Venue:
Kingston University, Clattern Lecture Theatre
Dates:
14th-16th July 2017

Ken Russell was a renaissance man whose career encompassed not only film and television but also ballet, dance, the music video, photography, opera and the written word. His pioneering early work for the BBC’s Monitor and Omnibus, from the 1950s through to the 1970s, redefined the art of the arts documentary and biographical format and he was among the first to negotiate the relationship between film and television. His major cinematic works, films such as Tommy (1975), Lisztomania (1975), Women In Love (1969), French Dressing (1964), Valentino (1977), The Music Lovers (1970), The Boyfriend (1971) and, of course, The Devils (1971) (among others) helped redefine the term ‘A British Picture’ (to use one of Russell’s own phrases). Yet this vast body of work has received considerably less critical attention than those of his contemporaries (Stanley Kubrick for instance).

During his lifetime his work polarised critical and popular opinion. Criticised by some as tasteless, transgressive, camp, outrageous (and lauded just as much for the same qualities) and praised by others for its artistry, intellect, craftsmanship and beauty. Russell’s films are considered to be among the most pioneering and important in post war arts cinema and culture (praised by Fellini himself as ‘the British Fellini’) as well as sitting comfortably among a set of cult and transgressive texts.

Russell’s work, however, is gaining new cultural currency with a range of contemporary film makers (Ben Wheatley and Guillermo del Toro for instance) citing the importance of his influence over their own. There is even an ongoing internet campaign (#FreeTheDevils) which aims to liberate the complete uncut version of The Devils from Warner Brother’s vice like grip.

Following in the wake of the 30th anniversary of his 1986 film Gothic (and in the wake of the sad passing of the critic Ken Hanke, one Russell’s staunchest defenders), this conference hopes to be a forum to discuss and share current research in and around the field of Russell studies. It invites abstracts on all aspects of his work and in particular we invite papers which address Russell’s cultural legacy and influence in film, television and across the visual arts; which consider Russell’s place within 20th century visual culture and which discuss how Russell’s work has been (and is being) received, recuperated and culturally restored in the 21st century.

Topic for presentation may include (but are certainly not limited to):
Russell’s critics, defenders and collaborators
Russell, history, biography and adaptation
Music in Russell’s work
Censorship, genre, exploitation, cult and transgression
DVD, Video and Blu Ray releases
Marketing and promotional material
Festivals and Fans
Ken Russell and art history
Sex and horror in Russell’s work
Documentary, realism and romance
Russell’s own contemporaries and influences
Dance and the body in Russell’s work
Architecture, landscape and location in Russell’s work
Russell, television and arts programming
Dance, opera, photography and ballet
Incomplete and unmade projects
Russell’s influence on contemporary (global) film, tv and the visual arts.
Russell, experimentalism and the avant-garde

The conference will be held at Kingston University. Please email abstracts (250-300) words to Matt Melia or Lucy Williams at either m.melia@kingston.ac.uk or l.williams@kingston.ac.uk by no later than Monday, December 12th 2016 and don’t forget to include your name, email address and institutional affiliation (if you have one). Please include a short biog of up to 100 words. We look forward to hearing from you.

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