Neurath / Isotype symposium

September 2009

The 'Isotype revisited' project hosted a symposium of scholars from around Europe with research interests in Otto Neurath and Isotype. The symposium took place over two days, 24 and 25 September, in the Department of Typography & Graphic Communication. It was the second in what is hoped will become a series, the first hosted by Elisabeth Nemeth and Friedrich Stadler at the University of Vienna in April 2008. The aims of the symposia have been to present new Neurath / Isotype research by individuals and within institutions, and to consider opportunities for cooperation and networks of sharing and exchange.

The symposium opened with Michael Twyman's brief review of Isotype and Reading, the impact of early research efforts of the 1970s and 1980s, and personal thoughts, observations and memories of Marie Neurath. A series of short papers followed: Christopher Burke's 'The Vienna Method in school', Emma Minns's 'The Izostat Institute', Hadwig Kraeutler's 'Rondom Rembrandt from an art history perspective' (see also here for a longer version of this paper), and Günther Sandner's 'German climate, National Socialism and re-education: Otto Neurath's political discourse in England, 1940-45'. Papers continued after lunch and included Matthew Eve's summary of work on a forthcoming edition of Otto Neurath's visual autobiography, From hieroglyphics to Isotype, Eric Kindel's reconstruction of Isotype in British colonial West Africa, and Sue Walker's remarks on Isotype children's books. The afternoon was concluded by Michelle Henning who summarized aspects of her own recent study of Otto Neurath and his circle, and the questions and concerns it had raised about how Neurath and Isotype are characterized by philosophers and cultural historians. Much discussion and debate followed.

Nemeth_O'Niell_Henning_smal.jpg Group_small.jpg Twyman_small.jpg

image 1 (at left, from left): Michelle Henning, John O'Neill, Elisabeth Nemeth
image 2: Silvia Sfligiotti, Paul Luna, Robin Kinross, Paul Stiff
image 3: Michael Twyman

Day 2 began with a discussion of 'legacy' and a contribution by Rob Waller outlining his collaboration with Michael Macdonald-Ross in bringing the lessons of Isotype and the 'transformer' into the activities of the Open University (see also here). Along similar lines, the symposium heard remarks from Sue Perks about her doctoral research into processes of transformation used at the Natural History Museum (London). Discussion then turned to publishing, led off by Robin Kinross who offered comments on recent works about Neurath and Isotype, about planned future publishing, and about lacunae that remain in the published record. The latter he felt extended to an Otto Neurath biography that attempts an integrated presentation of this many-sided figure. On the latter point Günther Sandner reprised and expanded remarks of the previous day regarding his work on Neurath's political biography. Discussion turned finally to opportunities for funding and areas of future work and collaboration. After lunch, the symposium viewed films made by Paul Rotha in collaboration with the Isotype Institute in which Isotype animations made a significant contribution. Mainly mid-1940s in date, the films included A few ounces a day and Land of promise. Thereafter, the symposium was closed.

Ashley Booth, Bergen National Academy of the Arts
Christopher Burke, University of Reading
Michael Burke, Hochschule für Gestaltung Schwäbisch Gmünd
Matthew Eve, University of Reading
Toby Haggith, Imperial War Museum
Gerhard Halusa, Österreichisches Gesellschafts- und Wirtschaftsmuseum
Michelle Henning, University of the West of England
Wim Jansen, Utrecht University
Eric Kindel, University of Reading
Robin Kinross, Hyphen Press
Hadwig Kraeutler, Belvedere Wien
Paul Luna, University of Reading
Christopher Marsden, Victoria & Albert Museum
Emma Minns, University of Reading
Elisabeth Nemeth, Universität Wien
John O'Neill, University of Manchester
Sue Perks, University of Reading
Günther Sandner, Universität Wien
Silvia Sfligiotti, Free University of Bolzano
Paul Stiff, University of Reading
Michael Twyman, University of Reading
Thomas Uebel, University of Manchester
Sue Walker, University of Reading
Rob Waller, University of Reading


image 4 (from left): Paul Stiff, Christopher Burke, Thomas Uebel, Emma Minns, Elisabeth Nemeth, Matthew Eve, Sue Perks, Günther Sandner, Hadwig Kraeutler, Gerhard Halusa, Michelle Henning, Michael Twyman, Wim Jansen (in back), John O'Neill, Eric Kindel, Robin Kinross, Paul Luna, Sue Walker


Information in time and place

Eric Kindel |

From hieroglyphics to Isotype, book launch remarks

Burke, Kindel, Kinross |

'Isotype revisited'

Isotype revisited |

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