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Art and Design events 2020/21

Our Arts and Creative Industries Research Seminars afford researchers with a discursive platform to present work in progress, test out ideas and seek peer input.

3D Printing in Reverse

Wednesday 26 May 2021

Theo Harper-Davis, CDT Ph.D. candidate 

This live making project is driven by a reaction to observing 3D printing clay, understood against my experience of hand-printing clay, which I describe as being intimate, performative, and laborious. My response to opposing contexts and materials has provided the motivation to interrogate the 3D printing process, from a clay origin to Computer Aided Design (CAD), and inevitably, automated making.

My sculptural practice requires a conduit between the different processes involved within CAD and 3D Printing, so that the physical experience of hand-printing clay can be better digitally expressed. The material context is not defined by boundaries of discipline but can be changed and understood as the material clay itself can: as something that is malleable.

As Anna Vallgårda states, ‘We have to discover-or perhaps rather create new relations between form and function and, more importantly, we cannot expect computational things to be readily understood—they require interpretation’ (Vallga°rda, 2009, p.28). Today, the ethical development of these technological parameters is paramount as our entire made environment is created through interactions with computers: it is environmental, geological, and political.

This research seminar will be streamed from EKWC in the Netherlands and involves bringing together the crafted movements of expressive hand-printed clay sculpture, Rhino 3D (CAD), and electromagnetic tracking to put into practice new processes that I have been working on throughout my research period. It is both a presentation and live demonstration of the experience. These methods of making that have emerged, seek to understand the underlying materials and processes involved in our made environments, by 3D Printing in Reverse.

Theo Harper-Davis, "Sawn and toppled crown", 2020 (detail)

Sawn and toppled crown

Experimental and Creative Approaches to Collecting and Distributing New Media Art Within Regional Arts Organisations

Wednesday 28 April 2021

Georgia Smithson, NPIF/AHRC PhD Researcher

This presentation is an overview of my research undertaken towards creating new models for collecting and distributing new media artworks from a regional gallery perspective. I’ve been working with my partner organisation, NGCA, a gallery on the University of Sunderland campus which collects photography, sculpture, prints and new media art. The new media collection is small and the artworks and components are relatively uncomplicated. My research deals with the key concerns for the practicalities of collecting new media art going forward and I’m also looking at innovative digital distribution methods by the use of new media.

New media art is recognised as being a relatively new art form. Curator, Christiane Paul, traces it back to Duchamp’s Rotary Glass Blades from 1920 due to the artwork’s interactive feature. From the 1960s practitioners have experimented using computers, and the art-form now ascribed as new media art has evolved into multiple strands of production, presentation and distribution. The creative possibilities of new media art seem as unlimited as modern technology will allow us to explore. But are we, as collectors, researchers, artists and enthusiasts facing an uncertain future concerning the integration of new media art into institutional cultural organisations? Recently, concerns have been raised by curators regarding the importance of learning how to collect new media art if there is to be any hope of preserving its past. This research explores how by collaboration, experimentation and the transference and distribution of knowledge and resources, these concerns may be conquered to preserve and make accessible new media art for future generations to enjoy.

Simon Martin, Untitled, 2011, HD video exhibited as single screen projection. NGCA Collection.

Simon Martin, Untitled, 2011, HD video exhibited as single screen projection. NGCA Collection

A Delicious Garden: An Enquiry through Text, Image and Archive

Wednesday 10 March 2021

Marjolaine RyleySenior Lecturer in Photography

In the garden we find ourselves confronting both ‘Nature’ and ‘Culture’. Politics of both the macro and micro emerge in the garden. Ian Hamilton Finlay famously wrote referring to Little Sparta that “certain gardens are described as retreats when they are really attacks”. The very act of gardening is a rejection of the values of capitalist society, where production rather than consumption, giving rather than taking, renewal rather than decay, all manifest as the garden grows. This research aims to explore the significance of gardens and of gardening, revealing that Gardens are profoundly transformative at the micro-personal level and that they have global significance at the macro level. In the fight against climate change for example, gardening may be central to the sustainability of our planet. Drawing on the radical beginnings of Environmental Art and the Green Movement, looking at gardens and their political histories and drawing connections with the medium of photography, my doctoral research is born out of what George McKay termed ‘Horti-countercultural politics’. The lens through which this study is focused however is a very personal one, the lens of the self. This research enquiry is therefore also an auto-ethnographic story that reveals through texts, images, archives (and increasingly plants) my own entwined relationship with the garden.

This research seminar draws on current PhD Research in Fine Art at Newcastle University, funded through the Northern Bridge Consortium.

