School of Arts

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Dr Frances Guerin

Senior Lecturer




I completed my PhD in Cinema Studies at NYU in 2000, following an MA in Art History at University of Melbourne, and a BA (Hons) in English Language and Literature at University of Adelaide, Australia. 

My work is motivated by a series of questions that investigate the relationship between modernist images and the historical world in which they are conceived, produced, exhibited and received. I am interested in questions such as: How do modernist images and abstract art represent the world? How do people engage with these art forms and how can we describe this aesthetic experience? How do modernist works of art negotiate their social reality? Particularly, as that social reality is defined by transformation, war, or traumatic historical events. What is the value of modernist art both for academics and ordinary people today? My ongoing project is to address these questions through analyzing what and how modernist art makes meaning (formally, aesthetically, materially), as well as what it does in the world.

The highlight of 2018 was the publication of The Truth is Always Grey: A History of Modernist Painting,my third monograph, and my first on painting. The book argues that twentieth-century modernist grey painting dynamically interacts with the industrial world in which it is produced. Simultaneously, I demonstrate that grey has a critical place in the continued development of painting as a medium throughout European and American postwar modernity. The book was funded by a Leverhulme Fellowship (2013-2014).

In 2019, I will continue my work on the role of art in the infrastructural, geographical, social transformation of the Ruhr Valley, Germany in the wake of the closing of the coal mines and steel industry. This work is the culmination of many issues that have concerned my work over two decades: it focuses on the way that art has been central to the re-articulation of the identity of a region. Above all, the project explores how art (particularly public sculpture) is used to create new identities for a community that has been isolated and excluded within a post-industrial cultural landscape. This work developed out of my tenure at Ruhr University, Bochum from 2008-2010 for a Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship for the completion of Through Amateur Eyes. Film and Photography in Nazi Germany (published in 2011).

My research has been supported by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD, 2016), The Leverhulme Trust  (2003 & 2012), the European Commission FP7 (Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship, 2008-2010), British Academy (2002 & 2006), and the AHRC (2001).

Beyond my academic writing, I am involved with the art world in various capacities. I write regularly on my blog, am European co-ordinator for the online platform, for which I also take part in running a residency program for emerging artists in Paris. I take tours of exhibitions, curate, and work with young and emerging artists towards having their work exhibited. I am also a classically trained pianist. To keep up with these and my other activities, visit my website, follow me on twitter, read my blog, and buy my books.


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Also view these in the Kent Academic Repository

