Steve McQueen Symposium

British artist Sir Steve McQueen CBE (b. 1969, London) has worked in film, installation, and photography for more than thirty years and received widespread critical acclaim for his feature film debut, Hunger (2008), which won the Caméra d’Or at Cannes. His third feature film, 12 Years a Slave (2013), won three Academy Awards (Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actress), the BAFTA Film Awards for Best Film and Best Actor, and the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture–Drama. More recently, the BBC commissioned McQueen to direct Small Axe (2020), a five-film anthology series, and to co-direct Uprising (2021), a three-part documentary series, both of which won multiple television BAFTAs. In 2011, McQueen was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire for services to the visual arts, and in 2022 he was knighted for services to film.

Themes of intimacy, isolation, physicality, and violence recur in McQueen’s work. He is known for his signature use of long takes and fixed subjects, such as the artist touching actress Charlotte Rampling’s eye for five minutes and forty-two seconds in Charlotte (2004) and a helicopter circling the Statue of Liberty for seven minutes in Static (2004). Critic Jon Thompson describes this emphasis on duration as a “lingering, evolutionary watching and waiting.” McQueen compares the long take to paintings, “where people will live with that single image for the rest of their lives.” Throughout McQueen’s work, his unflinching gaze tests the limits of his chosen themes, frequently exposing uncomfortable and complex histories to prompt remembrance and discussion. As he observes, “I cannot put a filter on life. It’s about not blinking.” McQueen has cited a range of artistic, cinematic, musical, and visual influences including Miles Davis, Ernie Gehr, Glenn Gould, Willem de Kooning, Bruce Nauman, and Andy Warhol.

This two-day symposium will celebrate and investigate the range of McQueen’s practice, acknowledging his versatility and the importance of his collaborative methods.


Friday, October 28, 2022

3:30–5 pm (all times Eastern Time)

Courtney J. Martin (Yale PhD 2009), Paul Mellon Director, Yale Center for British Art

Roundtable Discussion: The Place and Importance of McQueen’s Work across Cultural Spaces
Chair: Karen Alexander, Independent Curator and Lecturer
Discussants: Stuart Comer, Lonti Ebers Chief Curator of Media and Performance, Museum of Modern Art, New York; Donna De Salvo, Senior Adjunct Curator, Special Projects, Dia Art Foundation, New York; Cheryl Finley (Yale PhD 2002), Associate Professor of Art History, Cornell University; Hamza Walker, Director of LAXART, Los Angeles


Saturday, October 29, 2022

9:15–9:30 am

Courtney J. Martin

9:30–10:45 am
Session 1: The Cinema of Color and Light
Chair: Hamza Walker

9:30–9:50 am
Blackness in McQueen's "Western Deep"
Delinda Collier, Professor and Interim Dean of Graduate Studies, School of the Art Institute of Chicago

9:50–10:10 am
The Blues of Steve McQueen
Alan Longino, PhD candidate in the History of Art, University of Chicago

10:10–10:30 am
"Nothingness in the Cage": Darkness, Blueness, and Blackness in the Work of Steve McQueen
*Charlotte Ickes (Yale BA 2008), Curator of Time-based Media Art and Special Projects, Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC (presenting remotely)

10:30–10:45 am: Q&A

10:45–11 am

11 am–12 pm
Session 2: Frames of Viewing: Television & Film

Chair: Stuart Comer

11:00–11:20 am
Genealogies of Film in Steve McQueen’s Video Installations
Sarah Durcan, Artist and Head of Media, National College of Art and Design, Dublin

11:20–11:40 am
"Small Axe" and/as Cinematic Television
Hannah Andrews, Associate Professor in Film and Media, University of Lincoln, UK

11:40–12 pm Q&A

12–1:30 pm
Lunch Break

1:30–3 pm
Session 3: Temporality and Stasis
Chair: Donna De Salvo

1:30–1:50 pm
Surplus Liveness and Black Male Performance in "Girls, Tricky"
James Harvey, Lecturer in Film, Queen Mary University of London (presenting remotely)

1:50–2:10 pm
From "Exodus" to "Small Axe": Steve McQueen’s Filmic World of Two Halves
Elisabetta Fabrizi, Independent Scholar (presenting remotely)

2:10–2:30 pm
Steve McQueen’s Holding Time
David Sledge, PhD candidate in Art History, Columbia University

2:30–3 pm: Q&A

3–3:30 pm

3:30–5 pm
Conversation: Histories of the Real and Fabricated in McQueen’s Films and Photographs

Karen Alexander and Kimberly Juanita Brown (Yale PhD 2006), Associate Professor of English and Creative Writing, Dartmouth 

4:45–5 pm: Q&A

Speaker biographies and abstracts

To learn more about the speakers, please click here.

Top image
Steve McQueen, Sunshine State (2022), installation view at Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan in 2022, A commission for International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) 2022, © Steve McQueen. Courtesy the artist, Thomas Dane Gallery, Marian Goodman Gallery and Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan. Photo: Agostino Osio

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