Thinking with John Berger


John Berger  

Conference Overview

John Berger presents a uniquely diverse model of critical artistic and intellectual work. He is, variously, artist (and a philosopher of drawing); art critic/theorist; ‘art geographer’ (Edward Soja); novelist (although preferring to call himself a storyteller); poet and dramatist; film-maker; photographic collaborator; theorist of migration; political activist in the domains of anti-capitalism and human rights.

This conference: 4th- 5th September 2014

This conference at Cardiff Metropolitan University places a focus on the transformative potential of Berger’s work for educational practice. Berger may be said to have kept a distance from the institutional lecture hall, seminar room or studio; yet his work, through an interdisciplinarity seemingly without boundaries, continues to impact upon a number of academic fields. In dedicating himself to‘the job of thinker and artist’ (Sally Potter), Berger seems also consistently to have orientated himself towards the future and to practice: he is, in the words of Sukhdev Sandhu, ‘in the best sense, a teacherly writer and performer’ -- a teacherly method characterised, that is, by the principles of collaboration and equality.

The conference therefore takes an exploratory approach to the question of how we might, as educators, use, discuss, learn from and continue to develop Berger’s thought. In what ways might that thought help to transform curricula, pedagogy, and our work as writers, artists and teachers? How pertinent is it, for example, to the growing internationalisation of the academy and to questions of global educational citizenship? Or how relevant as a critical resource within the context of a new, corporate and marketised environment in education? Might Berger’s ‘radical humanism’ (Tilda Swinton) help to carve out alternative futures?

The conference is open to contributors from all subject areas and disciplines, though it is anticipated that it will be of principal appeal to those interested in Berger’s impact upon the following fields: literary studies; visual arts; art history; philosophy; creative writing; film production and education; performance; drawing; photography; cultural geography; critical and cultural theory.

Provisional Programme

Cardiff Metropolitan University, Llandaff Campus, 4-5 September 2014

Thursday 4 September

08:45 - 09:30​Registration​
09:30 - 10:45​Keynote 1: Professor Bruce Robbins: ‘Looking at Atrocities’​
10:45 - 11:00​Coffee​
​11:00 - 12:30​Panel 1: Artists and Art History
James Finch (Tate/Kent): ‘The Courbet Revival and After’
Dr Jana Gavriliu (Bucharest): ‘Pictorial Spatialized Narratives: Something that continually traverses laterally Pieter Brueghel’s visual story-lines’
Dr Maria Hayes: ‘Cubist Ways of Seeing’
​12:30 - 13:15​Lunch
13:15 - 14:45​​Panel 2: The 1950s
Dr Alice Ferrebe (Liverpool John Moores): ‘Ethical Aesthetics: Berger and 1950s Realism’
Dr Judith Walsh (Liverpool): ‘John Berger: Curating Realism in the 1950s’
Dr Tom Overton (Henry Moore Institute): ‘”I tried to push him down the stairs”: Henry Moore and John Berger
14:45 - 15:00​Coffee​
15:00 - 16:30​​Panel 3: Storytelling
Dr Denis Brotto (Padua): ‘How to Tell the Image of Ruins: John Berger in Gianni Celati’s Case Sparse’
Alfred Archer (Edinburgh): 'Moral Integrity and John Berger's A Fortunate Man'
Simon Woolham (Manchester Metropolitan): ‘In Search of the Shortcuts: The Wythy Walks – Mapping Human Details’
16:30 - 18:00​Panel 4: Ways of Seeing and Pedagogy
Dr Rochelle Simmons (Otago): ‘Ways of Seeing, Gazing and Looking’
Cath Davies (Cardiff Metropolitan): ‘Nurturing Ways of Seeing: a Pedagogical Approach’
Eileen Little (South Wales): ‘More Ways of Seeing’ ​

Friday 5 September

09:00 - 10:30​Panel 5: Art and Pedagogy
Dr Natasha Mayo (Cardiff Metropolitan): ‘Bento’s Sketchbook: Parental Conversations’
Stephanie Bolt (Northbrook College): ‘If t-rex equals chicken, man equals x? aka the Tyranny of Context’
Arlene Pryce (Cardiff Metropolitan): ‘To See a World in a Grain of Sand: Visual Art and Young People’s Higher Order Literacy Skills’ ​
10:30 - 10:45​​Coffee
10:45 - 12:00​Keynote 2: Professor Peter de Bolla: 'Ways of Touching: The Work of Art in the Presence of John Berger'
​12:00 - 12:45Lunch
​12:45 - 14:15Panel 6: Philosophy: Fields and Things
Professor David Rayson (Royal College of Art): ‘”The Field”: Looking and Thinking Aloud’
Jo Croft (Liverpool John Moores): ‘”Hold Everything Dear”: The Hoarder as Global Citizen (or, Ways of Thinking about People and Things…)
Dr Richard Turney (York): ‘”Everything is Precipitous”: Slopes, Ladders and the Immaterial in Pig Earth’
14:15 - 14:30​Coffee
14:30 - 16:00​Panel 7: Compassion and Community
Dr Jan Huyton (Cardiff Metropolitan): ‘Behind the Curtain: Berger’s Exposition of Critical Community Practice’
Dr Jennifer Walden (Portsmouth): ‘John Berger, Image, Photography, Criticism: Compassion and/or Politics?’
Michelle Letowska: 'How We Hold Things Dear: Drawing, Writing and Making on the Outer Hebrides'
16:00 - 17:30​Panel 8: Theory and Practice
Dr Susan Pui San Lok (Middlesex) and Dr Juliette Kristensen (Goldsmiths): ‘Art Vapours: Ways of Seeing, Hearing and Speaking Again’
Okechkwu Ugonna: ‘Depicting the “Transient Landmarks” of Urban Space through Contemporary Artistic Practice’
Emma Bolland: ‘Fields of Knowledge: Berger, the Outdoors, and the Possibilities of Experiential Practice’ ​

