Research Symposium: Reframing seeing and knowing in the 21st century

Monday 20 February 2017, 9am–12.30pm Powerhouse Museum

The act of seeing and looking has many layers. Who is doing the looking and why? What is being seen? How is this being communicated? How might this translate into knowing?

With John Berger’s ground breaking work, Ways of Seeing, now in its 44th year, what is it that we bring to seeing and knowing in the 21st century that is new? How might cultural, social and historical perspectives, technology, accessibility and scientific or art informed innovation contribute to interpretation of what is being seen? In a time when ‘media snacking’ on a constant stream of online visual images and text based information is the norm, what, if anything, has shifted in the way we see and know?

How do these ideas impact how we see and perceive objects, art works, archives and other materials in cultural spaces? Do such acts of seeing contribute to changing perspectives?

Join us as we investigate new thoughts on seeing and knowing in cultural spaces such as galleries, libraries, archives and museums.

A stimulating event for cultural professionals in the GLAM (galleries, libraries, archives and museums) sector, academics, students and those curious to know more.

Join the conversation. Use the hashtag #MAASsymp

The fifth in the MAAS Professional Series, this symposium aims to foster an open and creative dialogue between museum professionals, providing the opportunity to network, share information and develop a collaborative approach to addressing important issues facing the museum sector.

For enquiries, please contact Sharon Dickson via (02) 9217 0192 or


8.45am Registration
9.00am Welcome followed by Welcome to Country Peter Denham, Director, Curatorial, Collections & Exhibitions, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences (MAAS)
9.15am Introduction Dr Kylie Budge, Research Manager, MAAS
9.20am Not Knowing: Art, Science and Agnotology Dr Prudence Gibson, academic, art and fiction writer
9.40am Spatial Politics Emily McDaniel, curator, writer, educator
10.00am Morning Tea
10.40am Ways of looking: Photography and the Wretched Screen Dr Donna West Brett, Lecturer Art History, University of Sydney
11.00am Seeing Through a Different Cultural Lens Min-Jung Kim, Curator, MAAS
11.20am The Aesthetics of Perception Simm Steel, Senior Lighting Designer, Steensen Varming
11.40am Discussion, Q&A
12.15pm Finish


Dr Prudence Gibson, academic, art and fiction writer – Not Knowing: Art, Science and Agnotology. Prudence argues that willful and convenient ignorance has affected human perception of climate change. However, artists Janet Laurence, Jennifer Turpin and Michaelie Crawford are creating public artworks that make visible the invisible truth about our eco-futures.

Min-Jung Kim, Curator, MAAS – Seeing Through a Different Cultural Lens. Min will explore curatorial practices and stimulate thoughts around new ways of seeing though her personal experience as an Asian born curator working in a western museum.

Emily McDaniel, curator, writer, educator. Spatial Politics. In relation to seeing and knowing, Emily asks what programs our perspective of Indigenous cultural and/or artistic practices? How can we decolonise our curatorial methodologies and the Gallery/Museum space? Collaboration, representation and self-determination in relation to the exhibition, interpretation and museology of Indigenous objects and collections are considered.

Simm Steel, Senior Lighting Designer, Steensen Varming – The Aesthetics of PerceptionNow more than ever, light can accentuate, elaborate, evolve, bring to the surface the concealed, and even create form out of the immaterial. Simm asks how should we interpret the visual narrative of artistic intent, and when is enrichment a false endeavour?

Dr Donna West Brett, Lecturer Art History, University of Sydney. Ways of Looking: Photography and the Wretched Screen. Donna will examine the work of John Berger and Hito Steyerl to reconsider how contemporary photography interprets and represents recent history in an age of fragmented images.

Co-facilitated by Dr Kylie Budge, Research Manager, MAAS and Katie Dyer, Curator Contemporary, MAAS

Book for both this symposium and our Media, Publics and the Past symposium in the afternoon

Historians, producers and curators discuss alternative histories of the press, photography, music, advertising and television. This session will introduce you to some surprising and unique collections and resources, and reveal the hidden histories of ordinary objects such as the VCR and the Walkman. Presenters will reflect on how their projects address gaps in the record and explore the ways that items such as diaries and personal papers can make connections between the private and the public. You’ll hear about the questions that these media histories pose for examinations of the past in the digital world, and get a chance to discuss your own media and history projects.

Buy your discounted combined ticket here.