Exeter Enquires was a project supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England whose aim was to engage a wider public in the innovative work and practice of academic-artistic collaboration at the University of Exeter.
The project ran over two academic years - 2014-15 and 2015-16. It brought four artists in residence together with four University departments and community groups, in order to inspire the artists to communicate academic research and ideas in imaginative ways.
During their residencies, each artist spent time with an individual academic to learn about their research from diverse areas from mood disorders to climate change. The artist then worked with a chosen community group to raise awareness of the research and invite them to contribute to their creative process. The artists drew on the research and community experience to produce a piece of work in their own chosen medium, be it visual art, performance, dance or another creative response. Four one-year residencies took place over the two-year period.
The residencies were as follows:
Elizabeth van der Beugel is a visual artist who undertook a residency with Dr Heather O’Mahen, Senior Lecturer in Clinical Psychology at in the Mood Disorders Centre at the University, specialising in perinatal mood disorders. The residency culminated in an exhibition of Elizabeth’s work, entitled After the ideal; piece by piece, on show in the University's Forum building from 1 to 27 May 2015.
Dr Heather O’Mahen said of the residency, “This residency has been an enriching experience – both in terms of reaching people in new ways about an important area of mental health, but also in terms of reciprocally shaping the research questions we ask in our lab.”
After the ideal; piece by piece, one of the artworks created by Elizabeth van der Beugel for her exhibition in May 2015 at the University.
Coypright E van der Beugel.
Elizabeth explained, “As an artist the challenge has been to convey some of the incredible emotional depth and complexity of the subject matter that has been explored during the residency. It is hoped that the medium of drawing can help give expression to ideas, thoughts and feelings that can otherwise be extremely hard to communicate.”
Find out more about Elizabeth van der Beugel and her residency here.
Anne-Marie Culhane was the second artist undertaking a residency in the first year. She worked in the Geography Department with Professor Tim Lenton who, with his team, focuses on understanding evolution of the Earth, including changes caused by human activity.
Professor Lenton recognises the value of the project’s approach. He said: “As we face an uncertain environmental future, it is vital that scientists and artists work together to imagine, create and celebrate a better world.”
Anne-Marie developed a participatory activity, inspired by the research, entitled Earthwalking in July 2015. She said of the project: “I’m excited by working with Tim and his team. There are many shared points of interest and connection in our work and passions exploring the impact of humans on the earth and its systems and we are looking forward to creating an opportunity for the wider public to feed into and learn from this collaborative process”.
Participants of Earthwalking with Anne-Marie Culhane, Summer 2015.
Image courtesy Steve Brown.
Read an interview with Anne-Marie about her Earthwalking project here.
The second year of the project saw Samantha Wraith, a Dramatherapist spending time within the University Law School (with Professor Charlotte Waelde and Dr Anastasia Somerville-Wong) where she considered the ethical issues surrounding intangible cultural heritage.
Arising from the residency, Samantha created a processual exhibition entitled What's Mine is (Y)ours? - an exhibition which evolved as visitors added their own creations. The idea was for people to make decisions about what creative commons licence (if any) they would like to assign to share their creative output. By doing this they became aware of what feelings arose in deciding to let artworks be altered by other people coming into the exhibition at a later date.
Each day of the exhibition was assigned a 'generation' thus creating a truncated version of heritage being 'changed' as each 'generation' arrived.
Find out more about Samantha's residency here.
Also in the second year of the project, performance-maker and choreographer Jane Mason worked with Dr Astrid Schrader, who works at the intersections of Science and Technology Studies (STS), Human-Animal Studies and Feminist and Poststructuralist Theories.
The residency culminated in two events in July 2016, 'The Sharing' - comprising performance, video, shared reflections and the opportunity for discussion and a free workshop for people interested in movement and collaboration to physically explore a range of choreographic tasks that have arisen out of connections made during Jane's residency.
Jane Mason with dinoflagellates.
Photograph copyright Benjamin Borley
Find out more about Jane's residency here.
Naome Glanville, Arts & Culture Co-ordinator at the University said: “The purpose of the residencies was to enable academics to give their research a broader audience and to provide opportunities for artists to use research topics to enrich their practice in innovative ways. It was also intended to give members of community groups an introduction to research in a participative and accessible way.”
The project was supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England. Local arts organisations also gave support in kind to the artists, including Kaleider, Exeter CVC Co-Lab and Exeter Phoenix Arts Centre.