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Symposium: On vulnerability and resistance

A woman looking perplexed
Mieke Bal & Michelle Williams Gamaker, Sissi in Analysis, 2012

26 June 2019, Central Saint Martins
Co-organised by Judy Willcocks and Joanne Morra

Vulnerability has traditionally been viewed as a deficit. This symposium challenges such a notion by opening up a space in which vulnerability is understood as a powerful means of mobilising agency, resistance and activism.

Throughout the day, the theme of vulnerability and resistance will be examined through multiple lenses: from the intimacy of (auto)biography; to the social and cultural contexts which have seen the rise of a charged discourse on vulnerability and its embodied resistance; and the harnessing of the vulnerable for political action.

Bringing together staff, students and graduates we will examine the issues of vulnerability and resistance through a variety of approaches: from filmmaking and graphic illustration, through curation and artistic practice, to academic writing and design thinking.

On vulnerability and resistance is the first symposium hosted by the Creative Practices, Education and Wellbeing Research Network run by Judy Willcocks (Head of the Museum and Study Collection at CSM) and Dr Joanne Morra (Professor of Art and Culture, CSM). This event has been kindly supported by CSM Knowledge Exchange funding and CSM Research Visibility Fund.


  • John Miers – Speaking my truth through the voices of others


    In narrative drawing, as in all forms of discourse, it’s not just what we say but how we present it that creates meaning. A drawing style embodies a worldview, regardless of what events and interactions are actually depicted. How does this work, and what happens when we engage in visual ventriloquism by drawing in somebody else’s style?

    In a recent Researcher in the Archives residency in University of the Arts London’s Archives and Special Collections Centre at London College of Communication, I adopted the visual languages of other cartoonists in order to create semi-fictionalised autobiographical graphic narratives dealing with aspects of the diagnosis and treatment of multiple sclerosis.

    This workshop will draw on the processes I have used during the residency, aiming to introduce participants to methods of adopting varied graphic languages in their drawings, and applying these to personally-salient events and reflections. In the first section, I will summarise my project and introduce some of the ways in which I analysed the archival material for the purpose of producing new drawings. In the second section, participants will be invited to create autobiographical drawings. Materials will be provided to support all attendees in this process – confidence in drawing not required!


    John Miers completed his PhD, Visual Metaphor and Drawn Narratives, at Central Saint Martins in 2018, and began a postdoctoral residency at London College of Communication the same year. He is a lecturer in illustration and critical and historical studies at Kingston School of Art, and associate lecturer at Central Saint Martins and the Royal College of Art.

  • Anne-Marie Creamer – The wounded storyteller: on speaking vulnerability, acknowledging dependence


    I won’t be the first, but I find myself suddenly ill whilst still in my role as a lecturer at UAL. Finding ways to give my experience texture and imaginative weight through speaking of it in multiple ways has been a willful act of survival, which continues as I return to UAL. Given the susceptibility to affliction that characterises human life, vulnerability and the complex interaction between independence and dependence will be familiar to many. This necessarily has its place in university life as well.

    My position has been to convey and fathom the profound human experience of illness and complex ambivalent cultural attitudes towards this, which whilst grounded in autobiography is not straightforwardly therapeutic. I will suggest the experience of illness is a form of knowledge with existential impact, even as there is often a narrowing of language describing this.

    What does it mean as a lecturer to speak publicly, as I attempt to do, with students and colleagues about and in vulnerability? It has risks but it might bring a fresh lens on the institution, revealing previously hidden blind spots, embedded habits, or hidden assumptions. I will propose that rather than speak of vulnerability as passive, as a deficit that must be paternalistically compensated for, we explore a re-alignment where vulnerability is central to learning and agency; to vulnerability and leadership. In doing this I will consider the modern university as a network of obligations with vulnerability and dependence regarded as central to human experience and to the processes of learning.


    Anne-Marie Creamer is a visual artist based in London. She is a lecturer at Central Saint Martins as the Pathway Leader for the Art Program Diploma in Professional Studies for the BA Fine Art course.