Guerin, F. (2018). The Truth is Always Grey: A History of Modernist Painting. [Online]. Minneapolis, United States: University of Minnesota Press. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2011). Through Amateur Eyes: Film and Photography in Nazi Germany. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Guerin, F. (2005). A Culture of light: cinema and technology in 1920s Germany. [Online]. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis. Available at:
Edited book
Guerin, F. ed. (2015). On Not Looking:The Paradox of Contemporary Visual Culture. [Online]. London: Taylor & Francis Ltd. Available at:
Hallas, R. and Guerin, F. eds. (2007). The Image and the Witness: Trauma, Memory and Visual Culture. Wallflower Press.
Guerin, F. (2018). Invisibility Adores and Abhors a Photograph: Jane and Louise Wilson's Moving Image Installations. Journal of Visual Art Practice [Online] 17:188-205. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2017). Introduction: European Photography Today. Journal of European Studies [Online] 47:1-11. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2017). Physically absent, visually present: Joachim Schumacher's photographs of Germany's Ruhr Valley. Journal of European Studies [Online] 47:1-19. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2017). The Ambiguity of Amateur Photography in Modern Warfare. New Literary History [Online] 48:53-74. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2012). Obfuscations of the Visible: Creating Memory through not looking at Christian Boltanski's Archives. Cinema e Cie: International Film Studies Journal [Online]:279-284. Available at:
Guerin, F. and Eisenberg, D. (2012). Archives and Images as Repositories of Time, Language, and Forms from the Past: A Conversation with Daniel Eisenberg. The Moving Image [Online] 12:112-118. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2010). Film as an Archive for Photography: The Portraitist as Witness to the Holocaust. Screening the Past [Online]. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2008). Infinite Rotations in a Finite Frame: A Tacita Dean Tryptich. Cinéma e Cie: International Film Studies Journal N/A:119-134.
Guerin, F. (2006). The Perpetrator in Focus: Turn of the Century Holocaust Remembrance in "The Specialist". Law Text Culture [Online] 10:167-193. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2004). The energy of disappearing: problems of recycling Nazi amateur film footage. Screening the Past [Online]:0-0. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2003). Opposite or Complementary Conceptions? What do Rudolf Arnheim and Michel Chion have in Common? Cinema e Cie: International Film Studies Journal [Online] 32:129-140. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2003). Dazzled by the Light. Cinema Journal [Online] 42:98-115. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2002). Reframing the Photographer and his Photographs: Photographer (1995). Film and History: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Film and Television Studies [Online] 32:43-54. Available at:
Guerin, F. (1994). Enduring the Vagaries: The Viewer as Master and Slave in Pasolini's Salò,. Melbourne Journal of Politics [Online] 22:45-65. Available at:
Book section
Guerin, F. (2019). Even If She Had Been a Criminal. A Past Unwatched. in: Baer, N. et al. eds. Unwatchable. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2018). Behind the Mask. in: Suto, F. ed. Midnight Masquerade: A Masquerade Anthology. Fantasia Divinity, pp. 6-25.
Guerin, F. (2016). The Revellation and Resistance of Amateur Images at War: Thessaloniki in the Byron Metos collection. in: Museum of Byzantine Culture, T. ed. Representations of the Nazi Occupation: Photography, History, Memory. Thessaloniki, Greece: Museum of Byzantine Culture, pp. 62-80.
Guerin, F. (2015). Searching in Grey: Cy Twombly's Untitled Paintings. in: Wedekind, G. ed. Die Farbe Grau. Unknown.
Guerin, F. (2015). Peripatetic Sculpture: The Exhaustion of Looking in the Presence of Richard Serra's Promenade. in: Guerin, F. ed. On Not Looking: The Paradox of Contemporary Visual Culture. New York: Routledge, pp. 103-122. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2015). While Not Looking: The Failure to See and to Know in Dr Mabuse der Spieler, and The Testament of Dr Mabuse. in: McElhaney, J. ed. A Companion to Fritz Lang (Wiley Blackwell Companions to Film Directors). New York: Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 43-62. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2014). The Corporealization of Memory in Christian Boltanski's Installations. in: Memoryscapes. Zurich: Diaphanes, pp. 157-177. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2013). Memory through the Perpetrator's Lens: Witnessing via Images Taken by Wehrmacht Soldiers and Officers on the Eastern Front. in: Rhetoric, Remembrance, and Visual Form: Sighting Memory. New York: Routledge, pp. 163-179.
Guerin, F. (2012). A Generation Later and Still Unrepresentable? Fassbinder and the Red Army Fraction. in: A Companion to Rainer Werner Fassbinder. New York: Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 441-460.
Guerin, F. (2012). Dislocations: videograms of a revolution and the search for images. in: Ginsberg, T. and Mensch, A. eds. A Companion to German Cinema. New York: Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 483-506.
Guerin, F. (2011). Locating Shadows: What's inside William Kentridge's Black Box? in: John David, R. ed. Taking Place: Location and the Moving Image. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, pp. 233-253. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2011). The Placement of Shadows: What's inside William Kentridge's Black Box/Chambre Noire? in: Rhodes, J. D. and Gorfinkel, E. eds. Taking Place: Location and the Moving Image. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, pp. 233-254.
Guerin, F. (2009). Photographs that Forget: Contemporary Recyclings of the Hitler-Hoffmann Rednerposen. in: Plate, L. and Smelik, A. eds. Technologies of Memory in the Arts. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 150-165.
Guerin, F. (2008). Radical Aspirations Historicized: The European Commitment to Political Documentary. in: Kolker, R. ed. The Oxford Handbook of Film and Media Studies. New York: Oxford university Press, pp. 114-151. Available at:
Guerin, F. and Hallas, R. (2007). Introduction to The Image and the Witness. in: The Image and the Witness: Trauma, Memory and Visual Culture. London: Wallflower Press.
Guerin, F. (2007). The Gray Space Between: Gerhard Richter's 18. Oktober 1977 (1989). in: Guerin, F. and Hallas, R. eds. The Image and the Witness: Trauma, Memory and Visual Culture. London: Wallflower Press, pp. 111-126. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2004). Explorations of Light and Lighting in Und das Licht Erlosch (1914). in: Gaudreault, A. ed. The Cinema: A New Technology for the 20th Century. Lausanne: Payot, pp. 219-228. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2004). When Beginnings and Endings Distort the Past. in: Limina/le Soglie del Film. Udine: Lithostampa, Pasian di Prato, pp. 247-254.
Guerin, F. (2011). Vanessa Corby, Eva Hesse: Longing, Belonging and Displacement. Holocaust Studies: A Journal of Culture and History [Online] 17:137-139. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2009). Kristen Whissel, Picturing American Modernity: Traffic, Technology, and the Silent Cinema,. Screening the Past [Online] n/a:n/a-n/a. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2006). McCormick and Guenther-Pal, eds, German Essays on Film (2004). Film-Philosophy [Online] 10:95-100. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2003). Weltwunder der Kinematographie. Film History auf DVD, Polzer Media Group, Potsdam, 2002. The Moving Image: Association of Moving Image Archivists [Online] 4:123-126. Available at:
Edited journal
Guerin, F. ed. (2017). European Photography Today. Journal of European Studies [Online] 47:331-469. Available at:
Internet publication
Guerin, F. (2019). What Giacometti's Obsession with the Color Gray Really Meant [Internet]. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2018). Time to Leave [online]. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2018). Changing how we look at and think about the color grey [online]. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2018). From Colgate University to the Central African Republic [online]. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2014). FX Reflects (Blog) [Blog]. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2014). Lotte Reiniger: in Women Film Pioneers Project [online]. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2013). En Grisaille nowadays [Catalogue and exhibition blurb]. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2012). Frances Guerin on her book Through Amateur Eyes: Film and Photography in Nazi Germany: An Interview [online]. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2008). [website]. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2008). [online]. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2016). Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau. in: Gabbard, K. ed. Oxford Bibliographies in Cinema and Media Studies. Oxford University Press.
Total publications in KAR: 53 [See all in KAR]
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I believe that cinema is a discrete medium that can, nevertheless, only be understood within its cultural/historical context. My approach to teaching cinema and visual culture begins with analysis of the sensuous properties of images. It then extends to interdisciplinary interpretation. My teaching is motivated by the imperative to expand students’ intellectual worlds. Above all, I aim to introduce students to films, images and ideas that they would not otherwise know. In addition, I encourage students to draw on their knowledge and curiosity for literature, music, and other visual arts in an attempt to discover the complexity of the moving image.

