Research Seminars

The School, which includes Music, Digital Media, Fine Art and Museum and Gallery Studies, promotes the development of a dynamic and cohesive research environment and supports a rich diversity of postgraduate and doctoral research activities, both in the areas of practice-based and theoretical and historical research. Subject specific lectures and an evolving interdisciplinary programme of seminars and round-table discussions inform and contextualise research. These also offer the opportunity to doctoral researchers to exchange ideas and engage in conversation across disciplines with staff, fellow students and visiting artists, scholars, curators and critics.

The Fine Art Postgraduate Research Student Training Programme includes seminars on practice, and writing in relation to studio-based research and practice, preparing papers for specialist journals and conference presentation. The nature, purpose and possible forms of a Fine Art PhD are a specific topic of debate and these seminars also provide a forum for peer-review on research issues and progress. Students are required to periodically present their research to staff and their peers. All staff contribute and appropriate external specialists and researchers are invited to present and to discuss projects. All staff are research-active professionals, artists, researchers and academics, and thus provide up-to-date practice-led teaching, supervision and professional experience and knowledge. Where appropriate, MFA students take part in these seminars.

Opportunities for cross-disciplinary debate and research also exists beyond the School. For example, CultureLab is a unique research infrastructure providing an environment for academics and practitioners working beyond traditional disciplinary boundaries. It promotes socially and economically valuable synergies with artists, creative industries, and cultural and scientific institutions, and the development of innovative research with digital tools. Events within Culturelab can be found here.

Throughout their studies, extensive support and training in research methods is provided for research students by the Faculty Postgraduate Research Training Programme. Providing training in professional/key skills and research techniques, the training programme supports personal development and provides a unique discipline-specific and generic training that ensures the acquisition of research skills, project management and other competencies necessary to complete their research projects and theses. It has been recognised by the Economic and Social Research Council and the Arts and Humanities Research Council as a sound foundation for doctoral studies.

In addition, Connecting Principle is an art-centred international multi-disciplinary research forum at Newcastle University instigating a dialogue between art and other disciplines. The aim of the forum is to increase opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration within and beyond academia. Connecting Principle is therefore the basis of an international network of artists, theorists and researchers. Our current activities feature a series of presentations, round table discussions and an annual two-day event that showcases the recent projects and collaborations of our members.

The Fine Art 2013-14 Seminar Programme included:

30th September 2013: Klaas Dierks:  Seminar concerning his doctoral research at the University of Bremen in Germany, and includes an introduction to his Film/Photo workshop for PhD and MFA students at Newcastle University. Klaas holds MAs from Hamburg and Durham Universities, and an MFA in Film and Photography from the University of the Arts in Hamburg.  His work has been shown at numerous film festivals. He is currently lecturer at the University of Bremen and working on his doctoral dissertation.                                

28th October 2013:  John Bowers – Director of Culture Lab, will lead a discussion about his practice and research. John Bowers is an artist-researcher with a particular interest in the use of art and design-led methods (Research Through Design) to explore digital technologies and novel interaction concepts. He also works as a sound artist improvising with electronic, digital, acoustic and electro-mechanical devices and self-made instruments in performance and installation settings, typically accompanied by live digital image. His work is often grounded in field research methods drawn from the social sciences (ethnography, interaction analysis) and related to theoretical and practical issues in Human Computer Interaction (HCI), design research, material culture, media archeology and critical theory. He leads Culture Lab's research on Digital Media.

4th November 2013: Ruth Barker presents her PhD research so far.

11th November 2013: Valerie Laws -  poet, crime & comedy novelist, performer and playwright, will discuss her sci-art installations & commissions, and specifically her text-based installation work. Valerie has a degree in Maths/Theoretical Physics, and lectures in Creative Writing.

