Scholarly biography and interests

Richly resourced by four arts-based degrees, Dr Mary Anne Francis has significant reputations as an artist, practice-based researcher and art-writer; activities that constitute the ‘expanded field’ of contemporary art practice. As an artist, she has received high profile commissions – notably from London Underground (Platform for Art) and the Financial Services Authority. Her work ‘The Blooming Commons’ was the first Open Source art-work to be shown at Tate Britain, and the exhibition ‘Super Farmers’ Market’ that she recently co-curated involving 32 international artists, was reviewed in Time Out, The Independent and Third Text.

Mary Anne’s practice-based research has been recognised in a range of prestigious invitations: e.g. the keynote address to the inaugural ‘Artistic Research’ conference at Iceland Academy of the Arts, chairing and committee roles at the 'Art of Research' conferences, and many requests to run seminars with art and design research students across the UK.

Her work as an art-writer and theorist has been in demand since the early 1990s when she reviewed the emerging YBA scene for many magazines including Art Monthly. In 2010, she was invited to run an art-writing course at Tate Modern, ‘Never Lost For Words’, and recently, was invited to make a keynote address to ‘The Language of Arts and Music’ conference organized by the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy.

Mary Anne read English at UCL before going to Central St Martin’s to take a degree in Fine Art & Critical Studies. During this time she also completed a MA in Culture, Communication and Society, at Goldsmiths’ College (department of Sociology). She was the first student to graduate with a practice-based PhD in Fine Art from Goldsmiths’; her 60,000 written thesis ‘the artist as a multifarious agent’ was accompanied by a solo exhibition at Beaconsfield, London.

Before joining the University of Brighton as Senior Lecturer on the Fine Art: Critical Practice BA (Hons), Mary Anne held posts at Brunel University, and Goldsmiths’ College – previously working for the editorial department at André Deutsch. Over the years she has also worked in many universities and art-schools as a Visiting Lecturer including The Slade, Central St Martin’s, London Metropolitan University, Winchester School of Art, Kingston University, and Norwich University College. Between 2004 and 2008, was Research Fellow in Critical Practice at Chelsea College of Art & Design, and between 2008 and 2011, Research Fellow in Writing + Art, also at Chelsea, University of the Arts, London.

Mary Anne’s extensive experience across art and writing, theory/philosophy and practice informs her ongoing work with undergraduate and postgraduate students at Brighton. In 2011, she was appointed Course Leader of the MRes in Arts and Cultural Research

Research themes 

All Mary Anne’s research addresses aspects of art’s authorship. In particular, she has published on:

• Social Art Practices – when these designate collaborations between artists and non-artists. Work here includes:

- Writing, creative-practice and conference organization around the subject of ‘Open Source’ culture – e.g. ‘Open Source Fine Art’ and ‘The Blooming commons’

- Writing on ‘post-autonomous’ art-practices – see ‘Dirty work: art beyond autonomy’

- Writing on the question of who should judge social art practices: participants or art-critics – see ‘The dark side of art’s social turn’

- Various conference papers – see contribution to ‘Sensuous Knowledge’ (Norway)

• Digital culture

- Open Source Art, and the implications of Open Source as an infinite economy for the material ecology of cultural production - see ‘Open Source Fine Art’

Mary Anne’s current research in the digital realm is looking at the status of ‘medium’ in online culture, and especially, the Internet of Things as a new medium for artists.

• Art-writing

– When this raises questions for how an artist’s writing is distinct from an art-historian’s, or art-theorist’s – see ‘Discussion paper from the working group on “Situational Fiction”’ and e.g. ‘In the Café Flaubert’

– When this can be seen as an extension of art-practice and a possible way of presenting creative-practice research – see ‘Here and there: an artist’s writing as aesthetic form’

• Creative practice in research

- This preoccupation informs Mary Anne’s work with art-writing and more broadly is key to her leadership of the MRes Arts and Cultural Research. It has been the subject of a number of conference papers – e.g. for ‘Artistic Research’ (Iceland), and ‘The Art of Research’ (Helsinki) as well as many guest lectures and workshops for PhD students in UK universities (e.g. Norwich UCA; UAL, Winchester, Kingston). Mary Anne has also undertaken consultancy work for UK universities seeking to develop their creative-practice research capacities.

• Art practice

For further documentation, please see:

Featured works and projects


Discussion paper from the working group on ‘Situational fiction’

The published version of Mary Anne’s artwork / conference paper contribution to The Art of Research conference (2009)

Faust Thumbnail

The Faust Supplement (2002)

Artwork taking the form of a publisher’s catalogue, featuring monographs on the radically diverse strands of artist M A Faust’s work.

Flowers on a table

The Blooming Commons

An Open Source artwork for Tate Britain as part of Open Congress, October 2005.

In the Café Flaubert

Journal article presenting a philosophical discussion of theories of representation in the form of a fictional dialogue.

