Dr Stephen Thompson’s research and ideas lecture discussed the concepts researched during his PHD which was completed prior to him taking the post of deputy Dean seven years ago; he also tied this into how he sees this research evolving now that he is in a position to pick up his research and put more energy into it. The research of Dr Thompson is in the field of relational technoethics. Whilst Dr Stephen Thompson’s research area is different to mine, I still found it to be incredibly interesting and thought provoking. I say it is different to my current practise, but actually the research I did for my dissertation seemed to cross over into the boundaries of the topics discussed by Thompson.

I found it interesting to reflect on the relationship between human and technology; technology as a part of our cognition, technology as an extension of us, technology where we are an extension of it. These notions seemchallenging initially as we often initially consider technology and us to be separate entities; or technology as something invented by humans. Yet Dr Thompson challenged this notion completely posing the question, ‘Where do human’s begin and end?’. Several theories were discussed; Modernist, Posthumanism, Derrida, Technicity, Allegory. Dr Thompson used the story of Joey the mechanicalboy as studied by Dr Bruno Bettelheim, specifically Joey’s drawings, to claim that humans are a synthesis of technology.

We are machines of meat, made up of systems and that ‘things’ such as wall are traces of our body and our own cognition. Thompson gave some simple but effective examples to illustrate his point. During a phone call to our mother we don’t actually hear our mother’s voice; it is a synthesis- a reproduction, but we accept it without question to be our mother.

Dr Thompson referred to the body as the ‘Soma’ (which is the Greek word for body). He did this to make it easier to be more open to what the body could be, When we say body we have a very defined opinion of what it is, yet to use a less familiar word enables us to be more open to what a body could be. Our bodies are often made up of organic and technological matter- for example, contact lenses, pins in broken bones, pacemakers, artificial joints… even our glasses. Walking sticks. Wheel chairs. All these things are technology that also become our body. A pen. A car….. the list goes on…. the computer, social media…..even something as simple as our clothing which acts as a second skin. I found this to be refreshing, to see and hear of the body in a way that is so challenging. I have questioned where we begin and where we end before, but I think I lost touch with it because of the way my work has been so consumed with the functionality and materiality of the organic human body. To reconnect to this challenge of thoughts has added an extra awareness to my reflections of my work.

I also found it refreshing to see how despite the difference in levels of study, us Masters student are in a very similar place to Dr Stephen Thompson with regards to uncertainty in our research. We are at a point where we have a lot of background research, yet it is going into the area of the unknown. We don’t quite know what it at the end- and with that there is a degree of doubt and uncertainty. Dr Thompson’s advice was to embrace the uncertainty as it is the nature of research. I felt that this was very poignant for me as I feel that I am too in a point of uncertainty with my work. I am feeling pleased with the end of semester assessment and the realisations I had come to as a result of this assessment, I have ideas of how I want to move forward, but I still feel slightly lost and unsure. I say that, but I’m not really lost because I am still being productive, I am still moving forward; I suppose it is more a case of that uncertainty that comes with moving forward into a new area. But that is exciting because it means that I am doing something new, I am challenging myself and my own boundaries- and the nature of that means that it is an unsettling experience. I supposed I just need to trust in myself that it will pay off. I suppose whether it leads to success or failure, lessons will always be learnt.

Further reading: Entangled. An archaeology of the relationship between humans and things. Ian Hodder.



So, it has been a while! And I’m not entirely sure why! I suppose life has been pretty busy. Returning to the studio and the course after Christmas means facing up to assessment. To be honest, I enjoyed the process- despite the stresses. No matter how prepared I am, I will always be stressed and I will always feel like I haven’t done enough; I think the reason for this is that as an artist our work is never finished!! There is always the next thing. And so in a way the assessment is very similar to an exhibition- a pause, a declaration of where I am at this precise moment in time.

This module was about finding our position as a practitioner, and I think this was a very valuable process to go through. I found preparing for the Viva particularly valuable. In order to communicate my position and my practise in 12-15 mins I had to really know my practise; really be connected to the core. Having to sit down and ask myself some serious questions meant that I was able to step back from what had been produced over the semester, and I was able to strip back my practise to know exactly what it is that drives my thinking conceptually. To be able to do this is a valuable practise because it means that you are able to not only reassess what it is that drives you, but also what are the weak points. What have I missed / overlooked. Where are the contradictions in my practise.

