Visual forms and practices

How we create, understand and interact with our visual world
We explore the fabric of the visual world. We explore how objects, images and symbols move across time and space, how they are displayed, viewed and interpreted. We ask how we see the world, and chart the impact of visual culture on society, politics and human life.

From cave art to the metaverse, the visual is fundamental to human cultural experience and has a privileged place in our exploration of our world.  Visual culture has been shaped and remade by the possibilities of technology and come to play a key role in how we see and present ourselves as individuals, and communities. Our diverse group of researchers, including practitioners, historians, curators and theorists, explore the richness of the visual world. Their scholarship and thought helps trace and articulate new and complex histories of how art and visual culture is transmitted, connected, interpreted, made, collected and exchanged and to question how, why and what we see. 

We are engaged with visual forms as a means of communication, expression and as a way of understanding the world around us. Our work encompasses research into individual and cultural perception; a focus on the social and political contexts of vision in diverse times and places; the multiple forms of social, cultural and political expression to which visual culture gives rise; and the frameworks in which we interact with visual culture, from museums and collections to digital platforms, on our streets and in our homes and workplaces. 

Our work highlights the vital role of visual knowledge in cultures and societies across the world. We study the complexity of Indigenous Australian visual knowledge, and its continuing vitality; we explore how seeing can reveal or distort truth; we chart the growth of new visual technologies and we help to place our saturated visual present in helpful and illuminating historical contexts.  We work with many partners globally and nationally, to explore how the question of the visual is of continuing relevance not just to art and artists but to science, medicine, engineering and education. 

Our current areas of focus include:

  • Indigenous art and visual knowledge and understanding 
  • Global dissemination of visual culture, and the world cultures of visual art – the exchange of visual forms between cultures and groups
  • Gender and visual cultures
  • Encounters with and through art, across empires, territories and histories
  • Materials in art, the making and use of art objects
  • Histories and practices of display of visual culture and objects – in exhibitions, collections and across media
  • Relations between artworks, objects, texts, and designs 
  • The visual across forms and media- how are images translated across formats and in different mediums, from woodblocks to memes
  • The audiences, consumers and publics of visual art and culture
  • The history, theory and reception of photography as art and vernacular practice
  • Visual cultures at the intersection of history, archives, digital cultures, and contemporary artistic practice
  • Fashions, canons and taste in visual art and culture
  • Histories and theories of perception, across art, science and psychology 
  • Art and text, in Books, engravings, paintings, photography, film 
  • How science, engineering and medicine ‘see’, from deep space to the nano-scale. 

Our people

Hero image credit: William Hogarth, Analysis of Beauty Plate 1, 1753.

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