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PhD applications: The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

artresurch

Cartoon of my Beautiful Career April 2015 –  ‘Plus Ca Change’

Since I went on a career break in September 2014 and following my successful M.A. in Fine Art which I completed with a distinction in January 2014 I have worked towards a funded PhD.

This has not been a pleasant experience and after two years and 5 attempts to secure funding I have finally given up. It has cost me my job too.

The experience has taught me a lot about the nature of modern academia which is in some cases profit-driven, incestuous, corrupt and full of cronyism and back-biting.

I have not been successful despite having a reference from the Chicago Professor of Art, being featured in the Times Higher in an article about blurring the lines between art and research, illustrating James Elkins book Artists with PhDs, having several notable conference appearances and my first and so far only paper published as sole author in The Journal of Arts and Humanities in Higher Education as a ‘New Voice’. Finally in November 2014 I was commissioned by R.I.B.A. to write a poem for Edwin Smith Photographer at their London Gallery. This I did and included traditional Harvard Referencing in the final poem..a first for me and again blurring the lines between art and research:-)

Here the time-line of my glorious failure and the reasons I believe behind it.

Summer 2014 : Leverhulme joint application through BIAD unsuccessful but application was regarded as strong.

Winter 2014: Joint 3 Cities and V C Bursary application through my own institution. Not only not progressed but actively discouraged by the Head of Art Research in my own institution who did not like the fact I had illustrated the Elkins book and generally out-performed him along with a little matter to do with academic validity involving a previous Dean’s output. For legal reasons I cannot disclose why I was treated like this but when I resigned I did discuss it with HR and also stated as I my wife employed in the same institution I would rather resign than get embroiled in a long-winded union battle over it. I would also not be fighting the case as the individual’s father had been a high court judge….my chances of winning zero.

HR recognised  I had a strong case with witnesses but as they also told me my area (drawing) was not supported as not seen as ‘strategic’ ( Textiles and Fashion is by the way) then I was basically flogging a dead horse..

During my career break I officially notified my Head of Art Research, who had by then taken on the post of the overall Head of Research in School and could thus ensure I received no further support, that I was no longer research active. He was delighted. Career wise this would eventually lead to a teaching only post ( NTU considering having salaries on this ticket to FE rates ..it pure business sense). I was effectively dead in the water re Research if I stayed and was also being asked to teach a subject I know nothing of..Animation..after being denied Graphic Design and Fine Art teaching unless dissertation supervision. I too Graphics for Fine Art and too Fine Art for Graphics or in other words..closed shops.

Hence my resignation and leaving at Xmas 2015 I had no choice.

The applications were very good by the way. I may re-purpose one day. I was on brink of submitting a chapter to a I B Taurus book on Phenomenology of Drawing that now gone.

Summer 2015: BIAD 3 Cities. To see if the treatment was just a local problem within NTU I applied directly through an institution that had previously supported me in the failed Leverhulme bid. I received no reply or feedback from them after applying and still have not received any at all it just disappeared. This despite contacting their art research admin. Cheers.

January 2016: Nottingham University- Horizon Award MRL. My application well written and gained an interview last week. Not offered funding. It may not have been best match and I have no regrets about applying. Set up had changed since a friend went on it and local community arts angle I bidding for seemed to have disappeared and been replaced by a corporate business led PFI type model. Only institution to treat me fairly to date though so bonus points for that! Also there was no age problem with the process as a 61 year old had been successful in past. However if you sending interns into corporate industry a crusty old left-wing artist not the best looking nor the most flexible option if you get my drift…

February 2016: Loughborough – same application was acknowledged as of good quality but unfortunately I did not make it through to the final three out of twenty-five for the one bursary. Why only one? Well Loughborough had chucked rest of money at their shiny London campus international funded Phds….so there you go. To just rub salt in wound they tried to trick me into accepting a ‘unfunded’ Phd by praising my proposal as of good quality unfortunately I know someone else in 25 and basically they chucked it at all candidates. Sprats and mackerels. Of course unfunded means giving them £30K minimum…amazingly generous offer when you think about it. I was impressed too. Cheers. Oh and deadline day of budget in case the new PhD Student Loans made me rethink..sharp practice worthy of a barrow boy there then…

So two years of hard work and effort down the drain and a hugely more cynical view of academia. Not to mention approx £20 K in lost wages.

I can honestly say that a lot of this treatment has to do with some of these institutions especially, in regard to AHRC funds, operating an ageist policy and they are too scared to even reply about it for being found out. Hence the evasive and nasty comments. The latest rumour I heard is that a cut off date of 40 is possible..I know 50 is too old as have heard rumours of a female candidate of that age being denied too. I found an online Scottish Government article where it stated no funding from AHRC would be given after 55 that seems about right and I do believe it come down since. The ‘mission statement’ of the research councils is ‘next generation’ no point funding the poor people who having to work until they are 70 now is it…..

The only challenge in obtaining a PhD has had nothing to do with my ability to do one and a hell of a lot to do with my age of 57 and my gender as an OWM ( Old White Male you know those oppressors from the white middle class). If I had been a woman in the AHRC East Midlands catchment I would probably have been funded by now. Let us leave it at that. The Dean I mentioned above was Head of an AHRC panel for a while …just saying…

As for my subject for Phd and its future the picture above is the book I will write despite all this and if I have to will self-publish.

If after that I turn out to be the British Ranciere after all all I can say to the above institutions is

‘Bye and Thanks for all the fish’

The same comment that led my resignation letter from NTU last September.

Farewell Academia hello reality.

 

 

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:

Suit of Lights? The Berkshire Hank Williams…

marshfield mummers

So Shaun what are you actually doing now……

well..that’s an interesting question.