18th November 2013: Peter Merrington - Collaborative Doctoral student will present his research so far with the AV Festival –

25th November 2013: Gennaro Postiglione: Beyond the Memorial: new concepts for commemorative monuments. In some post-conflict contexts, past events may be deliberately preserved in space through processes of conservation or through the creation of monuments and memorials.This aspect of the memory-space relationship arises questions over how to act on spaces that possess materialtraces of the pastand over how to produce memorial inscriptions onto spaces that are not linked to any material evidence of violence (e.g.: painful memories). The talk will discuss about some recent works that move in this direction and on the need to go even further beyond them. Gennaro Postiglione is Associate Professor of Interior Architecture at the Politecnico di Milano. Research focuses mainly on domestic interiors (questioning relations between cultures of dwelling, domestic architecture and modernity), on museography and on preserving and diffusing collective memory and cultural identity (connecting the museographic issues with the domestic ambit). In this field he carried out several research projects amongst which: “The Atlantic Wall Linear Museum”, “Abarchive – archivio borghi abbandonati”, “One-hundred houses for one-hundred architects of the XX century”, “MeLa – European Museums in an age of migrations”. Besides, he has a specific interest in the architecture of Nordic countries.From 2004, he is promoter of PUBLIC ARCHITECTURE @ POLIMI, an interdisciplinary research & operative group that puts the resources of Architecture in the service of the Public Interest and from 2006 is promoter of IFW-Interior Forum World, an academic network and a web platform for research edited by the PhD in Interiors at POLIMI. On-going researches: “European Museums and Libraries in/for the Age of Migrations” (EU-FP7 funded), “Dealing with Conflict Heritages” (National Grant). He sits in the editorial board of AREA (il sole24ore ed.) from 1997 and, from 2010 is in the Advisory Board of the Peer Review Journal ‘Interiors’ (Berg Publisher Ltd). - See more at:                                

3rd, 17th February and March 10th 2014: Ian Ground – an introduction to Philosophy.  Ian Ground – studied Philosophy and English Literature at Newcastle University before carrying out research in philosophical aesthetics at Durham University. He earned his doctorate in philosophy (by existing published work) in 2011. He has worked as a tutor, Lecturer and Senior Lecturer in philosophy at a number of institutions in the North East of England, writing philosophy and teaching a wide variety of courses. The guiding themes of his career to date have been his belief in the value of adult education, in philosophy and in the idea that computers should work for us, rather than the reverse. He is currently Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the North East Centre for Lifelong Learning in Newcastle, part of the University of Sunderland. He also teaches at Newcastle University and Edinburgh University.

10th February 2014: Marianne Wilde will discuss her research. She has recently completed her PhD at Northumbria University:

3rd March 2014: Matt Stokes – artist, will discuss his recent work and research as Bartlett Fellow at Newcastle University, a residency in conjunction with Matt’s Gallery, London.

The 2012-13 seminar programme includes:

Tuesday 7th May 2013, Connecting Principle Research Forum: Dr. Susanne Witzgall, Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Munich.

Art on the Production of Knowledge: In the nineteen-sixties, young Conceptual artists began to thematize the institutional, social, economic, and historical parameters affecting the fine arts, and in doing so, they challenged the established autonomous and “objective” status of art. In the process, they questioned both the political and social conditions of artistic production (Dan Graham) and—inspired, among other things, by systems theory—the political and social factors determining the reception and the distribution of artistic knowledge (Hans Haacke). At the same time, the artistic deconstruction of the museum was initiated—from the art museum to the museum of ethnology. Artists such as Marcel Broodthaers and Lothar Baumgarten demonstrated how criteria of museum inclusion and exclusion or criteria of taxonomy are personally and politically motivated. Knowledge stored in the museum therefore has to be regarded as fabricated knowledge that tells us more about the culture producing it than the culture it represents.

After all, over the last two decades, contemporary artists have not only made reference to the cultural and political construction of historical knowledge (Simon Wachsmuth), but also to that of scientific facts. Works by the American artist Mark Dion, for example, do not depict scientific theories as being objective, timeless, or trans-cultural, but as unstable models enmeshed in an ecology of divergent interests and historical conditions. Dion cites Michel Foucault and Donna Haraway, who like the biologist Stephen Jay Gould view science as something “which is socially bound, which has something to do with ideology, which is not detached from economical, social and personal conditions.” Drawing on Hans-Jörg Rheinberger, in the course of his theoretical reflections, the Swiss artist Hannes Rickli, for example, highlights the immediate general experimental framework necessary for the production of scientific knowledge. The understanding that scientific knowledge contains constructive elements, that scientific truths are not discovered but produced, will certainly have ramifications. Some contemporary artists, for instance, have become increasingly interested in a trans-disciplinary cross-linking of knowledge that purposely operates independently of the privilege of scientific logic and systematization.

