No Caption Needed is a book and a blog, each dedicated to discussion of the role that photojournalism and other visual practices play in a vital democratic society. No caption needed, but many are provided. . . .

May 29th, 2009

Symposium: The Aesthetics of Catastrophe

Posted by Hariman in catastrophe, conferences & shows

Symposium: The Aesthetics of Catastrophe

Northwestern University
Friday, June 5, 2009
Annie May Swift Hall Auditorium

This symposium addresses questions of visual representation and public advocacy as they are evident in contemporary economic, environmental, and political disasters. Events such as floods, fires, terrorism, and genocide generate heightened media coverage, compelling images, and questions about the limits of photographic representation of events that involve massive disruption and loss. In the US, a series of disasters including 9/11, Katrina, and the economic crash have pushed photojournalists and media scholars alike to ask whether the available conventions for documentary witness need to be extended or reworked. This symposium provides images and arguments dedicated to provoking and guiding extended discussion of topics such as the violent image, visual fragmentation and political distribution, emergency status and citizenship, and the iconography of a “catastrophile” society.


9:00 – Coffee

9:30 – Ann Larabee, Michigan State University, “Brownfields, Ghostboxes, and Orange Xs: Reading Disaster and Catastrophe in the Urban Landscape”

10:45 – Robert Lyons, Photographer, “Intimate Enemy: Images and Voices of the Rwandan Genocide”

1:00 – David Campbell, Durham University, UK, “Constructed Visibility: Photographing the Catastrophe of Gaza”

2:15 – Aric Mayer, Photographer, “Representing the Unrepresentable: Disaster, Suffering, and Locating the Political in the Viewer-Image Exchange”

3:30 – Lane Relyea, Northwestern University, “From Spectacle to Database: On the Changed Status of Debris and Fragmented Subjectivity in Recent Art Culture”

4:45 – Reception

Free and open to the public. Organized by Robert Hariman. Sponsored by the Program in Rhetoric and Public Culture, the Center for Global Culture and Communication, the School of Communication, and the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities, Northwestern University. For more information, please contact Patrick Wade at

2 Responses to ' Symposium: The Aesthetics of Catastrophe '

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  1. on June 4th, 2009 at 8:45 pm

    […] this research – “Constructed Visibility: Photographing the Catastrophe of Gaza” – at the “Aesthetics of Catastrophe” symposium today at Northwestern University in […]

  2. on June 15th, 2009 at 9:44 pm

    At , under “Nakedness and the Night Shift,” I discuss the image of the locomotive from this symposium announcement.

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