School of Art, Design and Architecture

MPhil/PhD Art & Media

We welcome applications for both practice-led and more traditional forms of doctoral research across art and media including interdisciplinary practices, philosophical, curatorial and pedagogic research.

Explore, experiment and develop project ideas in a supportive, critically reflective, wide-ranging creative arts context.

Image courtesy of Kayla Parker

Course details

  • Overview
  • This full time or part time doctoral programme is suitable for people who have a particular research question or topic in mind, and wish to explore this through independent study in order to produce an original contribution to the subject. If you aspire to a research career this is the most appropriate research degree to undertake.

    You will be guided by a small supervisory team of academic experts under the direction of a Director of Studies. Where appropriate, the team will draw on expertise elsewhere in the University (for instance, for pedagogic studies, from the Institute of Education, or if concerned with Visual Arts and the Maritime, from the Marine Institute).

    Even if you already have a degree at masters level, you will normally be registered as a ‘MPhil/PhD’ candidate and may apply to transfer to ‘PhD’ status around 10–22 months after registration, based on your progress to date.

    You will be expected to fully engage with research skills development and training and to present your project in a range of scholarly contexts.

    Your PhD will be assessed via submission of either a written thesis (approximately 80,000 words), or one that combines critical writing with artistic, creative and/or professional practice, and a viva voce (an oral examination).

    For full details of what doing a PhD entails at the University of Plymouth, please visit our Postgraduate Research Degrees pages.

    Core modules
    • GSRARTM1 Research Art and Media

  • Year 2
  • Core modules
    • GSRARTM2 Research Art and Media

  • Year 3
  • Core modules
    • GSRARTM3 Research Art and Media

  • Final year
  • Core modules
    • GSRARTM4 Research Art and Media

The modules shown for this course or programme are those being studied by current students, or expected new modules. Modules are subject to change depending on year of entry.

Entry requirements

Applicants are normally expected to have completed a masters level qualification to a high standard (e.g. at 'merit' or 'distinction' level) as well as either a good 2:1 or first class honours undergraduate degree in an area of study appropriate to your project proposal (e.g. contemporary art, media arts, photography, art historical, curatorial or writing practices, or art specialism teaching qualifications). Complementary study experience at BA and MA levels are also welcome; you may have studied different subjects at undergraduate and masters level that together form a foundation for an established art practice.

If you do not have a masters level qualification, we recommend you consider applying for our ResM Art, Design and Architecture programme. Students who are making exceptional progress in a ResM programme, may progress directly into our PhD programme without having to complete the masters.

You will need to be able to show evidence that you are ready to pursue your proposed project. If you wish to discuss the feasibility of your research project, please contact Dr Anya Lewin.

If English is not your first language, you must have proficiency in written and spoken English (normally a minimum test score of 6.5 for IELTS, or equivalent). Given the nature of the programme, you’ll be expected to read and engage with complex theoretical texts and debates for which fluency in English is essential.

For more general guidelines and application requirements, please visit the research degrees applicants page.

Fees, costs and funding

Please visit tuition fees for postgraduate research for information about fees. PhD Art and Media is in Band 2 for fees purposes.

If you are a full time student, you will pay full time fees for three years. If you have not submitted your thesis by the end of this period, then you may pay for an optional one year writing up period.

If you are a part time student, you will pay part time fees for four years. If you have not submitted your thesis by the end of this period, then you may pay for an optional 'writing up' period of up to two years.

You are responsible for meeting all of the costs related to your own research project, beyond the resources available in the department. You will have access to equipment and production facilities, and full-time fine art students can apply to be considered for studio space.

Please visit our postgraduate research money matters page to find out more about issues related to fees, funding, loans and paying for your programme of study.

How to apply

In addition to completing the online application form (which includes space for a personal statement), you must also upload a research project proposal of no more than 1000 words in total. Your research proposal should outline your general topic, your key aims and the research question/problem you are addressing, your proposed methodology, key definitions/thinkers/discourses/practitioners you are drawing upon and an explanation of why this topic is significant or important.

Your personal statement should briefly explain why you have chosen to apply to our programme and what you feel you can offer our research community.

You will also need to submit a sample of your critical writing (3000 words maximum) and, if relevant, evidence of your ability to undertake the practice-led research you are proposing (e.g. a DVD, portfolio, links to website, reviews, catalogue, etc.). It should take no longer than 30 minutes to view all the visual material that you provide.

