International symposium to conclude two-year research project


A man wearing glasses and blue shirt smiles while stood in front of green bushes.

A two-year research project on ekphrasis – written responses to works of art – carried out by Oz Hardwick, Professor of Creative Writing at Leeds Trinity University, will conclude with an international symposium at the Village Hotel in North Leeds on Saturday 6 July. 

Together with Cassandra Atherton, Professor of Writing and Literature at Deakin University in Australia and international expert on prose poetry, Professor Hardwick has explored how understanding of ekphrasis has changed with the introduction of new types of media, particularly in recent years.  

Their research has taken them around the world, working with writers, artists, academics and members of the public to explore how people respond to art, and how they creatively express that response. This has involved workshops based on visual imagery in diverse media, but also activities such as creative listening experiences, where participants have been guided in writing exercises in response to music.  

Professor Hardwick said: “While the arts are often described as being a luxury, they are how we express some of the deepest aspects of who we are — and I don’t just mean the sort of art you’ll see in a gallery. Things like pop music or video games, for instance, both reflect us and shape us. In some ways, non-verbal art crosses barriers of both language and culture, yet at the same time it leaves much more open for individual interpretation.  

“Our exploration of ekphrasis has enabled us to illuminate some of the ways we ‘speak’ to each other without words. What we have found is a huge capacity for creative interpretation of arts. It’s really tapped into a need for creativity, rather than just taking on board the information with which we are constantly bombarded, and it’s a good way of unlocking creativity for people who may feel they don’t have the opportunity very often.” 

The symposium, We Need to Talk About Art: Ekphrasis Now, which is open to all, will be led by Professor Hardwick and Professor Atherton as they discuss their findings in greater detail and launch their new anthology Dancing about Architecture and Other Ekphrastic Maneuvers. The anthology contains 60 poems written by poets from around the world and a commentary of their writing process. 

The symposium will feature an array of international speakers including Americans Janée J. Baugher, author of The Ekphrastic Writer, and Nathan Langston, creator of the TELEPHONE experiment which saw artists receive another artist’s work and translate it into a work of their own; and Dorset-born Paul Munden, author of Unclassified: Nigel Kennedy in Chapters and Verse. 

Professor Atherton said: “At a time when we are surrounded by visual imagery, digital art and artificial intelligence-generated images, scholars and writers from around the world will come together to debate what ekphrasis is, how it may be defined and how understandings of ekphrasis may be changing. This is a rare event, and we’re confident that this gathering of some of the outstanding experts in the field will influence ekphrastic writing and related scholarship for years to come.” 

Tickets for We Need to Talk About Art: Ekphrasis Now are available from Leeds Trinity University’s Online Store. 

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