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Oxford and Nottingham

Category: Illustration (page 1 of 2)

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: Book or PhD? Or both?

amanesia

Things have moved on considerably in the last few weeks.

I was interviewed for a Horizon CHI (Computer Human Interaction) PhD at Nottingham University two weeks ago. I did well to be shortlisted against stiff and much younger competition (average age 25). From the get go though it obvious that my interests were not aligned with CHI and secondly that I would not be able to work with their new corporate partners. I pitched my application to their older local community arts led model. No point crying over spilt milk….marked the end of my involvement in any kind of contemporary web/internet/computer relatedresearch.

De Capo.

NEW ROUTES:

What it did do was focus me on to what I do have an interest in and this Book proposal and possible PhD more firmly located within the Arts and Humanities area.

Here is a very rough outline of what the book may cover.

 

All dates and ideas provisional in the extreme :

cropped-tracking1.jpg

An original provisional title from 2010

TRACKING TIME; ART, TECHNOLOGY AND UTOPIA IN ENGLAND 1850-1950?

Proposed chapters .
Intro: Chalk Detonators to Concorde – The coming of the railway to the end of the line?
1. Dickens and Seymour. Railways and Illustration

2. Mr Fox Talbot and Mrs Dann: Reading’s First Female Professional Photographer and the Inventor of the calotype process.

3. Alexander Mann and the sequential image.

4. Fairground Kinemas and William Frith – Mapping Oxford a psychogeographical derive

5. Industrial film the art of industry in the Thames Valley – Rural Unions and the Co-Operative movement to Cowley Motors .

6. Rural Idyll: The Oxfordshire Railway Villages and Art Movements Blewbury, Long Wittenham and the Cotswolds.

7. Rural Presses and reactions to Modernism and Technology: Kelmscott, Cockerel Press and Communism.

8. Shooting Europe: The Spitfire Reconnaissance mapping of Germany from Beconsfield Aerodrome.

9. Atoms and Stars: The disintegrating world seen from Harwell and the DNA shuffle.11. Building the 60s Oxford and Abingdon – The Mini and The MG. The patriarchical machine.

Coda . Satellite of Love: Space -race to Boom-bust and the end of empire. Trickle down and the rise of the web..Bletchley Park to Cheltenham. News from Nowhere to News from Everywhere.

 

I also have a facebook page which may come in useful for future crowdfunding if I need to go down that road..or track:-)

https://www.facebook.com/SDBTrackingTime/

 

 

 

 

 

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:

New PhD development: Art History and Technology

2720ALT

Stanhope Forbes 'The Quarry Team' Print. 1894

Interesting times as the Chinese philosopher said. I have officially returned to NTU School of Art and Design to teach on Animation and Graphic Design courses ….I applied for a reduction in hours to support a more intense period of PhD application but have been told not possible so have to maintain my 0.5 contract for now. If I get any PhD support from other institutions I may try again in a year’s time for reduced hours.

I am moving back towards trying to obtain a fully funded PhD. I cannot afford full funding and supporting myself but maybe can get part funded and keep teaching?

The PhD ‘path’ I considering will bring together the basic premise of the ‘ANAMNESIA’ project but maybe with more focus on the impact of Railway on arts. For now the ‘Popular Culture’ angle one I looking at most intently.

Here are some preliminary proposals:

 

I am particularly interested in the concept of ‘embedded literature’ and using illustrations and a narrative/travelogue approach in my research in the manner of W.G. Sebald and Patrick Keiller’s work with art and technology and region.

The PhD ‘paths’ I now considering below have developed out of the original Leverhulme Proposal and draws on material researched in my aborted M.A. Multimedia ‘ANAMNESIA’ project but with more focus on the impact of Railway on arts. For now the ‘Popular Culture’ angle one I looking at most intently.

The Leverhulme Proposal available online here:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/249245353/PhD-Levenhulme-Proposal

 

Possible lines of research investigation in this art history and technology area being considered are:

RSS

  1. Rain, Steam, Speed:

Art, Modernism and Technology 1840-1940.

The Railway, Radio and Telegraph in the development of Rural Artistic Communities (Networks) and Small Presses. Focusing on how ‘new technology’ created new artistic forms and communities from Dickens’s Pickwick Papers to The Cockerel Press.

team

2.‘Shifting Modes of Narrative’: Investigating illustration and sequential drawing as a response to the ‘new media’ of photography and cinema. 1836 – 1914.

Starting with Dickens illustrators and moving up to ‘Birth of Cinema’. Less regionally focussed.

talbotreading

  1. Drifting Focus 1830 – 1890:
    Kinema, photography, fine art and illustration. An investigation of new media networks in the first possibly’ Transmediale’ railway age.

Focusing on the narrative arts post ‘Railway’ and relating to contemporary definitions of networks and  ‘Transmediale’ new technologies.

Further details available online at my Transmedia Research Blog:

 

Shaun Belcher 10.07.2015

 

 

 

ANAMNESIA: Art, Technology and Modernism in the Thames Valley 1850-1950

Back to where I started..literally…..first thought best thought?

amanesia

This explains where my ‘art research’ has gone…
It not classic ‘design’ art research any more it lies somewhere along the Iain Sinclair/W.G.Sebald/Patrick Keiller line. i.e. A travelogue based exploration of the historic impact of technology on a specific geographical region. I am now working exclusively on this as my ‘written’ output alongside my poetry.
 

I no longer consider myself to be exclusively in the fine art ‘drawing research’ area.

I am now seeking full or part-funding or a receptive institution to help develop this project.