For more general guidelines and application requirements, please visit the research degrees applicants page.

<p>Image by Dom Moore, research workshop</p>
Artistic Research Will Eat Itself PhD workshop at KARST
<p>Image by Dom Moore</p>
<p>Dom Moore, research workshop&nbsp;</p>

Current PhD students

Karen Abadie
"Humanity Undone: a digital relational enquiry into the vulnerability of being human"
Director of Studies: Tom Baugh | 2nd supervisor: Mike Lawson Smith 3rd Supervisor: Kayla Parker 

Raul Barcelona
"Film Here Now: Daily Filmmaking and Well-being"
Director of Studies: Anya Lewin | 2nd supervisor: Michael Bowdidge

Càndida Borges
"Contemporary processes of musical creation: multi-art intersections and performances"
Director of Studies: John Matthias | 2nd supervisor: Andrew Prior | 3rd Supervisor: Anya Lewin

Jose Bras
"A Mutating Landscape: A Photographic Inquiry into the Technological Agrarian Reconfiguration of the Ribatejo
Director of Studies: Jem Southam | 2nd supervisor: Liz Wells

Duncan Cameron
"The imposition of order - collecting and listening - mind and aesthetics"
Director of Studies: Geoff Cox | 2nd supervisor: Tom Baugh

Emilio Chapela
"Engaging with the atmospheres: Moving-image entanglements at the Sierra Negra astronomical observatories"
Director of Studies: Anya Lewin | 2nd supervisor: Simon Pope

Livia Daza-Paris
"The Radiance at the Blurred Edge: Poetic Forensics on the politically disappeared, its people and its land"
Director of Studies: Kayla Parker | 2nd supervisor: Simon Pope

Fedra Dekeyser
"Unearth: Visual Strategies to Reveal and Regenerate Hidden Histories"
Director of Studies: Liz Wells | 2nd supervisor: Jem Southam | 3rd supervisor: Heidi Morstang

Veronica Fazzio
"Social Sculpture and Philosophical Concepts: A Transformative Reflective Practice"
Director of Studies: Anya Lewin | 2nd supervisor: Michael Bowdidge

Luisa Greenfield
"The Disquieting Image"
Director of Studies: Anya Lewin | 2nd supervisor: Simon Pope

Rostam Hakeem
"Trace colour as collective memory: an interpretation, through practice, of colour residues in Kurdistan banner making, to reflect upon contemporary communal events"
Director of Studies: Chris Cook | 2nd supervisor: Jodie Patterson | 3rd Supervisor Sarah Bennett

Laura Hopes
"Bearing the sublime: what constitutes the sublime in the age of the Anthropocene?"
Director of Studies: Geoff Cox | 2nd supervisor: Tom Baugh | 3rd Supervisor Heidi Morstang

Lei Liu
"Traditions Explored in Chinese Contemporary Art: The Iconography of Landscape"
Director of Studies: Chris Cook 

Ryan Nolan
"What does 'contemporary music' mean now? Music and the problem of temporality" 
Director of Studies: Geoff Cox | 2nd supervisor: Andrew Prior 

Luca Nostri 
"Place and identity in the contest of Italian photography: the case study of Lugo in the Lowlands of Romagna"
Director of Studies: Jem Southam | 2nd supervisor: David Chandler

Kate Paxman
"The Problem of Being the Problem: in a time of global ecological uncertainty how we can bear witness, through creative practice, to the crisis we are facing from climate change?"
Director of Studies: Jane Grant | 2nd supervisor: John Matthias | 3rd Iain Stewart

Claudia Pilsl
"Photography and Its Contribution to the Understanding of Digital Porosity"
Director of Studies: Liz Wells | 2nd Supervisor Kayla Parker

Laurie Reynolds
"Representation of Indeterminacy and Process"
Director of Studies: Carole Baker | 2nd supervisor: Chris Cook

Kevin Robinson
"The impact of hearing impairment upon visual based photographic activities"
Director of Studies: Liz Wells | 2nd supervisor: Ken Gale | 3rd Supervisor Carole Baker

Laura Rosser
"Agency of Error: the significance of human and nonhuman error in postdigital print"
Director of Studies: Geoff Cox | 2nd supervisor: Jane Grant

Marjan Saberi
"Behind Closed Doors: Women’s Domesticity in Mashhad"
Director of Studies: Kayla Parker | 2nd supervisor: Nikolina Bobic 3rd Supervisor Chris Cook

