In the Research Assessment Exercise 2008 over half of the work submitted by Fine Art was judged internationally excellent or world leading, highlighting the excellence of our exhibition and curatorial initiatives, theoretical texts and publication projects.
Research in Fine Art seeks to engage with both the production and distribution of art, exploring the interlinking roles of artist, curator and author, and the transforming categories of practice, theory and criticism. We believe that emerging and innovative practices demand new forms that question both theory and practice without presupposing where exactly the distinction falls, and this is where the Department’s research seeks to intervene. Our aim is to develop innovative art research that migrates between the production, distribution and mediation of art, in an environment which is academically stimulating. Key areas of focus include exhibition and curatorial practice, publication projects and critical art writing, underpinned by an emphasis on digital media as a format for both the production and dispersion of artworks.
See our individual research profiles
In recent years Fine Art has been successful in securing research support from funding bodies including AHRC, ESPRC, Leverhulme Trust and Arts Council, The British Council, British Academy, SEEDA, Henry Moore Foundation), Higher Education Academy, Letterkenny Institute of Technology, Ireland, College des Irlandais Paris, French Ministry of Culture, Nordic Institute for Contemporary Art, Finland, Nordic Artists’ Centre, Norway, and Jan van Eyck Academie, Holland.
Recent funded projects:
Dr John Russell. Picturing ideas? Visualising and Synthesising Ideas as art (2009). Supported by the AHRC and Arts Council of England award. Utilising the virtuality of digital imagery this project tests and evaluates the critical and aesthetic implications of the ‘picturing’ or ‘visualisation’ of philosophical and political ideasas art. Outputs include the production a series of images visualising philosophical ideas developed in response to an ongoing dialogue with specialists in the fields of philosophy, contemporary art and psychology. These images were displayed on a website and also exhibited as artworks at two exhibitions EAST 2009 at Norwich Art Gallery and The Dark Monarch at the Tate St Ives and Towner Gallery, Eastbourne, October 2009 – January 2010. Russell presented a paper at ISEA 2009, at the University of Ulster and produced an illustrated text as an artist’s project in Frieze Magazine (Sept 2009).
Alun Rowlands. Communiqués is a writing series supported by the AHRC and Arts Council Wales. 3 Communiqués (2007) was commissioned by art publishers Bookworks while Communiqué 4 (2008) was published as part of the Nought to Sixtyprogramme at the Institute Contemporary Art, London. These publications chart a journey through marginal histories of communalism, self-presentation and collective agency. The project involved primary archival research including the Stanley Owen Green (Protein Man) archive at the Museum of London and the Fourier papers at the National Archives, Paris. Drawing on these sources the account uses a fictionalised narrative in describing the latent radicalism of particular political and communitarian subjects. Readings from the publications were recorded in association with BBC Worldwide and performed through a series of launch events and public discussions including Extra City, Antwerp.
Dr Jonathan Dronsfield. Derrida and the Visual. Dr Jonathan Dronsfield. Derrida and the Visual. Funded by AHRC Research leave 2009. The project explores a basic but under-researched problem with Derrida’s work: the privilege accorded word over the image. Derrida himself suggests that the way in which deconstruction has been theoretically formalised makes it seem as if it has more affinity with written discourse than with the visual, an important admission and one which this book develops into a deconstruction of Derrida’s writings on the image. A chapter from the book, ‘Before the camera’, examining what Derrida might mean by ‘knowledge anterior to the image’, was presented to the Art Philosophy Symposium (organised by me) at the School of the Art Institute for Chicago in March 2009, and has recently appeared in a special issue of Parallax, ‘Disturbing Spaces, Impossible Strategies’, 15 (4), pp 226-38.