And here my first mention of ANAMNESIA in 2010:

 

Extended Fictions – Going with the FLOW or not?

haunted house

Read more about this App here : Microsoft Apps

It has been a career-defining week so until the dust truly settles I not making any comments about my withdrawal from the Creative Writing M.A. other than these reflections on what I think is happening to fiction these days in general.

It was only after withdrawal that I started to consider what it was that I had wanted from the course rather than what the course offered me. There was no problem with what delivered it simply wasn’t what I wanted..they sold bananas I actually wanted peaches.

The problem is that the field of ‘Extended Fiction’ which I am primarily interested in is at present almost homeless within academia in general. The NTU course is not the only one focusing on the principles of traditional fiction writing, screen-writing and poetry in categories that have been fixed since the notion of Creative Writing was accepted into the academy. Indeed one could even go back further to the battles to get English Literature accepted into the academy.

This constant seeking for ‘validation’ alongside the sciences means that, like fine art, a lot of conservatism has crept in alongside the wish to be taken seriously. This conservatism is especially prevalent now with REF status measurement . Creative courses move towards ‘acceptability’ through research worthiness but in my opinion it is stifling creative content and not just in writing.

The area of apps and fiction (see above) which mixing illustration and stories, online and offline graphic novels, voice-only novels ( a recent development..basically a recording of writer reading but no text sold) photo-embedded literature, visual-poetry, comics etc etc has hardly rippled the surface of ‘creative writing’ that country-wide has been modeled on a Stateside Iowa Workshop model first introduced in the 1960’s. A model that now 50 years old. We wouldn’t drive a car built in 1960 now so why drive a model of education that similarly dated?

There are various reasons for this. A lot of the embedded wisdom in that model is very good. Good writing is good writing and basic principles have not changed. What has changed is everything around that model. The stand-alone paper novel may not be as Will Self so clearly put it ‘as dead as the Dodo’ but it is it certainly one platform amongst many now. Self is one author trying to breathe life into its  form in an arena where what we call literature or ‘the book’ may be fragmenting into a variety of platforms. The internet has changed the delivery, consumption and influence of the literature we read as comprehensively as the first paperbacks sold at W.H.Smiths (which trains then distributed around the country like a steel internet) changed our notions of literacy, communication and most importantly fueled universal suffrage and democracy.

To paraphrase Yeats

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold……

But the centre here is the reader. The reader is now the centre of endless opportunities be it social media, hypertext, embedded photos. Everything has become an endless ‘narrative’ which we making from our own lives via social media. To disrupt this ‘FLOW’ of trans-mediale imagery and text we have to purposefully disengage via Kindle or paper (the original kindle is a electronic metaphor for paper anyway) and place ourselves outside the ‘FLOW’.

If one turns one’s attention away from standard literature field to what I tentatively calling ‘Extended Fictions’ a whole new landscape emerges. This is a landscape that the millennial born digital natives are swimming in effortlessly. It is both image and text like graphic novels but maybe even more fluid and permeable once online. The graphic novel has its ‘paper’ retro adherents who regard online as a threat to its unique paper object-ness.  They see its object-hood as the defining characteristic of  paper-bound writing and in many ways this ‘thing-ness’ corresponds with contemporary crisis in the fine arts over authenticity and object value.

I spent much of last year investigating Charles Dickens and his illustrators as a key moment in the development of the ‘serialised’ novel. Indeed one could say he invented the modern magazine serialisation and therefore modern cinema and TV.
It is no coincidence that the first efforts to create working free-flowing multi-directional Apps from literature have used him as a model. The image above is a illustrated short story by Dickens from Microsoft. The image below is from the ‘Dark London’ app developed by the Museum of London and again drawing on both location tracking and multiple entry points to the narrative..all is FLOW..not uni-directional narration.

Unless modern creative-writing courses take on board THE FLOW we will have a version of writing presented as all writing just as a version of fine art currently dominates fine art. This is my opinion. It is not an opinion many in my institution would agree with that is for sure.

For me to not go with THE FLOW is to cease to go forward it as simple as that.

The future is here now and it looks very much like the past to me …we do not want to miss the train do we? Would Dickens be working on paper or the web?

london

Dickens Dark London App

The Paris Conference Paper on Dickens Illustration

Because of the all change in career break I did not have time to turn this lecture into a full paper sadly….maybe in future. Many thanks to the organisers of the Illustration and Narrative Construction Conference it was excellent.

 

Johnny Newcome Part 2.

The same sequence I had earlier discovered via Saville’s excellent caricature website has been discovered by Doug Wheeler at Superitch too. Here he concentrates on the racist message being conveyed but again it the sequential panelling I focussed on.

Original article here: http://superitch.com/?p=43407

I have changed contrast on images in an attempt to clarify the text. I also have larger jpeg versions now so can work out the narrative.

The narrative is sequential in that Johnny takes part in a logical progression of activities culminating in his marriage to the plantation owner’s beautiful daughter after a variety of idle and lascivious ‘adventures’. There are no linking actions in a filmic sense but then as this 1812 the whole idea of photography and cinema did not exist the nearest would have been sequences in magic lanterns which tended to be (like Hogarth) separate entities. What significant here is the panels being displayed as a sequence in one frame. This something I will look at in more detail  in the paper. If one compares to popular broadside imagery and text then it is a step forward. It is also close to Hone and Cruikshank’s ‘The Queen’s Matrimonial Ladder’ toy of 1819 for a full pamphlet of 1820 (Source: p.70 James, L. (1976) English Popular Literature 1819-1851. (see below) for more detail see The Print Shop Window Archive including original photos of Hone’s ‘toy’.
here : http://printshopwindow.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/george-cruikshank-william-hone-queens.html

 

JohnnyNewcome1812WilliamElmesPlate1small JohnnyNewcome1812WilliamElmesPlate2small

 

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