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Dr Joel Robinson

Profile summary

  • Honorary Associate
  • Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences
  • School of Art His, Class St, Eng&CW, Mus
  • Art History
  • joel.robinson

Professional biography

Originally from Canada, Joel Robinson earned his BA Honors in Art History (1995) from the University of Alberta in Edmonton, where he wrote a dissertation on the possibility of an aesthetic of the sublime after Barnett Newman, in respect to post-modernist theory and the photo-conceptual practices of Christian Boltanski and Gerhard Richter. His MA studies (1995-97) at the University of Western Ontario in London witnessed a gradual shift into the history of modern and contemporary architecture, with a thesis that looked at the Jewish Extension to the Berlin Museum vis-à-vis questions of representation, history and memory in the context of Germany after the destruction of the wall.

After a five-year break from studies, in which he practiced freelance journalism and worked as an English language teacher, he resumed his academic career at the University of Essex (Colchester), where his doctoral project involved a study of how modernist architecture – especially the funerary architecture of cemeteries, tombs, memorials and other commemorative spaces – was impacted by changing attitudes toward death, nature, and monumentality in the twentieth century.

His current research is following on from his doctoral work, but is increasingly marked by a concern for the landscape and the garden. One strand of his research is the aesthetics of ruin and decay. He is currently investigating the feasibility of a study that would look at the transposition of elegy into the landscape, from William Shenstone’s the Leasowes to the elegiac landscapes filmed by Alexandr Sokurov, via Wordsworth and Ruskin in the nineteenth century and artists like Robert Smithson, Derek Jarman, W.G. Sebald, and Ian Hamilton Finlay in the twentieth.

For further information see

Selected Publications


Art History and Visual Culture: A Reader. Eds. Angeliki Lymberopolou, Pam Bracewell-Homer, and Joel Robinson. London: Tate Publishing, 2012.

Life in Ruins: Architectural Culture and the Question of Death in the Twentieth Century. Saarbrücken: VMD Verlag Dr. Müller Aktiengesellschaft & Co. KG, 2008.

Articles in Journals and Books

“Social Landscapes: Andrew Kötting’s Gallivant and Alex Hartley’s Nowhereisland.” New Interactive Practices in Contemporary Art. Ed. Kathryn Brown. London: I.B. Tauris, 2013 [Forthcoming].

“Lethean Landscapes: Forgetting in Late Modern Commemorative Spaces.” Memory, Mourning and Landscape. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2010. 78-97.

“Folkloric Modernism: Pavilions and Politics in Venice’s Giardini della Biennale.” Open Arts Journal (peer-reviewed special issue ‘What is a Pavilion?’ guest edited by Joel Robinson) [Forthcoming].

“Time, Age, and Ruin: Intentions in Modern Funerary Design.” Ptah: Architecture, Design, Art 1 (2006): 21-28.

“Urban Funerary: Aldo Rossi and the Post-War Monument.” Chicago Art Journal 15 (2005): 40-58.

“Carlo Scarpa and the Burial Grounds of Modernism.” Ptah: Architecture, Design, Art 2 (2002): 24-32.

Recent Magazine Features

“Elegiac Happenings: Andrew Kötting’s Gallivant and In the Wake of a Deadad.” Art Papers 35.4 (July-August 2011): 18-27.

“Nowhereisland: Imagining a Community Otherwise.” Art Papers 36.5 (September 2012): 48-49.

“Destinos Reversibles – Arakawa + Gins [Trans. Daniel Garza Usabiaga].” La Tempestad 8.53 (March-April 2007): 96-99.

“From Clockwork Bodies to Reversible Destinies (On the Architectural Experiments of Arakawa and Gins).” Art Papers 29.2 (March-April 2005): 34-39.

“Memory, Calamity and History in Japanese Art.” Parachute Contemporary Art Magazine: Para-Para 10 (April-June 2003): 4-5.

“The Construction Sites of Asian Art.” Asian Art News 13.2 (March-April 2003): 52-57.

Recent Exhibition Reviews (Selected)

“Modern British Sculpture at the Royal Academy.” World Sculpture News 17.2 (Spring 2011): 55-56.

“The Empire Strikes Back: Indian Art Today.” Asian Art News 20.4 (July-August 2010): 93-94.

“Chiharu Shiota: One Place.” Asian Art News 20.3 (May-June 2010): 88-89.

“Bharti Kerr: Inevitable Undeniable Necessary.” Asian Art News 20.3 (May-June 2010): 89-90.

“Miroslaw Balka at the Tate Modern.” World Sculpture News 16.1 (Winter 2010): 66-67.

“Zhang Huan at the White Cube.” World Sculpture News 15.4 (Autumn 2009): 82-84.

“Radical Nature at the Barbican.” World Sculpture News 15.4 (Autumn 2009): 81-82.

“Vanessa Beecroft at the GAM, Palermo.” World Sculpture News 14.4 (Autumn 2008): 65-66.

“Huang Yong Ping at The Barbican Curve, London.” Asian Art News 18.5 (September-October 2008): 155-156.

“Mona Hatoum at the Parasol Unit, London.” World Sculpture News 14.3 (Summer 2008): 66-67.

Book Reviews

“Robert Pogue Harrison: Gardens – An Essay on the Human Condition.” Garden History 38.2 (Winter 2010): 321-322.

“Madeline Gins and Arakawa, Architectural Body.” Parachute Contemporary Art Magazine 110 (April-June 2003): 132.

Recent Conference Papers

“Folkloric Modernism: Venice’s Giardini della Biennale and the Geopolitics of Architecture.” Association of Art Historians, Open University, Milton Keynes, April 2012

“Challenging Display: Three Works of Sculpture at the Tate Modern”
Art History Residential School, Open University, London, England, July 2011

“Accidental Elegies: Andrew Kötting’s Gallivant and In the Wake of a Deadad” Association of Art Historians, University of Warwick, Coventry, England, March 2011

“Outlawing Death in Arcadia” Architectural History Lecture, Department of Art History & Film, University of Leicester, England, November 2010

“Architecture for Infants” Third International Arakawa & Gins Philosophy & Architecture Conference [Online], Griffith University, Australia, March 2010

“Landscape and Forgetting.” Landscape, Memory and Mourning (University of Glasgow, Glasgow, Scotland, June 2008)

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