Keynote Speakers

Peter de Bolla

Peter de Bolla is Professor of Cultural History and Aesthetics at the University of Cambridge. He is the author of many books including The Discourse of the Sublime: Readings in History, Aesthetics and the Subject; The Education of the Eye: Painting, Landscape and Architecture in Eighteenth Century Britain; Art Matters; and the forthcoming The Architecture of Concepts: The historical formation of Human Rights. His current project is on Pierre Bonnard and the painting of ghosts.

Bruce Robbins

Bruce Robbins has been an admirer of John Berger for many years. “Feeling Global: Experience and John Berger,” was published in boundary 2 in 1982 and “John Berger's Disappearing Peasants” in Minnesota Review in 1987.

He is Old Dominion Foundation Professor of the Humanities in the department of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. He has also taught at the University of Geneva, the University of Lausanne, and Rutgers University with visiting stints at Harvard, Cornell, and New York University.

His books include Perpetual War: Cosmopolitanism from the Viewpoint of Violence; Upward Mobility and the Common Good; Feeling Global: Internationalism in Distress; The Servant's Hand: English Fiction from Below; and Secular Vocations: Intellectuals, Professionalism, Culture. He is also the director of a documentary entitled “Some of My Best Friends Are Zionists,” available on Amazon.


As part of our Sustainable Travel Plan, we encourage all visitors, students, and staff to travel to the University by walking, cycling, public transport, or by car sharing.

Llandaff Campus
Cardiff Metropolitan University
Western Avenue
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Full details can be found in the 'Travel to Cardiff Metropolitan University' PDF here.

How to reach us by:


During term time, the U1, U2, and U3/U4 MetRider buses travel hourly to Llandaff from the Cyncoed campus, Roath, Cathays, and the city centre. The MetRider buses all stop directly outside the campus.

The 1/2 circular bus route serves the Llandaff campus every 30 minutes from Fairwater, Heath, Roath, and the city centre.

You can also travel to the Llandaff campus from Llandaff North, Fairwater, Canton, or the city centre on the 24/25, the 33/33A/33B, or the 60/62, stopping at the Llandaff Black Lion bus stop on Cardiff Road, just 10 minutes walk from the campus. See Cardiff Bus for route details.


Waun-Gron railway station is approx. 20 minutes walk away from the Llandaff campus, and is on the City Line. See National Rail Enquiries for train times.

If travelling to Cardiff by train, the most convenient method of getting to Llandaff campus is by taxi from Cardiff Central station.

Related Websites

Cardiff Bus
Arriva Trains Wales
Traveline Cymru
BBC Traffic news

See also...

The AA Route Planner
Transport Direct
National Rail
National Express
Cardiff Airport


We are pleased to be able to offer bed and breakfast accommodation at our residential campus, Plas Gwyn. En-suite rooms are available for the duration of the conference at a cost of £33 per night. The accommodation is situated a pleasant 15 minute walk away from Cardiff School of Management, the main conference venue.

Please be aware that campus accommodation is limited and should be booked early to avoid disappointment.

To book your room at Plas Gwyn please contact


Cardiff offers a range of hotels, guest houses and bed & breakfast accommodation to suit all budgets.

For an extensive list of accommodation please go to

Hotels at a glance


Churchill's Hotel​Llandaff​From £50 / night​

Travelodge​City Centre​From £40 / night​

Middle of Range​
Radisson Blu​City Centre​From £75 / night​

Holiday Inn​City Centre​From £79 / night​

Hilton​City Centre​From £89 / night​

Park Plaza​City Centre​From £99 / night​

*All room rates are for guidance only and prices may vary at time of booking

How To Register

Fees for the conference are as follows:

Standard 2 day rate: £170
Student 2 day rate: £120

This fee includes conference registration, lunch and refreshments for two days.

(Cancellations must be in writing and made more than 10 working days prior to the conference or you will be charged the full rate).

To register please follow the link below:
Conference Registration

Contact Us

Queries and correspondence regarding the content of the conference should be sent to Professor Jeff Wallace at, or call 00 44(0)29 2041 7102.

For enquiries regarding booking, or any other administrative detail please contact a member of the Cardiff School of Education Enterprise team on

Donna O'Flaherty
Research & Enterprise Support Manager
02920 416577

Huw Jones
Research & Enterprise Administrator
02920 417078