Professor David Houston Jones

Research interests

My current research is concerned with the interface between art, medicine and the archive. In particular, I am interested in the use of 'archival' media such as analogue photographs and film in contemporary installation art along with contemporary archival technologies such as lifelogging, and the fantasy of the infinite archive. The fascination with archives, I argue, is part of a broader critical engagement with discourses of memory and evidence in contemporary art, in particular as they are framed by the medical archive.

My work in the medical humanities concerns the face, in particular facial difference. From 2013-15 I was UK principal investigator on the EU INTERREG IV-funded project 1914FACES2014 on the cultural legacy of facial disfigurement in the UK and France. The project looks at the new surgical practices developed in the context of World War I and their debt to techniques derived from art and sculpture. In turn, the evolution of facial surgery shapes a variety of cultural contexts, and continues to influence the visual arts today. I am currently a contributor to Effaced from History, which considers disfigurement across the ages in order to advance contemporary understandings of facial difference.

My publications include Installation Art and the Practices of Archivalism (2016), Samuel Beckett and Testimony (2011), The Body Abject (2000), a critical edition of Tanazacq's La Supreme Abjection de la Passion du Christ (2001) and Jean Genet, Journal du voleur (2004). I am an active member of the Centre for Medical History and of the Centre for Intermedia at the University of Exeter, I sit on the management board of the Centre for Translating Cultures, on the editorial board of Reconstruction: Studies in Contemporary Culture, on the editorial advisory board of e-France: an on-line journal of French Studies and the international advisory board of Reinvention: a Journal of Undergraduate ResearchI have peer reviewed for the journals Miranda, Studies in Twentieth and Twenty-First Century Literature, Modern Philology, Twentieth-Century Literature and the Journal of Beckett Studies.

Research collaborations

My collaborators include the charities Changing Faces (CEO: James Partridge) and Saving Faces and the artist Paddy Hartley. Paddy was artist in residence in the College of Humanities during 1914FACES2014, and that collaboration is reflected in a special issue of the Journal of War and Culture Studies (forthcoming) and in Paddy Hartley: Of Faces and Facades (2015). In the context of Effaced from History?, I am working with colleagues from the universities of Swansea, Nottingham, Cardiff and Reading. I led the Exeter team for 1914FACES2014, based in the Colleges of Humanities and of Social Sciences and International Studies, and coordinated the third project strand, on Representing the Face. Project partners include the Université de Picardie Jules Verne and the Institut Faire-Faces led by the world-leading surgeon Prof Bernard Devauchelle. I co-curated the exhibition Faces of Conflict at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery (2015) and in this context worked with the Hunterian Museum, Royal College of Surgeons of England and the Historial de la Grande Guerre.