That Invisible Dance: Art & Literature under the British Empire from the 1800s to Beyond

20/21 Gallery Conversation Wall

The 10th edition of our Conversation series, That Invisible Dance, investigates the commonalities among art and literature produced within the British Empire during the intensely prolific 19th and early 20th centuries. Divided into three physical locations, each exhibition space focuses on a literature-driven context using visual material and installation “notebooks” to explore intersections among selected artists, writers, and their creative processes. Notebook one, installed in the Process Space, features quotes relating to Oscar Wilde and Aubrey Beardsley. Notebook two, installed in the East Conversation Wall, cites mainly British poets and writers, with an emphasis on the literary nature of scientific writing from the period. Notebook three references Irish and Anglo-Irish poets, with particular attention given to Ireland’s post-imperial position.

In investigating the commonalities among visual and literary objects, That Invisible Dance explores to what degree, if any, 19th-century and early 20th-century writers and visual artists operate as synergistic networks. How did the new mass media and the development of scientific observation impact literary and visual media, or vice versa? What roles did literature and art play in subverting or validating the Empire? What did artists and writers choose to make visible or indeed “invisible”?

This exhibition would not have been possible without the participation of two University of Kansas colleagues: Karen S. Cook, Special Collection Librarian, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, and Dr. Kathryn Conrad, Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies, Department of English.

Selected images