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Oxford and Nottingham

Category: research theory (page 1 of 2)

The Physical Impossibility of a Creative Practice PhD in the Mind of UK Academia

 

This post is born out of total frustration.

In the past three years since I was awarded an M.A. Fine Art (Distinction and all) I have struggled to make any headway in aligning the content of this blog ( a psycho-geographical investigation of the Middle Thames between 1840-1910 ) and the academic notion of a ‘Practice-Led’ PhD.

Even when I have offered to shower the august institutions in cash I have found myself constantly pushed into traditional historical straight-jackets.

In all probability I could have been offered a Cultural Geography PhD down this route and have been offered two places.

1.Loughborough offered me a place for a dodgy proposal thrown together for a MRL place which frankly absurd.

2. Central Saint Martins have accepted me on to a PhD on Victorian Scrapbooks and Printmaking as long as it avoids the very practice I tried to have accepted (down to 20% practice /80%  textual exegesis split) …which means that though deferred until 2018 it pretty much a busted flush for me already….

So three years later..£10 K lighter and after a storm of personal problems which would sink a battleship I teetering on the edge of giving up entirely.

My pitch now is simple as I have given up on any kind of practice-led fine art PhD degree on the basis that I actually wrote a paper on the fact that it doesn’t exist..read it here…

Grey Ravens Paper

My only hope is a Creative Writing PhD based on Backwater ( fictitious cover above) a new volume of poems drawing together ten years research into the Middle Thames art and writing in the Victorian Era  and possibly beyond. If this could be linked to comic art/graphic novel all the better

That’s it folks!

If there is an academic out there who wants to supervise me writing a first proper volume of poems as practice-led PhD and I get the degree too I will shed out the £12K necessary for academic standards to be met…

(UPDATE June 2018 This option dead – I no longer have the finances)

I HAVE NO CHANCE OF FUNDING AT MY AGE.. the AHRC mantra is ‘Creating the next generation of academics’ so young and pretty go ahead ..if you old and not so pretty get back as Big Bill Broonzy sang…

If not I will write it anyway..spend £2K publishing it myself and probably be a lot happier..

(UPDATE June 2018 This option also dead – I no longer have the finances)

For now the possibilities are rapidly diminishing..

 

All depends of course on whether they accept a creative practice element as a substantial part of submission.

 

Its looking increasingly like the PhD is my Dunkirk…a glorious defeat…

Lost Nottingham – Lost PhD


The painter Cyrill Mann painting the Trent and the now demolished Nottingham City Power Station c. 1939

 

Even the best laid plans can have a fatal flaw.

After a hard year applying I am no nearer a funded or even self-funded PhD with the Thames based ideas.

Apart from the advice that very few PhD funding candidates over 50 now receive funding and if applying try having a sex-change I also came up against another fundamental problem.

I well aware of the pitfalls and problems of so-called ‘practice-led’ Phd study. In fact I wrote a paper on it available

HERE: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1474022213514548

I also illustrated the great and the good’ take on ‘Artists with Phds’ edited by James Elkins for which I had to read every chapter.

http://www.shaunbelcher.com/artwork/?p=544 

So I more than familiar with the argument that a practice-led fine art Phd is essentially impossible and I would 90% agree.

Most of the submitted fine art practice-led Phds thus far completed have been textual commentary on practice and nowhere do I see art objects which in themselves contain new knowledge as defined by the academy.

It is a fascinating philosophical problem but there it is and it doesnt help gain funding.

Does an art object of itself…a painting..a sculpture or a conceptual installation contain new knowledge which ‘transferrable’ NO..not unless it contains text…which funnily enough graphic novels and comix do :-)….

This brings me neatly to my problem with PhDs. I have spent a fruitless year banging my head against the walls of funded academia. As well as the age and gender problems which make it virtually impossible for a man of my age to succeed in the AHRC rat race for pennies I was pitching what essentially a ‘practice-led’ project at solid academic text-only departments.

This reached its apotheosis in two recent meetings at Nottingham University. One in Geography the other in the English Department. In both cases senior academics were very supportive of all I trying to do and if I wished to self-fund (no longer an option as they say life got in the way) then I could do a historical Cultural Geography Phd no problem.

What I could not get support for and this also happened at Lincoln too ( trad Art History only which ironic in an institution hell bent on destroying trad arts for money making ‘performance’ ends) is get support for a practice-led (poetry/drawing/graphic-novel) whatever the practice it that element that caused a shaky heady…. Traditional academia….i.e. the academy wants a rigorous 80000 words or it a no no.

