‘The City as Modernist Ephemera’ is a one-day interdisciplinary colloquium to be held on Friday 16th June 2017 at London South Bank University.

The modernist city emphatically encapsulates the dialectic of the ephemeral and the eternal. Its dynamic flows of goods, people, and commerce at once determine the city’s transitory nature while at the same time reinforce its status as an immutable seat of power and culture attested to by the very materiality built up within and around such dynamic flows.

Amid the fleeting and transient experience of the city, what is it that constitutes an abiding culture? Where is ‘culture’ and in what form does it appear or exist? What are the spaces, moments, events, and cultural artefacts that make up the ephemera that in turn (re)constitute the modernist city?

Prompted by such questions, this symposium invites proposals that will explore the myriad city-borne arts, objects, practices, and movements that typify the ephemeral and eternal dialectic.

Focussing on the city, and understanding ‘modernist’ in its broadest sense, papers or panels might consider the following:

  • Works (art, architectural, literary, photographic, poetic, etc.) that explore the tensions between the ephemeral and the eternal.
  • Musical, literary, or theatrical performances or works that defined or established an abiding movement or moment.
  • Spontaneous events, meetings, and performances (or ‘planned spontaneity’ in the mode of Dada).
  • Abiding legacies of the chance encounter.
  • The ‘performance’ of societal acts such as conversations in cafes, restaurants, clubs, libraries, salons, theatres, etc.
  • Ephemeral architecture, or spaces and places (re)designed for such acts.
  • Politics of the street: protests, marches, pamphlets.
  • Politics as performance: manifestos, speeches.
  • The Archive.
  • Statutes and Acts.
  • Gardens.
  • Desecration.

Deadline for proposals: 24th February 24th 2017 ***Extended Deadline: 7th April 2017*** Now closed for submissions.


Please send 250-word proposals for individual papers or panels of up to 4 speakers, including a short (50-word) biography with contact information, to the event organiser, Dr Leon Betsworth (LSBU) (leon.betsworth@lsbu.ac.uk).

Panel 1


9.00-9.30 – Registration (Tea & Coffee)

9.30-9.40 – Welcome

  • Organiser: Leon Betsworth (LSBU)

9.40-10.20 – Keynote Address

  • Dr. Nathan Waddell, Asst. Prof Literary Modernism, University of Nottingham: ‘Ford Madox Ford’s Evanescent Cities’

10.20-11.30 – Panel Session 1: (Re)Fashioning the Modernist City

Chair: Karlien van den Beukel

  • Rhiannon Cogbill (Birmingham University): “Don’t look round”: The politics of the street encounter in Jean Rhys’s interwar novels.
  • Sarah Rookledge (LSBU): Staring into the Fire: The 1909 Arding & Hobbs Department Store fire and Narratives of the Shop Girl.
  • Alexandra Trott (Oxford Brookes): “A Demon Dwelt in Him”: Madness, Consumption, and the Intangible Art of Fumisterie.

11.30-11.45 – Tea & Coffee

11.45-13.00 – Panel Session 2: Modernist City Limits: Countryside, Colony, Computer

Chair: Suzanne Scafe

  • Dominic Dean (University of Sussex): New York and the Perverse Country House: Pleasure and Power in Revenant Modernism.
  • Caitlin Vandertop (University of the South Pacific): Unreal cities: peripheral modernisms in the British colonial metropolis.
  • Karlien van den Beukel (LSBU): ‘Hell is a City much like London’: Shelley’s Allegory and RPG Computer Games.

13.00-14.00 – Lunch (Provided)

14.00-14.40 – Keynote Address

  • Prof. Catherine Moriarty, Curatorial Director, University of Brighton Design Archives: ‘The Dynamics of Ephemera in Post-War London’.

14.40-16.00 – Panel Session 3: The Sensory City: Light, Air, Sound, Image

Chair: Leon Betsworth

  • ‘Lumière et Son’: a collaborative videoblog by Thomas Wiesner (Bergen School of Architecture) and Philip Sanderson (LSBU): “a demonstration of how seriality and fragment – an unfolding over time; the diaristic – has quietly become one of the fundamental modes brought stage centre by the network” (Szpakowski, 2012).
  • Morgan Thomas (University of Cincinnati): ‘The Mosques of New York’ revisited: Questions of ephemerality and materiality in Mark Rothko’s Seagram series.
  • Hillegonda Rietveld (LSBU): “Inner City Life” – London’s echoic spaces and broken rhythms.

16.00-16.30 – Tea and Refreshments

16.30-17.15 – Keynote Address

  • Prof. Andrew Thacker, Nottingham Trent University: ‘Touching, Browsing, Collecting: Visiting the Modern Bookshop’.

17.15 – Closing Remarks

Conference End.

The Duke Pub

Panel 2


Standard: £45 per person, £10 students/unwaged.

This link takes you to the official LSBU registration site.

Panel 3

Getting Here

Keyworth Centre

Keyworth Street, SE1 6NG

The Keyworth Building is located on Keyworth Street, just off London Road. It is a five minute walk from Elephant and Castle tube station, which serves Bakerloo and Northern lines. For accessibility information, see the DisabledGo access guide.

Link to further transport information (LSBU Site)