I currently have two PhD proposals submitted to Nottingham University and Loughborough. They both the same and the gist of the proposal is this.

I want to link two separate areas of art research together. Storicodes is an app developed at Nottingham University MRL ( Mixed Reality lab) which is an artier version of the rather banal QR code. It has been successfully deployed through large scale illustration ( NWS November 2015).

At the same time I became aware of the developments in digital embroidery especially through the work at NTU in textile and product design. I was assured by Dr. Sarah Kettley that there is no theoretical problem in creating lighting embroidery which could then be scanned by the storicode app.

Which Baldrick is where my cunning plan unfolds…

As a dead country star ( yes there a lot around) and folk performer/reviewer I aware that audiences falling and venues closing so would like to help counter that trend. An app that connected both consumers and artists and enabled connections would be great. So here we have a variation on the ‘added content’ idea. By wearing an embroidered suit whilst performing it may be possible for an audience member to focus the scanning app on a part of the design which lit up in sequence as songs played. This would trigger an illustration appearing (songbook cover/graphic novel page) as I performed. The audience member would only access this information at the performance. Thus re-establishing a live venue experience with added value. I keen on the idea of near-field content which limited and not ubiquitous. I have a plan for a museum tree that beams out archives..but that literally another story…

Finally and still in early stages of development I have friends who work with severe autism and it may be possible to develop child-friendly suits that enable communication. Music and rhythm can be the keys to unlocking those previously ‘blocked’ neural spaces. If I can get funding then that a route I keen to go down.

PhD funding is extremely competitive at present and I still hopeful. If I fail ( update July 2016..I did fail but only because I not keen on being a corporate intern which sad ). Then I may look at alternative ways of creating these projects such as Near Now at Broadway or ACE funding or even Crowdsourcing. Who knows.

But that is where I be at right now.

Here some artist’s suits for information….and of course Elvis Costello wrote a song called ‘Suit of Lights’

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)

 

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:

 

Catching Light – Edwin Smith Commission

Apples and Snakes have posted the recordings of myself reading the Edwin Smith/RIBA commission.

In many ways this more Transmedia than poetry.

I deliberately use archive images, redundant technology and pseudo-referencing.

Inspired by Edwin Smith’s photograph, ‘Camden Town Bedroom,’ Belcher’s poem uses vivid imagery to explore the theme of light. Visit the RIBA website for more info: bit.ly/13HN1tf

Where I am right now….a map

artresurch

Revisiting ‘Deep Mapping’

This post was originally posted on this blog in 2011!

Interesting how much of it now relevant again…

The following passage was taken from “DEEP MAPPING:” A brief Introduction by Iain Biggs.
Mapping Spectral Traces

The concerns of deep mapping in its visual and performing arts manifestations are best indicated by Clifford McLucas’ text There are ten things that I can say about these deep maps. For McLucas deep maps appear in the interaction between three basic elements: graphic or freestanding visual work; a time-based component—film,  video, performance, or music; and a database or archival system that remains open and unfinished. He sees the process of deep mapping as challenging our presupposition that knowledge is the specialist domain of professional experts and wants it to bring together “the amateur and the professional, the artist and the scientist, the official and the unofficial, the national and the local.” McLucas also argues that deep maps should be a “politicized, passionate, and partisan” evocation of a site, involving “negotiation and contestation over who and what is represented and how.” Deep mappings should give rise to “debate about the documentation and portrayal of people and places” and be unstable, fragile, and temporary—conversations not statements. Mapping Spectral Traces 2010.

Clifford McLucas

http://cliffordmclucas.info/

 

 

my post from 2010

I am intending to rewrite my initial proposal in light of research I have done.

From a starting point of a ‘portfolio’ piece which showcased work using GPS and some form of app/website I have moved to a much more general approach drawing on the whole Deep Mapping idea. Indeed the closest fit to my initial aspirations of a ‘regional focus’ has been my recent discovery of the whole ‘deep mapping’ area.

I had already seen Patrick Keiller’s work and especially Robinson in Ruins which came out recently chimed with my own concerns. This has linked with the Pearson and McLucas definitions of Deep Mapping as a framework for proceeding. Indeed so much so that I am going to rewrite my initial proposal to acomodate this shift in focus. Although keen on social interaction and the kind of idea expounded in the ‘Context Providers’ book I am putting this on back burner until after M.A. completed and may form part of a larger package to take to Didcot Cornerstone Gallery (at present a gallery exposition is no longer a focus).

Deep Mapping is a complex idea and has complex outputs so the rest of this RPT M.A. is very much concerned with fitting the range of inputs into a manageable ‘online’ outcome as well as producing a range of discipline specific outcomes. I am no longer as focused on a specific app although it may still be produced.

I am also looking at merging google maps and a traditional website (which can be accessed through responsive or purposefully ‘mobilised’ websites).

To me the technology is simply a frame or container for the subject matter which is my main interest. Contemporary developments in hand held devices affords greater on location interaction but this does not now seem as important to me as providing a coherent interface for my wide ranging concerns.

It is a tall order to bring together my work in disparate fields and I am aware that there will be problems and that indeed the whole project may fall over through to many inputs but that is the most interesting aspect of this kind of work for me and also something I can honestly reflect upon as being genuine research in a fairly new area.

As Cliff McLucas stated

  • “To investigate ways of dealing with landscape – in what the concept has come to stand for, in its permutations in various media (painting, photography, poetry, performance … ), in its disciplinary field of landscape studies (incorporating historical and cultural geography, art history, archaeology), in its association with contemporary notions of place and identity, in its implied cultural politics”

 

and I also influenced by Mike Pearson’s definition

  • ” deep mapping……..takes region as its optic, acknowledging the effective ties between people and place”.

To me this social, political and people-centered focus is at the heart of my enquiry.

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’.

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