Funded PhD Opportunity Unorthodox Methods of Spatial Enquiry Within Contemporary Art Practice

This opportunity is now closed.

Subject: Art and Design: History, Practice and Theory


Focused upon the unorthodoxies of method within contemporary art practice and drawing from and addressing a wide disciplinary context, this topic explores the uncertainties and opportunities around the contribution to spatial knowledges.  The range of competing definitions around space and place allow multifaceted research approaches, triangulating, expanding and challenging knowledge and insights. Culturally and historically the contribution of art to the constructions and deconstructions of place and space is significant but often seemingly contrary to many of the orthodoxies of methods of the social or physical sciences or indeed in more established art practice. However, the logics of established, orthodoxies of method are under scrutiny across many disciplines with the need for cross-contextual, lateral approaches to further gain traction as the boundaries of disciplinary knowledges dissolve or merge.

Taking succor from Feyerabend’s advocacy of theoretical anarchism (Against Method, 1975) and looking beyond established professional art methods, this research exalts the role of the experimental in generating new, challenging and radical spatial possibilities. This necessitates using experimental methods that bring arts' spatial stories into sharper focus. In order to develop this contribution we must better understand the approaches, means and methods that artists engage and how they contribute to unique forms of knowledge. Hence, this topic is interested in looking at how artists experimentally address space and place through their practice to bring such unorthodox and odd approaches to art-making to the foreground. It looks to establish and analyse their presence, significance, rigor and legitimacy.

We welcome cross-disciplinary artistic research collating and examining unorthodox methods of contemporary artists that engage space and place, exploring how art critiques spatial knowledge and contributes radical creative geographies. The focus is on method; what artists do differently or exceptionally. The candidate’s research project should cross-pollinate academic disciplines such as human geography (for example, radical or anarchist geographies), astronomy and / or phenomenology with non-academic disciplines like art, music, meditation or mountaineering. Outcomes could include artworks and a theoretical frame-working which allows for the generation of, or a reworking or unpicking of unorthodox methodologies within spatial art practices. The research should have an urgent imperative for recognising less mainstream contributions to knowledge in the area of creative spatial enquiry or engage with new theories within spatial studies.

This topic is fundamentally concerned with the human spatial relationship with the world and with the unorthodox construction of knowledges around that. This PhD project should both academically consolidate and experimentally expand the practice and scholarly understandings of this area. Our interest, as supervisors, in this topic develop from our own spatial concerns as artists across a matrix of theoretical understandings including the, socio-political, cultural, physical, meta-physical and ‘pata-physical.

Essential Criteria

  • Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC)
  • Sound understanding of subject area as evidenced by a comprehensive research proposal
  • A comprehensive and articulate personal statement

Desirable Criteria

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

  • Completion of Masters at a level equivalent to commendation or distinction at Ulster
  • Practice-based research experience and/or dissemination
  • Experience using research methods or other approaches relevant to the subject domain
  • Work experience relevant to the proposed project


    Vice Chancellors Research Scholarships (VCRS)

    The scholarships will cover tuition fees and a maintenance award of £15,009 per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). Applications are invited from UK, European Union and overseas students.


    The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £15,009 per annum for three years. EU applicants will only be eligible for the fees component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided).  For Non EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK.

Other information

The Doctoral College at Ulster University

Launch of the Doctoral College

Current PhD researchers and an alumnus shared their experiences, career development and the social impact of their work at the launch of the Doctoral College at Ulster University.

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The PhD training programme and regular supervision contacts have provided the direction and support necessary to ensure that I deliver a quality thesis in a timely manner.I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience of working at Ulster University and feel it has put me in a better position to sustain a full time career as an artist and academic in the years to come.

Jacqueline Wylie

Key Dates

Submission Deadline
Monday 19 February 2018
Interview Date
12th to 16th March 2018

Contact Supervisor

Mr Daniel Shipsides

Other Supervisors

Apply online

Visit and quote reference number #237237 when applying for this PhD opportunity