Susanne Witzgall holds a Ph.D. in art history and is head of the 'cx centre of interdisciplinary studies' at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. From 2003 to 2011 she was an assistant professor at the department for art history at the same place. From 1995 to 2002 she worked as a curator for the Deutsches Museum Bonn and the Deutsches Museum, Munich, Her research interests focusing especially on the interfaces between art and science, art and sociology/cultural anthropology, art as research and knowledge production. She has curated and co-curated several exhibitions in Germany and Austria among them Art & Brain II (1997/1998), The Second Face (2002, with Cornelia Kemp), Say it isn’t so (2007, with Peter Friese) and (Re)designing nature (2010/2011, with Florian Matzner). She is the author of several books and articles on contemporary art and art and science e.g. Kunst nach der Wissenschaft (Art after Science) (2003) or Medienrelationen (ed. with Cornelia Gockel) (2011).

Tuesday 30th April: Garry Doherty

Staging The Transcendent: The Seminar will chart Fine Art practice based doctoral research undertaken between 2008-13 entitled, Objects of Transcendence. It will consider a key objective at the beginning of study: To realise a congruent relationship between the creative fine art practice and an active spiritual journey within Sufism. The research reflects on the re-evaluation of my project Future Perfect and cites the Rothko exhibition at Tate Modern as a significant influence. This identified contemplation as a defining characteristic and acknowledged a development towards a transcendent discourse intrinsically drawn towards the Sublime Tradition. The research refers to Edmund Burke’s inquiry into the sublime and his theory of aesthetic opposition, in which beauty is derived from pleasure and sublimity from pain. The sublime dialectic, which opposes imminence with transcendence, is the paradox that forms the foundation of my own creative practice. I will focus on the attempt to activate a spiritual engagement that redeems traumatic Islamic themes, and refer to artworks such as, Car bomb and Munich: Room31. I will conclude by considering my ambition to create transcendent works of art that make the concrete sublime.

Garry Doherty lives in London and works at Fine Art, University of East London and represents The School of Sufi Teaching. He is participating in a number of forthcoming exhibitions, curatorial projects and spiritual retreats including: The Lost Image, La Magazzini de Sale. Venice. (8.2013); The Third Floor, Installation, China Town Car Park, London (10.2013); The Nature of Things, Art-Toll, Dusseldorf, Germany. (8.2013): The East London Pavilion, London (5.2013); School of Sufi Teaching - Retreat, Jerusalem and Jordon (8.2013); School of Sufi Teaching - Retreat, London (10.2013)

Tuesday 23rd April: Prof. Richard Goodwin

"Denatured Contingency" The presentation of Sydney based artist and architect Richard Goodwin is about his work as an artist/architect/urbanist/academic. It looks at these 3 scales and his theories about Porosity in the Age of Contingency.

Richard Goodwin has been an exhibiting artist since 1974. His work is held in major collections including the Art Gallery of NSW, the National Gallery of Victoria, the Nuremburg Museum and numerous Regional Gallery and private collections. Exhibitions include 3 Sculpture Triennials, 3 Australian Perspectas, The Third International Drawing Trienniale, Innenseite a Satellite of Documenta 10 in Kassel, Distance Tokyo and Kyoto, and Der Overkant a survey of Australian sculpture in Den Haag 2007, Venice Architecture Biennale 2012. In 2003 he was awarded the Sydney Water Prize for his work Carapace for Sculpture By The Sea. In 2004 he won the prestigious Helen Lempriere Award for sculpture with the work Prosthetic Apartment B. Trained as an architect he graduated in 1977 and went on to gain a Master of Architecture in 2000. Currently he holds the position of Professor at the University of New South Wales College of Fine Arts, where he runs the Porosity Studio, a cross disciplinary studio which blurs the boundaries between art and architecture and uses the city as a laboratory. Goodwin’s position remains 0.5 enabling him to practice within his own studio through which he continues to exhibit both in Australia and overseas and to pursue public art and “parasitic” architectural projects. His company, Richard Goodwin Pty Ltd, was established to further facilitate his work as an artist affecting architecture and urban planning. The company is now responsible for a significant range of architectural works, public space and urban planning collaborations as well as site specific sculpture. Richard Goodwin is now at the forefront of the debate regarding the role of public art in redefining both art and architecture.

