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Art and Design: History, Practice and Theory

Overview of Art and Design: History, Practice and Theory

This submission presented work carried out by researchers in the Department of Design and the Deparment of Visual Arts at Middlesex University. A total of 42 members of staff were involved in these case studies, working in eight research groups: Making Places; Art Practice as Investigation; CREATE – Feminisms; Diasporic and Transcultural Practices; Animation, Electronic and Digital Arts; Science Fiction Research Cluster; Socially Engaged Practices; Visual and Material Cultures and Curating.

  • REF 2021 Impact Case Studies

    • Curating Leon Golub: Extending Global Understanding of Golub’s Art, Benefitting the Museum and Gallery Sector, Arts Audiences and the Commercial Art World

      The impact we achieved 

      Middlesex Professor Jon Bird is recognised as the leading authority on the art of Leon Golub. Through collaboration with the museum and gallery sector, Professor Bird’s research has made the following impact:

      • Extended awareness and appreciation of Golub’s painting to a global audience through contributing to Golub retrospectives at London’s Serpentine Gallery; The Met Breuer, New York; and Fondazione Prada, Milan
      • Provided written evidence and expert testimonial relating to Golub’s work in an American civil art fraud case, which influenced the commercial art world
      • Enhanced understanding of Golub’s significance as a history painter addressing issues of power, identity and the body relevant to the present, through curating exhibitions at the National Portrait Gallery and Hauser & Wirth, London.

      The research behind it 

      The impact is a result of the wide reach and significance of Professor Bird’s work, which is evident in the high profile of the museums and galleries he has worked with, as well as the critical reception, media coverage and audience figures for the exhibitions he has curated and written for. This is underpinned by sustained research commencing in the 1980s and continuing to the present day whose results include:

      • Examination of issues dealt in Golub’s work, explored in the critical monograph Leon Golub: Echoes of the Real (Reaktion Books, 2000) and in a Retrospective exhibition curated by Professor Bird which was presented in four galleries and museums in the UK, Republic of Ireland, and USA
      • Revision of Professor Bird's 2000 book, with a new focus resulting in an expanded edition in 2011
      • Curation of a retrospective exhibition for Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, and the accompanying catalogue, whose discourse analysed the major themes of the artist’s work and the stylistic transformations of his practice through the decades
      • Contribution to a 2015 Golub exhibition catalogue with an essay drawing on personal diaries and recorded interviews which Professor Bird conducted with the artist over a twenty-year period, as well as contribution of a chapter to a 2016 Golub exhibition catalogue
      • Curation of London’s National Portrait Gallery 2016 exhibition of Golub’s work and of accompanying edited book.

      The people involved at Middlesex and beyond

      This research project was undertaken by Professor Jon Bird. His work was enriched by his long-term working relationship with Leon Golub.

    • Active Energy: Community Action Through the Arts

      The impact we achieved

      Active Energy originated in 2007 as an arts-based response to research that the highlighted the exclusion of older people from technological development.The project is a long-term partnership with The Geezers, an East London senior men’s group, to harness community initiative and use participatory arts practice to access locally held knowledge to create social and environmental change. It has resulted in the design and realisation of engineered solutions which utilise tidal power to produce low cost, clean energy.

      The key impacts of the research are:

      • Increased learning and participation through activating The Geezers’ life experience, culminative skills and knowledge to rethink technologies and better support themselves, their community and the environment
      • Enhanced wellbeing for participants through increased confidence, self-esteem and sense of purpose
      • Improved understanding by developing new narratives around water conservation in communities in water-scarce Rajasthan, India.

      The research behind it

      The underpinning research by Dr Loraine Leeson focuses on the role of art in social and environmental change through bringing community-based knowledge into the public domain.

      The ongoing Active Energy partnership with the Geezers has designed a low cost turbine for the River Thames, worked with young people in a local school on a wind turbine, collaborated with a seniors’ group in Pittsburgh, contributed to three University research projects and produced floating water wheels to keep fish alive when pollution levels rise, the last installed in 2019 in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

      Leeson has also used this community-based arts approach to promote traditional solutions to water scarcity in Rajasthan, India’s driest state.

      The people involved at Middlesex and beyond

      Dr Loraine Leeson led the research at Middlesex working with AgeUK in Bow and Bow schools. Dr Leeson also engaged with a major gallery in the US, and collaborated with researchers at the University of the West of England and NGOs in India.

      Read the PDF of the case study submission

      Public event at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Photo compilation © Loraine Leeson.

    • The Process and the Product: Discreet Partnerships and the Cultural Dimension in Effective Landscape Governance

      The impact we achieved

      The Suffolk coast is particularly vulnerable to change. A shift in weather patterns in tandem with a rise in mean sea level has accelerated the loss of property through coastal erosion and increased the frequency of flooding due to surge tide events. Our research has addressed the urgent need to reconfigure the local community’s relationship with their landscape by generating an integrated approach to landscape decision making for stakeholder communities which had an impact on:

      • Policy, resulting in a new, more inclusive way of managing the Deben Estuary, Suffolk
      • Coastal landscape, resulting in the protection and restoration projects for the area’s saltmarsh habitat, of which the Deben Estuary holds 40%, benefitting coastal protection, intertidal habitat, fisheries, carbon storage, the marine industries and landscape character.

      The research behind it

      Middlesex Associate Professor of Fine Art, Simon Read, contributed to the efficacy of environmental policy and community uptake by developing an inclusive, multi-disciplinary approach to estuarine and coastal management. This approach brought together the cultural, scientific and policy communities, balancing cultural and emotional attachment to landscape and the economic stability of communities, with the need for flood risk management and habitat protection. The impact achieved was underpinned by art practice-led research within collaborative interdisciplinary partnerships across two strands of enquiry:

      • Examination of flood risk management policy, through mapping exercises rendering combinations of data often inaccessible outside of the scientific community as a rich and accessible experience, equipping local communities to participate more effectively in understanding the governance process (1999-2009). This was followed by a series of drawings (2010) and, more recently, CoastWEB, an interdisciplinary study of the value of saltmarsh on the West Coast of Wales (2017-2020), and Deben Soundings, a project in collaboration with UCL and the Deben Estuary Partnership (2020-2022) aimed at broadening the range of community engagement in the estuary management process informed by a new map of the estuary, and a new series of maps exploring the evolution of the estuary entrance and its prognosis for the future.
      • Development of soft engineered landscape interventions for degraded saltmarsh sites, using sustainable resources and voluntary community labour and skills. Associate Professor Read designed The Falkenham Saltmarsh Tidal Management Scheme, completed in 2014, which lowered the impact of tidal flow into the marsh, reduced erosion, and raised sediment levels – essential for the recolonization of saltmarsh vegetation and its restoration. Since 2014, he has worked collaboratively with Suffolk Yacht Harbour on the Orwell Estuary to manage its annual dredging scheme to supplement and create new saltmarsh sites adjacent to the harbour.

      The people involved at Middlesex and beyond

      This research was undertaken by Dr Simon Read.

      Parts of the project were a result of his collaboration with a range of partners, including universities (e.g. Cardiff University, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, UCL, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Bangor), community stakeholders groups (e.g. Deben Estuary Partnership), local authority (e.g. East Suffolk Council), industry, and statutory agencies (e.g. Environment Agency, Suffolk Yacht Harbour, Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB Unit).

      Read the PDF of the case study submission

      Deben Soundings (Produced by Tim Curtis)

      The exhibition catalogue and reflective report is available here

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