Widening Participation

Exploring the previous government’s ‘Social Inclusion’ agenda in the context of the fine art PhD

On the Value of ‘Situational Fiction’ for an Artist’s Writing

Showing how the spaces where writing and speaking about art takes place might inform art-writing

Here and There

A one-act play exploring artist's writing as aesthetic form.

Dirty Work

Article addressing ‘post-autonomous’ art practices which entail artists’ collaboration with other kinds of professional and art-work in the world.

Media Mutandis: Art, Technologies and Politics

Book documenting the NODE.London 2005 season of digital art events. Editors: Marina Vishmidt, Mary Anne Francis, and Jo Walsh.

Research activity 

Repository holdings

Number of items: 11.

Francis, Mary Anne (2016) Indifferent forms: the cultural politics of medium online, or the formal remit of diversity and difference Third Text, 29 (6). pp. 432-444. ISSN 0952-8822

Francis, Mary Anne (2014) The dark side of art’s social turn: towards a discourse on the impact of art’s use of social forms upon the social Journal for Cultural Research, 18 (1). pp. 25-43. ISSN 1479-7585

Francis, Mary Anne (2010) ‘Widening Participation’ in the Fine Art Ph.D.: expanding research and practice Art, Design and Communication in Higher Education, 9 (2). pp. 167-182. ISSN 1474-273X

Francis, Mary Anne (2010) Here and there: an artist's writing as aesthetic form Journal of Writing in Creative Practice, 3 (2). pp. 97-109. ISSN 1753-5190

Francis, Mary Anne (2009) Discussion paper from the working group on “Situational Fiction” Journal of Writing in Creative Practice, 2 (2). pp. 151-158. ISSN 1753-5190

Francis, Mary Anne (2008) A theory of critique…in practice: practice as critique Journal of Visual Arts Practice, 7 (3). ISSN 1470-2029

Francis, Mary Anne (2008) In the Café Flaubert Journal of Writing in Creative Practice, 1 (2). pp. 133-149. ISSN 1753-5190

Francis, Mary Anne (2007) Dirty work: art beyond ‘autonomy’ Journal of Visual Art Practice, 6 (1). ISSN 1470-2029

Francis, Mary Anne (2007) Dirty Work: Art Beyond Autonomy Journal of Visual Art Practice, 6 (1). pp. 33-44. ISSN 14702029

Mary Anne, Francis (2006) Media Mutandis NODE, London, UK.

Francis, Mary Anne, Walsh, Jo, Sykes, Lewis and Vishmidt, Marina, eds. (2006) Media Mutandis: Surveying Art, Technologies and Politics Node, London. ISBN 0955243505

This list was generated on Sat Nov 11 08:47:06 2017 GMT.

Selected conference papers/public talks


Introduction to a screening of The Ister for the TECHNE student congress, Royal Holloway, University of London 


'The Task of the Translator in the Age of Digital Reproduction' keynote address for Found In Translation symposium, University of Sussex


'Research: a question of the Artwork' for Modes Of Interrogation, PhD Fine Art seminar, Kingston University 


‘An artist’s writing of research as a Baroque poetics’ a paper for the symposium on Expression and Research, Royal College of Art, London 


Keynote address: ‘Diplomacy as art: the implications of the “Social Turn” - conversation and negotiation - as aesthetic form’ for The Language of Arts and Music, London, organised by the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy, Berlin


‘“A” is for Art; “P” is for Philosophy’ – symposium interlocuter, Royal College of Art


‘From Studio to Seminar: Art School’s Two-fold Discourse’ for the Looking Back at the Life Room conference, UCL


‘Here and there: an artist's writing as aesthetic form’ - a play script presented as performed conference text and artwork for exhibition, Art of Research 2009, University of Art and Design, Helsinki

‘Here and there: an artist's writing as aesthetic form’ - a play script presented as a virtual conference contribution for Writing Intersections, University of Technology, Sydney

‘What is Critique?’ for ArtWORK, CritiqueWORK a symposium with Goldsmiths’ College, Chelsea College of Art & Design, and London Metropolitan University, Chelsea College of Art & Design


Co-organiser and co-chair for Art of Research: Research Narratives symposium at Chelsea College of Art & Design

'Art as Research: a Glossary of terms' – keynote lecture – for the Artistic Researchconference, Iceland Academy of the Arts,

'From Problem to Problematic: Collaborative Art Practice as Research: Discussion of Aesthetic Quality in Working Process', for Sensuous Knowledge (5) Questioning Qualities conference, Bergen Academy of the Arts, Norway

'Art and the Value of Fictional Writing' a lecture-demonstration for the Writing Encounters symposium, York St John University


‘Systems: Art and Collaboration’ for Systems Art at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, organised by Sir John Cass department of Art, Media and Design, (Chris Smith) London Metropolitan University with Francis Halsall.

