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A Brief Compendium of Named and Unnamed Objects

July -

Sandyford Building

Michele Allen

I am an artist working with photography, sound and video with an interest in documentary and sense of place. My artistic approach often involves some degree of collaboration with particular social groups or communities in its production, and is often resolved as site-specific installations. The inter-disciplinary and multimedia elements of my work developed as a result of my questioning of the documentary medium and exploring different ways of communicating with the audience.  I am interested in revealing hidden histories, or unfamiliar views of places and I’m fascinated by the variety of different perspectives that can exist in connection to any given place or situation.

I have a PhD by photographic practice, which was funded by the AHRC in association with the Locus+ archive, and frequently present papers at conferences nationally. A selection of works has recently been acquired for the permanent collections of Durham Castle and Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art. Over the last five years I have worked on several projects focussing on changes to public space and civic institutions as a result of cuts to council funding in the North East. This work aims to document what I think is a radical shift in local government and also to reflect on the shared values which have underpinned our cultural institutions, social provision and open spaces and which fed into the creation of the welfare state.

From Kindness and A Brief Compendium of Named and Unnamed Objects

This work was produced as part of a Leverhulme Trust artists residency hosted by the Northumbria University in which I collaborated with social scientist Dr Siobhan Daly on a project looking at the places and ideas which have defined philanthropic activity in the North East. Responding to Siobhan’s writing on ‘Philanthropy and the Big Society’ and ‘Philanthropy as an Essentially Contested Concept’ the project explored different definitions of philanthropy and some of the tensions those definitions revealed, thinking in particular about the invisibility of volunteering, the contrasts between gifts of time and gifts of money and the emphasis on education as an aspect of philanthropic giving.

The project led to the creation of a short film 'From Kindness' and a handmade book ‘A Brief Compendium of Named and Unnamed Objects' working with the volunteer book repair group based at the Lit and Phil. Everything in the book relates to a donation ranging from small objects, to landscapes, buildings or people's time and all of the text is drawn from archival sources. The work sets out to operate as both a factual document and an aesthetic object, held within historic collections in the region. Two books have been donated to the libraries of the Lit and Phil and Natural History Society where they are available to view.

I would particularly like to thank the volunteer book repair group and also June Holmes archivist at the Natural History Society for sharing her extensive knowledge of the society's archives and collections. 


A Brief Compendium of Named and Unnamed Objects Handmade book, c-type photographic prints, paper, card, cloth, 176 hours. (2017-18)

From Kindness 12.29 min, digital video. (2017-18)







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Sandyford Building
Northumbria University
Newcastle upon Tyne

July -

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