Michael Straeubig
"Designing Playful Systems"
Director of Studies: Jane Grant | 2nd supervisor: John Matthias

David Wyatt
"A Landscape of Legislation"
Director of Studies: Jem Southam | 2nd supervisor: Liz Wells | 3rd Supervisor Simon Standing

Recently completed PhDs

Thomas Baugh
"An Artistic Equivalence of my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder"
Director of Studies: Sarah Bennett | 2nd Supervisor John Danvers

James Charlton
"Catch | Bounce Towards a Relational Ontology of the Digital in Art Practice"
Director of Studies: Geoff Cox | 2nd Supervisor: Deborah Robinson 3rd Supervisor: Michael Bowdidge

Tim Coles
"The Knotweed Factor: Non-Visual Aspects of Poetic Documentary"
Director of Studies: David Hilton | 2nd Supervisor: Chris Rodrigues

Christopher Danowski
"The Medium and the Message: Afro-Cuban Trance and Western Theatrical Performance"
Director of Studies: Laura Gonzales | 2nd Supervisor: Deborah Robinson

Allister Gall
"Towards a Cinema of Imperfection: Participatory Film as Research"
Director of Studies: David Hilton | 2nd Supervisor: Chris Rodrigues 3rd Supervisor: Alan Schechner

Rachelle Knowles
"A translocal approach to dialogue-based art"
Director of Studies: Sarah Bennett | 2nd Supervisor: Geoff Cox

Diego Maranan
"Haplos: Towards Technologies for and Applications of Somaesthetics"
Director of Studies: Jane Grant | 2nd Supervisor: John Matthias 3rd Supervisor: Sue Denham

Camilla Nock
"Reanimating the Wound: Dermatilliomanic Practice and the First World War"
Director of Studies: Chris Cook | 2nd Supervisor: Karen Roulstone

Kayla Parker
"Every Frame Counts: Creative Practice and Gender in Direct Animation"
Director of Studies: Liz Wells | 2nd Supervisor: Roberta Mock

Anna Walker
"In and out of memory: exploring the tension between remembering and forgetting when recalling 9/11, a traumatic event"
Director of Studies: Jane Grant | 2nd Supervisor: Kayla Parker 3rd Supervisor: Sana Murrani

Emma Whittaker
"Transition-felt: William James, Locative Narrative and the Multi-stable Field of Expanded Narrative"
Director of Studies: Jane Grant | 2nd Supervisor: John Matthias 3rd Supervisor: Mike Phillips

My PhD Research: Rostam Hakeem

Can an abstract painting practice based on traces of Kurdish banner making, both be informed and clarified by a socio-political collective consciousness?

Rostam’s research is sponsored by the Kurdistan Regional Government.

I employ archeological methodologies in both my practice and theoretical research, excavating appropriate personal histories and documents to transform them (in the way Foucault suggests) into monuments, so that we can understand our present. I am interested in the double relationship of what is excavated and what is produced from the data. In this I am working against forgetfulness through a process of creating a fictionalized past.

My excavation takes place mainly within the field of memory, especially the memories of people directly in contact with events that concern my research. The calligraphers of Sulimaniyah are aware of the events of the society as they unfold through the mediation of banner making.

I view collective memory (the collective Kurdish mind) as a place I can excavate and reveal important contemporary issues of identity and power games. The interviews are a powerful archeological tool, and an increasingly important aspect of my artworks is how I navigate this multi-voiced archive.

My practice is based on appropriation in both materials and method. Such appropriation is closer to remembering rather than forgetting. It offers a reconceptualization of historical narratives, and generates new meaning through cultural production.


Academic staff

These are some of our core supervisors in the Art and Media program. We work with candidates to find the best supervisors for the research and are able to bring teams together from across the University. Examples are from Architecture, Art History, Design, Education, English and Environmental and Marine Sciences.

Carole Baker is a practice based researcher exploring posthumanist and phenomenological debates around the non-human animal through a Critical Realist photographic practice. Her current work Sensing the Familiar juxtaposes the social realities of Cyprus dog rescue with philosophical reflections on the nature of alterity, being, power and knowledge.

Tom Baugh explores alternative responses of understanding mental health that is accessible, empowering and non-stigmatising, and that leads to recovery and autonomy. He focusses on modes of perceiving the context, and impact of, diagnostic and non-diagnostic discourse, both in clinical environments and across other key societal settings. https://drthomasbaugh.tumblr.com.