Tuesday 16th April: Peter Sharpe

Starting From Here: Do artists and architects really think differently? In 2009 six new shelter related projects were completed by artists and architects at Kielder Water & Forest Park. All were initiated using the same brief and all participants drew their inspiration from visits to the same landscape. This seminar will use two of these projects to consider artistic and architectural motivation, how the materiality they chose to employ and the significance of their chosen site impacted on the devel­opment of each commission. A page containing information on a site at Kielder that has been used for a temporary work in the past can be found at Seminar participants are invited to use this information, in conjunction with the art and architecture website and the broader tourism-focused site, to suggest a proposal for a sculptural landscape marker or focal point for this site. Kielder Art & Architecture’s website –

Peter Sharpe curates the Kielder Art & Architecture programme in Northumberland, developing commissions with a wide range of renowned and emerging artists and architects as part of that work.  He occasionally acts as a visiting lecturer at Newcastle University and the University of Northumbria’s Schools of Architecture, Edinburgh College of Art and the Bartlett UCL. He is a panel member of the North East Design Review and Enabling Service and has acted as advisor on Arts Council NE’s Cultural Olympiad and Turning Point projects and is currently working to deliver ‘Seeing the Woods from the Trees’ and ‘Testing Ground’, two projects at Kielder that focus on improving public engagement and understanding of contemporary art and architectural practice.

Tuesday 12th March 2013: Cecilia Stenbom.

Visual art and film: A seminar about various approaches visual artists have taken to work with film and moving image. The seminar will look at artists using film production methods to produce moving image artworks, artists who exhibit and screen in both gallery and cinema contexts, and visual artists crossing over to documentary filmmaking or narrative feature film. The seminar will look at working with a film production team as a visual artist. How to work with a film producer and questions around copyright, final cut and ownership. The basics of film production from script writing, pre-production, working with a crew, working with an editor and postproduction. The production value; what the film treatment can add to the making of moving image artworks. Financing how to fundraise for film and moving image, who commissions artists film, alternative ways of fundraising for film and moving image. How artists film can be distributed, exhibited and screened. How to work between visual art and film. And finally what film production and film production methods can teach artists about making work?

Cecilia Stenbom is a conceptual artist working in wide range of material and media, including drawing, painting, installation, performance to camera and film. Her key concerns are  notions of identity in a consumer driven and information rich culture and how even the most mundane and seemingly unassuming moments are affected by the abundance of information surrounding us.  examining our anxieties and desires, reinterpreting scenarios within entertainment, mass media, retail, and domestic life. Recent projects includes Nobody Gets Out of Here Alive, solo exhibition at Kaapelin Galleria, Helsinki, Finland, Happy Fashion, group exhibition, VIAINDUSTRIæ, Perugia, Italy and the Artist Cut, film commissioned by Northern Film & Media in association with Channel4. Current projects include film commission for Berwick Visual Arts and Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival, artists residency with MAWA, Winnipeg, Canada and film commission and exhibition with Peacock Visual Arts, Aberdeen. Cecilia is represented by Workplace Gallery, UK, and her moving image work is distributed by AV-arkki, Finland.

Tuesday 5th February 2013, Connecting Principle Research Forum. Dr Jouni-Matti Kuukkanen

Historical narratives as aesthetic representations: The question whether history as an academic discipline should be seen as a science or as a form of literature has been debated ever since the birth of modern historiography in the mid-19th century. The early theoretical reflections typically emphasised similarities to science and scientific production of knowledge. The analytic philosophy of history made a pointedly strong attempt towards this end in the decades after the Second World War. However, this tendency was reversed in the 1970s by the emergence of so called narrativist philosophy of historiography. A central figure of the school, Hayden White, explicitly highlighted the literary and fictional aspects of history writing. Another prominent scholar, Frank Ankersmit, has gone further than this and suggested that it is art that provides the most feasible reference for historiography. Indeed, he has written that “from a logical point of view representation is prior to the true statement. Or to put it differently, aesthetics precedes epistemology" (Ankersmit 2001, 90).

