The Visual Culture Research Group (VCRG) is a group of cross-disciplinary art and design practitioners, historians and theorists interested in visuality and visual culture. Its purpose is to generate new knowledge and innovative methodologies by putting practitioners into conversation with writers.
Much of our work critically explores the relationship between ‘making’ and ‘thinking’, practice and theory and there is an overarching concern with challenging cultural representations of under-represented groups.
Strands of enquiry
Our research is divided into strands, which currently include:
- Visualising histories
- Lifestage research
- Cultural education
- Clothing cultures
The visualising histories strand aims to increase the visibility of under-represented and as-yet untold histories of creative practice. The strand includes work on women’s art history, queer histories and feminist activism/curation. Events in this strand have included:
- Greenham Women Everywhere training day (Dr Clare Johnson and Rachael Miles, October 2018) and pop-up touring exhibition (Rachael Miles; October 2019)
- Hatpins to Hashtags touring exhibition (Dr Sue Tate; September 2018)
- Deuce performance (Rachael Miles and Tom Marshman, Arnolfini, Bristol; June 2018)
- Women: Art, Books and Printed Matter (symposium in collaboration with Hauser & Wirth, Somerset; November 2016)
- Family Matters (joint VCRG/Family Ties Network symposium, Watershed, Bristol; December 2014)
- New Directions in Women’s Art History (symposium, Watershed, Bristol; May 2014)
- When Is Now? The Historical Present in Creative Practice (symposium, Watershed, Bristol; June 2013)
Lifestage research is a new strand of research activity, which aims to critically explore the process of transitioning between one stage of life and another. Examples of current projects include Dr Clare Johnson’s work on maternal art and post-natal wellbeing, Alex Franklin’s work on ageing, and Dr Suze Adams’ photographic work on grief and mourning. Our first event on this strand was a collaboration with the Family Ties Network:
- Through the Years: Inter-generational identity in recent film and photographic practice (symposium, Watershed; December 2019).
The cultural education strand investigates the contexts within which art and design education takes place with a view to developing innovative thinking about curriculum development. Examples of research in this strand include Dr Jenny Rintoul’s work on the integration of critical and contextual studies in art and design education, and Alex Franklin’s work on the role of the art school in the age of neoliberalism. Events in this strand have included:
- Visualising 2030 exhibition in response to the United Nations' (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (Create Centre, Bristol; May 2018)
- Re-thinking Thinking in Art and Design Education: Thoughts on/from/with creative practice (symposium, Arnolfini, Bristol; November 2017)
- Bristol Cultural Education lecture/panel discussion in collaboration with Bristol Cultural Education Partnership; November 2016)
The clothing cultures strand investigates the production and consumption of clothing and textiles as well as the politics of display. Work in this strand includes Mary Gormally’s writing on international fashion exhibitions and Alex Franklin’s editorship of the Clothing Cultures journal (published by Intellect). Events in this strand have included:
- Clothing Cultures (public seminar, Watershed, Bristol; December 2013)
The VCRG also acts as a forum for curriculum development in Visual Culture. We teach critical thinking to all undergraduate and most postgraduate students in Art and Design at UWE Bristol as well as undertaking PhD supervision. The VCRG provides extra-curricular support for Art and Design students at all levels including our cross-disciplinary, cross-level screening/discussion series Watch Wednesday and annual Undergraduate Research Symposium.