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Parallel of Life and Art: Exhibitions and the Independent Group Conference

anne, Tuesday 02 April 2013

Its 60 years since the groundbreaking exhibition, Parallel of Life & Art took place at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA). This two day event at the ICA will investigate the exhibition work of the Independent Group at the very institution which first fostered and encouraged the practice. Moreover, the conference will also consider ways in which the Independent Group have been, and continue to be, exhibited.  How can the Independent Group’s transdisciplinary practice best be understood and exhibited?  The event follows on from last year’s event, BUNK: Celebrating 60 Years of the Independent Group which contributed to broader understanding of British art and architecture; the papers are to be published in a special issue of the Journal of Visual Culture Summer 2013.


The main aim of the conference is to bring together researchers, practitioners and curators who are working on aspects of the Independent Group, to share their knowledge and approaches to this seminal moment in the history of British visual culture. Although it only met between 1952-55, the issues explored by the members, including architects Alison and Peter Smithson, James Stirling and Colin St John Wilson; artists Magda Cordell, Richard Hamilton, Nigel Henderson, Eduardo Paolozzi, William Turnbull and Nigel Henderson and writers Lawrence Alloway, Reyner Banham and Toni del Renzio, continue to resonate today. The exhibitions organised by the group – Growth & Form; Tomorrow’s Furniture; Parallel of Life & Art; Man, Machine & Motion and sections of This is Tomorrow – were highly innovative, both in terms of layout and the range of objects displayed. Building on the ICA’s Surrealist legacy, the Independent Group shows introduced the new age of modernity and mass culture to the gallery space. Reflecting the Group’s collage mentality, new technology and high end design were juxtaposed with avant garde art. Many of the Independent Group members went on to work across and between disciplines. In addition, no fewer than seven exhibitions devoted to members of the Independent Group will be taking place, or are being planned, at the time of the conference. Therefore, the two day event represents the opportunity to share strategies, explore ideas, and explain decisions taken by exhibition curators. The history of the Independent Group has come under increased scrutiny internationally over the past ten years, and this sequel to last year’s event will provide an opportunity for researchers to meet and share their enthusiasm with each other and with a broader audience at the ICA.


Thursday 25th April


New Voices: Research Students Present Their Work


10.00   Kevin Lotery (Harvard University)


10.20   Claudia Marfella (Kingston University)


10.40   Ann Pillar (Reading University)


11.00   Elly Thomas (Slade School of Art)


11.20   Coffee


11.40   Jessica Kelly (Middlesex University)


12.00   Hannah Durham (AA)


12.20   Guilia Smith


12.40   Discussion


13.00   Lunch


14.00   Welcome and Introduction: Hilary Robinson (Middlesex University) and Matt Williams (ICA)

14.15   New Brutalism: Parallels of Life and Art

            Ben Highmore (Sussex University)


14.45   Hammer Prints

            Michelle Cotton (Firstsite, Colchester)


15.15   Parallels of Curating and Critical Art

            Ben Cranfield (Birkbeck College)


16.00   Refreshment Break


16.30   The Independent Group: A Transdisciplinary Approach

Alex Coles (University of Huddersfield)

Reception and Private View of The Independent Group: Parallel of Art & Life at the ICA


Friday 26th April

10.00   An Architect’s Response to This is Tomorrow


 Juan Arribas (Sao Paolo)

10.45   Exhibiting This is Tomorrow

 Nayia Yiakoumake (Whitechapel Art Gallery)*


11.30   Refreshment Break


12.00   Francis Bacon and the IG

Martin Hammer (Kent University)




14.00   Sylvia Sleigh

 Eleanor Clayton (Tate Liverpool)



14.15   William Turnbull

Clare Lilly (Yorkshire Sculpture Park)

14.30   Richard Hamilton

Mark Godfrey (Tate Modern)


14.45   Eduardo Paolozzi

            Simon Martin (Pallant House Gallery, Chichester)


15.00   Refreshment Break


15.30   Hunstanton School and Parallel of Life & Art

            Vicky Walsh (RCA) and Claire Zimmerman (Michigan University)


15.45   Exhibiting The Independent Group

 Anne Massey (Middlesex University)


16.00   Round Table Discussion – Chaired by Professor Jon Bird, Middlesex University


17.00   Closing Remarks and Next Steps



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