References: Ankersmit, F. R. 2001. Historical Representation. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Ankersmit, F. R. 2012. Meaning, Truth, and Reference in Historical Representation. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press.

Dr Jouni-Matti Kuukkanen has studied history and philosophy in Finland, the USA and the UK. He received his Phd in Philosophy in 2006 from the University of Edinburgh. Since 2008 Kuukkanen has been a postdoctoral research fellow in the Institute for Philosophy at Leiden University.  Kuukkanen has published many articles in international journals of philosophy. He is currently a recipient of the Young Researcher’s Award from the Emil Aaltonen Foundation and writing a book on the philosophy of historiography. More information on

Tuesday 8th January 2013, Anna Santomauro, Bari and Bologna, Italy.

'Curating collaborative strategies in peripheral areas': During the seminar I would like to share some thoughts about my activity as an independent curator and above all within Vessel, in order to activate a brainstorming about the main topics that the organization is tackling.
Vessel is a platform for the development of a critical discourse related to current cultural, social, economic and political issues. The focus of vessel for the next two years will be on: geopolitics and socially engaged practice. Our approach will be to think about the objectivity of geographical borders in order to reshape the collective imagery related to this specific geographical area. Starting from the geographical position of Bari, we will reconsider the common sense to look at the map of the South of Italy in the ledge of South-North in favor of a more horizontal way of thinking driving towards the Mediterranean area. This will reverse the notion of West-East towards the less established category of South-East. Socially engaged art is the critical tool we will use for the exploration of this specific context.

Tuesday 20th November 2012, Richard Grayson.

Richard Grayson will talk about six projects: five actual, one resolutely hypothetical. These are: A Secret Service: Art compulsion and concealment - curated for the Hayward Gallery Touring program in 2006, The Golden Space City of God - video installation 2009, Polytechnic - an exhibition about UK time based and video practice seeking new forms of experimental narrative, Raven Row London 2010, The Magpie Index: video installation 2010 The Objectivist Studio Installation 2011 and Temple Tel an unrealised project. The aim of the seminar is to unpick themes and concerns in these projects and to ask to what extent they might be considered to be research and to what extent they refuse this classification.
Richard Grayson's work, as artist and a curator, looks at ways language and narrative are used to make sense of the worlds around us, and how narratives in turn generate worlds of their own. The central focus of his practice is subjective personal readings and constructions of the world and ways that these might achieve social political and cultural expression.

Tuesday 13th November 2012, Connecting Principle Research Forum PRESENTATIONS and EVENT 2012

Dr Cornelia Gockel, Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Munich.

'In search of the magic space between art, cinema and reality'.

At the last Biennale in Venice people were attracted by Christian Marclay’s film installation “Clock". The American artist collected thousands of clips from the entire history of cinema, from silent film to the present, each featuring an exact time on a clock, on a watch, or in dialogue. He put them together to a 24-hour film and projected the montage in real time. The use of found footage is a well-known strategy in video art, but to connect them with the reality of the spectator was fairly new. The result was overwhelming. People were spending a long time in front of the film installation to see what happens next. With his work "Clock" Christian Marclay opened a gap between art, cinema and reality. He gives people the impression that they are part of the history. Trapping spectators in this magic space is the dream of writers, artists and filmmakers. It is connected with the promise of an extraordinary experience. In the lecture for the Connecting Principles Event 2012 "Set and Settings", the art critic Cornelia Gockel explores this magic space in the works by Cindy Sherman, Hiroshi Sugimoto, David Claerbout, Julian Rosefeldt, Pierre Huyghe and Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller.

Tuesday 30th October 2012, Rachel Wells

'Taking Responsibility: Artistic Authorship in an age of Social Media'.
In his provocative recent work, the prominent art historian Boris Groys has claimed that attitudes towards aesthetic responsibility have shifted in our age of 'self-design'. Connecting the pervasive nature of self-design that is produced by social media technology to the rise of participatory art practice, Groys claims that 'it is now better to be a dead author than to be a bad author'. This seminar will discuss the ideas raised by Groys's essay in relation to examples from recent international art practice.

