Sculpture as Fieldwork

  • Leeds Art Gallery
  • Saturday, 6 July 2019
  • Conference in the Henry Moore Lecture Theatre, Leeds Art Gallery, 11am - 5:30pm

This conference considers multi-perspectival approaches to ‘fieldwork’ as an avenue of enquiry for thinking about sculptural practice. From earths and underworlds, remote landscapes, extreme locations and even invisible particles as the resource for artistic investigations, new insights will be gathered in response to the self-generating spaces of sculptural immersion and engagement with the properties and atmospheres of material environments.

Saturday 6 July 2019, 11am - 5:30pm

Henry Moore Lecture Theatre, Leeds Art Gallery

From 10:15Registration
10:45Welcome and introductions
 Earth and Underworlds: Self-generating Environments
11:00‘ink of the under-mind’: Writing the Modernist Cave
Dr Holly Corfield Carr (Writer/researcher, University of Cambridge)
11:30Sculpting Resiliency
Professor Emily Puthoff (Associate Professor of Art and artist, State University of New York, New Paltz)
12:00Discussion chaired by Laurence Sillars (Head of the Henry Moore Institute)
12:30 - 1:30Lunch (provided)
 Particles (Invisible Fields)
1:30Art as experience at CERN
Mónica Bello (Curator and Head of Arts at CERN, Geneva)
2:00Invisible Fields
Dr Ele Carpenter (Reader in Curating, Goldsmiths, University of London)
2:30Discussion chaired by Dr Rowan Bailey (University of Huddersfield)
3:00 - 3:30Tea and coffee break
 Remote Lands – Edges, Rims and Poles
3:30Icebergs and Rocks: Writing the Plutonic Landscape
Marion Coutts (Senior Lecturer in Fine Art and artist, Goldsmiths, University of London)
4:00Antarctic Turns
Chris Dobrowolski (Independent artist)

Discussion chaired by Dr Brigitte Jurack (Manchester Metropolitan University)

5:30Concluding observations
6:00 - 7:30Drinks Reception at the Henry Moore Institute

About the speakers

Earth and Underworlds: Self-generating Environments

Holly Corfield Carr‘ink of the under-mind’: Writing the Modernist Cave

In her 1979 essay Sculpture in the Expanded Field, Rosalind Krauss (b. 1941) takes us to the edge of a hole, writing that ‘we stare at the pit in the earth and think we both do and don’t know what sculpture is’. The specific pit is Mary Miss’ 1977 earthwork Perimeters/Pavilions/ Decoys, an underground courtyard installed in Nassau County Museum of Art, but, more generally, this work prompted Krauss to imagine a deeper seam of depleting materialism opening up under twentieth-century sculpture, forming ‘a kind of black hole in the space of consciousness’.

Corfield Carr explores the black hole of the cave, defined as an absence of material in stone, as an important site of activity for contemporary practitioners whose work investigates whether it is possible to write sculpture in the field. Setting out from the ‘modernist cave’ of Brian Catling’s Cyclops works (1991–2018), constructed under the gallery floor, Corfield Carr maps a vibrant network of artists’ caves in the British Isles, from the Isle of Skye to the Portland peninsula, arriving at Sean Borodale’s 2017 proposal for site-specific lyric radiation, Asylum Oedipus, composed in caves under the Mendip Hills using muddied field notebooks and a dictaphone, and first installed at Bluecoat, Liverpool. For artists asking whether sculpture can be written, the echoing cave offers an answer, materialising the artist’s voice as a cave-encoded cast in language.

Holly Corfield Carr makes poems, books and performances for museums, galleries and sites across the UK, including an orchard, an eighteenth-century crystal grotto and a passenger ferry called Matilda. She researches contemporary sculpture and poetry at the University of Cambridge, where she completed her doctorate in 2018 on subterranean writing practices from William Wordsworth to Katrina Palmer. During her PhD, Corfield Carr was a 2016–17 Visiting Research Fellow at the Henry Moore Institute, pursuing the figure of the cave-dwelling Cyclops in the Archive, and from 2019, will continue her excavation of site-specific writing practices as Junior Research Fellow at Murray Edwards College, Cambridge. She has worked as poet-in-residence for Spike Island, the Wordsworth Trust and the National Trust and has presented her work on BBC Radio 4 and at the Proms for BBC Radio 3. She received an Eric Gregory Award from the Society of Authors in 2012 and won the Frieze Writer’s Prize in 2015. Her latest publications are Subsong and Indifferent Cresses (National Trust, 2018) and House Taken Over, ed. Jes Fernie, launched at Matt’s Gallery earlier this year.

