The University of Brighton has strengthened its research into, by and through arts practices, developing alongside work across the Faculty of Arts through strategic themes which drive impact and resourcing. Among the themes where arts practices have their key contribution are:
Performance, Meaning and Making: Award-winning interpretations of Baum’s Wizard of Oz by Rawle, and Gee’s Going West, by Andersen, reframe and adapt cultural archetypes through the innovative use of narrative or animation; as does Neal’s ‘George III’ from his Cut and Groove series through making (V&A Telling Tales, Fantasy and Fear in Contemporary Design 2009).
Agency, Society and Space: Power’s Black Country Stories, a visual investigation of the effect of the economic downturn on the West Midlands, exemplifies this strand’s concern for the intersections of social and cultural history, politics and geography and its creative agency and philosophical implications. Significant achievements include: Sustainable Food Planning: evolving theory and practice, Viljoen et al, examining of international food security; Defiant Images: Photography and Apartheid in South Africa (2009), Newbury; It Happened Here (2010), a permanent installation at the Commandery in Worcester Cornford and Wrighton’s book Ethics and Politics in Modern American Poetry (2010).
A significant resource within the University of Brighton is the presence of a distinctive University Gallery with a rich programme of exhibitions which has partly grown from staff research interests in the practice and problems of curatorship which are broadly concerned with the politics of representation and exhibition construction itself.
Regionally, our gallery sits alongside important and developing gallery venues devoted to contemporary arts practices at, for example, Pallant House Gallery, Chichester; the Towner Gallery, Eastbourne; and the De La Warr Pavilion at Bexhill. The bringing of world-renowned artists, little shown in the UK, fits our research agendas and is exemplified by the William Kentridge exhibition ‘Fragile Identities’, which was held at Brighton between November 2007 and January 2008. This was the result of collaborative APPRI research interests across two schools in the Faculty and was supplemented by the holding of a symposium, the production of a scholarly publication/catalogue and an outreach educational programme.
APPRI researchers are seeking to develop exhibitions along similar lines and themes on a biannual basis. In this context there is in addition a strong interest in the curating of photography, particularly in relation to the Brighton Photo-Biennale, which uses Brighton staff and guest curators. APPRI researchers are also involved with venues outside of Brighton and in the emerging field of curatorial interventions into museum spaces or other carefully chosen sites.
Arts practices in transdisciplinary enviroments
At the root of cross university potential for arts practices is a set of propositions about that practice and its relationship to a world undergoing rapid change. The physical conditions of life, for example, in the not too distant future might be one in which questions of art as previously understood will be subsumed by questions of survival. For Science such an interchange may be about the dissemination of its ideas into a wider arena and understandings about creative processes that underlie scientific methods. APPRI’s current role in this is exemplified by the ‘Spring Group’ which networks notions of climate patterns and change with artistic appraisals and understandings across two institutions.
This work also cuts across the usual taxonomies that tend to divide sculptural practices from design/material practices and sound. The workshops have resulted in exhibitions and the development of new work across, and fertilisation between, sculptural practice, three-dimensional design, moving lens-based imagery, and sound arts/design.
We also provide for an understanding of the impact of new technologies, particularly digital ones, on the arts in general with examples across sculpture and digital media arts practices.
The contribution of arts practices to social inclusion and personal or social well-being has been well acknowledged since the early twentieth century from therapeutic models used within medical or psychoanalytical contexts to the instrumental use of art for public spaces, social processes and engagement with communities to be found in the history of modernism and contemporary practice. Neither approach, however, is an entirely instrumental palliative applied to social disadvantage - they are and can be genuine liberation for individuals on the one hand or stand as a rebuke to manipulative speed and the destruction of empathy common in our media/image soaked culture on the other hand.
APPRI aims to bring researchers in this rather disparate field together in order to review and reconsider questions of engagement, community impact and audience reception in the visual and performing arts.
The faculty's strength in humanities and the Research Centre in Memory, Narrative and Histories has seen a potential for those practices that are centred most commonly on text to engage with performance and image making disciplines. Memory and narrative can be found in practices such as painting; book arts and printmaking; installation; and curation. This theme, therefore, exemplifies the APPRI position on an expanded and inclusive sense of practices, which cross boundaries of research interests in a faculty which embraces the visual arts, performance, media, and literature as well as the writing of history.
Faculty practice-based research crosses many practices.
We are notably strong in photography and lens-based practices. A key feature is the Brighton Photo-Biannual, which enhances this activity throughout the region. These modes of image production, whether analogue or digital, are by far the most dominant modes of representation in our society and will remain so. Much of the activity of researchers (including Mark Power, Xavier Ribas, Fergus Herron and Jim Cooke) in these practices concerns issues of cultural geographies and histories, particularly liminal spaces. The reason for it being a specific APPRI theme is that the indexicality of the photograph immediately raises questions of representation and language in relation to arts practices, which become part of the repertoire of a large body of artists using the camera to make their work.
Visual culture is in a state of radical flux and change and is marked by a shift to new ground beyond familiar, interdisciplinary practices. The dissolving of boundaries between formerly discrete fields, and the recognition of their influence upon one another has evolved into a culture of performance ‘un-led’ by discreet disciplines, ie. un-disciplined performance practices. Within the current global economic and environmental climate, the pace of technological developments and the race for change, it seems appropriate to seek to invest in a future of performance practice that might support, challenge and develop a wider arts audience and community. Brighton and Hove has a unique climate of performance practitioners whose work readily straddles disciplines, and whilst there is a cultural infrastructure that supports these developments, there is no distinctive, intensive contemporary performance festival that showcases radical ‘un-disciplined’ performance practices.
APPRI is keen to establish an overt and vibrant culture of ‘un-Disciplined’ performative practice and ‘liveness’ within the university and to encourage staff to build public performative dissemination into their research practices. The gallery is considered a performative site and a strategy for proposals for its use for live practice will be encouraged. Staff members whose practice currently engages performative contexts include: Liz Aggiss; Matt Rudkin; Claudia Kappenberg;Mikhail Karikis; Connal Gleeson; Amy Cunningham and Mary Anne Francis.