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Research in Art and Design is undertaken by staff from the Department of Art and Design at the University of Chester and builds on a core of practice-based research in Fine Art and Photography, alongside curatorial and critical writing. The research is interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary, extending into other areas including cultural studies, material culture, aesthetics, philosophy, literature, situated cognition, and anthropology. Research is organised within four research clusters:

  • (Im)materiality;
  • Embodiment, Narrative, and Performance Practice;
  • Everyday Objects, Habitus, and Thingness;
  • Place, Space, and Site.

The University’s targeted research funding has been bolstered by external funders including: the AHRC, the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and Arts Council England. 

10 staff were identified as having significant responsibility for research in REF2021, leading to a requirement for 23 outputs to be submitted.

Research outputs submitted to REF2021 are included in the Art and Design Collection of ChesterRep, the University of Chester’s online research repository.

The impact of research in this unit was exemplified through the following case studies:

Beyond Documentary – Tom Wood and the DPA Work: The Performative Moment and the Rise of Socially-engaged Photographic Art Practice as an Agent of Change: This project researched and contextualised previously unseen work by world-renowned photographer Tom Wood. The project led to new exhibitions, events and publishing outcomes: The DPA Work - Photographs of Rainhill Hospital and Cammell Laird Shipyard in its various iterations is the result of two commissions by the Documentary Photography Archive, undertaken by Wood in the late 1980s/early1990s. The research, and collaboration with individuals, museums, galleries and publishers, has made this work available to new, non-gallery-going audiences as well as benefitting the individuals and organisations who were involved in the project as it developed. Wood’s photographs can be viewed as an historical document of event, time and place, but their new contextual understanding extends beyond their documentary function as the work is a precursor to debates and practices related to contemporary, ‘socially-engaged’ photography as an agent of change. The exhibitions and publication of this research have also led to new perspectives related to unemployment, mental health and wellbeing, and the care of the elderly. The use of material from public archives was also significant for the organisations involved in relation to the new contextual understanding of the deindustrialisation of Britain and the deinstitutionalisation of healthcare from the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The Marie Duval Archive: The Marie Duval Archive is a new online image database of the work of Victorian cartoonist and performer Marie Duval. Prior to this research, the history of the comic strip had overlooked, ignored, or erased the contributions of women artists, including Duval. The Archive and outputs provide public access to unseen material.  For non-academic readers and writers, audiences, and exhibition visitors, the shared history of 19th century visual culture has been changed to encompass working women undertaking successful careers as visual journalists and commercial artists.

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