Emily Puthoff - Sculpting Resiliency

When Emily Puthoff took up beekeeping 'by accident' a few years ago, she reconnected with the beauty and wonder of the natural world and committed to leveraging her creativity to help save the bees. In 2016, she co-founded the Hudson Valley Bee Habitat (HVBH), a collective of female artists pollinating engagement with nature and cultivating stewardship of bees through the arts. HVBH’s flagship project is the Kingston Bee-Line, a series of artist and community created solitary bee habitats as public art, pollinator gardens, and engagements along the Greenline, an emerging urban rail trail in Kingston, New York:

As an eco-materialist sculptor and educator, Puthoff creates art that catalyses awareness of ecological issues and inspires stewardship and preservation of biodiversity. She will discuss this shift in her artwork and pedagogy and offer strategies to sculpt resiliency in the studio, the field and the community.

Emily Puthoff is an Associate Professor of Art, Director of the Sculpture Program and Sustainability Faculty Fellow at the State University of New York at New Paltz. She is also a Visiting Instructor for the University of Hartford’s radically creative Nomad 9 MFA program. She is a member of the United University Professionals Union. She has been awarded several fellowships including: the Good Work Institute Fellowship (2017–18), National Arts Strategies Creative Community Fellowship (2016–17), The New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) Fellowship in Digital and Electronic Art (2011), The Artist in the Marketplace Fellowship at the Bronx Museum, the Nathan Cummings Endowed Travel Fellowship (2001), and the University Graduate Fellowship (1999–2002) from Arizona State University.


Particles (Invisible Fields)

Mónica Bello - Art as experience at CERN

The way we comprehend our environment, the interactions with other beings or the understanding of the way nature works have constituted the common drives of art and science throughout our history. Currently we are witnessing a heightened interest in the hybrid areas created between disciplines. From the lab to the artist studio, from urban space to remote natural scenarios, interactions between artists and scientists are reconfigured. How do we approach knowledge and experience through art and science dialogues? What are the big questions and insights coming out of these exchanges? John Dewey (1859– 1952) proposed that all interactions that effect stability and order in the whirling flux of change are rhythms. How do we explore these rhythms in the balance and counterbalance of our contemporaneity?

Mónica Bello is a Spanish curator and art historian. Since 2015 she has held the position of Curator and Head of Arts at CERN (European Laboratory for Particle Physics) in Geneva. Over the last fifteen years she has focused on interdisciplinary perspectives and narratives of today’s techno-scientific culture. In 2018 she was the Guest Curator of the prestigious Audemars Piguet Art Commission for Art Basel. Prior to her arrival to Geneva she held the position of Artistic Director of VIDA Art and Artificial Life awards (2010–2015) at Fundación Telefónica, Madrid, a pioneering award that fostered cross cultural expressions around the notion of life. She initiated and ran the Department of Education at Laboral Centro de Arte, Gijón (Spain, 2007–2010) and initiated and founded the curatorial platform Capsula. She has curated exhibitions and events internationally with contemporary artists, creators and thinkers across disciplines.

Ele Carpenter – Invisible Fields

Radiation is generally measured in terms of background and foreground. There is no mid-ground location, only specific degrees of measurement (e.g., centimetres or metres). Within visual representation, the mid-ground more formally describes the pictorial space within an image or landscape. Radiologically, this can be understood as a pastoral space of care through regulation and decontamination. This middle space is very distinct from Peter B. Hales’ (1950–2014) concept of the ‘atomic sublime’, located as distant spectacle, immeasurable and awe-inspiring, wild and god-like, encapsulated by the image of the mushroom cloud. At the other extreme the ‘radioactive uncanny’ (Joseph Masco, b. 1964) is foregrounded close to home, the suspicion of contamination embodying our most intimate being and objects (milk, food, camera, clothing, bones, shoes, animals, soil, film). In this way the atomic sublime and the radioactive uncanny represent the extremes of denial and radio-phobia, where radiation is either too far away or too near. Here in the mid-ground, radiation is not spectacular or distant enough to be sublime, and not uncannily seeping into homes and materials, yet we sense it in our bodies and rising global background radiation.

