Exhibition “Thousands are Sailing”

By Frederik Truyen and Sofie Taes

On Friday October 12th the exhibition “Thousands are Sailing” was launched in the Museo della Grafica at the Palazzo Lanfranchi in Pisa. The exhibition is one of the main outputs of the project “Migration in the Arts and the Sciences”, funded by the EC under the Connecting Europe Facilities call “Europeana Generic services 2016”. The call funds projects that want to contribute to Europeana: the main portal to Europe’s cultural heritage.


The exhibition at Palazzo Lanfranchi – photo: Frederik Truyen – CC-BY

This particular project aims at bringing together and at disseminating a collection of digitised materials relating to the theme of migration on Europeana. Several partners contribute new content to this collection: Stichting Europeana (the project coordinator), Stichting Nederlands Instituut voor Beeld en Geluid, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Narodowy Instytut Audiowizualny, National Archives of Hungary,  Martynas Mažvydas,  the National Library of Lithuania and Narodna biblioteka Srbije – ustanova kulture od nacionalnog značaja.

The selection and curation is in the hands of KU Leuven, Cultural Studies. Curator Sofie Taes, research assistant at the research unit Literary Theory and Cultural Studies, produced a virtual exhibition and several galleries and blogs on Europeana for the migration theme. She is also the curator of the physical exhibition presented in Pisa.

The virtual exhibition “People on the Move” sheds light on how migration has changed the world in six chapters. The first, “Crossing frontiers”, tells the stories of famous migrated scientists, such as Marie Skłodowska Curie and Albert Einstein.  “The land of opportunity”, the second chapter, focuses on migrant workers.  “Mixing traditions” highlights the richness in traditions and culture that migration has brought about, while “Itinerant artists” follows the life of travelling artists. Of course, the “Rising stars” of popular culture deserve their separate chapter.  In “Faces of migration”, the exhibition zooms in on particular stories of individuals and  families whose lives have been heavily impacted by migration.


Frank Otto Skeppstedt and Family in the USA – Sörmlands Museum – CC-BY-SA

In the physical exhibition “Thousands are Sailing” – developed in collaboration with Photoconsortium, the aggregator for photography on Europeana – , the key theme of migration is exemplified in 20 portraits and mini-stories about people’s migration experiences, their motives, hopes and wishes, adventures and accomplishments. The photos are of exceptional quality and have a direct face-to-face appeal. Visitors feel transported in the often precarious but sometimes joyful world of people in their newfound home. At the launch of the exhibition Sofie Taes explained the motives behind the selection and the long journey of discovery to find a set of images that tell a common narrative through individual stories.


Curator Sofie Taes at the opening – photo: Frederik Truyen – CC-BY

With this exhibition, Cultural Studies Leuven continues its work of contributing curated collections and stories to Europeana, in particular to the Thematic Collection on Photography. This effort has recently entered the next stage with the new project “Kaleidoscope: the fifties in Europe”, launched in September 2018.

The opening of the exhibition, which will run until November 11th 2018, coincided with a successful Europeana migration collection day, where citizens were invited to bring an object to share their migration story. We collected a number of very compelling stories which will shortly be published on the Europeana portal!


Collecting objects and stories at the collection day – photo: Frederik Truyen – CC-BY

An Evening with Mike Dibb in Cinema ZED

By Anneleen Masschelein

An Evening with Mike Dibb in Cinema ZED October 10 2018

             Organized by Courtisane and KU Leuven (philosophy, cultural studies and contemporary art history)

The name Mike Dibb may not immediately ring a bell to younger generations, though his contributions to British television and to British cultural studies cannot be underestimated. Mike Dibb (1940) began his career as a trainee at the BBC in the early sixties and remained there for more than 2 decades as a director and producer for the Music and Arts department, where he made documentaries about literature, music, history, painting and ideas.

Dibb is probably most well-known for the groundbreaking TV series Ways of Seeing (1972) that he made with author John Berger. This award-winning series about the gaze in Western art history and contemporary culture (still available on YouTube) popularized the views of Walter Benjamin for a broad audience. Nearly 50 years old, Berger’s text is still being re-issued time and again by Penguin, but Dibb’s original imagery and playful collages cannot be overlooked. Although Dibb has a healthy suspicion of “academics,” his career testifies to the influence of British Cultural studies in its heyday. In 1976, he made a beautiful, poetic film-essay about Raymond Williams’ classic book, The Country and the City (also on YouTube) and about Beyond Boundaries, the personal and cultural history of cricket, by C.L.R. James, the Trinidadian intellectual. For the BBC, he developed a number of groundbreaking series on ideas, like the notion of ‘play,’ ‘time,’ or ‘drawing.’

In the early 1980s, Dibb left the BBC to work as an independent documentary maker, both for the BBC and for Channel 4. Continuing to explore his lifelong passions – music, literature and history – Dibb also made portraits of some of the defining intellectuals of his time, like oral historian Studs Turkel and literary theorist Edward Said. Dibb typically combines collage with conversation in his work. Sometimes brilliantly original, he also offers a fresh take on very simple forms. His long, in-depth interviews with Edward Said and Stuart Hall, both at the end of their lives, are very moving portraits showing these thinkers doing what they do best: talking in dialogue, extending ideas into the future. We have been able to invite Mike Dibb to STUK in Leuven and will have plenty of time for discussion with him, browsing through fragments of his work. At 20.00, Dibb will also show his latest film, Painted with My Hair, about his search for Donny Johnson, a prisoner who managed to survive more than 20 years in solitary confinement in the US through the discovery of painting.


Mike Dibb