This academic year (2017-18), Test Lab will be dedicated to a discussion of Writing and the PhD. Tackling the issue of writing in the context of PhDs in art and design practice, theory and history, Test Lab will approach the subject of writing from philosophical, epistemological, political, autobiographical, gendered, ethical, and experimental vantage points, as well as the practical and mundane aspects that are vital to writing a PhD.
In light of this remit, Test Lab will host a series of guest speakers including artists, academics, PhD students from inside and outside of UAL who will engage with the topic of Writing and the PhD through workshops, readings, lectures, and performances.
Test Lab runs on Wednesdays on alternate weeks to The Art of Questioning.
Test Lab will take place from 11 – 1pm in various rooms throughout CSM, KX, please check locations carefully. Thank you.
All UAL PhD students are welcome to attend. But, spaces are limited, so please confirm your attendance by emailing Joanne Morra. It is expected that you will attend sessions regularly. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
If you are interested in contributing a presentation to this year’s Test Lab, please contact the convenor Dr Joanne Morra (email@example.com)
4 October, 11- 1pm, CSM, KX, Learning Zone Pods
Speaker: Dr Joanne Morra, ‘Exposing Writing’ (CSM, Reader in Art History and Theory)
Research is often presented as a final polished product: whether it be a PhD, an article, a book, an exhibition, or an artwork. Buffed and shined, it is not often that we see or hear about the ups and downs that are key to research and writing as practices.
In this session, we will expose these processes by asking: how do we begin a work of art or piece of writing? How can we articulate the moment in which something takes shape as our labour (our work) is transformed into an artwork or a piece of writing or an exhibition? How do we know (or decide) when something is finished, or when it is a failure? What happens next? And what are our experiential and subjective relationships to these practices and processes as practices and processes? What conscious and unconscious, real or imaginary fears, memories, anxieties, desires and pleasures impact upon what we do, what we hope and day-dream of doing?
Dr Joanne Morra works on contemporary art and psychoanalysis. She is particularly interested in spaces of practice – studio, study, gallery and consulting room – and what each space can offer the others. Publications on this topic include: ‘The Work of Research: Remembering, Repeating and Working-through’, in What is Research in the Visual Arts? Obsession, Archive, Encounter, eds. Holly and Smith (2008); ‘On Use: Art Education and Psychoanalysis’, Journal of Visual Culture (April 2017), and ‘Being In Analysis: On the Intimate Art of Transference’, Journal of Visual Art Practice (Winter 2017). Her recent book Inside the Freud Museums: History, Memory and Site-Responsive Art will be out this Autumn with IB Tauris. She is working on her next book, In the Studio and On the Couch: Art, Autobiography and Psychoanalysis.
18 October, 11- 1pm, CSM, KX, Room, D119
Speaker: Dr Caterina Albano, ‘Art Writing’ (CSM, Reader in Visual Culture and Science)
The session will draw on some general considerations gained by my personal experience of writing in the arts and about artistic practices as starting points of discussion. Issues of contextualization, theorization and analysis will be considered through practical examples. Students are welcome to bring material related to their own research to be used for further discussion.
Dr Caterina Albano is a Reader in Visual Culture and Science at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London and holds a PhD in Renaissance Studies (London University). Albano curates, lectures and publishes in the fields of art, cultural history and cultural theory, in particular emotion and affect, memory and consciousness; and on the theory of curating. She is the author of Memory, Forgetting and the Moving Image (Palgrave MacMillan, 2016) and Fear and Art in the Contemporary World (Reaktion Books, 2012). Her curatorial work includes the exhibitions Psychoanalysis: The Unconscious in Everyday Life (Science Museum, London, 2009-10), and Crossing Over: Art, Science and Biotechnologies (The Royal Institution of Great Britain, London, 2008); Head On: Art with the Brain in Mind (Science Museum/Wellcome Trust, 2002) and The Genius of Genetics (Mendel Museum, Brno 2002). She was the curatorial consultant for Medicine and Art: Imagining a Future for Life and Love – Leonardo, Okyo, Damien Hirst (Mori Museum/ Wellcome Collection, Tokyo, 2009-10), First Time Out (Wellcome Collection, 2011), Spectacular Bodies (Hayward Gallery 2000) and Seduced (Barbican Art Gallery 2007). For the latter, she curated The Voice of Sex.
1 November, 11- 1pm, CSM, KX, Room D117
Speaker: Professor Jane Rendell, ‘Site-Writing: A Critical Spatial Practice?’ (Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL)
Written responses to art and architectural works happen somewhere – they occur in situ – so then the writing of criticism should be considered a form of situated practice. The desire to work with variations in voice, form and structure, to trace, reflect and create spatial distances and proximities between work and critic, reader and text, has been the motivation for Site-Writing, a collection of essays and text-works installed, performed and written between 1998 and 2008 by Jane Rendell which question and perform notions of situatedness and spatiality in critical writing through the design of the text itself. The take up of writing as a form of critical spatial practice works critique through an activist, propositional and poetic mode across a matrix of possibilities – positional, relation, spatial, and textual. This talk will explore some of these with reference to some recent works.
