John O’Brian, Art History, Visual Arts and Theory
Coach House, Green College, UBC
Thursday, March 14, 5-6:30 pm, with reception to follow
in the series
Senior Scholars' Series: The Passions That Drive Academic Life
John O’Brian was born into a military family in England during the Second World War, shortly before the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Those alive at the time of the bombings were the first generation exposed to the possibility of doomsday. The philosopher Hannah Arendt has suggested that this generation may be psychologically disposed to return to sites of nuclear catastrophe. It took John O’Brian more than half a century to make the return, and he almost failed to get there. After studying economics as an undergraduate, and becoming an investment banker, he eventually left the world of finance to investigate relationships between art and capital as a graduate student in art history at Harvard. It was only after 9/11, when he began work on the role of photography in shaping a public image of the atomic bomb, that he found himself confronting the catastrophe of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The talk will be accompanied by slides.