, games, optical devices, and panoramas.
We welcome and encourage contacts with other researchers across all periods and locations.
Past and forthcoming conferences
The Flâneur Abroad: historical and international perspectives (University of Nottingham, 2012), two-day international conference, whose papers are published by Cambridge Scholars Press, 2014.
The Mobile Spectator: viewing on the move (University of Nottingham, July 2014), two day international conference.
The Global Flâneur: we are preparing a conference on this topic, and welcome expressions of interest.
The Virtual Flâneur: details to be announced.
A selection of publications and forthcoming publications from the project team
Richard Wrigley, Roman Fever: influence, infection, and the image of Rome 1700–1870 (Yale University Press, 2013).
Ting Chang, Travel, Collecting, and Museums of Asian Art in Nineteenth-Century Paris (Ashgate Publishing, 2013).
Richard Wrigley (ed.), The Flâneur Abroad: historical and international perspectives (Cambridge Scholars Press, 2014).
Richard Wrigley, ‘Au Seuil du Salon’, in James Kearns and Alister Mill (eds), The Paris Fine Art Salon/Le Salon, 1791–1881 (Peter Lang, 2015).
Richard Wrigley, ‘Unreliable Witness: the flâneur as artist and viewer of art’, in Etienne Jollet (ed.), Temporalité et Potentialité dans l’œuvre d’art de la Renaissance à nos jours (Presses Universitaires de Rennes, forthcoming 2015)
Ting Chang, ‘Paris, Japan and Modernity: A Vexed Ratio’ in Hollis Clayson and André Dombrowski (eds), Is Paris Still the Capital of the Nineteenth Century? Essays on Art and Modernity, 1850–1900 (Ashgate/Routledge, 2016)