David Chandler is an experienced curator, editor and writer. He has held senior curatorial positions in the UK at the National Portrait Gallery, The Photographers’ Gallery and inIVA, and from 1997 to 2010 was the Director of Photoworks, Brighton. His widely published writing concentrates on post-war British and American photography.

Christopher Cook is a painter who employs broadly surrealist processes and a specific monochrome medium to interrogate a range of themes, including genetic modification, sacred and profane architecture, and migration/protectionism. His work questions the relationship between painting and photographic reproduction, and between surrealist approaches and Eastern philosophies. Current research interests include Golden Age Still Life Painting, Chinese ink painting and ekphrastic poetry.

Geoff Cox is currently engaged on a research project The Contemporary Condition, and as part of this co-edits a book series published by Sternberg Press. He also works on various other publishing projects and collaborations that reflect his interests in contemporary art, post-digital aesthetics, software studies, live coding, and machine vision. www.anti-thesis.net.

Phil Ellis  is a researcher and artist, exploring the relationship between historical and contemporary television. He uses archival materials and re-enactment processes, employing interactive digital televisual technologies to engage with audiences in participatory culture. He is currently writing a chapter for a book to be published by Amsterdam University Press in late 2018.

Allister Gall  works across film, moving image art and the creation of participatory environments. Since 2010, he has been exploring the idea of Imperfect Cinema that focuses on the emancipatory potential of imperfection and DIY punk principles, opening up spaces for collective experiences, aesthetic experimentation and social interaction. www.imperfectcinema.com / allistergall.net.

Jane Grant  explores historical and contemporary scientific concepts focusing on neuroscience and astrophysics. She creates artworks and writing that engages the phenomenological aspects of these ideas in order to create ‘other worlds’. She is developing a series of site-based artworks about desire, longing and disappearance through the concept of the multiverse and solar physics. Her interdisciplinary research interests span across inhabitation, immersion and the non-human.  www.janegrant.org/

Anya Lewin explores artist’s moving image and the spaces it can occupy along with the larger context of Artistic Research. She is currently focusing on narrative moving image in the gallery and experimental biography and is in the process of finishing a trilogy of moving image installations, which explore the intersection of personal and public archives and her own family connection with screen history. www.imadeitup.info.

John Matthias is a musician, composer and physicist whose work and explores the creation of new music, new sound installation and the physics of complex systems. He has released five albums via Accidental, Ninja Tune, Nonclassical and Village Green Recordings and has collaborated with many artists including Radiohead and Coldcut and his music has been remixed by many artists including Thom Yorke, Matthew Herbert and Jem Finer.

Heidi Morstang works with contemporary photography and experimental documentary films. Her practice-based research explores the significance of landscape; she is interested in the social, cultural, environmental and archaeological histories embedded in landscapes. The majority of her work is created in the Nordic Arctic region, often in collaboration with scientists and various academic disciplines such as forensic archaeology, political and cultural history, the sciences, geo-sciences and pure mathematics. www.hcmorstang.co.uk.

Kayla Parker is an artist film-maker who creates innovative works for cinema, gallery, public and online spaces using film-based and digital technologies. Her research interests centre around subjectivity and place, embodiment and technological mediation, from feminist perspectives, with a particular interest in the interrelationship between still and moving image, and new materialism. www.kaylaparker.co.uk 

Andrew Prior is a media artist and musician. His research interests are around media archaeology, post-digitality, and t(h)inkering – that is, thinking through tinkering or vice versa. His music has been released with Nonclassical, 4AD, Yacht Club and Counter Records, an imprint of Ninjatune. He has had work performed and exhibited in New York, Tokyo, Aarhus, Roskilde, London, Brno & Zilina. www.aprior.net 

Simon Standing explores our relationship to sacred and secular architectural environments through photographic research. The current focus of which is urban development on the island of Cyprus undertaken within a recent artist residency. Further research explores his relationship with Gothic cathedrals across Europe that have been a very particular element of his personal and photographic identity over the last 30 years. www.simonstanding.co.uk.

Liz Wells writes and lectures on photographic histories and practices, and curates exhibitions on land and environment. She co-edits photographies peer-reviewed journal and is series editor for Photography, Place, Environment, Bloomsbury Academic Press (forthcoming). She is an elected member of the Board of Directors, Society for Photographic Education, and in 2017 was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by University of Gothenberg.

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