Dr Kate Allen participated in the AHRC-funded Auraproject. The project investigates the possibilities arising from the ubiquity of technology and its mediation of culture, particularly when working in collaboration with other disciplines and community groups. The project initially involved organising a project with young people in Grange Park, Northampton using text messages to create a virtual wall as a memorial as part of an urban regeneration project for Oxford City Council; and the symposium ‘Meeting with Borges in Virtual Space’ at Roehampton University. Ideas from the symposium were developed into the creation of a meeting place in the virtual environment Second Life where a series of international meetings were organised, commissioned as part of RIBA Architecture Week as ‘How Green is our Space?’ The meetings, explored architects and artists use of virtual buildings and their relation to the real. The discussions were shown live at the Design Museum London. Allen wrote an essay about the project ‘How Green is our Space’ in ed. S. Doesinger, Space Between People Prestel, 2008.
Exhibition practice and the staging of performance events are key to the Fine Art’s research. Esteem in this area is indicated by the solo shows awarded in the last few years to Chaimowicz, Clausen, Golden, O’Connell, Renshaw, Rowlands, Russell and Toren and participation in high profile group shows, at venues such as Tate, Royal Academy, Hayward, ICA, De Appel, Amsterdam, Artist’s Space, N.Y.C, Seccession, Vienna amongst others. Major public commissions have been won by O’Connell, Chaimowicz, Clausen and Allen.
Marc Chaimowicz. Enough Tiranny Recalled, 1972 -2009. Artists Space, New York (2009). This show follows recent solo exhibitions at De Appel, Amsterdam (2007); FRAC, Bordeaux (2008); Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zürich (2006); Overduin and Kite (2009); and Vienna Seccession (2009-10) and prestigious group exhibitions such as the 5th Berlin Biennale (2008) and the Tate Triennial, London (2006). The installation addresses the complex problematic of establishing a methodology by which a radical project first exhibited in 1972 – and drawing heavily on the literary and pop cultural resources of that period – might be re-performed 30 years later with both contemporary visual coherence and critical currency. The remembering, the revisiting, and the recalling of works from different periods of Chaimowicz’s life is integral to his way of working. Enough Tiranny Recalled, 1972 -2009 demonstrates that “the future will, in all probability, fold itself into the past to better accommodate itself in the present.” (Marc Camille Chaimowicz). The work’s initial proposition: that it is culturally urgent to challenge the alienation inherent between audience and the art-work by promoting dialogue and interactivity within the work, has more relevance to contemporary debates regarding interactivity and relationality than the present moment of its presentation in 1972. Reviewed in Art Forum.
Susanne Clausen. Ballet, 2009 is a filmed performance installation by Szuper Gallery (Susanne Clausen & Pavlo Kerestey). Funded by the Arts Council and touring various international venues, including the Museum of English Rural Life (MERL) in Reading, Zeh Gallery in Kiev in 2010, and The Mackenzie Art Gallery in Regina, Canada in 2011. This new work engages with the notion of social choreography in relation to recent histories of rural filmmaking, linking everyday farming actions with the aesthetics of dance. The starting point for this new work is a series of archival films from the MERL collection, which were made for British farmers as a means both for information and for propaganda, to provide warnings of contagion and nuclear catastrophe, describing procedure and instruction in the case of emergency. Gestural performances and movements of background actors observed in those films were re-scripted into a new choreography of movement for camera to form a playful assemblage. Filmed in a rural farming setting, a group of dancers and non-dancers engage with specific filmic references.
Christine Ellison [Polly Fibre]. iPollytouch, 2009. Live performance by PollyFibre: girlband from a future post-digital dimension at DEAF Electronic Arts Festival¹ Filmbase, Dublin, Ireland (October 2009). The performance was commissioned to celebrate the launch of RELAY an exhibition of sound works at Dublin’s Fimbase gallery. Emerging from research conducted at Banff Centre for Visual Arts, Canada (2009) this sound-based performance entitled iPollytouch addresses the relationship between the physicality of technology and of the performer. Also performed at ‘New Spaces For Music’ a curated event that saw six sound/music works performed in alternative ‘non-art’ spaces across Dublin City, the piece investigates the authentic presence of the live performer in contemporary electronic music. A composition for prepared laptops, electric glove and sonic scissors the work also functions in the deconstruction of the laptop performance and the language of digital culture. Drawing together vocabularies of art, music, sound art and theatre, Pollyfibre presents a dystopic ‘audio-vision’ of media cross-pollination.