Having to sum up my practise, I realised that there are 3 main elements that are important to me.

  • The corporeal body.
  • The liminal body.
  • The abject body.

I see the body as something that never remains still or unchanged. It is continuously changing and is therefore visually temporary. I am intrigued by the ageing process, the regeneration of cells and the decomposing and unravelling of the body. I am intrigued by the human nature to deny the functions of the body. The notion of what is appropriate or inappropriate to expose publicly. I find the anxiety associated with these notions fascinating.

I think this image seems to communicate the elements discussed above but also illustrates how by using my own body, issues surrounding the female body and feminist theory begin to take their place within my practise. I suppose through explorations of the margins of my body, I am trying to understand what taboos are present within our seemingly open-minded society.

I realise that I talk about the body when discussing my practise, yet the body is often absent in my work. I have given the absence of the body consideration throughout the semester; I feel that by creating a space for the body allows the viewer to fill the space with their own experience or thoughts. By using materials such as hair in my work I hope that the universal familiarity of the material means that the viewer is able to connect to their own body through the work. I am aware that we have evolved into intellectual beings and I feel that the presence of digital interaction within our contemporary landscape has meant that we are becoming detached from physical experience.

During the exhibition at The Bargehouse at the beginning of the semester, through the work Hand Stitched I learnt the potential power for works of this nature to bridge the gap between artwork and viewer. I enjoyed watching the physical reaction as the viewer became hyperaware of their own body. They seemed to have some sort of perceived physical experience. I realised it was this reaction I wanted to provoke through my work.

This experience that I witnessed in people’s reactions seemed so powerful to me that I have begun to research to better understand and therefore better articulate this experience. I have only just begun researching, but what I have read so far has fascinated me. I read an essay in Carnal Aesthetics about the research in the field of neuroaesthetics and the role of Mirror Neurons in simulation Theory. It claimed that witnessing certain actions triggered these mirror neutrons in the same way as if the viewer was carrying the actions out themselves. This brought to mind the reaction I witnessed with my work. I realised that I was seeking a connection between both artwork and viewer, and mind and body through the empathic experience of embodied simulation.


Looking at the work of Tabitha Kyoto Moses and Poppy Jackson also taught me how the directness of material was the key factor in my work. Looking at Kyoto Moses’ work I felt frustrated. She used materials to imitate the look of skin in her embroideries which explore the emotional experience of skin conditions such as Eczema; I couldn’t help but wonder if the work would have had more of an impact had she incorporated skin into the work. With Poppy Jackson’s work I felt the immediate directness of the material amplified the work. i felt much more excited by it- I was in awe of her bravery. This lead me to challenge the gouache works I had been working on. I realised that it was not only the boundaries of the viewer I was challenging but also my own.

Whilst I say the directness of materials is important to me I realise that this is where there is some contradiction within my work and also the works I am interested in. This work by Kiki Smith seems to satisfy the 3 elements I discussed at the beginning , but it is made of wax. I think maybe it is because of the visceral qualities. Also, I recognise that maybe this would not be possible to react in real life in a public space- or it would be very difficult. I recognise that it I were to say to myself that I can only use materials directly of the body that this would put limitations on the way of where I could show my work. I suppose there are times / works where the literal use of materials is not always necessary. Maybe it also puts a barrier between the work and the viewer.

I have realised through reflection over this past semester and thought this assessment that there are issues that have been raised through my exploration which, when addressing them, will drive my work forward into the next module. These were discussed in my feedback with André Stitt- course leader. I was thrilled to be awarded a distinction at this early stage of the course, but this now makes me feel driven to be ambitious with my research- I want to keep pushing and challenging myself.

Moving forward I realise that I need to research more in depth on feminist theory- and then develop specifics in relation to my own practise. I need to continue to research artists such as Poppy Jackson to really understand and interrogate the position of the practise of contemporary females today. Andre suggested contacting Jackson to generate a dialogue which will benefit this research. I don’t know why but I have never considered this direct communication with an artist I am inspired by- but it totally makes sense. I would much prefer hearing direct from the artist opposed to reading secondary commentary on the artist. I also need to really give consideration to the materials I use, and how they contribute to the work.