Please come to the seminar having read Groys's e-flux article which is available here:
Rachel Wells is Lecturer in the History of Art at Newcastle University. Before joining the department at Newcastle in 2011, she was Tutor in Fine Art (History and Theory) at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, Oxford University, and Henry Moore Foundation Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the Courtauld Institute of Art. She received her PhD from the Courtauld Institute in 2008. Her book on Scale in Contemporary Sculpture is forthcoming with Ashgate Publishing.

Tuesday 16th October 2012, Connecting Principle Research Forum PRESENTATIONS:

Angelika Böck:
'Dialogical Portraits'

Angelika Böck's 'Dialogical Portraits' are directed at forms of expressions, practices, rituals, or signs in various contexts aiming to set side by side different contemporary modes of perception and representation of the individual. This setting has resulted in a series of '(self)portrayals', for which Angelika Böck has applied a 'dialogical' strategy by placing herself as the subject to be negotiated, studied and represented through interpretations by her fellow human beings. The 'Dialogical Portraits', which challenge and expand the parameters of the conceptions and conventions of portrayal, are intended as a dual relation between both objectivities and subjectivities within the order of representation and represent both a crossover and reversal of the traditional roles of the artist on the one hand and model on the other.
On the basis of these examples the methodologies, production process, possibilities and/or limitation of artworks applying ethnographic and dialogical methods will be discussed.
The participants are welcome to present projects on 'portrayal' (their own or others) in the form of prints or as pp-presentation. Please get in touch with Wolfgang if you are interested.
Angelika Böck (1967 in Munich) graduated in Interior Architecture and Fine Arts. Her recent work focuses on dialogic structures, artistic research on human perception and portrayal. Her work is exhibited in museums and galleries internationally and published in artistic as well as scientific contexts.

2011-12 Fine Art PhD research seminar series: 'Writing in Fine Art Research’.

organized by Prof Wolfgang Weileder

Rachel Wells: ‘Writing your dissertation’, 18/10/2011

In this seminar, Rachel Wells will discuss some of the practicalities of writing your dissertation. The session is aimed at both PhD and MFA students. Drawing upon her own experience of doctoral research, Rachel will discuss aspects of writing including structuring your dissertation as a whole, composing the introduction and conclusion, completing an abstract, and compiling the bibliography and list of illustrations. We will also discuss planning and organising your time effectively.

Harry Pearson: ‘Let’s Get That Donut’, 01/11/2011

The opening scenes of the Charlie Kaufman scripted movie Adaptation strike a chord with all professional writers. The actor playing writer Kaufman sits in front of a blank computer screen in his LA apartment, his hands poised over the keyboards. “Time to get a donut” he thinks, then, “No. Donut is a reward. Must do something to earn reward. Must write to earn donut.” His fingers begin to punch the keys. The words “EXTERIOR. DAY,” appear on the computer screen. “Cool,” says the voiceover, “Now, let’s get that donut”. This seminar will include a journey through the author’s career including many wild and illuminating tales from two decades spent hanging around with highly respected journalists waiting for the waiter in the stadium press centre to finally unlock the fridge containing the free Carlsberg. Including: the infamous tale of Peter “Batty” Batt and the Pyrenean plane crash, how the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger interfered with some very important photos of Sir Bobby Robson and why US political journalists threw a colleague from a moving train. Along the way you shall hear myriad tips on how to sharpen, polish and brighten your writing (not least of which will be never to use words such as myriad, or string a trio of verbs together just to fill up some space). All from a man who writes on average 300,000 words a year, most of them in more or less the correct order, and eats an awful lot of donuts.

