Test Lab

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. (g.morra@csm.arts.ac.uk)

If you are interested in contributing a presentation to this year’s Test Lab, please contact the convenor Dr Joanne Morra (g.morra@csm.arts.ac.uk)


Autumn Term

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.


 Spring Term

10 January, 11- 1pm, CSM, KX, Room C105

Speaker: Professor Malcolm Quinn, ‘Writing the History of Ideas’ (CCW)

This seminar will introduce the relationship between research and writing in the History of Ideas, an approach which emphasizes the historical context of the development of key ideas that have shaped modern thought.  Malcolm Quinn will discuss a recent publication in the journal ‘History of European Ideas’ in order to elucidate the requirements and opportunities that are available for researchers working in this area, and how the modes of writing used in the history of ideas can be applied to research in art, design and communication.
Preparatory Readings
Malcolm Quinn ‘Jeremy Bentham on Liberty of Taste’ http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/01916599.2016.1234966
Rosemary Hill ‘At Pallant House’ LRB 39(8) 20 April 2017
Malcolm Quinn is Professor of Cultural and Political History and Honorary Senior Research Associate, UCL Faculty of Law, Bentham Project. His current research engages with ideas that were foundational for state funded art education in England – utility, taste, well-being, cultural prejudice and social equity. The identification of this set of foundational concepts has developed from historical work on how the state funded art school emerged from a utilitarian critique of the academy in England the 1830s.  This research is summarised in his book ‘Utilitarianism and the Art School in Nineteenth-Century Britain’ London: Pickering and Chatto 2012.


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.

This will be followed by a series of hands-on creative writing and reading exercises designed to help us explore writing about material practice from different angles and through different lenses.
Please bring paper and a writing implement!!
Bridget Harvey is a maker based in London, tactually exploring narrative patinas – use, repair, and memory. She seeks materials that initially seem past their best: tatty jumpers, broken ceramics, fabric remnants as a basis for investigating process, materials, and social actions through making. Simultaneously embedding, showing and hiding narrative, her interventions re-story the familiar, and reconstruct the forgotten.Previous research in to slowness and playfulness in practice led her to investigate repair-making for her AHRC PhD, RepairAbility: Repair-Making as Material and Social Action.
She is associate lecturer on MA Designer Maker at Camberwell College of Arts, and visiting lecturer on MA Textile Design at Chelsea College of Art.


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


Summer Term

25 April, 11- 1pm, CSM, KX, Room D109

Speaker: Dr Jamie Brassett, ‘Deleuze and Guattari’s Rhizome’ (Reader in Philosophy, Design & Innovation) 

Having read Deleuze+Guattari’s ‘Introduction Rhizome’ from A Thousand Plateaus, we will spend the time discussing what the value of writing & book-production is for D+G & how this might impact on students’ own creative production, including the writing.
Dr Jamie Brassett is Reader in Philosophy, Design & Innovation & has worked at CSM since 1995. His Philosophy PhD (Warwick 1993) investigated subjectivity & space, looking at Deleuze, Guattari & Bachelard. Jamie has written book chapters & journal articles on a wide range of subjects, co-editing Deleuze & Design (EUP 2015). New book projects include Superheroes & philosophy of excess (Routledge 2020), Anticipation (Routledge) & other writing on social innovation, design, futures & ethics.

9 May, 11- 1pm, CSM, KX, Room C106

Speaker: Dr 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. 

6 June, 11:30- 1:30pm, CSM, KX, Room A116  – Please note we will be starting at 11:30

Speaker: Dr Jamie Brassett, ‘Trying to Write About Superheroes’

I have a contract with Routledge to produce a book on Superheroes. I’m editing with a friend & colleague, Richard Reynolds who’s a world renowned expert on Superheroes. It’ll be a collection of essays on philosophical themes related to excess. Noone’s written about superheroes & excess before; which seems strange. And excessive philosophies (Bataille, Nietzsche, Klossowski, Deleuze etc). Our publishing deadline is 2020. So far so good. Except I can’t get any enthusiasm up to do the chapter I’ve pitched (& had accepted). Sound familiar? Here’s what I’m going to do…
Dr Jamie Brassett is Reader in Philosophy, Design & Innovation & has worked at CSM since 1995. His Philosophy PhD (Warwick 1993) investigated subjectivity & space, looking at Deleuze, Guattari & Bachelard. Jamie has written book chapters & journal articles on a wide range of subjects, co-editing Deleuze & Design (EUP 2015). New book projects include Superheroes & philosophy of excess (Routledge 2020), Anticipation (Routledge) & other writing on social innovation, design, futures & ethics.
20 June, 11- 1pm, CSM, KX, Room A116      Apologies: Postponed until next academic year
Speaker: Jane Rendell, Site-Writing Workshop (Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL)
In this workshop you will be able to explore the spatial qualities of writing in relation to your own research and practice,and have a chance to experiment with different voices and ways of working with sites, words, sounds and images.
Please bring with you to the workshop
– two items from/related to your own research project and site (e.g. a photograph, a sound, a film clip, a drawing, an object, a text, etc.).
– your usual writing tools: digital and/or analogue.
– other tools that you use in your own practice, for example: camera, audio recording device, computers, fabric, etc.
And here is some background reading if you have time.
Claire Doherty, ‘Introduction/Situation’, Situation (London: Whitechapel/MIT), pp. 1-12.
Della Pollock, ‘Performing Writing’, pp. 73-103.
27 June, 11-1pm, CSM, KX, Room C106     Apologies – Postponed until next academic year

Speaker: Dr Rachel Cattle, The Continuous Broadcast (Tutor: BAFA, CSM)

The air is soft, malleable, and as I start to feel my way around, my fingers leave small indents. How to convey this? ((((((((((((((((())))))) ((((((((((((((((()))))))))))))))) I turn up the sound and you hear a woman’s voice softly humming on a repeated loop.

The Continuous Broadcasttakes thenotion of ‘radio’ as a holding space for ideas operating on the margins, within the areas of intuitive, experimental, process led, often female and non-boundaried approaches to music/sound and writing seen within the context of contemporary fine art practice.

My recently completed PhDexplores and articulates the complexities of transmission by embracing notions of interiority and sensitivity, tuning in and out of established patterns and rhythms. The elements of its thesis consist of a box of publications and a vinyl record. These utilise a variety of personal, diaristic and auto fictive forms (my voice, as broadcaster, performing a key role).

In this session,I will be discussing the box and my writing, aroundand throughsound, drawing and feeling asnotebook, diary, shopping list, email, concrete poetry and song.

We may do some writing experiments – please bring pen and paper and digital writing platforms.

Rachel Cattle’s interdisciplinary practice involves drawing, writing and sound, often incorporating publishing, performance and collaborative aspects. Her work has been broadcast and exhibited in galleries and institutions including Resonance fm, The Barbican Art Gallery, London, The ICA, London, Focalpoint, Southend,Maureen Paley, London and she is currently an associate member of the collectiveFive Years. Recent publications include Witch Dancepublished by The Centre for Useless Splendour, and current project Your Singing Eyes and Fingersis due to be published by Spiralbound Press in 2018.

In 2017 she completed an AHRC TECHNE funded Contemporary Art PhD at Kingston University, entitledI am a Stylus: Play, Erase, Replay, Overdub, Broadcast as Strategies for Contemporary Art Practice.

She is currently is a third year tutor on BA Fine Art at Central Saint Martins.

https://rachelcattle.wordpress.com/                    https://uselesssplendour.wordpress.com/

The Doctoral Platform at CSM offers PhD candidates the space in which to meet, share research, as well as co-ordinate, curate and participate in a variety of events.

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