March 2018

Lecture: Patricia H. Labalme Friends of the Library

Mary Roberts - East of West: Edward Said, Melancholy Time and the Orientalist Interior

  • Thursday, 22 March 2018 - 6:00pm
Villa Aurelia
George Aitchison, West Elevation of the Arab Hall, Leighton House, ca. 1877, RIBA Library, Drawings and Archives Collection.

This event is part of the series New Work in the Arts & Humanities: East and West.

Horological inventions such as the marine chronometer (the technological breakthrough enabling accurate global navigation), and the transplantation of metropolitan time marking practices to colonial outposts, were a fulcrum of the empire building of European nation states in the nineteenth century. Western progress and its counterpoint, the non-west as a repository of premodernity, were part of the telos of modern colonialism and orientalism. As Edward Said put it in the opening paragraph to his seminal book Orientalism, the Orient of European invention is defeated by time: ‘its time was over’.

The recent global turn in our discipline resituates European orientalism within a broader, more politically contested cultural geography. It’s a move east of west. How is the temporal logic of modernity differentially articulated across this expanded cultural geography of the visual? Analysing the interiors of two nineteenth-century British orientalist artist-collectors in the imperial capitals of Istanbul and London and the Islamic and European art displayed there, discloses their entanglements within British, Ottoman and Sicilian Orientalism. In doing so this lecture reveals the ways the aesthetics of these spaces were inflected by the heterochronicity of Ottoman and European modernity. Focusing on the temporal logic of these sites enables us to elaborate the transcultural and transhistorical complexities of art’s time.

Mary Roberts is Professor of Art History and Nineteenth-Century Studies at the University of Sydney. She is the author of Istanbul Exchanges: Ottomans, Orientalists and Nineteenth-Century Visual Culture (2015), which maps patterns of transcultural exchange between Europe and the Ottoman Empire in the nineteenth century. Istanbul Exchanges won the 2016 Art Association of Australia and New Zealand prize for best book and was translated into Turkish that same year. She is also the author of Intimate Outsiders: The Harem in Ottoman and Orientalist Art and Travel Literature (Duke, 2007). Roberts’ current book project, Artists as Collectors of Islamic Art, extends her inquiry into the temporality of modernity forged through visual exchange across cultures.

The event will be held in English.

Please note: valid photo ID is required for entry into the American Academy in Rome. Backpacks and luggage with dimensions larger than cm 40 x 35 x 15 (inches 16 x 14 x 6) are not permitted on the property. There are no locker facilities available.