    Her practice as an artist experiments with cinematic and theatrical forms, often linking theatre, painting and cinema together proposing a form of theoretical fiction that dramatises the boundary between representation and presence.  Creamer studied at Middlesex University and the Royal College of Art and her work is regularly shown internationally at galleries and museums, including FRAC Bretagne, France; Kunstvereniging Diepenheim, Netherlands; Palm Springs Art Museum; Aspex Arts, Portsmouth and The Drawing Room Gallery, London. Publications featuring her work include The Lost Diagrams of Walter Benjamin (MA Bibliotheque 2017); Armel Beaufils, le Regard des femmes (Editions FRAC Bretagne, France, 2017), and Drawing Book: A Survey of Drawing - The Primary Means of Expression (Black Dog Publishing, 2006). She received the Derek Hill Scholarship in Drawing in 2012, and residencies include the Center for Contemporary Arts, Prague, and The British School at Rome.

    In 2018 Anne-Marie was diagnosis with a near inoperable rare spinal tumour. She has recently worked with the European Patients Forum on patient experience, especially focussing on how policy affects patients with rare diseases.

  • Brian O’Callaghan – The vulnerable archive


    What are the ethical questions in curating a show about someone whom is no longer present to speak for themselves? In conversation: Isabella Blow in Kuwaitexhibits photographs of the late editor, stylist, fashion director and muse Isabella Blow on her final overseas work trip, directing a photoshoot in Kuwait. The archive feels like a vulnerable space and an appropriate space to begin conversations around vulnerability in the creative industries.  In this talk I will speak about my research around affect, trauma and wellness, asking questions like, how do we archive our own histories? 


    Brian O'Callaghan is an artist and writer currently studying for an MA in Fine Art at Central Saint Martins.

  • Caterina Albano – Vulnerability: the making of a discourse


    The paper contextualises vulnerability and its potential as a form of agency and embodied resistance in relation to broader theorisations of the body and emotions in the twentieth and twentieth-first centuries.


    Caterina Albano is a Reader in Visual Culture and Science at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London. She is the author of Memory, Forgetting and the Moving Image(Palgrave MacMillan, 2016) and Fear and Art in the Contemporary World (Reaktion Books, 2012), of journal articles and essays on emotion and affect (fear and anxiety), on the politics of memory and contemporary art, on the body, anatomy and eating disorders, and curating. Albano convened the international symposium Anxious Places: Angst, Environments and Affective Contamination (University of the Arts London and the Anxiety Arts Festival, 2014). Her curatorial work includes the exhibitions Psychoanalysis: The Unconscious in Everyday Life (Science Museum, London, 2009-10),Crossing Over: Art, Science and Biotechnologies (The Royal Institution of Great Britain, London, 2008); Head On: Art with the Brain in Mind (Science Museum/Wellcome Trust, 2002) and The Genius of Genetics (Mendel Museum, Brno 2002). She was the curatorial consultant for Medicine and Art: Imagining a Future for Life and Love – Leonardo, Okyo, Damien Hirst (Mori Museum/ Wellcome Collection, Tokyo, 2009-10), First Time Out (Wellcome Collection, 2011), and Seduced (Barbican Art Gallery 2007).

  • Dr Clare Warner – Margins and centres in curriculum discourse


    This presentation will explore the range of effects created by the omissions and distortions of Non-Western perspectives in the curriculum and how these impact on creative practice. The presentation will also explore the role of vulnerability in curriculum reform.


    Dr Clare Warner is an educator and researcher with a focus on race and education. She has taught for many years in London secondary schools and more recently has lead on teacher training in a large further education college. She is interested in the material effects of a narrow curriculum and how curriculum can be re-imagined in order to create positive learning experiences and outcomes for all students. She is a member of the newly formed Attainment Team within the Teaching and Learning Exchange. Her focus is on supporting course teams with decolonising their curriculum as part of an overall strategy designed to eliminate the attainment gap for students of colour (Home and International) and their white counterparts.

  • Sal Anderson and Beverley Carruthers – Creative Transformation: a case study


    The duality of vulnerability and resilience is explored in an examination of the workshop series ‘Creative Transformation’ currently funded by the LCC Teaching & Learning Fund. Challenges and impediments in effecting change through research are investigated in the analysis of this case study.


    Sal Anderson is a Reader in Interdisciplinary Science-Art Film at LCC, UAL. Cinematic interrogation in Sal Anderson’s recent films challenge clinical objectification of the subjective experience of mental health conditions and the therapeutic role of art in medicine. Films directed by Sal include neuropsychology and psychiatry collaborations on epilepsy, visual agnosia and psychosis, funded by Wellcome Trust Arts Awards. Screenings at International film festivals include: the Chicago, Toronto and Melbourne international film festivals; the British Council's Best Shorts screened at the Cannes International Film Festival and a nomination for the UIP prize at the Rotterdam International Film Festival.

