Test Lab 2018-19

This academic year (2018-19), Test Lab will be dedicated to a discussion of Process and the PhD. Tackling various processes that constitute a PhD in art and design, we will be considering the challenges, surprises and achievements involved in the intellectual, practical and emotional aspects of undertaking research.

 As such, we will be considering processes such as making, experimenting, writing and not-writing, and collaboration; as well as micro- and macro-methods and methodologies, for instance, interviewing, note-making, archival research, documenting and publishing work; and the emotional life of engaging in research such as listening, crying, resistance, and intuition.

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. So, please do check the 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, if possible. (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

10 October, 11-1pm, Room D107, CSM, KX

Speaker: David Cross, The problems of picturing resilience and sustainability (Reader CCW, UAL)

 AbstractAs an artist and designer, I am interested in the outcomes of contemporary visual culture, which range from cinema to sculptural installation, from satellite imaging to ‘selfies’. I am also concerned with the processes of visual culture, which encompass the reflective and questioning potential of art, and the problem-solving and communicating potential of design.

Art practice can do more than produce aesthetic experiences — it allows for ambiguity and paradox, and can generate productive forms of doubt. In situations of complexity, uncertainty and risk, art can offer a ‘safe space’ in which to test assumptions and compare perspectives. Similarly, design can do more than create the look and feel of a message or product. Design can be a way of thinking that engages strategically with whole systems, and could create new approaches to social, economic and ecological crisis.

The practices of picturing are common to art and design. Picturing includes ‘framing’, which refers to how issues are defined and categorized; ‘representing’, which refers to how signs operate within codes shaped by contexts; and ‘envisioning’, which refers to how new ideas are proposed through visual forms.

For this Test Lab session, I propose to apply those practices of picturing to the problematic concepts of resilience and sustainability, and to discuss with you the relationship between how we see, what we know, and what can be done about some of the most pressing issues of our time.

David Cross is an artist and Reader at UAL. Informing his research, practice and teaching is a critical engagement with the contested ideals of ‘sustainability’ and ‘resilience’ in relation to visual culture. His work aims to identify a cultural paradigm shift in the transition from finite to renewable energy sources; with students at UAL, David campaigned for UAL to divest £3.9 million from fossil fuels, which in 2015 it pledged to do.


24 October, 11-1pm, Room D115, CSM, KX

Speaker: Caterina Albano, ‘Let me out of here’: Research and the Conundrum of Emotion (Reader in Visual Culture and Science, CSM)

Abstract: Whatever is going on in our daily life does not go away during our periods of research, but rather mingles with it in unpredictable and sometimes upsetting ways; the PhD journey and relationships with peers, colleagues and supervisors are riddled with emotions; and emotion can be the direct or indirect subject of research: how can we navigate the emotional conundrum of what life inside and outside a research project throw at us? Drawing from my personal experience, as a researcher, writer and supervisor, but also as an academic who has made emotion her topic of research, I shall explore some the challenges and potentials that emotions present us with.

Dr Caterina Albano is a Reader in Visual Culture and Science, and teaches and supervises doctoral students at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London. She is also responsible for the PhD Workshops, Doctoral Platform, CSM, and shares responsibilities as PhD tutor. Albano also lectures, publishes and curates, 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), of journal articles and essays on the history of emotion, anatomy, on memory and contemporary art, and curating. Albano convened the international symposium Anxious Places: Angst, Environments and Affective Contamination (CSM, University of the Arts London, 2014) and other events part of UAL collaboration to the Anxiety Arts Festival London.


7 November, 11-1pm, Room A117, CSM, KX

Speaker: Adriana Cobo, From Visual Cultures in Architecture to The Spider and the Bird (PhD, CSM)

AbstractAfter four years working on practice-led research, little coherence remains between the initial proposal written to apply for a doctorate placement at CSM, and my current PhD description. For this Test Lab session, I will focus on the un-expected events which potentially challenge research processes, re-shape research-practice methodologies and conduce to research contexts alien to us at the outset. Such events demand that researchers sharpen their predispositions to observe and adjust, analyse and construct individual research routes, which might lead towards un-forecasted, intuition-based contributions to knowledge. 