“A Gardener's Daughter" from the exhibition This is What I See,  NGCA 2019

Little boy looking at two pictures on the wall


Research Methodologies in the Arts and Creative Industries: A Symposium

Wednesday 3 February 2021

Explored a range of research methodologies across the different disciplines of the Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries. Postgraduate research students present their working research methods and share their experiences to date. Find out what they do, what works well, what has not, what comes next. Individual presentations will be followed by a group Q&A session and an online social event.


13:30 Introduction, Dr Kevin Yuill, Associate Professor of American History, and Dr Alexandra Moschovi, Associate Professor of Photography and Digital Media

13:35 Welcome by Prof. Kevin Petrie, Head of the School of Art and Design

13:40 Greg Forrester

13:50 Siouxsie Barber

14:00 Ben James

14:10 Break

14:20 Helen McGhie

14:30 Angela Tait

14:40 Q&A

15:00 Social

Abstracts and Bios

Greg Forrester (School of Media and Communications)

Magical Realism and Northern Identity
In the wake of Brexit, I intend to explore, through a combination of a creative element (experimentally-structured novel) and a critical element, what it means to identify as either ‘British’ and ‘Northern’ in these changing times. The creative element will explore these themes by following a young immigrant girl who relocates to a refuge in Hamsterley, and her journey to find an identity of her own in a world determined to place labels on her which she does not identify with. This story will be interwoven with retellings of County Durham folktales to explore the theme of a specific northern identity. Alongside this, the critical element will track the developmental journey and creative praxis of producing this piece, including analysing and addressing relevant research into the areas of magical realism, folklore morphology, the novella, and national and regional identity.

Greg Forrester (he/him) has BA and MA degrees in Creative Writing and is currently working towards a PhD in the same discipline. He writes, mostly magical realism, and has been published by Fairlight Books. He is the Managing Director of Bandit Fiction, and offers writing development and editing services through his website: www.gregforrester.co.uk.

Siouxsie Barber (School of Media and Communications)

An Examination of Societal Beliefs and Traditions Reflected in the Variation of Oicotypes in Celtic Folktales found in the British Isles
This thesis examines how oicotypes are formed and within a select group of Celtic folktales by examining multiple variants of the same story recorded in various locations in the British Isles. The oicotype approach to analysing folktales is a comparative method that focuses on the migratory movements of folktales and how they adapt to new environmental factors. In past studies this approach has been used to highlight differences in custom and tradition between different countries or cultures, and by applying it to folktales variants found in different areas of the British Isles, this thesis hopes to examine the differences in belief and custom found between different Celtic communities in closer proximity to one another.

Siouxsie Barber’s research interests include cultural anthropology in folklore, supernatural literature, and the history of fairy tales and folklore. Her current research examines the oicotypal changes that occur in migrating Celtic folktales, and what this can tell us about the beliefs and traditions of the communities in which the oicotype occurred. Siouxsie holds a BA Hons in Literature and Linguistics, and an MA in English Studies, both acquired through the University of Sunderland. She has a varied working background, including teaching modules in History and Philosophy, and delivering advice and tutorials to KS4 students concerning Higher Education.

Ben James (School of Art and Design)

‘Make a Map not a Tracing’
My research asks what happens when a film is edited. By responding to this question, the research looks to identify links between filmic editing processes and curatorial practice. The objective is to identify curatorial strategies that can help create, extend and support films—and the fictional worlds they create—within the exhibition environment.
Last year, I began to have concerns that I might be getting ‘lost’ in my research. In response, I began to construct simple flow diagrams in illustrator. Over time, these diagrams expanded and began to function in three key ways, they:
i) helped me better identify links between aspects of my research and to create a visual map as to where gaps might exist;
ii) provided a visual space where theory and practice could interact with one another;
iii) began to create a narrative for my PhD. In many ways, the diagrams read as a visual essay with key arguments constructed through arrows and text that follow the page downwards.

Ben James is a curator and filmmaker. Currently, he co-directs the London art space South Kiosk and is the film curator of Transmediale Festival in Berlin. He recently released his latest feature film, an experimental documentary that premiered at Visions du Réel 2020.

Helen McGhie (School of Art and Design)

Stargazing at the ‘Invisible’: Photography and the Power of Obscured Light—A Research Partnership with Kielder Observatory
This practice-led project explores the relationship between photography and astronomy in partnership with Kielder Observatory (KOAS), Northumberland. It investigates how lens-based art can operate within and in response to an observatory in Northern England, testing:
i) what new encounters with dark skies emerge when a fine-art photographer works in partnership with an astronomy organisation;
ii) can photography visualise the experience of dark sky observation in Northern England?
iii) how can lens-based art communicate a speculative practice of astronomy?
Funded by the National Productivity Investment Fund (enabling new partnership-focused research projects that offer mutual benefit to the field and an industry partner), the work supports a new arts programme at KOAS. Additionally, it offers a model for collaboration between artists and local science organisations. The research expands previous multi-method approaches in fine-art photography-science projects, combining the still and moving image, conversations with a community, exhibitions, and reflective practice.