Professor Jane Rendell has introduced ‘critical spatial practice’ and ‘site-writing’ through her writing which crosses architecture, art, feminism, history and psychoanalysis. Her authored books include The Architecture of Psychoanalysis (2017), Silver (2016), Site-Writing (2010), Art and Architecture (2006), and The Pursuit of Pleasure (2002). Jane teaches experimental and spatialized forms of site-writing on the MA Situated Practices at the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, where she also supervises PhDs. She is Professor of Architecture & Art and Director of History & Theory and leads the Bartlett’s Ethics Commission.
15 November, 11- 1pm, CSM, KX, Room D102b
Speaker: Professor Roger Sabin, ‘Writing and the PhD’ (CSM, Professor of Popular Culture)
What is ‘appropriate style’? Can you use the first person? Be witty? How should you pace yourself? Is it a good idea to publish your research in journals as you go along? How much research should you be doing? Should you be reading everything about your topic? How do you know when to stop? What are the pros and pitfalls of the various style guides (Harvard vs Chicago, etc.)? Finally, what kinds of writing are valued in an academic career?
Dr Roger Sabin is Professor of Popular Culture at UAL. He specialises in comics, graphic novels, and fringe literature, and is currently researching the Victorian entertainment business. As a supervisor, he has seen 11 PhD students to completion.
22 November, 11-1pm, CSM, KX, Room D102b
Extra Session: Special Event – Dr Brooke Belisle, Stony Brook University, USA
In this workshop we will take a close look at one particular artwork, several ways of approaching aesthetic experience, and the craft of writing about art. While looking “live” at one work of art, we will draft two different responses, modeling two different methodological approaches explained in pre-circulated readings. Through this process, we will consider how closely prose style is linked to method–how our ways of looking and thinking influence our assumptions, observations, and arguments. Working with our drafts, we will also brush up on fundamental skills including: how to make a strong argument and choose an effective structure; how to link observations and claims; how to refine the clarity, style, and voice of your prose. This workshop should be helpful for artists, curators, and anyone interested in engaging and writing about art.
Dr Brooke Belisle researches and teaches the history and theory of photography, cinema, and digital media. Her work focuses on the recurrent disruptions and possibilities of “new media,” exploring emergent formats and experimental practices that echo across different historical periods of technological and social transformation. She teaches at Stony Brook University in Art History and in the Consortium for Digital Art, Culture, and Technology; directs an interdisciplinary graduate certificate in Media, Art, Culture, and Technology; co-chairs the CinemArts special interest group of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies; and serves as an editor of the Journal of Visual Culture. Offprints of many of her publications can be found at https://sbsuny.academia.edu/BrookeBelisle.
29 November, 11- 1pm, CSM, KX, Room D119
Speaker: Robert Gadie ‘Writing as a manifold issue for research in the arts’, (Chelsea College of Art, UAL, PhD)
The recommendations of the first Coldstream report in 1960 aimed to regulate arts education in the UK. This is now seen as a decisive moment in arts education because it inadvertently built a division between the theory and practice of art; history and theory were removed to the classroom, and were seen as second to practice. In her PhD thesis, Fiona Candlin (1998; 28) claims that this gulf between theory and practice in art is the context and inheritance of practice-based/-led research in the arts.
The tension between art and writing is seen as ‘one of the central problems experienced by both students and their supervisors in […] degree programmes’ (Borgdorff and Schwab 2014; 12). However this issue is not unique to research in the arts, as similar issues arose during the crises of representation in Sociology (see Zammito 2004) and Ethnography (see Clifford and Marcus 1986). In this presentation I will look at how this issue has been met in practice (in Art PhDs), and how it relates to the problematic discourse of ‘artistic research’.
-Borgdorff, Henk. & Schwab, Michael. eds. (2014). The Exposition of Artistic Research; Publishing Art in Academia. Leiden University Press, Netherlands.
-Candlin, Fiona. (1998). Artwork and the boundaries of academia: a theoretical/practical negotiation of contemporary art practice within the conventions of academic research. Unpublished PhD thesis, Keele University, Staffordshire.
-Clifford, James. & Marcus, George. (1986). Writing culture: the politics and poetics of ethnography. University of California Press, Berkeley.
-Zammito, John H. (2004). A nice derangement of epistemes : post-positivism in the study of science from Quine to Latour. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
Robert Gadie is a part-time PhD student at CCW Graduate School, University of the Arts London. His research seeks to explicate the contributions to knowledge that artists make, by considering all the practice-based/-led Art PhDs completed at Chelsea College of Art and Design from 1998 to 2013/14. Robert is currently the Principal Editor for the Journal of Arts Writing by Students (JAWS) published by Intellect, and uses this experience to inform his teaching of postgraduate students’ essay writing practice.