So new year back to square one. the only way I can see a practice-led PhD with the above caveats succeeding is by part of the PhD being comic/graphic novel and therefore containing the transferrable knowledge. I played with this in a ‘Visual Paper’ (NO TEXT) I delivered at a drawing conference in New York again to a few shaky heads and non-publication in proceedings because ‘no text’ 🙂 That paper available HERE:  http://www.shaunbelcher.com/research/?p=1135 along with animated short.

At this point James Elkins kindly stated that he thought that I had done a PhD level of work in my M.A. for approaching the topic in the way I had but that ain’t the same as a real PhD. So I have got nowhere……

Meanwhile I developing this ‘Backwaters’ research into a smaller non-PhD project or at least placing on the back-burner until things look more hopeful.

Further details of Graphic Art and Comics Research on : http://www.shaunbelcher.com/comicart

 

 

From Track to Backwater

trackcover

In 2010 as my mother was in the final stages of Carcinoid cancer I took a walk down a disused railway line in my hometown that used to run from Didcot to Southampton.

I used it as the beginning of a NTU M.A. in Multimedia. A year later it collapsed and I restarted it as a Fine Art Drawing M.A. instead after she passed away in 2012.

As my mother worsened I continued to visit her and that track and walk it and remember the times I walked and drew it in the early 1990s.

Here is an image from a small sketchbook drawn on the 1st August 1990….I dated everything in those days.

sketch15

 

I however had not forgotten that Track project and always thought it would come back.

 

 

Rail and River: The Hitchman Archive explored.

As a teenager I remember looking through the extensive book collection my friend at school’s father had assembled. Mostly on a natural history and a river Thames theme I wasn’t sure how many of those books were still with my friend Stephe here in Nottingham. Yesterday I looked through the remnants of the ‘Hitchman Archive’ and found a treasure trove of cultural geography material.

Here what I managed to carry home to render into a bibliography for a proposal but there plenty still in the boxes.

hitchmens

Most significant were the accounts of the Victorian Thames and it already apparent that the railway opened up the River Thames as a tourist destination. I also delighted to discover a hither-too unknown to me artist George D. Leslie who was living in Wallingford at the same time Mann in Hagbourne. Indeed there was a group of  artists associated with two families there and George D. Leslie even wrote a book about art politics at the R.A!

leslie2

This has put back my writing of the proposal for PhD as I sort through the new material and maybe revise my intended research question and title. The Rail/River juxtaposition seems to sum up the Victorian Golden age ( in Williams sense) problem. The artists used the railway to access the ‘unspoilt’ countryside/riverscapes but hardly (unlike the French Impressionists) painted the Railway…..this at root of my enquiry. Why did the British painters and artists comprehensively ignore the very means by which they were gaining access? This seems to be the essential contradiction at the heart of rural art and art movements here in the U.K.

Having found Leslie I did a quick trawl of other possible artists at work in a radius of just ten miles of Didcot Junction and came up with John Singer Sargent and John Lavery both connected to Lord Asquith estate at Sutton Courtenay. I also uncovered a small art commune known as the Broadway Group in the Cotswolds connected to Henry James and presumably linked to the arts and crafts further upstream. It looking increasingly likely that although the focus has been on Jewson and Morris above Oxford that the railway enabled a whole range of artistic activity all along the newly ‘discovered’ unspoilt Thames. Far from being the ‘Upper Thames’ poor cousin there may be more yet to uncover in ‘The Lower or Middle’ Thames Valley.

I also found this fascinating combination of travelogue, illustration and ‘staged’ photography by Charles George Harper and W.S.Campbell. I have never seen this illustration of the Clumps before and it several decades before Gibbings books were published.

I am very grateful to Mr Hitchman senior for this legacy:-)

TVVBothS TVVillages2vol Wittenham Clumps, by Charles G. Harper from Thames Valley Villages, 1910 (a)

They also published this book which has direct connection to Edwin Smith’s later photography from the look of the cover!

rural nooks

Tracking Time

New directions opening up I could almost call myself an art historian maybe…(trainee level:-)

readinglist

Gnats Again…..a story revisited.

gn1

I am revisiting a paper originally given at the Film Philosophy conference in Amsterdam in 2013.

 

The full paper is available online at Scribd here:

Twin Peaks? New Research Track and merging themes?

 

welcome

 

This just to clarify…my research has previously had two sides to the story…and no bodies wrapped in plastic ..yet…

 

DRAWING: Comics and Graphic Novels Research

Firstly an M.A. in Fine Art exclusively concerned with drawing and presenting analysis of art research methodology in sequential drawings.