During the session, research-practice records in the form of pre-determined briefs, drawings, on-site annotations, photographs or conversations will be shared. This to acknowledge, discuss and script the roles of un-invited actors taking up as protagonist of the PhD process.

Adriana Cobo works on performance architecture for the public square. Trained as an architect and scenographer, she has explored themes such as architectural ornament and replica, panoptical structures and the ethics of modern architecture through both, research and practice. Adriana has explored the influence of the narcotic trade from her native city of Cali, on architectural aesthetics throughout Colombia (Is Ornament a Crime? – Observations for architects on the Colombian Narco-aesthetics, Esfera Pública, 2008; Daily Pages Magazine, 2009). She has practiced extensively as lecturer in architecture in Colombia and the UK. Her panoramic installations Panorama of a Room (2005-2007) and Drawing the City (2004-2009) have been exhibited in Cali, Bogota, London and Wroclaw. Her performances The Great Unwashed (2015-16), The Disappearing Garden (2017-18) and Granny Square (2018-19), are tailored to Granary Square, the flagship privately owned public space in London’s King’s Cross. These constitute her current research-practice, which critically examines the codes and practices of contemporary public space, including taste and architectural design.  Adriana is a PhD Candidate at Central Saint Martins with the project Taste Untold.


 21 November, 11-1pm, Room D115, CSM, KX

Speaker: Jane Rendell, Site-Writing Workshop (Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL)

Abstract: 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.

 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.


 5 December, 11-1pm, Room D103, CSM, KX

Speaker: Roger Sabin, How did I get into this mess? (CSM)

Abstract: The ‘process of the PhD’ can be messy, unexpected, and digressive. How to manage these uncertainties? This talk will involve Prof. Sabin interviewing two people who have recently completed their PhDs, in order to explore what happens ‘in-between’ the usual staging-posts (registration, confirmation, submission). It will cover different kinds of note-taking (including visual), the issue of making the practice talk to the theory (and vice-versa), and the value of ‘reflective’ sections in the thesis. It will also raise questions around personal development and how to prepare for ‘what comes after’.
Professor Roger Sabin is Professor of Popular Culture, and as well being a researcher, supervises PhD students. He also teaches across the BA and MA Culture, Criticism and Curation. His writing includes books, essays and journalism (please see Research Profile), with other work involving broadcasting, consulting and curating for The Guardian, BBC and Tate Gallery. He serves on the boards of academic journals, and runs book lists for Palgrave Macmillan. His interests and specialisms include comics studies, cultural studies, subcultural studies, cultural history and comedy studies, and he is currently researching the 19th century entertainment business.



Spring Term

9 January, 11-1pm, Rm A117, CSM, KX

Speaker: Dr Marquard Smith, On Publishing and the PhD (University College London and Vilnius Academy of Arts)

Abstract: In this session we will discuss about the highs and lows of publishing your PhD. From getting a book proposal together, to revising your PhD into a book, or a chapter into an article. We will touch upon how to find an appropriate publisher and/or journal that suits your research, how to approach them, and what to expect once the text has been submitted to the Editor – from refereeing, to editing, to image copyright, to having the final, published text in your hands.

Dr Marquard Smith is Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Visual Culture (Sage), Professor of Artistic Research at Vilnius Academy of Arts, Lithuania, and Programme Leader of the MA Museums & Galleries in Education at UCL Institute of Education. Marq has worked as a Commissioning Editor for Reaktion Books; was a Founding Editor of the Cultural Theory journal parallax (Routledge); established KIOSK, a magazine of art, design, and architecture; and has published numerous books and edited collections with Yale University Press, The MIT Press, etc. Marq curates, programmes, and reads lots and lots of PhDs, article proposals, and book proposals.


