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Current projects within Art and Design

We research a variety of topics, a list of our current projects can be seen below.

An exploration of the ways in which contemporary Irish painting can articulate the possibility or impossibility for the inscription of the feminine

This project will utilise practice and theory based methodologies to investigate visual modes pertaining to Irishness and the feminine. 'Painting' is an expansive term and may encompass hybrid visual processes.

The 'feminine' is also a debatable category.

'Irishness' is equally fluid and its shape changes dependent upon historical and social contexts.

This project therefore explores the ways in which meaning itself is made or unmade across these cultural markers.

Character driven narrative in Virtual Reality & Mixed Reality

There has been much investment in Virtual Reality (VR) and Mixed Reality following Facebook's $2.5b investment in Oculus VR and $1b in Magic Leap.

As more consumer devices come to market in 2016, the entertainment industries are exploring the medium and exploiting the attraction of the novel. These burgeoning industries, like at the dawn of cinema, have commenced with a wonderment of the technology, with content being secondary. If these they are to mature they must move beyond, as cinema has, to a more character driven narrative.

Just as Georges Méliès, Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, and other icons and characters of cinema's explosive birth, VR is in a new territory, certain to be overtaken by more confident visions of VR film following it's path breaking footsteps.

This topic wishes to explore the evolution that is taking place before us and to chart the evolution of characters within these new mediums:

  • Can a character driven narrative exist in VR?
  • How does our presence in the scene affect our experience?
  • Is there a place for non-photorealistic characters?

Craft: NOW. Sustainability, applications and attitudes in contemporary craft practice

While the main focus of this PhD Theme would be Ceramics, the outcomes may be transferable to other applied art or craft practices.

This PhD topic examines the current context of craft, considering its relationship with industry, sustainability and its core identity as a creative medium in the 21st Century.

This research will examine the expanse of creative activity where craft sits. While technologies such as 3D scanning and printing push the boundaries of ceramics in industry, this creates new territories where the craft practitioner examines new materials, defines new ways of making and creates unexpected outcomes.

This PhD topic creates a forum where these territories can be expanded, through practice, or documented and examined through text based research.

Design in Ireland: History, Theory, Practice

In 2015 Ireland held its first national year of design but as yet there is no published history of design on the island, indeed of either the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland, aside from several short essays.

Recent exhibitions and publications such as the 2010 Moderns at Irish Museum of Modern Art and the Royal Irish Academy's Art and Architecture of Ireland 5-volume encyclopaedia, published by Yale University Press in 2014, have acknowledged, but also at the same time diminished and marginalised, the role of design in Ireland's wider cultural history.

Such examples do, however, reveal a desire, evident throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, to understand design in Ireland as a national issue. But what does that mean in a world dominated, more than ever before, by globalised networks of production, distribution and consumption?

The history, theory and practice of design in Ireland may be under-researched but it does offer much scope for original investigation. Ulster University's Research Institute of Art and Design invites proposals from candidates to reconsider the design history of Ireland in the modern age.

Disability and Design

In recent years conventional understandings and conceptualisations of disability have been challenged and transformed through the humanities – in the work of Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, Sharon L. Snyder, David T. Mitchell, Tobin Siebers, Ann Millett-Gallant, Ato Quayson and many others.

An understanding of disability as a social construction rather than biological fact has largely supplanted hegemonic definitions derived from historic medical and legislative models.

However, the development of the new disability theory, as it is now known, rests largely on re-readings of high culture from canonical literature (poetry, prose plays, etc.) to contemporary art (painting, photography, performance, etc.) with little, if any, consideration of the design and the material culture of everyday life – of the ordinary things that populate daily existence.

In particular, design practice and design history have almost entirely neglected the realities of disability as an active rather than a passive position in society, of disabled people as designers, producers and fabricators, and reduces them to the, often fetishised and infantilised, position of consumer.

Innovation: The Role of Environment

The creative industries (and those that would emulate them) have transformed the corporate workplace in the past 20 years. Much has been written about the importance of unstructured environments, flattened hierarchies, collaborative spaces, and the role of social interaction in innovation.

The importance of place and associated cultural, civic and social environments has received some attention (Hal Foster, Richard Florida). The productive output benefits of these new arrangements have been studied commercially and the providers of such environments and the companies that have deployed them make many claims regarding employee satisfaction and productivity. There is little published discussion, however, of tangible claims of increased truly innovative output, especially when incremental progress is defined separately from innovation.

There transferability of findings in SME to micro and solo creative business is also lacking evidence. The modern collaborative spaces may indeed be more social and satisfying places to work, but how do they compare to past standards of innovation performance?

How does the modern standard compare against the prior hierarchical lab system, or the isolated-inventor model? A scholarly look at the components of generations of innovation-generating spaces is called for.

An important outcome of this study is an improved understanding of an optimised workplace environment that spurs truly creative and innovative output.

Knitted forms for health and wellbeing

Research and development of knitted textiles for health and wellbeing through the creative use of materials and knit technologies. Contour fabrics have certain properties key to health and wellbeing and have proven suitable for the comfort, breathability, flexibility, hydroscopic, hydrophobic, transferring and maintaining temperature, conductive with aesthetic qualities for commercialisation.

This PhD with practice will identify new or advanced applications and will develop and assess new knitted constructions.

Photography and Human Rights

The Art, Conflict and Society research group is looking for PhD proposals that investigate innovative approaches to awareness raising and engaging human rights issues through art practice (particularly photography).

In 1949 UNESCO mounted a landmark photographic exhibition to promote the newly adopted Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

This research project takes the declaration as a starting point and aims to map key photographic interventions and question the impact of art (both historical and contemporary) on human rights activism.

The research may include the development of practice as a research method and/or outcome.

Symbols and motifs in textiles for ceremonial, ritual, cultural or community purposes

Printed, woven and stitched textile symbols are used to denote membership, communicate values or beliefs and to satisfy desires to decorate or embellish.

Symbols, motifs and design devices communicate with individuals and groups within the membership and with others outside the group.

Symbols can be widely recognised [public] or 'secret' emblems and coded messages. Examples of this phenomenon include wearable textiles (garments, headwear, badges, sashes, aprons, collars, vests), interior textiles (banners, hangings, upholstery, rugs) and textiles for indoor and open-air events (banners, street decorations, architectural structures and drapes).

Such textile artefacts have developed distinct modes of design and amateur and/or professional production that warrant research.

Ecclesiastical textiles have long established traditions that include widely disseminated codes and symbols, relatively high time and material cost and longevity compare to the rapid design and production of semi-disposable textiles in response to a crisis such as political and protest banners.

This is a vast subject- the applicant should define the scope and focus of their proposed research chosen from ceremonial, membership, ritual, cultural or community use of symbolic textiles.