Recent publication projects include:
Marc Camille Chaimowicz The World of Interiors Zurich: Migros Museum fur Gegenwartskunst, 2007. Conceived and realized on the occasion of his solo exhibition at the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich and inhabiting the space of an interior design magazine “The World of Interiors”. The publication sandwiches a high-gloss “journal” between mauve cloth boards with silver embossed lettering. Chaimowicz then layers images of his own work and source materials onto the existing pages, including adverts, along with his writing and texts on his work. The book also features curated contributions by other invited artists including Enrico David and Lucy McKenzie. The publication was distributed by d.a.p. and a series of images derived from the publication were subsequently shown at Overduin and Kite, Los Angeles, 2008.
Dr John Russell Frozen Tears. FROZEN TEARS is staged as an expanded artwork built around the production of three 800-page books: Frozen Tears I, 2003, FT II, 2004, and FT III, 2007 each containing texts and images from over 50 international artists/writers. The editorial aim is to conflate ideas of the visual and textual in and as language, in line with ideas of figurality (for instance the writing of Dennis Cooper and Cathy Acker). The performances of these texts as a kind of fiction runs parallel to the performance or fiction of FROZEN TEARS, as a brand or prophesy of connectivity. In this respect FROZEN TEARS is also used as the ‘brand name’ for a series of events and exhibitions including a solo show at Cabinet Gallery 2003 (where the books were presented sculpturally as an art object – to be looked at and/or read), the group exhibition Axxxpresssunizm, Vilma Gold, 2003 involving contributors to the book and a series of 7 launch/performance events, for instance Frozen Tears Vs Dexter Sinister, in collaboration with Creative Time, New York, 2007 [all documented on http://www.frozentears.co.uk. The project was funded by a University of the Arts Research Fellowship (2001-06), two LCC research grants, Article Press, AHRB, Arts Council and British Council.
Alun Rowlands, Novel (co-edited with Matthew Williams) is an experimental publishing project. This journal of curated texts has already been recognised through inclusion in Christoph Keller’s touring exhibition Kiosk: Modes of Multiplication; and was selected by Art Forum’s Brian Sholis for Live Archive at the first New York Triennial 2009, New Museum, New York. The aim of the research is to critically examine the status of writing within contemporary art and the relation between fiction and theory. It includes key international contributions from Marc Camille Chaimowicz, Henry Flynt, Michael Krebber and RH Quaytman amongst others. They test the primary conditions of writing as practice and the demand for new forms of critical writing. In addition, Novel operates as a platform for the dispersion of research through performances, readings and exhibitions. It provides a greatly needed testing ground for new writing and research-based projects, somewhere for artists, writers and theorists to express experimental ideas that might not otherwise be realised or published. Novel was launched at AC Gebbers Bibliothekswohnung Space for international contemporary art, performance, philosophy and literature, as a satellite project of Art Forum, Berlin. Here, the journal was opened out with accompanying curated exhibition, film screenings and lectures. A series of launch events were held at X marks the Bökship, Donlon Books, London and Dependance, Brussels.
Fine Art’s research attempts to engage critically with curating as artistic activity. This includes the curatorial work of Rowlands, Chaimowicz, Maclean, Clausen andRussell’s projects as part of the collectives Szuper Gallery and BANK respectively. and the public installations and interventions of Allen and O’Connell.. The Department has forged an active partnership with Artists in the City (Reading Borough Council public art project). The Beckett Centenary Project (2006) brought closer ties to Reading Museum and to the town. In participation with the University’s Beckett Archive, it involved installing video works by seminal artist Bruce Nauman at Reading Museum. In the same year, a new public work was commissioned from artists Harrison and Wood, installed in Reading town centre. Fine Art is currently working with the Reading Museum to produce the forthcoming ’150 Years of Art at Reading’ exhibition.