23 January, 11-1pm, Room M303, CSM, KX



6 February, 11-1pm, Room D117, CSM, KX 

Speaker: Alison Green, Archives and Research, Archives and Exhibitions (Course Leader MA Culture, Curation, Criticism, CSM)

Abstract: Many know the excitement and pleasure of doing archival research but challenges surface when you start the process of making this research public. I’ll speak about several real-life examples of writing and exhibition projects I’ve worked on with archives at their centre. I’m particularly interested in moments when meaning is contested, whether between researcher and subject or researcher and audience.

Dr Alison Green is an art historian and curator. At Central Saint Martins she is Course Leader of MA Culture, Criticism and Curation and a PhD supervisor. Her book, When Artists Curate: Contemporary Art and the Exhibition as Medium, was published last May.


20 February, 11-1pm,  Room B002 CSM KX

Speaker: Bridget Harvey, Am I Even Still A Maker? (PhD candidate, CSM)

Abstract: Through the time and process of doing a practice-based PhD I lost and found myself several times. As I now come to the end of it, I am re-finding my makerly self through a making based residency at the V&A. I will talk about my journey to this point, including asserting myself as maker in my writing practice, and asserting myself as a maker after writing for so long, and the emotional ups and downs alongside it.

Bridget Harvey is a maker, curator and activist working at the intersection of craft, design, making and remaking. Through her practice, Harvey playfully examines the ‘optional durability’ of our possessions and questions consumption and production, ownership and materiality. She tinkers with discarded objects to make artefacts from materials that initially seem past their best, simultaneously embedding, showing and hiding narratives. Harvey takes a broad and playful approach, which encompasses wearing her works, protesting, exhibiting, curating, hosting community workshops, researching, writing, and giving talks


6 March, 11-1pm, Room D105, CSM, KX

Speaker:  Zoë Mendelson, ‘Clutter-writing: A journey into theoretical fiction and unwieldy cut-up methodologies’ (Wimbledon College of Arts, UAL)

Abstract: 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 Zoë Mendelson is an artist, writer and am course leader for BA Fine Art, Painting at Wimbledon College of Arts . She co-curates 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.



Summer Term

17 April, 11-1pm, Room D107, CSM, KX

Speaker: Jo Addison, ‘100. Cry’, Kingston University

Abstract: Having, for many years involuntarily engaged in what she considered inappropriate and unnecessary crying whilst attempting to make work, Jo Addison disclosed her secret only to the closest of allies. Then in 2014, she gave a talk at Nottingham Trent University, in which she spontaneously confessed. Following what turned out not to be the first time she divulged her secret in public, she found she became party to the numerous and various concealed behaviours of other artists. Through her collaboration with Natasha Kidd, these came to comprise the ongoing Inventory of Behaviours.

In this seminar, Addison will discuss the relationship between her own behaviours and the objects she makes before reflecting on what the Inventory of Behaviours and related contexts might be able to offer to teaching and learning practice in art. Amidst current educational preoccupations with evidencing and measuring production, what type of ‘work’ is valued? Can the inventory bring into focus and legitimise what is otherwise seen to be non-productive activity?

Jo Addison’s sculptural studio practice draws on theories around objecthood and making. She is represented by Tintype Gallery, where most recently she curated Work Work, a group show about the synthesis of teaching and making. Additionally, through performance events designed to stage the act of learning beyond the constraints of academia, her collaborative research with Natasha Kidd explores learning as form. Jo lives and works in London. She is joint Course Leader, BA Fine Art at Kingston School of Art, Kingston University.


1 May, 11-1pm, Room D105, CSM, KX

Speaker: Dr Jorella Andrews, ‘Using phenomenology in contemporary arts research: an introduction’, Department of Visual Cultures, Goldsmiths, University of London

Abstract: This workshop is a practical introduction to a range of phenomenological research orientations and techniques which are particularly useful in the early stages of the research process when you are (a) seeking to become intimately acquainted with your visual, textual, and other source materials and (b) searching for or developing critical and contextual frameworks for engaging with your sources in ways that will do them the most justice in terms of the insights they may potentially yield. More broadly, the workshop argues for the vital repositioning, reconceptualising (and thus decolonising) capacities of these techniques, techniques which – perhaps at first sight counter-intuitively – insist upon immersing us as scholars within the realms of the pre-objective and pre-critical.

