Imaging Disaster

Press Release No. 50/2012
22 February 2012
International conference investigates visualization of natural catastrophes: examples from various periods and cultures
Great Wave Off Kanagawa 160x200

Picture: Katsushika Hokusai

The Great Wave of Kanagawa

Visual impressions of natural disasters and their perception in different epochs and cultures are the subject of a conference at Heidelberg University from 1 to 3 March 2012. At the invitation of the Cluster of Excellence “Asia and Europe in a Global Context”, scholars from all over the world will be engaging with this topic on the basis of paintings, films, photos, art and architecture. At the same time, a photo exhibition of works by Aric Mayer (USA) and Kazu Ahmed (India) will be on show.

“Whether it was the demise of Pompey after the eruption of Vesuvius or the Japanese flood disaster last year, people in all periods and cultures have had to come to terms with devastating natural catastrophes,” says Prof. Dr. Gerrit Jasper Schenk. “From an academic point of view, this transforms these catastrophes into socio-cultural events that can provide researchers with insights into the way a society works.” Prof. Schenk, a historian at Darmstadt Technical University and research group leader at the Heidelberg Cluster of Excellence, has organised the conference together with Heidelberg art historian Prof. Dr. Monica Juneja. The lectures on the programme examine such phenomena as the interpretation of comets and severe storms as harbingers of the end of the world or the imaging of natural catastrophes in the 20th century. From the media perspective, ARTE reporter Sven Waskönig will be outlining some of the features of the “disaster film” genre.

The “Imaging Disaster” conference is held in English and takes place at Heidelberg’s International Science Forum (IWH). It is part of the research project “Images of Disasters” headed by Prof. Juneja and Prof. Schenk at the Cluster of Excellence “Asia and Europe in a Global Context”.

The photographs by Aric Mayer on show at the exhibition focus on the devastation wreaked by hurricane Katrina in the southeast of the USA in 2005. Kazu Ahmed’s photos portray the members of the Indian Mising tribe, whose identity is strongly marked by their life on the river. The exhibition “Imaging Disaster – Katastrophenbilder” is on show at the German-American Institute Heidelberg from 3 to 23 March. The public vernissage takes place on 2 March in the framework of the conference and begins at 8 pm.

For more information on the conference, go to

Dr. Alexander Häntzschel
Cluster of Excellence “Asia and Europe in a Global Context”
phone: +49 6221 544008

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