Middlesbrough photography lecturer presents at international conference in Krakow
During the summer break The Northern School of Art‘s Middlesbrough campus photography lecturer Richard Allaway headed across to Krakow in Poland where he was an invited guest speaker at an international conference looking at the social role of art.
The 18th International Conference on Arts in Society held at Jagiellonian University Krakow was called ‘New Aesthetic Expressions: The Social Role of Art’ and Richard had been invited to discuss his ongoing PhD research project: ‘Experiences of Remoteness: How to [re]experience intimacy’.
Aimed at a variety of artistic practitioners and researchers, the audience included university students, lecturers, retired academic staff and artists and featured several quest speakers including Barbara Formis a lecturer from Philosophy of Art in the Department of Fine Arts and Art Sciences at the Pantheon-Sorbonne University in Paris, France.
The opportunity came about after Richard responded to an open call ten months before the event – for practitioners working within the field of aesthetics and roles art can play within social realms – by submitting a proposal based on his research and practice.
He explained: “My presentation was about my PhD research and I was demonstrating and showcasing where I currently stood with my research and how it fitted within the conference programme.
“The experience was a busy one. I have already presented at an international conference in Romania but that was online, so I felt a little detached, whereas for this conference I was fully involved and it was three intense days.
“I went into this conference thinking it was going to be very formal and full of academic spiel but I was quite wrong. It was a wonderfully relaxed conversation between researchers and that fitted well with my own methods of communication. I share my practice and research through forms of conversation, and conversation is what it is, a chat between others discussing thoughts – nothing too serious, high-brow or elitist.”
He added: “I met many interesting people from all different backgrounds and cultures. Speakers were from North and South America, Ireland, France, Australia, Poland, Russia, Spain, South Africa, China to name just a few. It really was an international festival.
“Those I spoke to, whether that was inside conference rooms, over a cuppa or outside the university, all had interesting thoughts and ideas as well as considerate characteristics: Eve Ruet, Billy Simms, Elmarie Costandius and Gera De Villiers.
“But Constance Kirker from Pennsylvania State University, a retired professor was just wonderful! She was in her later 70s and she just stole the show. Her presentation was full of thought-provoking, engaging and critical awareness around the theme of eating, yet she delivered her research in a way that was humorous and casual. Again the elitist stereotype disappeared and Constance brought to the conference an engaging conversation between all.”
Richard, pictured below on a recent solo hike as part of his research, said that a few other presentations that stood out and stayed with him included one from Elmarie Costandius and Gera De Villiers from the Stellenbosch University in South Africa with their presentation ‘The Haunting Presence of the Marais Statue on the Rooiplein (Red Square).
“It was a wonderful discussion about hauntology which is a mixture between ontology and haunting. They referenced it as an ongoing conversation with ghosts of the past, not literally, but it was about addressing what is in existence at the university, why it is there and how can the university re-dress it.
“An example used was white male sculptures which felt out of touch with the culture and identity of the university. Instead of aggressively removing said statues without any thought they allow students to react to it through methods of art practice. They spoke about the importance of creating a culturally aware and engaging university that speaks about all cultures, but they understood the complexity of such a task.”
I also thoroughly enjoyed presentations by Jody Wood (New Jersey) and Sakinah Ismael (Bahrain) as they both worked within the realm of arts as a form of medical remedy; Jody presented ‘Social Pharmacy’ and Sakinah discussed ‘Pills, Paints, Prognosis: Art in Medicine and the Art of Medicine’
“Jody discussed how she worked within lower class areas of New Jersey engaging with the community as they did not trust the US medical health system. Instead, she created a pop-up art installation that was a form of data exchange between swapping medical remedies. It worked through social engagements, connecting via emotional, mental, and physical intertwines. It was a demonstration for highlighting social dimensions of care and how each participant played an integral role within the social pharmacy. Each participant was a script writer, they collaborated without knowing, they received and exchanged ‘data’, they worked together as a community to help one and other in their own safe environment and health care system.
“Sakinah, on the other hand, discussed the important role the health care individual should take on the patient as a form of artist. Taking the time to look and being patient with the patient, demonstrating some form of empathy that embodies the patient needs and highlights and focuses on areas within the exchange of descriptive prognosis.
“There was a connection between both presentations that informed the importance of working between individuals to highlight similarities and areas for change but how art could and does play a role in the development of medicine.”
Richard is continuing with his practice and preparing for his next exam in October 2024 and is looking at exhibiting and presenting in the Spring.
“My practice is currently moving at a rapid pace. I am working in remote locations around the UK capturing experiences of the land and attempting to capture such sensations and feelings through multiple method of practice such as, photography, film, and performance.”
Richard’s research can be viewed on his blog at ritchardallaway.com/blog-01
Information about studying photography at The Northern School of Art’s Middlesbrough campus is available HERE