Public Program | The Social Contract: Photography, Theory, Practice and Emotions | CCP

Image: Mohini Chandra Untitled from Kikau Street 2015-16, courtesy the artist. . Via CCP.

Image: Mohini Chandra Untitled from Kikau Street 2015-16, courtesy the artist.
. Via CCP.

A collaboration between Centre for Contemporary Photography and ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions.

Short presentations and a panel discussion by Dr Spencer Jackson, Dr Joseph Browning, Dr Fran Edmonds, Associate Professor Anne Maxwell, Dr Angus Frith will explore social contract theory through the lens of photography, philosophy, law and music. To be chaired by CCP Curator, Pippa Milne.

This event is affiliated with the exhibition CCP Declares: On The Social Contract, curated by Pippa Milne. CCP Declares: On the Social Contract draws together emerging and mid-career artists working at the forefront of Australian photography and video in its expanded field. The subtitle to this second iteration of CCP Declares acknowledges that these works examine or extend the idea of social contract theory; the idea that moral and political obligations and rights are bound upon an intrinsic agreement amongst the various constituents of a society.

Date: Thursday 9 June 2016, 6-8pm
Venue: Centre for Contemporary Photography, 404 George Street, Fitzroy, Melbourne, VIC 3065
Booking: Gold coin donation, no booking required.
Further information: +61 3 9417 1549, Centre for Contemporary Photography 


Dr Spencer Jackson is a Postoctoral Research Fellow at the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions. He is an American academic and long-time activist who has organised and participated in mobilisations against war, global warming, and racism for over 15 years. He is currently a campaign volunteer for Bernie Sanders as well as an ARC Postdoctoral Fellow at CHE at The University of Queensland. He holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from UCLA, and works on 18th century British literature and contemporary political theory. He is completing a book project titled “God Made the Novel: Religion, Empire, and Resistance in Long Eighteenth-Century British Literature.”

Abstract: The History of the Social Contract Not Existing: More so than other arts, photography is a worldly practice, and, as a result, it makes mince meat of idealism. This CCP exhibition uses photography to demonstrate that the social contract has yet to exist in those Western countries that have long trumpeted its glory in the midst of their wars, sweatshops, and colonial dispossessions. It is a critique, and the question it raises is what next? The answer, I believe, is not a wholesale rejection of the idea of the social contract and the broader 18th-century European enlightenment from which it emerged. Rousseau’s idea that only the general will of the people is absolute is something worth reviving; the problem, however, that Rousseau and most others ignore and that this exhibition stubbornly articulates, is how.

Dr Joseph Browning is a part-time Postdoctoral Research Fellow for The Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions , based at The University of Melbourne. Joe is an ethnomusicologist specialising in ethnographic approaches to Western art music, the Japanese shakuhachi and central Javanese gamelan.

Abstract: Music’s power to create social bonds and divisions has long been a central concern in ethnomusicology and related fields. More recently, attention has broadened to consider music’s role in shaping human relationships with nature. In this presentation, Joe will reflect on what this scholarship on music and sound can bring to discussion around the social contract. Music is often used to actively protest social issues and is powerfully shaped by government interventions. Yet, where the social contract is often imagined in terms of overt, rational “agreement,” music provides an important reminder of other ways of relating, grounded in affective responses and culturally specific attitudes.

Anne Maxwell is Associate Professor in the English and Theatre Program in the School of Culture and Communications at The University of Melbourne. In addition to publishing a large number of essays on colonial and postcolonial literature, she has published three monographs on colonial photography. Her fourth book The Complete Craze: Women’s Photography and Colonial Modernity is scheduled for publication in 2017.

Abstract: How and to what extent is photography governed by and illustrative of social contract theory? Using both historical and recent examples and ranging across artistic, commercial and scientific practices, my paper will examine how photography has been variously used to both reinforce and to violate the social contract as it has been variously interpreted down through time. In addition, I will ask what is the role played by certain photographic styles and conventions in realizing the social contract and what other visual components might be in play?

Dr Fran Edmonds is a collaborative/social researcher, with an interest in the history and anthropology of southeast Australian Aboriginal culture. Her research interests are interdisciplinary and include the intersection of Western and Indigenous knowledge systems, the reclaiming of Aboriginal material culture through digital technologies and the exploration of methodological approaches to cross-cultural research.

Abstract: Through a recasting and reclamation of lived experiences, archives and everyday objects, I will discuss the ways that marginalised groups and individual artists use visual media, including photographs, to reveal new ways of seeing histories and cultures.

Dr Angus Frith is a member of Victorian bar who as practiced native title law for applicant groups since 1995, largely on matters in Victoria, Western Australia and Queensland. He has worked on issues of connection and extinguishment, agreements about acts affecting native title, and structures for managing native title rights and interests. Angus has recently completed a PhD at Melbourne Law School, titled ‘Getting it Right for the Future: Aboriginal Law, Australian Law and Native Title Corporations’.


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