Recent projects have included:
Alun Rowlands The Dark Monarch: Magic and Modernity in British Art, Tate Gallery, St Ives; Towner Gallery, Eastbourne. October 2009 – 10 January 2010; 23 January 2010 – 15 March 2010
This major curated exhibition, publication and events builds on Rowlands’ curatorial research. Working in collaboration with co-curators Martin Clark, Artistic Director, Tate St Ives and Michael Bracewell, cultural historian, the exhibition sought to explore new narratives within British art, the development of early Modernism, as well as the reappearance of esoteric and arcane references in a significant strand of contemporary art. The innovative curatorial methodology developed from a fiction found in Sven Berlin’s infamous 1962 novel, The Dark Monarch. The exhibition featured two-hundred artworks, including historical works from Samuel Palmer, Graham Sutherland, Henry Moore and Paul Nash, shown alongside contemporary artists including Derek Jarman, Cerith Wyn Evans, Damien Hirst, Eva Rothschild, Linder and John Russell. These ideas were further explored in The Dark Monarch publication (co-edited by Rowlands) and the conference Magic and Modernity in British Art. The exhibition was widely reviewed in Frieze magazine, January – February 2010, Independent, 5 October 2009, Guardian, 12 October 2009, BBC ,14 October 2009, BBC Radio, 14 October 2009.
Marc Chaimowicz …In The Cherished Company of Others… A solo exhibition at two prestigious international museums: De Appel, Amsterdam, and PMMK, Oostende, Belgium (2008)
As with other exhibitions by Chaimowicz the intention here was to experiment with ideas of curation in/and as installation, combining Chaimowicz’s works (including drawings, decorative and functional objects, wallpapers, maquettes, sculptures, paintings, and a revisited installation) with architectural models, bookplates, and artworks by other international artists whom Chaimowicz’s feels empathy with. This highlights the idea that an artistic production can be inhabit on the same level as its mental ‘backdrop’. An anthology of writings by the artist was produced to co-incide with the exhibition: Marc Camille Chaimowicz, “Forever What?” (1972-2008), Sternberg Press-Berlin, Les presses du réel-Dijon, de Appel & PMMK: 2008.
Maclean and Renshaw’s ongoing curational collaboration has included Outside Architecture, at the Stephen Lawrence Gallery, University of Greenwich, London, 2009, involving a three way collaborative dialogue by artists Bernice Donszelmann, Mary Maclean and Tim Renshaw reflecting on the different ways in which architecture implicates itself in our perceptions and our occupation of space.A symposium was held during the show which addressed the idea of ‘Outside Architecture’. This project will developed in the forthcoming event Architectural Fictions is a curatorial project that brings together the work of eight artists exploring ideas of fiction or narrative in relation to the built environment. Venues including SouthHill Park Gallery, Bracknell (confirmed); De la waar Pavilion, Bexhill- on sea; Castlefield Gallery, Manchester, Oriel Davies Gallery, Newton Powys, Ormeau Bath Art Gallery, Belfast.
Intrinsic to our research within the Department is the publication of books and papers analysing contemporary art and practice-based research through critical analysis. For instance, Dronsfield’s contributions to the Association Internationale des Critiques d’Art (AICA), the Association for Art Historians, and the Forum for European Philosophy; Rowlands’ published texts ‘Footnotes’, in Art of the Seventies & Eighties, Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach, and ‘Mark Titchner’ in I, We, It, Arnolfini, both 2006; Maclean’s ‘Considering If…Then…Else…’, Journal of Visual Arts Practice; Russell’s ‘Night of the Living Dead: Greenberg, Kosuth & Flatness’ in Gest: Laboratory of Synthesis, Bookworks, 2007; making Reading more visible in the field of Fine Art scholarship.