Helen McGhie is a photographic artist and researcher based in Greater Manchester. Her practice explores and reimagines ubiquitous images through the still and moving image. She has exhibited both nationally and internationally, most recently in Observe, Experiment, Archive (Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens, 2019-20), Exploring Skyscapes (Nottingham Contemporary, 2020) and 209 Women (Portculis House/Open Eye Gallery, 2019). Recent publications include ‘Stargazing from the forest’, Photomonitor (online, Dec. 2020) and Monthly Photography (South Korea, Jul. 2020). McGhie is a Lecturer in Photography at the University of Sunderland and a studio member of Islington Mill, Salford.

Angela Tait (School of Art and Design)

Things which Go Round: An investigation of the Relationship between a Creative Practice and Domesticity
This practice-based research uses an autoethnographic approach where the researcher is also the subject which being investigated. Central to the methodology is an experimental writing process that acts variously as diary, method of data capture, reflective tool, and creative outcome. It will also, eventually, be embedded (in part) in the thesis giving patches of text that add richness and thick description to the traditional academic voice. The complex position of the Blovel (a portmanteau of blog and novel) has been problematic and altered the trajectory of the research. This said, it also creates its own original outcome as both a method, and outcome and a way of presenting the research.

Angela Tait is a third-year PhD researcher in the expanded field of ceramics with the University of Sunderland, and a lecturer in Fine Art at the University of Salford. Research interests focus around the use of the vessel as a universally understandable ‘object/thing’, which is equally at home in the public and private domains. Tait uses the vessel (both the making of it and the final object) to explore the temporal experience of working alongside domestic obligations.


'Performing Jeju Scoria: Imagined Realities and Extended Vocabularies' 

Wednesday 13 January 2021

Professor Andrew Livingstone

As new ways of working emerge and are now becoming normalized as a result of the Covid19 pandemic, alternative solutions for research are being considered and implemented. This is the case with this international research project that was to take place in The Republic of Korea on the Island of Jeju in August 2020. In respect of travel limitations, the research project continued remotely and was executed within the UK in November 2020. Three Kilos of Jeju Scoria/Clay was shipped to the participants to enable the research. 

This seminar presents practice-based research undertaken as part of the international research project, The Clay Reader: Scoria, Scoria Jeju Scoria. It explores the notion and actualities of remote investigation through imagined interpretation and responses to a material and its land of origin. The material Scoria is explored and viewed through an alternative lens, that of film, which in turn engenders extended approaches to clay through performative investigation of the artist, material and processes. This research presents extended vocabularies that are proffered in response to visual and contextual investigations that contribute to a reading of clay outwith of the vernacular.

A man against a brick wall looking from behind a round mirror


Crossing Boundaries

Wednesday 9 December 2020

Dr Manny Ling, SFHEA, HFCLAS
Programme Leader for MA Design

This presentation will concentrate on my research with western calligraphy. For many years I have explored the theme of ‘Crossing boundaries’. This is not a conscious choice, but a natural development of my ‘self-being’ in knowing (and sometimes not knowing) what I need to do with my creative expressions. It is about the building of bridges between east and west, handmade and digital media, simplicity and complexity, energy and stillness, old and new, control and spontaneity. 

Calligraphy to me is like drawing with lines. I move the linear elements along the page and compose them intuitively. When the ink and my energy are inter-mingled, the two entities are inseparable. They are working in unison—a unity. Calligraphy is also a process of capturing the essence of the line—it is an expression of life and beyond. When we write, we give birth to each stroke, and each stroke has a life and path that are unique to itself. In Chinese, they call this phenomenon ‘Ch’i Yuen Shen Tong’, or more commonly known as ‘Ch’i’ in the west.

One could try and intellectualise this process, but it feels pointless at times. If you know it, you can feel it. The truth is, it is the unforced but intuitive manner in which we create the instantaneous marks that unifies everything. It should be as natural as breathing.

“Every day is a journey and the journey itself is home” by Basho, Calligraphy by Manny Ling and Sumi painting by Christine Flint-Sato.