I am feeling excited, energised, (and proud) moving into this next module- ‘Exploration’.  Time is passing so fast that I really want to embrace all that this opportunity provides. I need to try to let go of my inhibitions and be as brave as the artists I admire!



During my time at CSAD so far I have been sharing a studio space with the lovely Lisa Evans. Lisa also writes her blog here on A-N. I am really appreciative of sharing a space with someone who is so encouraging and witty; and with whom I share so many interests. I think we really do bounce off each other. With regards to our practise- whilst at the beginning I was aware of some shared interests, such as using organic bodily materials like hair and looking at issues considered to be taboo- our processes were very different. To me despite our similarities we were very different. Lisa graduated from a sculptural course. She was used to driving a fork lift truck and working with a tonne of concrete at a time! In contrast to this, I had spent much of my degree in deep reflection. Writing continuously in my journal. Developing my concepts in my mind before experimenting with materials in a different way. Less machinery, more quiet, meditative, durational action!

The reason I write about this is because at the end of this past term I had a realisation. It may have been obvious to the outside world but for me it became clear when reflecting on my work throughout the module in preparation for assessment…When looking at mine and Lisa’s work alongside each other they seem to fit in the same conversation. The works seem to speak to each other despite the fact that they have come from a different place conceptually. I started to think about how conversation had flowed between the boundaries of our spaces and I began to consider that the energy we put into our work may have also crossed boundaries- like a subconscious collaboration.

I suppose this is probably a common thing in shared spaces- I am not entirely sure. I did share a studio with students from my degree course, but a lot of those student worked from home. You were able to see / work out some sort of connection between the works from the student of my degree, but you had to work at it. The connections between mine and Lisa’s work is much more explicit. More visible.

Having spoke about this with tutors they have also mentioned that they have noticed this develop in the space over the term. Having discussed this with Lisa we have decided to work with it and not resist it. After studying MFA it is likely that I will work in a studio alone- due to my location, not by choice! And so for me this subconscious collaboration is likely to be temporary. A temporary feature of my MFA. I would like to highlight this, draw attention to it. What myself and Lisa would like to do is to continue to develop our work as we have been, but to work towards curating a show together of our work. Taking what is visible in the studio and showing it in a public space to highlight the potential for shared spaces and this ‘subconscious collaboration’. We both feel passionate that this will be an exciting venture and i do think that the curation of the work will act as an extension of our practise. An exciting start to 2016!


Over the past few weeks I have been attending workshops to learn the process of bronze casting. Although I hadn’t had an idea in my mind that I could see leading to Bronze casting previously I decided that this was too much of a good opportunity to miss out out. I think that maybe challenging myself and taking on a perceived masculine process to explore ideas around the female body could illuminate the concepts from a different perspective. I think it is important to keep an experimental and explorative approach to my practise- whilst also being quite focussed.

I have really enjoyed learning this new process, and whilst I was prepared for it to be a complex process I was still surprised to see how long it takes to get from object to object cast in Bronze. The actual involvement with bronze seems to be a very small part of the process! I had to quickly think of an object I would like to cast in order to learn the process, but I wanted to make sure that the object was relevant to my practise. I didn’t just want to cast the body because it is loosely linked to my practise, I felt like I wanted to cast something that had more of a conceptual connection. As I didn’t have much time to make the decision I made the snap decision to cast tampons and sanitary towels. The idea of making these objects, that are considered to be luxury good from a tax point of view, into actual luxury items seemed quite poetic! There is humorous element to using expensive materials and a process that is associated with luxury purchases to replicate these objects. There is also a simplicity in taking one object and translating it into another material- but I feel that it becomes more complex and interesting as you dig deeper with the work. I like the idea of taking something which is intended as a temporary object and making it permanent. I like that something which collects a waste product and then becomes a waste product is elevated and made important and valuable.

I soon realised that this would be more complex than just casting something like an ornament or a lump of clay. Due to the small intricate details of each component and the porous quality, casting these objects involved some problem solving! This has actually proved to be valuable. Having a less straightforward process has meant that I have been able to develop more skills and a deeper understanding of how different materials react together.



