‘‘Not an Art-Room’ a collaborative research project’ by Joanna Fursman

Deciding to share your practice isn’t often an easy decision or step to make. Asking others to join you can be more nerve wracking when considering questions of ethics, the pulling of others out of their comfort zone to make something viable and challenging. ‘Do-gooding’1, the assumption that collaborative practice is a ‘given’ and that everyone should or want to participate is also a difficult position to unearth.

More difficult still is approaching a collaborative project in a secondary school where collaboration really ‘gets in the way’. Instead, in an environment where days, hours and minutes are to be planned and negotiated to the final moment; rigidity and certainty has to be undone.

So, with this in mind, I developed a research project with a small group of 14 year old students. Photography was to be the main protagonist, the camera an object to hide our selves and faces behind while investigating ideas. Using digital SLRs encouraged us to seek out how the school building made meaning, but we quickly noticed this became more about how we could create meaning out of the school building.

Over eight weeks we made a set of images and developed a photographic practice that questioned and disturbed ideas of the students’ and adults place and role in the school. Taking advantage of afterschool time, capturing empty corridors, classrooms, cupboards, offices and school equipment. Soon furniture was moved, shelves climbed upon, floors were desks, whiteboards became sculptures and objects ‘left-over’ from lessons used to collage new images.

The collaboration was unrecognisable, a fuzzy ball of an idea of something and probably different for each participant. An un-negotiated idea in a vigilated environment meant that relationships were re-negotiated, opinions formed, strands of ideas drawn out, discussed, changed, tangled, re-shaped, re-formed. Students stepped in and out of a role of maker; of work and decisions as students or artists, while my role as teacher receded.

In negotiating a different type of collaboration, the one between myself and my mentor has been one of slowly revealing similarities and different positions. My mentor is in the enviable position of having completed a PhD, while I stand at the beginning of mine. Our practices are very different, as are our research interests and directions. But a collaboration here occurs in our train journeys to the meetings, reading, conversations, push-pull of ideas, negotiating city/ies, tea drunk, consuming cake and scones, writing and making work.

On reflection, questions should be posed: where is the collaboration defined? Where does it live or sit? Do we decide if it is a specific practice, or a project? Is it what happens, or what is made? It isn’t always where a group of people do something together. Being prepared for things to go wrong, having the courage to wait and see what will be produced, not measuring or marking what has occurred, perhaps then the collaboration will happen without you noticing.

1 Bishop, C. Artificial Hells, Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship. 2012. Verso. London.

Joanna Fursman is an artist teacher and a practice-based PhD researcher examining the production and recognition of the future school art-room.

High five!

Thank you to everyone who came to the High fives: spaces for doctorateness symposium including all our speakers for bringing such interesting, honest and diverse insights and energy to the day.

There’s been some great feedback about the 5 minute pecha-kucha style presentations establishing a rhythm and maintaining engagement throughout the afternoon. There were also positive comments on bringing researchers together and – as was raised as an important and not to be underestimated element in facilitating communities and conversions – lots of nice food and drink!

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BIAD will shortly be merging with the Faculty of Performance, Media and English (PME) to become the International Faculty of Arts, Design and Media comprising 9 schools (Architecture; Art; Fashion, Textiles and 3D Design; Jewellery; Visual Communication; Acting; English; Media; the Conservatoire).

High fives really highlighted the exciting potential and spaces opened up by researchers creating dialogues between these Faculties, as well as beyond, through talks by researchers at the School of Education, the School of Health, the Faculty of Technology, Engineering and the Environment (TEE) and PGRNet, BCU’s Postgraduate Researcher Network.

Whilst professional development and ‘doctorateness’ may be in part specific to the context of certain faculties or schools, it seems that such conversations across BCU open up spaces for a multifaceted and expanded sense of doctorateness through fostering a rich, diverse and supportive research community, enhancing personal and professional development and well-being amongst researchers.

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High fives: spaces for doctorateness symposium

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It’s nearly time for our High fives: spaces for doctorateness symposium which will be held on Thursday 3rd July, 3-6:30pm, Parkside, room P132 !

We’ve got a fast-paced, informal and fun afternoon lined up that shares and disseminates Knowledge Exchange in Design research residencies and the BIAD Research Mentoring Initiative run this academic year. There will be short pecha-kucha style talks by project participants and researchers in other faculties opening up cross-disciplinary spaces to consider what doctorateness may mean today.