Carpenter’s field research and experience of radiation monitoring forms a curatorial framework for commissioning artworks by Thomson & Craighead, Andy Weir and Autogena and Portway, to present distributed forms of measuring, marking and monitoring the contemporary radioactive environment.

This paper will explore the enmeshed layers of radioactive grounds, from foreground uncanny surfaces and dispersed background radiation, identifying a new radioactive mid-ground as a spatial and aesthetic category. It will articulate a space, somewhere in the mid-ground, where it is possible to find strategies for surviving and keeping sane in the everyday lived experience of our radioactive environment. This is a space in which we all live and work, so to partially borrow from Donna Haraway (b. 1944) , how can we practice living and dying in the nuclear Anthropocene?

Ele Carpenter is curator of the Nuclear Culture project. She is convenor of the Nuclear Culture Research Group at Goldsmiths, University of London where she is a Reader in Curating and a Visiting Research Fellow, Institute of the Arts, University of Cumbria. Carpenter’s curatorial research investigates nuclear aesthetics through commissioning artwork, publishing, curating exhibitions and roundtable discussions in partnership with arts organisations and nuclear agencies. She regularly contributes to European Commission workshops on the role of contemporary art in long-term radioactive waste management, and is training to be a Radiation Protection Supervisor for contemporary art. Her current research is focusing on decolonising the nuclear and the nuclear taskscape.

Recent curated exhibitions include: Perpetual Uncertainty, Bildmuseet, Umea University, Sweden (2016–2017) touring to Z33 House of Contemporary Art, Hasselt, Belgium (2017) and Malmo Konstmuseum, Sweden (2018); Material Nuclear Culture, KARST, Plymouth, (2016); Actinium, S-AIR, Sapporo, Japan (2014). Carpenter is also curator of the Embroidered Digital Commons, a collective slow stitching of a text by the Raqs Media Collective.

Rowan Bailey

Rowan Bailey is the Director of Graduate Education in the School of Art, Design and Architecture at the University of Huddersfield. She is currently investigating sculptural thinking and new materialisms in artistic, scientific and curatorial cultures. Her publications include: 'Concrete Thinking for Sculpture', an article on the variegated plays of concrete as a material and as a concept (parallax, 21.3, 2015, pp.241-258); 'Thinking Sculpturally', a catalogue essay for the 2017 exhibition Tony Cragg: A Rare Category of Objects at Yorkshire Sculpture Park and more recently, in 2018, 'Where is the Brainbody in the Stories of Curation', a paper on the curatorial mechanisms and strategies of displaying brainbody phenomena. She is the Artistic Director of the Market Gallery as part of Temporary Contemporary, a partnership project between the University of Huddersfield and Kirklees Council.


Remote Lands – Edges, Rims and Poles

Marion Coutts – Icebergs and Rocks: Writing the Plutonic Landscape

“The image of the asteroid Ida, with its own satellite, Dactyl, the first confirmed satellite or moon relating to an asteroid, closely resembles an image from Donald Burgy’s Rock series from 1968. This does not mean that Donald Burgy prefigured this discovery. But you could say there is nothing new under the sun. Or in this case, very far from it.”

Recent research took Coutts to Fogo Island, off the coast of Newfoundland through The Islands Arts Writing Residency, a programme split between Fogo and Toronto Island, Canada. Fogo is a pink granite rock in the Atlantic with a small local population, formerly dependent on cod fishing. It hosts an active residency programme with an international reach. The work she did there, in text and photography, centred on the community, the material landscape and on measures of distance – temporal – geographical – conceptual: from the asteroid Ida to Donald Burgy’s Rock. In compacted texts, she interrogates the geology of the plutonic landscape as a live entity and explores the active demarcations of islands, edges, rims.

