Experimental Practices

Submitting Institution

Leeds Metropolitan University

Unit of Assessment

Art and Design: History, Practice and Theory

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Studies In Creative Arts and Writing: Film, Television and Digital Media
Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies

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Summary of the impact

For this case study our impacts include high levels of community engagement, innovative pedagogy, engagement with large and broad audiences (in real life and via an array of broadcast and print media), prize winning activities and quality outputs and publications. Our approach is trans-disciplinary, progressive and experimental and impacts in a local, national and global context. This case study refers to the group of researchers at Leeds Metropolitan University whose work is practice-based, practice-led and often collaborative. This type of innovative and progressive research has characterised the subject at the University since the establishment of Leeds Polytechnic in 1970.

Underpinning research

Within this Unit the research is fundamentally plural and reflects our interdisciplinary tradition. The research is predominantly practice based often integrating writing in differing inventive formats and adopts a wide range of forms of dissemination. Much of the practice is characterised by the integration of materials and processes, it is one that avoids disciplinary specificity and purposefully combines teaching, practice, writing, performance and curating.

The work of Nathaniel Mellors [SL] combines video sculpture and writing presented in multifaceted installations that follow absurdist grotesque narratives referencing television and media in satirical and humorous ways. Exhibitions at I.C.A London and `ILLUMInations', 54th Venice Biennale, featured episodes 1, 2, 4 of the Ourhouse series of films which, adopting a television serial format, manifest themes of linguistic manipulation and control, provoking humorous thoughts on the art-historical authenticity of the object, the subjectivity of idolatry and the contextual and referential strategies used to inscribe value in contemporary art production. Complex production approaches found in Mellors work were consolidated by `The 7 Ages of Britain Teaser' commissioned for the BBC in 2010. Mellors engages in a parallel process, using scripts and films as a combined locale and rationale for the production of work in other forms that includes animatronic sculptures. Collaboration is inherent in Mellors approach and is reflected in events programmes at the I.C.A, and exhibitions HYPERCOLON (SMART Project Space, Amsterdam, 2011) and the Nest (cobra museum, Amstelveen, 2011) ambitious installed shows developed with colleague Chris Bloor [PL]. Peter Lewis [SL] has continued a nomadic and serial practice that builds new relationships, questioning value in the artwork via its electronic significations through the online journal `seconds'. This supportive and integrated curatorial approach has recently manifested in East End Promise 1985/2000 — A Story of Cultural Migrants, 2010, a multi media event that celebrated the artistic activity of London's East End, in which Lewis played a significant part through the flexible Redux project indicative of the movement's vibrant and immediate DIY ethos.

Alan Dunn instigated a unique and innovative series of audio artworks, bringing together students' compositions with artists of the highest international standing. Each CD takes as its theme a single concept such as revolution, silence or the colour grey. The collections are bound together by archival material from some of the world's leading cultural figures (Marcel Duchamp, Aldous Huxley, Herbert Marcuse, Agnes Martin, Gerhard Richter, The Black Panthers, Irina Ratushinskaya, Raul Castro) alongside new works by contemporary practitioners such as Douglas Gordon, Chris Watson, Scanner and Kaffe Matthews.

The work of Dr Rebekka Kill provides an appropriate underpinning much of our collaborative practice. Her research explores relational art, relational performance and artists' collaborations with audiences, students and communities. Dr Kill has also been Co-investigator on two AHRC funded research projects (with Dr Alice O'Grady from the University of Leeds); a research network and a small grant. Both of which explored "relational performance" at music festivals. The research network used collaborative archiving processes via Facebook and other social media platforms. The small grant involved collaboration with an industry partner, Urban Angels, and touring a performance work, to three music festivals (UK and Europe) and interacting with the audiences at these sites. These projects have also resulted in significant social media presence.

References to the research

Mellors, N. `The 7 Ages of Britain Teaser' commission for BBC One, 2010. Broadcast 9pm, Sunday 21st March, 2010, UK, and subsequently repeated. Estimated audience 6 million viewers. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p006yyn1

Mellors, N. 3 room installation of work in the `ILLUMInations' Central Pavilion at 54th Venice Biennale — `ILLUMInations', 2011. June 4th — November 27th 2011. 440,000 visitors. Exhibition catalogue.

Mellors, N. `Ourhouse Episodes 1, 2 & 4', The ICA, London, 2011. Solo exhibition of work, publication and curation of film and events programme during exhibition. 9th March - 15th May 2011. Funded by Mondriaan Fund and Netherlands Film Fund. Produced by Nomad.

Dunn, A. (2010) MANIF D'ART, in collaboration with Ben Parry, Le Cerle, Quebec Biennial, Canada. Participants include Chris Watson (UK), Pépé Bradock (Fr), Jocelyn Robert (Can) and Andrea Polli (USA). www.le-cercle.ca, May 2010.