Dr Jonathan Dronsfield. “Theory as art practice: Notes on discipline inside”, Art & Research 2 (2), Spring 2009, and “Art practice as theory: Notes on indiscipline outside”, Art & Research 3 (1), Winter 2009, are two related articles, both originally conference papers, examining the relation of word to image. The first, presented to the international conference on art research, State of Play, hosted by the Graduate Centre for Arts and Media at Project Arts Centre, Dublin, May 2008, looks at how an image could be said to ‘write’ from within itself; the second, given to the Knowing Not to Know seminar accompanying the major retrospective of the work of James Coleman organised by the Irish Museum of Modern Art, the Project Arts Centre, and the Royal Hibernian Society in April 2009, takes on the problem from the side of the word, and shows how artworks are always the site of an exchange with discourse.
Dr John Russell. ‘Return of the Living Dead III. Flatness and Shapeism’ (in eds. Garnett/Hunt, Gest/Laboratory of Synthesis, Bookworks 2008. The intention here was to examine the architectural and spatial configurations of Deleuze’s ideas and to perform the various formats in which this text might emerge. In particular my concern was examining the figurality of Deleuze’s imagist thought as integral to the synthesising force of his writing, especially the way he transgresses the binary oppositions of ‘content’ versus ‘form’ and ‘linguistic’ versus ‘visual’ which continue to dominate the discourses of contemporary art. The text was first circulated by Dexter Sinister as part of the Whitney Biennial 2008. It was also presented as a spoken word performance at ICA (2009), London; and as a fax during a performance at The Kitchen, New York, (2008)
Mary MacLean. ‘Considering If…Then…Else…’ Journal of Visual Arts Practice, Vol 6/ no. 3, Dec 2007: 257-267. This written reflection explores a discussion of three fundamental elements of the photographic image: time, space and light. Reference is made to the critical writing of Marc Auge and a range of Literary and visual influences are explored in the effort to locate the intentions for the work. The work was made in collaboration with the Visual Intelligence Research Project.
Fine Art’s research environment also been stimulated by a series of symposia that address and consolidate the Department’s research strands, including collaborations between academics and practitioners. In 2005 the Department co-hosted with FTT the inter-disciplinary conference Transversalities: Crossing Disciplines, Cultures and Identities. And in 2006 Searching the Spectator; Art for New Publics, co-hosted with Artists in the City (supported by ACE), built on shared concerns for new ways of working that challenge conventional boundaries confronting the complex relationships between artist, environment and spectator. Jonathan Dronsfieldwas selected as a fellow for the prestigiousStone Summer Theory Institute (20-26 Sept 2009): What Do Artists Know?, at the Art Institute of Chicago, USA.
Recent Symposia include:
Art & … symposium convened by Alun Rowlands and John Russell at ICA, London 17 November 2007. Including presentations by John Cussans (Chelsea College of Art), Felix Ensslin, Professor Peter Osborne (Middlesex University); Maria Fusco (Goldsmiths College); Fabienne Audeoud; JJ Charlesworth; Paul Buck and Dr Nicholas Chare (University of Reading). The symposium addressed the idea that contemporary discourses of art cannot be conceived of as an autonomous specialism but as a space of transversality and connectivity. Art might be a name for this moving sideways, for the fostering of specifically transversal connections. The co-ordinating conjunction of ‘&’ therefore is not an inclusion mechanism, a random stringing together, or a series of contextual filiations. It is a modality of the between that produces temporary alliances between practices and fields.
Materiality of Theory symposium, convened by Dr Jonathan Dronsfield at the ICA, London, May 2009 (Art Writing Network, with UCE, Chelsea and Goldsmiths Colleges) 23 May 2009. Exploring theory and philosophy in contemporary art practice. Discussions will encompass theory as art, what ‘materiality’ is if theory can count as just another material, the non-pictorial ‘writeability’ at the heart of the pictorial. Speakers include: John Mullarkey, philosopher at the University of Dundee and author of Post-Continental Philosophy; Stephen Zepke, theorist, Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Vienna and author of Art as Abstract Machine: Ontology and Aesthetics in Deleuze and Guattari.