Working individually with one or two specific visual, textual or other sources of your own choice (please bring these examples with you), three key phenomenologically-based skills will be addressed:

  • Drawing as a practice that assists and prolongs perception and activates crucial embodied, intuitive and pre-verbal or non-verbal modes of attention.
  • Description (defined by the phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty as ‘the first philosophical act’) in its varied modes as enabling nuanced and multi-perspectival scholarly exploration.
  • Modes of semi-structured and open-ended interviewing, analysis and interpretation(drawn from a recently-developed qualitative research methodology called Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis or IPA) whether of persons or, more controversially, of texts, images, objects and situations.


15 May, 11-1pm, Room D105, CSM, KX

Speaker: Maya Amrami, Social Media Self Makers: Developing New Modes of Analogue Self-Profiling with Multi-Sensory Properties (PhD Candidate, LCF, UAL)

Abstract: This practice led research project enquires into the contemporary phenomenon of social media self-profiling. Drawing on social sciences (Lacan’s Four Discourses, Goffman’s Presentation of Self) and Merleau-Ponty’s essay Eye and Mind, I explore analogies between profile creation on social media and the construction of self, subjectivity and identity through embodiment.

In my attempts to fortify the academic investigation through practice and vice versa, I generated a reflective journal documenting my conscious workflow of practice informed by research, seminars and readings throughout the first year of studies. The PPP1 journal reflects the process of my physical, perceptive and artistic entanglement with technology, further challenging the relationship between digital and analogue entwinement within the practice.

Maya Amrami creates portrait-based, media-cohesive performance art and tactile installations that are concerned with bodily, mental and emotional dis/integration.

Maya Amrami holds an MA in Printmaking and a BA in Fashion Design. Her professional career began with props and set design. Following her fashion design degree, she worked in the fashion industry for over a decade, art directing graphic-photographic project-based concepts surrounding the fashioned body in performance.


29 May, 11-1pm, Room D102B, CSM, KX

Speaker: Roger Sabin, How did I get into this mess? Part 2 (CSM) 

Abstract: This session will involve Prof Roger Sabin interviewing three PhDs (two prospective, one completed) about their methodologies, and how they apply theory. The field will be graphics/illustration/comics, but the theories and approaches are relevant across the board. Specifically, we will look at: autoethnography, graphic facilitation, and metaphor theory. We are glad to welcome Dr John Miers and Ahmed Jameel, once again, plus Pen Mendonca.


Professor Roger Sabin is Professor of Popular Culture, and as well being a researcher, supervises PhD students. He also teaches across the BA and MA Culture, Criticism and Curation. His writing includes books, essays and journalism (please see Research Profile), with other work involving broadcasting, consulting and curating for The Guardian, BBC and Tate Gallery. He serves on the boards of academic journals, and runs book lists for Palgrave Macmillan. His interests and specialisms include comics studies, cultural studies, subcultural studies, cultural history and comedy studies, and he is currently researching the 19th century entertainment business.


12 June, 11-1pm, Museum and Study Collection (Lethaby Gallery), CSM, KX

Speaker: Judy Willcocks (Head of CSM Museum & Study Collection), Ways of Reading Objects

Abstract: This workshop will use the CSM Museum & Study Collection to explore different research methodologies for engaging with objects. Participants will carry out a forensic examination of an object through description, deduction and hypothesis, followed by an exploration of emotional or extra-rational responses to the same object. This self-reflective exercise should surface habits of mind and personal research approaches as well as unpicking what drives our emotional responses.

 Judy Willcocks is Head of the CSM Museum & Study Collection and a Senior Research Fellow with a special interest in object-based learning. Judy also teaches the archiving unit on CSM’s MA Culture, Criticism and Curation.


19 June, 11-1pm, Room A116, CSM, KX

Speaker: Susan Trangmar, Reader, Central Saint Martins

Further  information  forthcoming.



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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