BACKWATER

Rail, River, Road and Art in The Thames Valley 1840-1910

Category: River Trent

Track: Oxford and Nottingham

My recent poems around Track: Nottingham theme come from an original multimedia project from 2010 reborn….only this time poetry led…..

I am working on two books of poems drawing on local history in two locations…

The above Thames based one is leaning towards a PhD including a textual exegesis drawing on the history of technology and the arts.

The second local to Nottingham and one which I engaged in at present is similar but without the historical framework and more academic exegesis.

The projects take individual ‘derives’ as the starting point for poems that literally ‘track’ individuals movement through urban and rural space and their inter-actions with the current technology to analyse how art and technology interact.

I hope in future to illustrate myself or use illustrators in a wider ‘Track: Nottingham’ book proposal.

So far I have written three poems about Picasso, Chaplin and D.H.Lawrence which rather neatly bookend three con-current aspects of modernity in Painting – Film – Literature.

I am interested in the relation between technology and how these individuals were enabled to move and in turn have their works ‘distributed’ by the new channels of literary and film distribution  and their link to networks of travel especially the railway.

From my earliest poetry I have ought to ‘map’ these webs of inter-dependence and am grateful to Patrick Keiller and David Matless for some of the theoretical cultural geographical basis of this approach. This began with a an abandoned M.A. in multimedia in 2010.

No person is an island and no artist is independent of the tentacles of mass distribution and technological change.

My poetry is an attempt to map these hinterlands of change.

They are also stories about people and love and pain played out against 19th,  20th and 21st century backdrops.

 

and the original Multimedia project from 2010

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

 

 

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