    Beverley Carruthers, the Course Leader for BA (Hons) Photography at LCC, is a graduate from the Royal College of Art and member of the LCC’s Photography and the Contemporary Imaginary research hub – hosting exhibitions and conferences and producing publications. Beverley is a photographer and educator who makes work and conducts research around ideas of the primal, with her photographs a result of exploring this through carefully sourced and sometimes constructed situations.Through her work Beverley investigates the state of transformation, with the focus oscillating from witchcraft to the witch's familiar and mythological creatures. Often working with dancers or performers Beverley expands upon the initial photographs through darkroom techniques, with the final outcomes at times combining still and moving image.

  • Susan Ibreck – Integrating Emotional Learning into education settings


    Iniva Creative Learning’s Emotional Learning Cards are developed in partnership with A Space therapies service. The cards showcase the works of international contemporary artists alongside the use of therapeutic prompts and text. This talk will provide an introduction to the development, current and future use of this range of therapeutic and educational resources.


    Susan Ibreck is the education manager at Iniva (the Institute of International Visual Art) and is responsible for developing the role that the learning cards play in Iniva’s educational offer for schools, community groups, art therapists and the general public. Susan has worked in the arts education sector for 15 years: with a background in fine art, she also currently works as a producer on local community arts projects.

  • Judah Armani – Seeing Clearly


    InHouse is a multi award winning record label for change, operating in and out of UK prisons, creating safer communities, less victims of crime and reducing re-offending.

    I will be talking about the importance of a value system and how a record label for change, service design methodology and the formation of a social enterprise created a practice of wellbeing. I will be drawing on the two years of research undertaken to understand the issues facing the most vulnerable people in the UK prison system; aiming to see more clearly; the person not the prisoner.


    My education and practice are sharply focused on the intersection of design and social impact. My award winning design practice, ‘Public Service’ which is a B-Corp certified social enterprise, creates internationally recognised sustainable initiatives for public good. My designs are the result of conversations with multiple stakeholders across time, space  and culture, spanning systems, interactions, experiences and artefacts.

    My practice operates in decades, having spent ten years creating initiatives of social change in the area of homelessness, I am now operating within a decade of the criminal justice system. My work has been published in national journals and my designs have been celebrated in national and international press. I am committed to social innovation by improving lives through design

  • Brooke Wilson and Marcus Nelson – Emotionally naked: men and vulnerability


    Boys Don’t Cry UK uses curatorial practice to create discussion around mental health and male suicide. Through a rotating set of artists, projects and exhibitions, their aim is to give a platform to young male artists from all backgrounds to feel comfortable expressing their feelings and sense of identity though artistic practice. This presentation will discuss how Boys Don’t Cry have experienced vulnerability in their journey so far as a collective, and how it might be used as a tool to open up more discussion around male mental health moving forward.


    Boys Don’t Cry UK are led by co- founders Brooke Wilson and Marcus Nelson both second year BA Fine Art students. Who jointly oversee the curation, artistic direction and management for each project.

  • Laura E. Fischer – The radical embrace of vulnerability for healing and growth


    In her talk, Laura will open a space where she welcomes vulnerability and articulates it as the rawest form of strength and the means to meaningfully shift things for the better. She will share her journey to heal and grow from trauma, as well as how she transformed her experience of violence as an insight that guides her work as a mental health activist, artist, and researcher, and what that looks like.


    Laura E. Fischer is a mental health activist, artist, researcher, author, speaker, NIHR CLAHRC NWL Improvement Leader Fellow and Honorary Research Fellow. Having studied at CSM before going on to postgraduate study at the School of Medicine of Queen Mary University, she blends creative approaches with scientific methods, and vice versa. Her work is weaved in mental health, with a particular focus on trauma and the socio-cultural context of violence. She leads or consults on several projects with various cultural, academic, or clinical partners, gives guest lectures on several courses, and has published, exhibited, and spoken internationally.

Symposium videos

Session 1
Session 2
Session 3
Session 4


"It was a fascinating day and the content smashed the barriers – there was something for everyone to think about."

"I'm sure I speak for all who attended when I say it was one of the richest experiences I have had in academia, especially as it relied so much on emotional intelligence, affect, feeling, honesty, intimacy etc, rather than on a less dimensional or more purely intellectual mode of enquiry."