I also present students with a variety of critical and theoretical approaches to the topic under discussion. This introduces students to ways of seeing and thinking that will take them to new levels of knowledge.

Teaching Interests

Visual culture; Image Studies; Holocaust Studies; Witnessing and Trauma Studies; Memory Studies;19th and 20th Century Realism; Critical Theory; Documentary Film; War and Cinema; Silent cinema, Modernity and visual culture; Cinema and the Other Arts; Marxism and Visual Culture; Images of War and Violence; Avant-garde and experimental cinema;

Undergraduate courses

Writing for Film; History of German Cinema; Study of a Single Film; Major Directors: Lang, Von Sternberg, Ophüls; Cinema in 1920s Berlin, Paris, Moscow; Feminism in Film; Film History/Film Theory; History of British Cinema; History of Russian and Soviet Cinema; Avant-Garde and Experimental Cinema; European Realism; Introduction to World Cinemas; Language of Cinema; National Cinema; War and Cinema; Writing Workshop I; Writing Workshop II

Graduate courses

Screening Histories: Post-war European Realism; Screening Histories: The Holocaust and Cinema; Silent Cinema and Modernity; Working with Film



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I am currently working on Post-Industrial Views, a book that analyses the ongoing role of art in the transformation of the Ruhr Valley in Germany. Specifically, I focus on artworks that use the material of industry (steel, water, concrete, light, the body) to re-articulate a post-industrial identity for the region, its landscape, and its people. Within the larger project, I am working on another monograph, Steel: the Material of Art and Industry. This analyzes the evolving relationship between steel and visual representation from the turn of the twentieth century to the turn of the twenty-first. Within this “century of steel” I focus on four pressure points: the love affair of cinema/photography and steel production at the turn of the nineteenth into the twentieth centuries; the role and representation of steel within the destruction of two world wars; the ambivalence of steel in minimalist sculpture in postwar America; the post-modernist return to a sculptural use of steel that searches for the humanism of steel.

Another manuscript-in-process, Cinematic Portrait Painting: (Not) about Gerhard Richter, marries my long fascination with the painting of Gerhard Richter and my intellectual commitment to cinema. Here, I explore qualities of Richter’s portraits--in the broadest sense of the genre—for their characteristics that are more commonly associated with cinema. My approach demonstrates the portraits’ engagement with infinite performance of simultaneous re-definition and eschewal of traditional notions of portraiture, the identity of the artist, subjects depicted, viewers, and spaces of exhibition.

I have written a memoir, Navigating, that traces a young woman’s journey from Australia to Europe on a Norwegian cargo liner in a search for home. The work extends my interests in questions of identity, exile, memory, and migration into creative writing. I have also published fictional stories and creative non-fiction essays that bring together my life long love of still and moving images, and my ongoing commitment to speaking about issues that concern women in the 21st century.

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I welcome dissertations with a focus on modernist and post-modernist (both loosely defined) art and visual cultures. I am happy to supervise dissertations housed within more traditional disciplinary fields of film studies and art history. I also welcome dissertations that take a visual studies' approach to still and/or moving images. Within these fields, I will supervise on:

• 20th century art and visual culture
• historical avant-garde;
• new and experimental art forms and aesthetics; 
• amateur and small gauge forms and aesthetics;
• the role of images in trauma, witnessing, memory; 
• the image as agent in the formation of cultural identity;
• questions of vision, visuality and perception; 
• space, landscape, urban studies;
• images of war and violence;
• representations of migration, exile, and political oppression.

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Last Updated: 17/01/2019