Sheila McGregor, Ruth Wilbur: ‘Axis Arts’ (, 22/11/2011

Joel Fisher: ‘Beginning work’, 06/12/2011

Most artists — visual artists, musicians and writers — have personalized rituals that are an invisible part of their practice.  For the most part these actions precede the work session, though occasionally they follow. The seminar on December 6 will introduce this topic, as a basis for discussion. The introduction will be a short talk introducing a few examples from artists both past and present. Each of these stories will raise interesting questions at the same time they are introducing this subject. Please don’t be late for these examples. Prepare for this seminar by writing down your own rituals (if you are aware of them.) What habits do you have when you begin your day’s work? Are there specific things that you to prepare? Are there some things that come from outside? During art school, regular tutorials can achieve ritual status. For many people their beginning rituals can be is as simple as reading the morning paper while having a cup of coffee.  For others it is changing clothes, something that is both practical and symbolic. Musicians might practice scales, singers might do warming up exercises, New Zealand athletes might perform the Hake, and some theatre groups do something similar. There are artists who light a candle, others, whether it needs it or not, will wash the floor. Some artists exercise or meditate. Many of these initial rituals serve as periods of transitions— but transitions into what?  Often these actions are unnoticed. To what extent are they considered essential? Consciously or unconsciously these actions condition and contribute to the creation of effective works.

Prof Wolfgang Weileder: ‘Connecting Principle Research Forum’, 07/02/2012

Connecting Principle is an art centred international multi-disciplinary research forum at Newcastle University instigating a dialogue between art and other disciplines. The aim of the forum is to increase opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration within academia and independently. Connecting Principle sees itself as an international network of artists, theorists and researchers. Our current activities feature a series of presentations, round table discussions and an annual two-day event that showcases the recent projects and collaborations of our members. The seminar will give a brief introduction to the Connecting Principle Research Forum and its plans for future events and activities. We will discuss opportunities for postgraduate Fine Art students to get actively involved.

Prof Tina Haase and Yvonne Leinfelder (TU Munich): ‘The neuralgic point’, 21/02/2012

This presentation focuses on art in the context of particular spaces or locations. By means of simple and often minimal interventions, such art aims to bring into focus the particular quality or "neuralgic" point of a space or location. In this way, a space or location can be endowed with a completely different mood, thus inviting a second consideration of its nature and function, which in turn often reveals the viewer's own expectations.

Jonathan Watkins, Director of IKON Gallery, Birmingham: ‘Art History’, 08/03/2012

For too long in the west those working with contemporary art have tended to repudiate art history. This is a legacy of modernism, an ideology that insisted on every new art movement surpassing the one before, and thus young, emerging artists tend to be fetishised. Like vampires, exhibition curators crave fresh virgin blood, and what has gone before is deemed uninteresting, unadventurous.  Students here are rarely taught about any art that is dated before 1900, by which time the seeds of modernism had been well and truly sown. Art practice without art history is doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past? Well, maybe, maybe not, but certainly a constant emphasis on the avant garde means that a lot of good art work gets overlooked due to eyes being fixed on what lies ahead. For myself, I am concerned to be part of a global art conversation in which it is important to make statements that are pertinent, relevant and not detached from current (art) affairs, but this doesn’t mean that art history has nothing to offer.

Postmodernism wasn’t so bad. The word itself (“postmodernism”) became tired and uncool, and certainly aesthetic crimes were committed with a superficial understanding of the theory, but the postmodern attempt to reset the whole artistic machine was laudable. The cut-and-paste styles, the camp appropriations were awful, but the idea that we could be eclectic, instead of purist - that we could have both David Bowie and Beethoven on our playlists - was like a breath of fresh air. ‘Why not?’ was the right question, and it still is because, still, the aspiration to the condition of fashion in art persists.

Art itself is a kind of fashion, as history teaches us that there hasn’t always been art. Kitagawa Utamaro, recently shown at Ikon, had no idea of “art”, as we now understand it, when he made his beautiful woodblock prints. Art came later, with Europeans, c.1850. Utamaro’s pictures were not made by him to be put in frames on museum walls but instead to be collected for a very small amount of money (the equivalent of three bowls of rice) and then passed around, hand to hand, amongst a group of friends. As art they sell for thousands and thousands. I have come to the conclusion after many years of working in the art world that, paradoxically, those artists who don’t care so much for art are the most interesting ones. The ones who aren’t so precious, not so married to an artistic identity, are usually the best, and this encourages me to think that art, as a kind of pseudo-religion, will not always be with us.