As time passes I feel that my experience of my practice seems to feel more intense to me. I suppose this is partially down to the impending formative assessment and also the weekly development of new skills within the workshops. I am finding that as I am developing new skills, such as mould making and wax and bronze casting- I feel like I am gaining access to a whole new language to communicate the concepts I am exploring. When developing new skills and learning new techniques I find it can be quite easy to lose touch with the conceptual ideas driving your practice. My mind fills up with learning the practical process involved; and learning new skills can be time consuming. This means less time spent actually pushing the work forward, but I have learnt that it is worth it as you develop a new perspective on your work. I find that I am looking at my work and communicating it with a wider visual language than before. It still is very experimental- and I think keeping other explorations going outside of the development of these new processes going is important to keep the concepts alive and connected.

As I have stood back from my practice whilst developing these new skills I have probably benefitted from the space to think. To think and reconnect with what the core concepts are within my practise. I realise that my practice explores qualities of the body particularly from a female perspective. I realise also that I say that I am exploring the body- when I am actually exploring qualities of the female body such as menstruation. This had led me to think about femininity, particularly in western society. I suppose in a way I am questioning femininity and my experience of it.

I have been trying to understand- what is femininity? Not femininity as suggested by advertising campaigns and fashion, but the true essence of femininity. Does it even exist outside of advertising campaigns? As I think about it I realise that a lot the interventions on the body to be perceived as feminine cost money. Interventions such as hair removal, makeup, clothing etc. If a man were to leave his body to nature he would easily be perceived as masculine- through hair growth etc. Masculinity is often associated with a ruggedness. A roughness. Yet femininity is often communicated as managed and manicured. The absence of body hair communicates femininity. Plucked eyebrows. Bleached, waxed or threaded facial hair. Shaved or waxed armpits, legs, bikini lines. The application of makeup- even if it is to achieve a ‘natural’ look. If I were to leave my body to nature then I would become hairy. My complexion would be uneven. My eyebrows would become bushy. Hairy legs like those of a man. Hairy armpits like those of a man. These features would probably be perceived as ‘butch’ traits opposed to feminine. This frustrates me.  Why do I have to spend time and money manipulating my body in order to be perceived as feminine? Who decides what is feminine? I can’t help but wonder if femininity is just money making tool. It seems that there is big business to be made from women.

Obviously I am aware that men too have to spend money and time on maintaining an image too but I think it has less of an impact on how ‘manly’ or masculine they are perceived to be. In fact- if a man were to overly pluck eyebrows, shave or wax legs and armpits and trim pubic hair- it could be perceived to be a feminine act. I know male grooming has been a growing trend lately, but I don’t think it is considered to be masculine. I suppose this actually makes me wonder, is femininity confined to gender or can it cross genders?

Going back to the female body and femininity as a money making business, it makes me think how to be a feminine female you are forced also to be a consumer. Even just by being a female who has periods we are forced into being a consumer. There is no part of being male that means that you have to spend money; yet it is a requirement for women on a monthly basis. This is actually a topical notion with the Tampon tax being a current debate in society.  I think this sense of imposed financial inequality makes me and thousand of other women feel frustrated. So much focus has been placed on equal pay and equal income that we forget the inequality in out-goings- the cost of being a female. There is both a financial and emotional cost. Even down to having to silently and privately experience menstruation; which is often communicated to be a negative experience. If it is spoken about it is often negatively, for example: jokes about PMT and social disgust whenever presented with either a literal or mental image of a woman bleeding. But it is actually a process which is amazing, essential and usually universal to all women. Why are we forced to experience it silently? Why should we pretend it doesn’t happen? Why are sanitary towels and tampons considered to be luxury goods when menstruating is not considered to be a luxury experience? What is it that companies feel the need to now perfume sanitary towels? Of course- women’s vaginas should smell of a sickly sweet flowery scent to be considered truly feminine shouldn’t they?!?! (I’m hoping the sarcasm is communicated through my typing!) This might seem petty but it really does infuriate me! I feel like through imposed consumerism I am being forced to deny the natural status of my own female body- even the smell of my vagina!!!!

On reflection I see that through my work I am addressing these issues, these frustration and restrictions imposed through what I am told I need to do to be perceived as feminine.