• 30 November 2016
  • 6:00 – 8:00 pm
  • Lecture Room, Paul Mellon Centre

Between 1938 and 1950, the Surrealist artist, Mass Observation Founder, and documentary filmmaker Humphrey Jennings produced a scrapbook compilation of writings from 1660 to 1886 for what he called his “Pandaemonium” project. Jennings, one of the leading artists and interpreters of post-war Britain, is best known today for his patriotic war-time films, such as Listen to Britain (1942) and his final film, Family Portrait (1950), made shortly before his death in a mountain accident.

Never brought to completion during his lifetime, excerpts of “Pandaemonium” were published in 1938 in an issue of the London Bulletin edited by Jennings, but it was only finally published as a book in 1985, over thirty years after his death. (The filmmaker and director Danny Boyle, said he was inspired by images in Pandaemonium in telling a story about Britain’s place within the modern world for the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony).

In his “Pandaemonium” scrapbook of annotated writings, Jennings explored the way in which science and technology, through the Industrial Revolution, not only shaped the natural and industrial topography, but also informed ideas, language, perceptions, emotions and imagination of the inner landscape across a wide cross-section of British society.

This talk discusses the nature and significance of Pandaemonium as a source in the long history of the visualization of modernity. After considering new information about the background to the work, it will highlight its significance as one of the earliest histories to compose the historical narrative of modernization as a series of 'images' in popular historical imagination.

Image: Andre Deutsch detail from Coalbrookdale by Night by de Loutherbourg, 1801, oil on canvas, Science Museum, London / Bridgeman Images

About the speaker

  • Jennifer Tucker is a historian of modern Britain at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, where she teaches the history of science and technology and visual studies, and a Visiting Fellow at the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities. Her first book, Nature Exposed: Photography as Eyewitness in Victorian Science (released in paperback, 2013) explored the history of debates over photography and visual objectivity in Victorian science and popular culture. As a US-UK Fulbright Scholar in the History of Art at the University of York in 2014, she conducted research for a second book-length project, recently completed, titled 'Identity after Photography: The Great Tichborne Trial in the Victorian Visual Imagination.' She is currently working on two new book-length projects while on sabbatical in the UK: 'Science Against Industry' traces the history of the making and presentation of visual exhibits in Victorian courtroom debates over air and river pollution. 'Caught on Camera' is a book-length study about the history of facial recognition detection systems and their evasion, and is being funded by a 2016 Public Scholar Award from the National Endowment for the Humanities.