3:00pm  Registration and refreshments
3:15pm  Framing professional development talks
              Jayne Sharples, Dr Sian Vaughan, Dr Jacqueline Taylor, Dr Anne Boultwood
3:45pm  Project participant talks
              Bushra Zalloom and Mike Farr, Dr Mark Walker and Joanna Fursman, Camille
              Chinneck and Yi Wu, Geraldine Marshall, Delia Skinner and Peipei Yu
4:15pm  Across the University talks
              Prof Tim Hall, Prof Richard Ashford, Ian McDonald, Amanda French, Dr Kirsten
              Forkert and Mohammed Mayouf
4:45pm  Discussion
5:30pm  Drinks, canapés and networking.

There are still some tickets available so be sure to click here to register. All welcome!

Call for presentations!

We are looking for research mentoring and KED partnerships to give short pecha-kucha style presentations (10 slides in 5 minutes) for our final event of the academic year on Thursday 3rd July 2014.

The aim of the event is to hold a small symposium that shares and disseminates these projects. Alongside these presentations, there will also be other talks in this format to keep the event fast-paced, informal and fun.

We invite you to:

  • share your experiences
  • reflect on your partnership
  • discuss knowledge exchange

Within the 5 minutes we encourage you to do this in any creative ways that you feel are appropriate.

Deadline for applications: 09th June 2014

Download an application form to present here

Please email your completed application form to Dr Jacqueline Taylor at Jacqueline.Taylor@bcu.ac.uk by 9th June.

We will contact successful applicants on the week commencing 16th June 2014.

Celebrating professional development!

Right now, we’re holding our Celebrating Professional Development event. Yes, that’s right – we’re live blogging!

The aim of today’s session is to celebrate BIAD researchers as creative individuals, and their development through knowledge exchange and working collaboratively. As well as PhD researchers from both Knowledge Exchange in Design (KED) and Research Mentoring schemes, there are also faculty staff and we are delighted to welcome external KED partners from a range of organisations including IE Design, Ikon Gallery and Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (BMAG).

So far, Prof Richard Coles has welcomed us with a story of Archimedes in the bath as a way of thinking about the journey that leads us to that unexpected Eureka! moment. Jacqueline Taylor then introduced the BIAD Professional Development Network and our Research Mentoring scheme.


This was followed by a talk by one our mentoring partnerships Gregory Dunn and Zoe Millman. This provided insights into their mentoring relationship and how it has grown to be supportive and productive for both mentee and mentor.

Jayne Sharples introduced the KED scheme, going back to how it started and current residencies as at IE DesignIkon Gallery and a collaborative project at the Herbert Museum and Art Gallery and Coventry University.

Following this, Sian Vaughan has introduced our activity. Our participants have been split into four groups in which each group has been given an Easter egg. After being unwrapped, each egg has revealed the group’s themes iced onto their egg: collaboration, sustainability, impact or discipline. Participants are encouraged to break off bits and to share their thoughts as they do and are currently discussing these themes …



There have been some really interesting and thought-provoking conversations around these themes which have only strengthened the importance of the schemes we are running and the need for them to be sustained. We are looking forward to unpicking these further and incorporating them into our future events this year.

Of course, we couldn’t properly celebrate professional development without food and drink! After final remarks from Anne Boultwood, participants are now continuing their conversations over wine and canapés. There is a real buzz and we hope it has been an enjoyable evening for all and thank everyone for coming!

We would love to hear from you! Continue discussions by adding any comments to this or any other posts. If you would like to write a blog post for us, email our website editor Jacqueline Taylor at Jacqueline.taylor@bcu.ac.uk. 

Learning to mentor by Mattia Paganelli

In the process of becoming an academic researcher, one learns in unexpected ways; teaching has been one, mentoring at first seemed no different. Yet, I was quickly proved wrong. The dialogue with a prospective PhD researcher is an entirely different experience, miles away from the inevitable limitations of the lecturing format at BA level I already knew. It is a curiosity platform, where questions are exchanged and one offers his experience in tackling them. It requires creativity in reorganizing one’s experience beyond the structure of a specific subject of study, in order to understand to someone else’ work.

Thus mentoring has become an opportunity to explore the tutoring role in a broader and more rewarding way. This offers great help in the specific case of art school, where developing studio tutoring skills requires more than simply passing information, and one must learn to be flexible in order to respond to different sensibilities and different practices.

In the conversations we have, I find I am sharing the excitement for having a study project that is entirely my own. The experiences collected in making art in a globalized technological world and the knowledge gained studying merge in this dialogue, becoming valuable references when discussing why and how undertaking postgraduate research; not to mention the more delicate task of advising how to embark in the PhD adventure with the right mixture of foolishness and determination.

Mattia Paganelli is a PhD student at the Centre for Fine Art Research, BIAD whose research examines the relation between aesthetics and epistemology in contemporary art practice.