Dr. Cath Keay: ‘Writing a practice-led PhD in Fine Art’ (part 1), 13/03/2012

Dr Cath Keay is a sculptor who uses various strategies and external forces out with the 'hand of the artist' to determine the final forms of her work. She completed a practice-led PhD in Fine Art at Newcastle in 2011 which addressed the research questions 'What means and materials can be used to relinquish authorial control in sculptural production', and 'Is it possible to devise a written equivalent both to elucidate this aim and reflect subjective creative processes in sculptural practice?’ The submission included 5 separately bound texts, the form and function of which echoes sculptural production and presentation. In this seminar we will discuss how to balance the written and practical components and explore ways of writing a thesis that reflects and informs your art. We will discuss what the written element of a practice led PhD could and should consist of.  The scope of contextual/literature reviews, methodologies, abstracts and conclusions will be explored and you will be asked to identify your ideal reader. Personal experience of any pitfalls and compromises will be fully and frankly explained.

Dr Richard Hollinshead; ‘Writing a practice-led PhD in Fine Art’ (part 2), 17/04/2012

Session summary:

    • A short history of what steps he went through to arrive at his current work and his current job – how everything stitches together.
    • A decent amount about his experience of going through a PhD research process, and (finally) getting the award. Covering all the ‘classics’ that PhD candidates get stressed about: the relationship between text and artwork; the case for art practice as research; the research and wider art practice; and going through the write up and viva processes.
    • A bit about his current studio practice and his role at Grit & Pearl, and how it’s been informed by that PhD research.
    • An explanation of what Grit & Pearl does, how they work with artists etc.
    • Hopefully some questions and a good conversation

Prof Volker Straub: ‘Genetics and Art Science Collaborations’, 01/05/2012

In the seminar I will briefly talk about my work as a clinical geneticist and will introduce some of the research projects we are doing to better understand disease mechanisms and to develop treatments for patients with genetic conditions. I will then focus on the challenges how to communicate new developments in genetics and how important improved communication about genetics is and will be for society. Doctors treating patients with incurable genetic conditions have long been aware that their approach to explaining something as intangible as a genetic diagnosis is very different from the way a patient may conceptualise their own illness. The general public has a different perspective again, and speaking to scientists and researchers reveals yet another way of “understanding” genetics. It is challenging to talk about genes and DNA because DNA is complicated and in essence invisible, as John Ogborn points out in Explaining Science in the Classroom; ‘An explanation of the mechanism of heredity involves novel actions of novel entities...The story involves unfamiliar objects which do unfamiliar things in an inaccessible world’. Watson and Crick first used the term  ‘information system’ to describe DNA and subsequently it has been variously referred to as a blueprint, a map, a code and, as Eric Lander said on completion of the mapping of the human genome. I don’t know if people realise that we have just found the world’s greatest history book. We are going to be kept up every night reading tales from the genome.

The idea that DNA is ‘the book of life' is commonplace.  And whilst it is argued by some that the book metaphor is outdated it is still widely used and indeed is used to describe the genetic changes that causes disease, where the gene change can be described as that of a very small typo somewhere in a very big book inside an enormous library with only a few clues as to where to start looking for it. The interesting questions I would like to discuss in the seminar: can and does art facilitate communication between science and the public?

Dr Lilian Mary Nabulime: ‘Writing a practice-led PhD in Fine Art’ (part 3), 15/05/2012

Dr Lilian Mary Nabulime holds a Fine Art PhD (Newcastle University 2007), thesis: The role of sculptural forms as a communication tool in relation to the lives and experiences of women with HIV/AIDS in Uganda. Lilian’s work uses everyday objects from Ugandan women's lives (for example, soap, sieves, cloth, mirror) to embody a specific social agenda that attempts to raise awareness and promote discussion about sexual practices in the context of increasing HIV/AIDS prevalence. Her work attempts to move the meaning of art beyond the visual and into the social. Her practice led Fine Art PhD explored the use of sculpture, developed through research into the lives and experiences of Ugandan women living with HIV/AIDS, as a tool for raising awareness about the illness.  In her presentation Lilian will talk about the project, and how it developed, changed and concluded.