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'Imaging and Imagining the Modern': Cosmopolitan Identities and Cultures of Consumption in Inter-war Europe and North America

Pat Kirkham
Bard Graduate Center for the Study of the Decorative Arts, Design and Culture, New York

Andrew Stephenson
University of East London

The session investigates the relationship between art and design practices and other types of visual and material culture in European and North American cities in the 1920s and 1930s. Its aim is to examine the overlaps between art, design and fashion and other visual forms, notably in photography, film and advertising, in order to develop suggestive and innovative ways of approaching and evaluating the complexity of cultural production within these decades. First, it opens up the connections between visual and material culture (practices, theories and discourses) in the inter-war years and considers how these linkages across art, architecture, fashion, film and photography might be re-examined in the light of recent critical theory and research. Second, it evaluates in what ways the dynamic intersections of visual technologies prominent in the mass media restructured and envisaged new forms of metropolitan experience and cosmopolitan identity for visually sophisticated European and North American audiences. And third, it seeks to re-conceive discipline-based boundaries by enlisting inter-disciplinary approaches that encourage a more searching examination of these compelling and intoxicating modes of consumption that heralded the modern metropolis as a visual culture replete with 'real' and 'imagined' social worlds, communities and performative identities.