Chris Dorsett is an artist and exhibition-maker whose career has been built on cross-disciplinary collaborations with collection-holding institutions (most notably, a pioneering series of projects with the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford between 1985 and 1994).
For three decades his activities have situated the aesthetic and political ambitions of experimental fine art within a diverse range of historical and scientific contexts. Thus his CV lists exhibitions set within outstanding national collections (for example, the Royal Swedish Armoury and the Natural History Museum in London) and fieldwork residencies undertaken at ‘collecting’ locations as different as the Institute of Amazonian Research (organised with the Centre for Economic Botany, Kew) and the Chinese walled village of Kat Hing Wai (commissioned by the Arts Development Council of Hong Kong).
During the 1980s Dorsett created the undergraduate course in sculpture at the Ruskin School, University of Oxford. Later he became a visiting tutor in Critical Fine Art Practice at Central St. Martin's School of Art, London (1987-97) and a Swedish Royal Academy funded guest curator at the Royal University College of Fine Art, Stockholm (1991-95). As a Reader, then Professor of Fine Art, at Northumbria University Dorsett has supervised 17 practice-led PhDs in which research is demonstrated through the creation and exhibiting of sculptural objects, photographs, drawings, sound works and video pieces. The team of doctoral students he formed to collaborate with Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust was awarded the 2011 Combined Royal Colleges Medal for an ‘outstanding contribution to the use of photography in the service of medicine’ (Royal Photographic Society).
Research Themes and Scholarly Interests
Dorsett’s long engagement with the notion of the museum as a creative medium continues to shape his interest in the future of ‘collection holding’ cultures. Recent outputs include a commission to curate Cast Contemporaries, an exhibition about the fate of anatomical and sculpture cast collections in art schools (2012 Edinburgh Arts Festival) and a project instigated with the National Trust (Unfinished Business at Wallington, 2011) in which artists responded to incomplete Pre-Raphaelite murals at Wallington Hall in Northumberland. Dorsett also writes about the evolving interface between contemporary art and the museal for publications aimed at the museum sector. These essays reflect upon attitudes within the arts to the important distinction between exhibited presence and interpreted meaning, a topic that informs Dorsett’s conference presentations which range widely across adjacent interests such as the status of the object in Peircian semiotics and debates about mobile and sedentary environments in cultural geography. Currently, Dorsett is working on trainslidingtalk, a collection of short film/sound works made in collaboration with Volker Straub and David Elliott of the Institute of Genetic Medicine (Newcastle University), in which analogies between stored DNA sequences and museum archives are publically debated during a series of conversations on a local commuter train (Extraordinary Renditions, 2013).
Sponsors and Collaborators
Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
University of Edinburgh
Current / Recent Projects (Note: broadly since 2008) (Name, awarding body, date awarded, role)
Cast Contemporaries. Creative Scotland. 2012. Curator and Lead Artist.
Skying: Alec Finlay Leverhulme sculpture residency. Leverhulme Trust. 2010. Principal Investigator.
2013: Extraordinary Renditions: the cultural negotiation of science
Co-exhibitor. Exhibition and symposium organised with Christine Borland and Fiona Crisp (lead artist), British Science Festival, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead.
2012: Cast Contemporaries
Exhibition curator - lead artist. Appointed Honorary Research Fellow at Edinburgh University to curate an exhibition about the fate of plaster cast collections in contemporary art schools. Collaboration with Margaret
Stewart, curator of the Edinburgh College of Art Cast Collection, for the 2012 Edinburgh Arts Festival.
2011: Unfinished Business at Wallington: contemporary responses to William Bell Scott
Exhibition curator - lead artist. An exhibition in the grounds and interior of a Northumberland National Trust property responding to the bicentenary of William Bell Scott, the Pre-Raphaelite painter whose mural design
for the Great Hall was left incomplete.
2011: ‘Things and Theories: the unstable presence of exhibited objects’
Book chapter. In Dudley, S., Barnes, A. J., Binnie, J., Petrov, J., & Walklate, J. (eds) The Thing about Museums: objects and experience, representation and contestation, London and New York: Routledge.
2009: ‘Making Meaning Beyond Display’
Book chapter. In Dudley, S. (ed.) Museum Materialities: objects, engagements, interpretations, London and New York: Routledge
To view my Northumbria Research Link page click here