10 January, 11- 1pm, CSM, KX, Room C105
Speaker: Professor Malcolm Quinn, ‘Writing the History of Ideas’ (CCW)
24 January, 11- 1pm, CSM, KX, Room C105
Speaker: Bridget Harvey (Associate Lecturer, PhD, Camberwell College of Art, Visiting Lecturer, Chelsea College of Art, UAL)
During my journey as a PhD student I realized an urgent need to learn to write, and to learn about writing in relationship to my practice. In order to deepen my understanding of textual practices, I undertook a years worth of writing classes and personal research. In this workshop I will reflect on these experiences, my attempts to understand the relationships and tensions inherent in it, and hold a short discussion around the relationship between self-making through textual content, writing by hand and hand-making artefacts.
7 February, 11- 1pm, CSM, KX, Room D109
21 February, 11- 1pm, CSM, KX, Room D102b
Speaker: Dr Sharon Phelps, ‘The relation between art practice and writing’ (Chelsea College of Arts, UAL)
Sharon Phelps will share her experience of writing about art practice in the context of a PhD thesis, with a focus on the relation between practice and writing. Her research investigated Canadian-American artist Agnes Martin’s art-making methods in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Martin was known for her meditative approach to painting. Those methods were examined in a contemporary context and through the researcher’s own practice. The presentation will give an insight into the strategies that Sharon found helpful to write about art-making methods and artworks. She will also bring along some actual examples of the art practice which formed part of her research.
Dr Sharon Phelps completed a practice-led PhD at Chelsea College of Arts in 2017, titled ‘Agnes Martin: painting as making and its relation to contemporary practice’ (DoS Jeff Dennis, Co-Supervisor Dr Paul Ryan). Her research examines the limits of painting now and investigates how painting can extend into sculptural objects. The written thesis aimed to keep practice central throughout and to adopt a style of writing which mirrored the subject of her research.
7 March, 11- 1pm, CSM, KX, Room D115
Speaker: James Landor, ‘How might we write stories about storeys?’ (PhD candidate, UAL)
Written accounts of Balfron Tower feature in several archives, including architect Ernö Goldfinger’s papers and Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives. An analogy between these stories and the storeys which characterise this high-density public housing scheme, built in East London in 1968, is at the centre of James’ research project. In this practice-led research, a reciprocal relationship between writing, archives and architecture is being constructed, while the empty Tower is being restored ahead of being privatised. The aim of the 7th March 2018 will be to share an investigation of how writing could be accommodated through group discussion using materials from James’ unofficial archive for Balfron Tower.
James Landor joined the artist live+work scheme at Balfron Tower from 2012-16. His thesis draws upon lived experience as an artist not a specialist, whose practice-led research furthers Ernö Goldfinger’s claim in 1942 for the involvement of the non-specialist in non-art matters. James recently co-published a book with Tamara Stoll, made possible with funding from UAL. https://issuu.com/balfrontower/docs/walking_between_streets_in_the_sky
25 April, 11- 1pm, CSM, KX, Room D109
9 May, 11- 1pm, CSM, KX, Room C106
Speaker: Paul Micklethwaite, ‘PhDs in Design: Writing and Practice’ (Kingston School of Art, Director of Design Research)
PhDs incorporating design practice are growing in number. What is the difference between practice-based and practice-led design research? What research work is done by design practice? How does academic research relate to design practice? What is the relationship between the ‘writing’ and the ‘practice’ in a design PhD? We will explore these questions by considering examples of PhDs in design (many of them relating to dimensions of sustainability) from Kingston over the years.
Dr Paul Micklethwaite is course leader of MA Sustainable Design, and Director of Research in The Design School at Kingston School of Art. He is co-author of the influential course reader Design for Sustainable Change(AVA Academia, 2011), and represents Kingston on the steering group of the London Doctoral Design Centre (LDoc). Paul’s own PhD asked the seemingly impossible question, ‘What is design?’
23 May, 11- 1pm, CSM, KX, Room D105
Speaker: Dr Zoe Mendelson, ‘Clutter-writing: A journey into theoretical fiction and unwieldy cut-up methodologies’ (Wimbledon College of Art, UAL)
This talk (and discussion) will focus on how writing too much in increasingly complex formats became integral to the content and context of my PhD. I will look at how methodologies particular to collage came to dominate my writing practice, having long been acknowledged within my visual arts practice. I will also examine how they continue to dominate my methodological approaches post-PhD and how questioning the role of writing in the thesis has made me more confident as both a writer and a reader in the longer term.
Dr Zoe Mendelson is an artist, writer and am course leader for BA Fine Art, Painting at Wimbledon College of Arts . She co-curate the network paintingresearch with Geraint Evans.
Mendelson’s work incorporates animation, collage, drawing, installation, performance and fiction writing. Using collation as a methodological framework she creates networks between psychoanalytic theory, psychotherapeutic practice, spatial theory, fine art and critical practice. Her PhD, at Central Saint Martins, was titled ‘Psychologies and Spaces of Accumulation: The hoard as collagist methodology (and other stories)’. This research locates and spatialises systematised archiving alongside seemingly pathological object relations, and includes relationships drawn between urban space and wellness. Mendelson’s research engages disorder as a culturally produced phenomenon, in parallel to its clinical counterpart, suggesting its value to knowledge production within Fine Art and critical theory.