Histories of Art, Architecture and Visual Culture

  • Postal address

    Pleinlaan 2

    1050 Brussel


Organisation profile

Organisation profile

The research unit Histories of Art, Architecture and Visual Culture (VISU) offers a platform for fundamental research on the history and theory of art, architecture and visual culture from the early modern period up to the present. It studies not only the artistic and architectural practice, the material object and the spatial environment, but also the broader cultural, historical and societal context, which often relates to current themes such as new media, visualisation of conflict and war, urbanisation, sustainability, multiculturality and globalisation. Key questions concern the circulation of images, artefacts, practices and knowlegde across boundaries. These cross-overs are understood as mutual interactions between the different arts and as exchanges between different cultures, traditions, regions or periods. The scientific research within VISU is structured around three closely interwoven research lines:

Histories of Architecture

This research line focuses on the history of architecture, urbanism and the decorative arts from the early modern period up to the present. Particular attention goes to the Low Countries (early modern period) in a European perspective and to Belgium (from the 19th century) in a global context. In line with the tradition of architectural history, research is carried out on all aspects of the built environment: from planning, design and execution of buildings to their interior design, decoration, use, reception, typological development and theorisation. At the same time the focus on architecture is broadened by studying also the multiple interactions with neighbouring domains: on the one hand with science and technology, among others via research on engineering and building techniques (cf. construction history); on the other with the arts and visual culture, among others via research on the oeuvre of artists-architects and the representation of architecture and cities in the visual arts (cf. urban iconography).

• Early Modern Art and Visual Culture 

In extension of the previous research line, this line studies European early modern art and visual culture in a global perspective. Anchored in the art-historical tradition by an object-oriented approach, the aim is to broaden the monographic view and look at interactions between objects, images, makers and beholders, thus mapping the broader visual culture. Special expertise concerns the circulation of artworks and artefacts in networks of artists, scholars and merchants in the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Low Countries. The study of canonical works by Bruegel and Rubens, among others, as well as anonymous pamphlets and news prints, in connection with material and literary culture and socio-political contexts, aims to reintegrate early modern images and objects in the societal debates and reflections of their time, often resonating today: knowledge explosion, new media, political and confessional polarisation, climate, globalisation, urbanisation, interrogation and meditation.

• Modern and Contemporary Art, Photography and New Media 
The modern and contemporary research line aligns itself with the themes described above but focuses on the period from the 19th to the 21st century. It investigates practice, dissemination, reception and conservation of art in its material, cultural and (inter)medial aspects. Particular emphasis lies on photography, film and other new media, which are considered in their diverse social uses within and beyond the field of art. The roles, operations and (after)lives of images are examined in the light of artistic practice and theory. Researched themes include image circulation and image performativity, dissent, collaboration, human and non-human entwinements; collective identity construction, gender and intersectionality, environmental concerns and landscape imaging, visualisations of history and critical reassessments of the past. These themes are approached within an interdisciplinary framework drawing from critical theory, film and media studies, anthropology, post-colonial studies, systems theories and new materialisms.


  • Art history
  • Visual culture
  • History of architecture
  • Photography


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