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Prof Fiona Crisp

Professor of Fine Art

Department: Arts

Fiona Crisp’s practice resides at the intersection of photography, sculpture and architecture, where the limits and capabilities of both photography and video are explored through the making of large-scale installations.

Her past projects have used sites that range from the Early Christian catacombs of Rome to a Dark Matter Laboratory in the UK’s deepest working mine; works from this period formed part of the solo, touring exhibition, Subterrania, that launched at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in 2009. A monograph, Hyper Passive, was published to coincide with the tour and surveyed Crisp’s work from the preceding decade.

Over a number of years Crisp has centred her research on the idea of ‘Negative Capability’ – a phrase first used by the poet John Keats to describe a desirable state of uncertainty and doubt. Keats’ idea is used to pursue the photographic object as an unstable and deeply equivocal phenomenon as evidenced in the installation, NegativeCapability: The Stourhead Cycle for Matt’s Gallery, London in 2012. This exhibition reflected Crisp’s long-term engagement with the visual, political and philosophical ‘construction’ of a view – a position reflected by her inclusion in the 2013 exhibition, Looking at the View, at Tate Britain.

Since this time Crisp has developed the idea of Productive Doubt as a mode of enquiry, particularly within cross-disciplinary spheres. To this end, her recent Leverhulme-funded Fellowship, Material Sight 2016-2018, used non-documentary photography and moving image to interrogate extremes of visual and imaginative representation in fundamental science and technology. Based at three world-leading research facilities - including the Laboratori Nazionale del Gran Sasso, sited inside a mountain in Italy - the research places artistic production in the spaces where experimental and theoretical science is performed, foregrounding the “site” or laboratory as a social, cultural, and political space where meaning is shaped and constructed rather than received or observed.

The exhibition Material Sight launched at the new Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art in March 2018 and toured to Arts Catalyst, Centre for Art, Science and Technology, London June-July 2018. To coincide with the exhibitions a book, The Live Creature and Ethereal Things: Physics in Culture was published. Edited by Crisp and curator Nicola Triscott, the book is a collection of texts, images and conversations that present fundamental physics and the physics of the universe as human activities and cultural endeavours.

Crisp is a founder member of the research group The Cultural Negotiation of Science and developed the exhibition and symposium Extraordinary Renditions with colleagues Christine Borland and Chris Dorsett for the British Science Festival in 2013.

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Slade School of Fine Art, U.C.L. Fine Art [Media] MA
W.S.C.A.D. (Farnham). Fine Art [Sculpture] 1st Class BA (Hons)
Derbyshire College of Higher Education. Art Foundation – Distinction

Board memberships include Camerawork, London (1998-9) photoNORTH, Newcastle (2004-5) Isis Arts, Newcastle (2011-present) and Great North Run Culture (2012-present).

Teaching and Supervision

Having originally studied sculpture, my work has evolved through performance, film/video, sound, installation and photography. My teaching and research interests are located in critical art practice as an expanded field of activity that embraces the visual and conceptual potential of a broad range of media, spanning cross-disciplinary fields of enquiry.

With colleagues I developed the innovative BxNU MFA programme run between Northumbria University and BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, based at BALTIC 39 in Newcastle’s City Centre and was course leader from its inception in 2013 to 2016.

PhD supervision:

Andrew McNiven [Principal Supervisor. Awarded 2011] Monkey Business: an artist’s action research into the parameters of temporary installation through reflexive formal and informal documentary practice.

Agnieszka Kozlowska: [Second Supervisor. Awarded 2013] Fossils in paper: photographs as material indices.

Lucy Livingstone: [Second Supervisor. Awarded 2014] Reimagining space in the 21st century using visual arts strategies.

Louise Mackenzie [Principal Supervisor. Awarded 2018] Laboratory Life: Evolution of the Subject – Fine Art Practice within Synthetic Biology.

Alexandra Hughes [Principal Supervisor. Current] Rewilding Photographs: Exploring the turbulent and affective qualities of the material phenomenon of photography.

Crystal Bennes [Principal Supervisor. Commencing 2018] Indirect Observations: the image as process in macro- and micro-scale experimental.

Blanca Pujals [Principal Supervisor. Commencing 2018] A Synthetic Universe. The Unmaking of Microscopic Bonds in Transnational Space.

Applications for doctoral supervision are welcome from students wishing to pursue practice-based research from across the spectrum of my expertise and interest.

Before joining Northumbria University in 2004, I taught at Camberwell, University of the Arts, London (2002-3). I have been a visiting lecturer at several institutions in Europe and the UK as well as carrying out external examination and validation.

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