Artworks are frequently cited as physical encounters and as material propositions through which to think. Elizabeth Bishop (1911-79) describes words as ‘“things” in the head, like icebergs or rocks or awkwardly placed pieces of furniture’. As a sculptor, Coutts approaches writing as a visual proposition. Language is a constructed object with material qualities: weight, surface, grain, speed, mass. If you could throw a word, how far would it go?

Marion Coutts is an artist and writer. Her work has been exhibited widely, including solo shows at the Bluecoat, Liverpool; Chisenhale Gallery, London; Yorkshire Sculpture Park; and Foksal Gallery, Warsaw. She has held fellowships at the British School at Rome, Tate Liverpool and Kettle's Yard, Cambridge. Her first book, The Iceberg, was published in 2014 and went on to win the Wellcome Book Prize in 2015. In 2018 she was the recipient of The Islands Arts Writing Residency, Fogo Island, Canada. She is a Senior Lecturer in Art at Goldsmiths, University of London.

Chris Dobrowolski Antarctic Turns

In 2008, Dobrowolski was one of two artists on the British Antarctic Survey’s Artists and Writers Programme and spent three and a half months on the Antarctic Peninsula. His proposal for the residency centred on previous work to do with landscape and failure. In Britain, Antarctica is associated with Captain Scott’s disastrous South Pole attempt, Shackleton’s failed expedition and the current situation of impending environmental disaster. Arguably therefore it is a continent where failure and landscape meet. Pursuing this theme of failure, his research attempted to amplify the pathetic and mundane within the context of the ethereal majesty of the landscape surrounding me. The group he was embedded with were predominantly scientists and building contractors all doing ‘serious’ work saving the planet. Justifying his existence there was constantly in the back of his mind.

Picasso’s famous quotation: ‘art is the lie that reveals the truth’ is a point of reference Dobrowolski uses a lot. It succinctly lays out two separate states: 1. the real world we inhabit and 2. its reflection in the unreal world of art. The unique white landscape of the Antarctic sometimes works like a blank canvas or white cube gallery space highlighting the significance of things whilst blurring the line between the real and otherworldly. With this lecture he will try to inhabit the territory between these two states.

Chris Dobrowolski is known for his kinetic vehicle sculptures that reference landscape and escape. He is also well-known for his series of performance lectures that mostly discuss the ongoing paradoxes in his work brought on by coming to terms with authenticity, integrity and failure. He studied sculpture in Hull in the late 1980s and early 1990s where unintentionally ‘art education’ became the subject matter for his work. His works include Seascape Escape, Skyscape Escape and in 2017 he was invited back to Hull as part of the city of culture festival with the commission Washed Up Car-Go. In 2012 Dobrowolski started a psychogeography project visiting all of the areas in Italy where his Polish father had fought in World War II. The journey was taken in the forty-five year old family car. This led to the critically acclaimed performance All Roads Lead to Rome. He also undertook a residency for three months in Antarctica with the British Antarctic Survey, leading to his last performance work Antarctica. He is currently Associate Artist at Art Exchange at the University of Essex and is produced by Artsadmin, London.

Brigitte Jurack

Brigitte Jurack is an artist and Head of Sculpture/Time based arts at Manchester School of Art, Manchester Metropolitan University. Her work has been exhibited widely, including solo shows at FILET, London (2018), Grundy Art Gallery, Blackpool and IMMA, Dublin. She has held fellowships at the British School at Athens, ICI Redcar, EKWC Hertogenbosch, IMMA Dublin and the Sanskriti Foundation, New Delhi. In 2007 she published Irfaran, Travel and Work, a book, which focussed on the artist as globetrotting worker in the twenty-first century. Since co-founding Alternator studio in Birkenhead, she has instigated Translating the Street (2016/2019) a series of international artist’s micro-residencies hosted by micro-businesses and community facilities in Birkenhead.  


This conference is co-organised and convened by the Henry Moore Institute, University of Huddersfield and Manchester Metropolitan University.

Venue details

Venue address

Leeds Art Gallery
The Headrow
West Yorkshire
United Kingdom
T: 0113 247 8256
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Opening times

Monday: Closed
Tuesday to Saturday: 10am - 5pm
Sunday: 11am - 3pm

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