Chinese black and white calligraphy


'Cyber Cage: Next Generation Knowledge Fusion between Art, Technology and Innovation'

An interdisciplinary research seminar of the Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries and the Faculty of Technology

Wednesday 25 November 2020

James Hutchinson, Sardar Jaf and Nick Lewis

During 2020, Creative Fuse North East and CoLab Sunderland worked with Dynamo North East and Breeze Creatives to facilitate a creative response to the complex business challenge of cyber security for #Cyberfest, the North East’s largest cybersecurity festival. This cross-faculty seminar will share the outcomes of the creative collaboration that subsequently emerged between the Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries and the Faculty of Technology at the University of Sunderland. Cyber Cage, a series of artworks and interventions, exemplifies the value of an arts-led innovation approach to; identifying and addressing complex challenges emerging at the nexus of technology, the economy and society, and the visualisation of complex cybersecurity concepts and social network phenomena.

During the early stages of the UK COVID-19 lockdown, University of Sunderland academics James Hutchinson, Sardar Jaf and Nick Lewis came together (over Microsoft Teams). They considered the impact of escalating risks and detrimental effects associated with cyber security on individuals, the economy and wider society, with a focus on social media, user privacy and security. The resulting interdisciplinary project synthesized tools, methods, knowledge and perspectives drawn from their distinct disciplines (arts, creative industries and computer science) to explore ideas of containment, cloaking and invisibility and the ways in which information is coded and decoded within systems. The final works open up a critical dialogue between the technological vulnerabilities that facilitate cybercrime and the psychological impact of pervasive cybercrime within our digitally driven society.

By interrogating cybercrime through a cultural, educational and behavioural change perspective rather than a solely technological one, Cyber Cage highlights the multicentric nature of cybercrime. Thus, provides cyber security providers with human-centred, socially driven insights that can inform the development of impactful innovations within their growing sector and wider society.

James Hutchinson
MA Fine Art Programme Leader, Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries

Nick Lewis
Lecturer, Illustration and Design, Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries

Dr Sardar Jaf
Senior Lecturer in Computer Science, Faculty of Technology

Dr Suzy O’Hara 
Research Fellow, Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries
Project Director for CoLab Sunderland

Professor Lynne Hall 
Professor of Computer Science, Faculty of Technology
Creative Fuse – Principal Investigator

Co/Lab Sunderland 
Launched in 2018, Co/Lab Sunderland is a cross-faculty programme of activity that explores the intersection of art, research and society. We develop and test new methods for collaboration that bring diverse disciplines, industries and communities together. In doing so, we enable academic staff in the University of Sunderland to; critically engage with interdisciplinary perspectives and processes, take disciplinary risks, innovate new ways of thinking, develop new contexts for doing and challenge the ways in which their field is understood and experienced through creative practice. 

Creative Fuse North East 
Creative Fuse North East is an interdisciplinary collaborative project that supports innovation and growth in the creative and digital economy in the North East. The region’s five universities (Newcastle, Durham, Northumbria, Sunderland and Teesside) share knowledge and practice exploring how HE expertise and resources can support the creative, digital and IT sector. Academics work alongside industry, cultural organisations, charities and the public sector, to explore how creative, digital and IT firms can have a sustainable future in the region adding value to the region’s broader employment base.

At the University of Sunderland, Creative Fuse North East aims to support academics, graduates and students in external engagement, research and teaching and learning. The project aims to build on and support existing initiatives, relationships and interests, aiming to support live projects and collaborations with SMEs and research partners. The project is based in the Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries with two Researchers in the David Puttnam Media Centre.

Creative Fuse North East is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and European Regional Development Funds along with contributions from all of the five University partners.



#CyberFest, the North East’s largest cyber security festival is now in its third year, with ten events across the region throughout September. The aim of #CyberFest is to raise awareness of cyber security activities across the region as part of our mission ‘To Make the North East the place for cyber security.’

#CyberFest 2020 is planned to be bigger and better than last year with a range of events covering businesses, students, the general public and cyber security providers.

Dynamo North East 
Dynamo North East is a business-led organisation with the core mission of: Growing the North East tech economy through collaboration, innovation, skills and noise. Our vision for the region is to have a world-class reputation as a hotspot for digital, data and technology. We raise awareness of north-east England as a great place to build a career in tech, as well as to live and work. We help local people and organisations thrive, and build confidence, and showcase the great work already being done throughout the region. We are proud to be based in the North East and recognise the importance of passing the message on to others.

Breeze Creatives
Breeze Creatives is a contemporary visual arts organisation based in the North East. Breeze Creatives’ dedication and passion towards the development of new sustainable approaches is driven by the ambition present in Abject and Abject 2 galleries, alongside commissioning and supporting artists with space, facilities and exhibition opportunities as well as funds to help realise exciting new ideas.



Art and Design Past events 

Art and Design events 2019/20


CRMCS Past research seminars 2000-2017

Research seminars 2000-2017