Dr Isobel Harbison

Staff details

Position Lecturer (Critical Studies) in Art
Department Art
Email i.harbison (@gold.ac.uk)
Phone +44 (0)20 7078 5191
Twitter @isobelharbison
Dr Isobel Harbison

Dr Isobel Harbison is an art critic, an art historian and Lecturer (Critical Studies) in Art, in the Art Department at Goldsmiths. She completed her PhD in 2015 in Goldsmiths where she was an AHRC doctoral scholar. She regularly writes for magazines, journals and exhibition catalogues about contemporary artists working across disciplines but most often in performance and moving image.

Her recent book Performing Image looks at the origins and etymology of the ‘prosumer’ and considers how such a productive consumer of images, who frequently visits and creates exhibitions on social media's online platforms, has been modelled on the language, activities, and architectures of contemporary art. It considers what agency contemporary artists have in response to widespread, value-producing habits of image performance, and to a new political landscape shaped by evolving economies of attention. Regarding a society performing images, the book establishes how artists have long combined performance and moving image to highlight or challenge normative, reductive or exclusionary aspects of mass media.

The book encompasses a thorough history of the prosumer from the 1970s to present interwoven with analyses of works by Robert Rauschenberg, Yvonne Rainer, Lorraine O’Grady, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Leslie Thornton, Ericka Beckman, Shu Lea Cheang, Frances Stark, Mark Leckey, Cécile B Evans, Ligia Lewis, Wu Tsang, Every Ocean Hughes and Martine Syms. Performing Image was published by the MIT Press in spring 2019. 

In 2019, she was an Archives Research Resident at the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation in New York. In 2020 she will be an Eadington Fellow at the Center of Gaming Research in the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Academic Qualifications

  • BA (2004, Trinity College, Dublin)
  • MFA (2008, Goldsmiths, University of London)
  • PhD (2015, Goldsmiths, University of London)


Isobel teaches on the BA Fine Art Extension Programme, working with students on their Portfolio of Art Writing and Critical Studies. She teaches Histories, Contexts, Futures to the MA Artists’ Film and Moving Image, and runs a lecture and seminar series titled ‘Image Generation’. Isobel teaches intermittently on the MFA Curating programme and is also open to PhD project proposals relating to her research specialisms, in practice-based and thesis only projects.

Research Interests

  • Histories of performance in contemporary art
  • Histories of moving image in contemporary art
  • Theories of interdisciplinarity and interdisciplinary practices
  • Theories and philosophies of the image
  • Theories and philosophies of Spectacle and the cinematic imaginary
  • Technology capitalism
  • Attention economics




Harbison, Isobel. 2019. Performing Image. Cambridge MA: The MIT Press. ISBN 9780262039215