This and associated papers/ outcomes contained herein: http://www.shaunbelcher.com/research/

This developed out of a scurious cartoon art dog called Moogee’s adventures in the Fine Art World: http://www.shaunbelcher.com/moogee

UPDATE June 2016: This work is now coming to fruition as Freelance Design and comic illustration under

FLYIN SHOES ARTS U.K.
https://flyinshoesarts.wordpress.com

MOOGEE THE DOODLE DOG
http://www.shaunbelcher.com/moogee/

 

HISTORY OF ART AND TECHNOLOGY

Following an aborted M.A. in Multimedia which changed into a Fine Art M.A. in drawing I became interested in the notion of the rise of Victorian Technology and Illustration as a early distribution network or web. Specifically I began looking at early photography and film and its influences and cross-currents with fine art especially illustration.

This led to the work here and papers linked below (one purely visual until I finally write up).

This led to a Leverhulme PhD Funding Submission through BIAD in 2014 which was a group submission and unsuccessful around idea of Railway as a instigator of artistic practice.

I recently investigated these possible ideas again. It may be possible to link two areas together via a graphic narrative format.

https://www.scribd.com/collections/4262615/Art-Research-Illustration-and-Media

I have also recently used a poetry narrative to describe a Photographer’s Equipment and its technological changes for RIBA

EDWIN SMITH at RIBA

I have just discovered David Trotter’s work ‘Literature in the First Media Age’ which seems perfect match for what I trying to do.

http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674073159

(UPDATE June 2016: This route may come to fruition in an Art History/Literature/Music PhD as that the area I now consider myself to be operating in and which best match for interests)

 

James Elkins and The ‘truth commitment’ – Academia and Creativity and ‘Visual Novels’

http://www.full-stop.net/2015/04/07/interviews/nicolesanson/james-elkins/

In academia there is a ‘truth commitment’ thank you Jim Elkins that perfectly expresses my ongoing problem with academia…..great interview.

Yeah,  really! That’s academia for you,  because there’s a truth commitment, you know . . . I didn’t used to think of people in the humanities quite that way, I thought maybe scientists would be that way.

James Elkins is talking about the Humanities requiring ‘truth’ in a scientific way in creative matters. This increasingly the problem with fine art and creative writing degrees they require forms of ‘justification’ and ‘explication’ to warrant validity in REF terms…..

The article also discusses the ‘photo-embedded novel’ or as Elkins calls it  ‘Writing with Images’.

I will respond more fully to the ideas contained here in next few days…it key to the way i see my own work going now. Less academic and more ‘practice-led’.

Leverhulme bid- Proposal

Here is the sadly failed application proposal but plenty of pointers to a future PhD proposal to work with…especially in regard to the mountain of Victorian art and railway literature in my studio….

Back to the future? Film Research paper accepted Amsterdam!

 

I sent a submission to a Film Philosophy conference in Amsterdam and have been accepted so have three months to write paper detailed below. This will pull together all the research done as first year of M.A. which was put on hold whilst rejigged M.A. to be fine art and cartoon based (this blog). The previous research is specifically archived here http://www.shaunbelcher.com/rpt and merges into ongoing fine art’Projects’ here http://www.shaunbelcher.com/fineart/

The proposal which has been accepted is as follows:
BEYOND FILM PROPOSAL

mann1 mann2

Alexander Mann’s ‘Gnats’: Early film and photography in rural England as traced through an artist’s sequential narrative and sketchbooks.
Alexander Mann (1853-1908) landscape and genre painter was an early adopter, seek post impressionism, viagra of photography and his sequential narrative in etchings ‘Gnats and other hindrances to the landscape artist’ of 1884 reveals not only an awareness of photography but hints at a wider filmic narrative.
It is the purpose of this paper to explore this folio work of Alexander Mann alongside his sketchbooks and relate this to the wider discourse around early cinematic and photographic technology, troche artistic modernism, artistic communities and the railway. This will draw on Benjamin, Kirby, Solnit and Schivelbusch in attempting to uncover information from a neglected area of art history i.e. Artistic Modernism in the Thames Valley (England) and the spread of ‘new’ imaging technology from 1850-1914 through artists to the local community.
The paper will attempt to reveal a correlation between ‘experimentation’ with ‘new’ technology in post-impressionism in the English provinces with present day advances in pervasive mobile and digital imaging and its equivalent widening of participation in the processes of image creation.

Keywords: Early photography and cinema, sequential narrative, mobile technology, imaging, landscape and genre painting, etching, provincial modernism.

EYE
www.eyefilm.nl

www.film-philosophy.com

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