Kill, R and O'Grady, A (2013) Exploring Festival Performance as a State of Encounter, Arts and Humanities in Higher Education , Sage, Issue 12.2 April 13


Details of the impact

The work of Nathaniel Mellors is positioned to create relationships between the present day media and traditional highbrow approaches to Art practice. In its varying manifestations it is engineered to create critical debate and social discourse both inside and outside the artworld. Through the BBC commission `The 7 Ages of Britain Teaser' 2010 Mellors was chosen to make a film sequence introducing the final episode of the series showing the role of media and modern Art in twentieth Century British history. This practice-based research, articulates contemporary art's interdisciplinary approach to media that combines film, performance, prosthetics and drama for a programme nationally and internationally broadcast with estimated viewing figures of 6 million. Throughout 2010 - 12 Mellors Ourhouse episodes have received funding from the Netherlands Film Fonds and BKVB Funding programme (Netherlands). The global reach of the Ourhouse series is evidenced by the 3 room installation presented at the Venice Biennale — this achieved an audience of 440,000. The work combined video presentations with photograms and an animatronic sculpture, `Hippy Dialectics', that integrates electronics, engineering, sound and prosthetics in a single work. Mellors' work has received critical acclaim across international media platforms, restricted not only to Art publishing.

In 2011 Mellors was awarded the Cobra Art Prize, a nationally recognized award in the Netherlands that acknowledges the significance of experimentation and innovation in practice and research and foregrounds the importance of the social role of the artist. On the event of this prize Mellors and Bloor on `the Nest' an exhibition held at the cobra museum Amstelveen that researched the museum archives presenting works by renown artists of the movement in a constructed sculptural installation alongside their own video, sculpture and photographic work. The exhibition investigated the legacy of playfulness and experimentation in art making that reflects the historical significance of the cobra movement fusing it with new methods and sensibilities for the benefit of a contemporary audience.

Mellors has been collaborating with colleague Chris Bloor from a mutual research base since 2010 and in September 2011 Mellors and Bloor co-curated HYPERCOLON a compendium show spread across the 8 spaces of SMART Project Space in Amsterdam. Identifying each individual space with a human body part, the exhibition curated artists from a broad spectrum of recognition and provided several up and coming early practitioners, notably Timothy Van Zoelen and Linda Quilan, the opportunity to exhibit alongside more established artists, the Chicago imagists, Brian Catlin, and Paul Lafolley, and with consigned work from the Harry Price Archive and Vito Acconci studio.

The work of Dunn, which involves students, has significant media attention (see section 5) and is genuinely collaborative: with students, with academic staff, with very high profile artists. This work has also resulted in Dunn being shortlist for a major national prize; the Liverpool Art Prize. Dr Kill's work, across the two projects (both collaborations with Dr Alice O'Grady from the University of Leeds) (described in section 2), has been seen by huge national and international audiences (Bestival has an audience of 30,000+), there is also a 24 minute documentary film on the project (due for release in 2013/14), it has also attracted research council funding and during the course of this project she has developed a social media following of over 4000 people.

All of these projects involve a strong, and published, commitment to collaborative practice as a theoretical frame. For Alan Dunn this model of working is an economic and non-hierarchical method of developing and distributing content and is recognised as such by a range of international practitioners in the field of academic audio art, from The Wire Magazine through the Audio Research Editions at Liverpool John Moores University. The series has also contributed to Dunn being shortlisted for the Liverpool Art Prize. For Dunn, "The CDs offer students and staff a unique opportunity to present their work in a real-life context, with each package being designed by students. Collaboration within the School is essential, as is increasingly cross-Faculty work and partnerships with agencies such as the BBC, Universal Music and Berkeley University."

Dunn's work has been the subject of radio, TV, online and print media. Many of which can be accessed via his website at http://www.alandunn67.co.uk/. Dr Kill's work can be found discussing collaboration on youtube and in various print media. However it is the collective contribution to the principles of collaborative practice, and the notion of non-hierarchical approaches to this practice that constitute the claim for impact.

Sources to corroborate the impact

Alastair Sooke, `Culture Review of The Year: The 5 Most Promising Artists of 2011 - In Pictures', The Telegraph, 16 December 2011;

Adrian Searle, `The Venice Biennale's Balance of Power', The Guardian, 6 June, 2011;

Joerg Heiser `Postcards from Venice No.5 - Surrealist Pro-Enactments', Frieze Editors' Blog, 6 June 2011;

Laura Cumming, `Nathaniel Mellors: Ourhouse — review', The Observer, April 2011;

Coline Milliard, `Nathaniel Mellors: Killer Serial — The British artist brings television into the gallery', Modern Painters, March 2011;


Liverpool Art Prize, BayTV feature, interview by Bethan Hockey, 2012

`Bellgrove to Lime Street, return', essay in Cultural Hijacking, edited by Ben Parry, published by Liverpool University Press. Participants include Krzysztof Wodiczko (Pol/USA) and Adam Nankervis (Australia/Ger), ISBN-10: 1846317517, February 2012

Ends & Entries, radio commissions, curated by Etienne Noiseau, Marseille, Liverpool, Gdansk, Istanbul and Naples. Participants include Chris Watson (UK), Chantal Dumas (Fr) and Vergyl Sharkkya (Can). http://www.grenouille888.org/dyn/spip.php?article1591, October 2009

Kill, R and Urban Angels (2010 - 11) The Heavenly Court of Madame Fantaististe, touring — UK and Europe

2010 Beyond Text — Exploring Festival Performance as a "State of Encounter" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AddLA252VV4