'Collaborative Art Practice and Research in the Art School' for Future Reflections, Chelsea College of Art & Design, London


'Open Source Fine Art', a presentation on the artwork ‘The Blooming Commons’; presentation was part of Open Congress at Tate Britain: a two-day event looking at the implications of Open Source for cultural production

'What work does the work of art do?' A demonstration at What work does the work of art do? (2) A symposium with Art & Language, Sir John Cass Department of Art, Media and Design, at The Guildhall London


What work does the work of art do? A symposium with Art & Language London Metropolitan University


Solo Exhibitions


Stall, commissioned by the Financial Services Authority, London.


Unsorted, e1 gallery, London.

Covers - a poster series of photographic work, Platform for Art, Piccadilly Circus Station


Mary Anne Francis: Group Show, Beaconsfield, London

Group exhibitions


Multiple Market, Handel Street Projects, London WC1

'High Art Light' shown with The Multiple Store, at Multiplied, Christies, London


Super Farmers’ Market with Handel Street Projects, London WC1


Art of Research: Research Narratives Symposium Exhibition, Chelsea College of Art & Design, London

Farmers' Market with Handel Street Projects, London

For Those Killed in Ambush, Hold and Freight, London


Would Silence the Apology, 35a Gallery, Brighton


‘The Blooming Commons’ at Tate Britain as part of Open Congress


Bloomsbury Blooms, St George's Chapel of Rest, Bloomsbury, London


The Book Show, The Nunnery, London & The Wordsworth Trust, Lake District

Visual work currently represented by Handel Street Projects

Other Selected Art Projects


'Art and the Value of Fictional Writing' - a lecture-demonstration for The Art Lectures, Sallis Benny Theatre, University of Brighton


‘Toast’ for Aleksandra Mir’s How Not to Cook launch, Collective Gallery, Edinburgh 

‘Me, Myself and I: Not Her’ for Kelly Large’s Me, Myself and I Walsall Gallery


Market-stall as artwork, as part of The Really Super Market, Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art


The Faust Supplement, Variety Press

2004 – 2008 

Many collaborative activities as Critical Practice Research Fellow cluster at Chelsea College of Art and & Design including Beyond The Free MarketBetween at South London Gallery, and Future


Citations & Reviews

  • Review of ‘In the Café Flaubert’ on ADM subject-centre site:
  • Editorial to JVAP 7.3 cited in Ruth Pelzer-Montada Cooking up a Storm? ‘ “Post-production” as interpretation’ JVAP8.1&2
  • ‘Dirty Work: Art Beyond Autonomy’ cited in ‘Risk and experiment: Emerging technology in developing nations Continuum’ (Routledge) Volume 22 No. 6
  • Reviews of ‘Super Farmers’ Market’ – exhibition co-curated with Lucy Heyward - in Third Text (May 2011), The Independent (11 June 2010) and Time Out (24 June 2010)
  • Post-card work from ‘Unsorted’ (2002) featured in Artists’ Postcards by Jeremy Cooper (forthcoming, Reaktion Books, Nov 2011)
  • Ruth Catlow: review of ‘Open Source Fine Art’ in Media Mutandis -
  • The Book Show reviewed in frieze no. 82 (2004)
  • Brick Lane project featured in Opening Lines by Alison Raftery (London Arts Board: 1997)
  • Visual practice discussed in An intimate distance: women, artists and the body by Rosemary Betterton (Routledge: 1996)

Grants & Awards


  • CLIP-CETL award, University of the Arts London, for researching Widening Participation at PhD level study, with Hayley Newman

2004 – 2007 

  • Successful bids to Chelsea College of Art & Design for funding to support the Critical Practice Research Cluster, with Neil Cummings


  • Project lead with Saul Albert and Lewis Sykes in receipt of Arts Council England funding for book publication Media Mutandis: ‘Surveying art, technologies and politics’
  • University of Brighton: Faculty of Arts Research Funding for research leave


  • ‘Stall’ commissioned by the Financial Services Authority with monthly time-based element funded by the FSA


  • University of Brighton: Faculty of Arts Research Funding for AHRB project
  • Arts and Humanities Research Board: Small Grant in the Creative and Performing Arts


  • Mary Anne Francis: Group Show financially assisted by the Vauxhall Festival
  • University of Brighton: Faculty of Arts Research Funding for Mary Anne Francis: Group Show
  • Goldsmiths College, London: research funding for Mary Anne Francis: Group Show

Juries, Committees & Editorial Boards


 Appointed to the Arts and Humanities Research Council Peer Review College 


Appointed to the Advisory Board, 
Philosophy of Photography Journal


International Selection Committee for the Art of Research 2009, Helsinki


Appointed to the editorial board of Journal of Visual Arts Practice



St John's College, University of Oxford Fine Art DLitt, External Examiner 


University of Portsmouth, External on MRes Creative Industries validation panel 

2013 - 2017

Falmouth University, External Examiner, BA Fine Art (Critical Studies) 

2010 – 2013

Glasgow School of Art, External Examiner, MFA


Central St Martin’s College of Art & Design, internal (UAL) examiner for PhD upgrade


Norwich University College of the Arts, external examiner for PhD upgrade


Chelsea College of Art & Design, internal examiner for PhD upgrade

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