School of Art, Design and Architecture

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).

    If you do not already have a masters degree, you may be interested in one of our masters level research degrees – for instance, our ResM Art, Design and Architecture (which enables a transfer directly into the PhD programme if you are making excellent progress), or else an MPhil degree. Further details about the University’s research degree awards.

    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.

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

The UK is no longer part of the European Union. EU applicants should refer to our Brexit information to understand the implications.

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.

Submitting your application

Complete your application and upload supporting documents to the Doctoral College by completing our online application form.

Questions on the application process?

We're here to help. Please contact the Doctoral College team and we'll be happy to assist you.

You can view or download our postgraduate research admissions policy.

If you have a disability and would like further information on the support available, please visit our Disability Services website.

International Student Advice (ISA) provides support for our international students.

Find more information about how to apply for a research degree.

If you would like to discuss your application, at any stage, please contact Dr Anya Lewin.

Additionally, the Doctoral College is able to answer any questions you may have about applying for or undertaking a postgraduate research degree at the University of Plymouth: doctoralcollege@plymouth.ac.uk or +44 1752 587640.

<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: Kayla Parker | 2nd supervisor: Tom Baugh | 3rd Supervisor: Mike Lawson Smith

Rachael Allain
"Above and Below the Horizon: an experimental practice-led investigation into the Liminal and Subliminal"
Director of Studies: Liz Wells | 2nd Supervisor: Kayla Parker | 3rd Supervisor: Heidi Morstang

Shaikha Almehana
"The influence of contemporary art on young artists in Kuwait"
Director of Studies: Christopher Cook | 2nd 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: Andrew Prior | 2nd supervisor: Sana Murrani

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

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

Jennifer Crowther
"Ubi Sunt: Reimagining The Sublime for Contemporary Photography"
Director of Studies: Carole Baker | 2nd Supervisor: Liz Wells

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

Andrew Duke
"Picturing Rural “Reality” Can photography reveal the English countryside as heterotopic through calendar customs, fetes and the village hall?"
Director of Studies: Simon Standing | 2nd supervisor: Heidi Morstang

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

Gail Flockhart
“Shooting Myself for Public Consumption: Understanding ‘Selfie Culture’ Through Women's Art"
Director of Studies: Kayla Parker | 2nd supervisor: Carole Baker

Toby Gisborne
"The importance of teaching media to key stage 3 and 4 students"
Director of Studies: Allister Gall

Sian Gouldstone
"The non-representational work of photography and home: exploring Britishness through affective encounters with lived experiences of migration, in suburban Melbourne"
Director of Studies: Carole Baker | 2nd supervisor: Liz Wells

Luisa Greenfield
"The Disquieting Image: Returning, Revisiting, and Retracing in Analogue Film Practice"
Director of Studies: Anya Lewin | 2nd supervisor: Simon Pope

Flounder Lee
"The Quotidian Future: Contemporary Art from Artistic and Decolonial Curatorial Perspectives"
Director of Studies: Anya Lewin | 2nd supervisor: Sana Murrani

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

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

Mary Pearson
"The Irish Borderland: photography, history and new cartographies"
Director of Studies: Carole Baker | 2nd Supervisor: Liz Wells

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

Petre Sassu
"The persistence of symbols in contemporary European Visual Culture / Practice-led artistic research in Visual communication"
Director of Studies: Christopher Cook | 2nd Supervisor: Peter Bokody

Linda Ward
"Mary, Mother of Meaning: A Filmic Exploration of the Sacred Feminine"
Director of Studies: Kayla Parker | 2nd Supervisor: Heidi Morstang

Completed PhDs

James Brown
“Peter Fuller, Modern Painters and the Sensation Exhibition”
Director of Studies: Anya Lewin | 2nd Supervisor: Anthony Caleshu

Lula Buzz
"The States and Status of Clay: Material, Metamorphic and Metaphorical Values"
Director of Studies: Jem Southam | 2nd Supervisor: Liz Wells 3rd Supervisor: Chris Cook 

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

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: Peter Bokody | 3rd Supervisor Sarah Bennett

Laura Hopes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

I employ archaeological 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 archaeological 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.


My PhD Research: Luisa Greenfield

The Disquieting Image: Returning, Revisiting, and Retracing in Analogue Film Practice

My practice-based research project originates from a close study of the 1972 film Geschichtsunterricht (History Lessons) by Danièle Huillet and Jean- Marie Straub. Taking a learning by making approach while working with 16mm film to retrace specific scenes from Geschichtsunterricht, combined with extensive research into its construction, has brought a deeper understanding of their work and compelled a specific focus on Huillet’s role in their lifelong collaboration.

For fifty years the independent French filmmaking couple co-authored some thirty films, primarily in Germany and Italy, from 1962 until Daniele Huillet’s death in 2006. Their film Geschichtsunterricht, based on the Bertolt Brecht fragment novel The Business Affairs of Mr. Julius Caesar (1937-39), questions histories written from the perspective of the victors while it seeks to debunk the myth of grand historical figures past and present. It offers an understanding of history as fragmented and contingent containing revolutionary potential.

A practice-led engagement with their work has made it possible for me to relate the process of analogue filmmaking to concepts drawn from philosopher, essayist, and cultural critic Walter Benjamin, playwright Bertolt Brecht, and the poet J.H. Prynne. 

My research seeks to expand the function of artist-made analogue filmmaking by considering it a form of thought capable of offering resistance against a future and “progress” oriented perception of history. To this end, all of my recent film projects are publicly screened on 16mm film while I deliver a simultaneous ‘reading to film’ in which the spoken text combines historical research based on the ’72 film Geschichtsunterricht, with production notes from my 2017 retracing of their film called History Lessons By Comparison.

Image courtesy of Luisa Greenfield

Image courtesy of Luisa Greenfield

Academic staff

These are some of our core supervisors in the Art and Media programme. 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.

Phil Ellis is a researcher and artist exploring the relationship between historical and contemporary media. He is currently exploring reenactment, fragmentary archives, media archaeology, imaginary media, and the technical and aesthetic of historical television, while seeking to draw parallels with early radio, through his current research project: Atmospherics.

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 engage 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 inhabitation, immersion and the non-human. www.janegrant.org/

Anya Lewin explores artists' moving images and the spaces they can occupy along with the larger context of artistic research. She is currently focusing on the narrative moving image in the gallery and experimental biography and has just completed 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.

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 

Angela Piccini works across moving image, performance, writing and installation to explore 'archaeology' as a set of aesthetic, cultural and social tools for understanding the complexity of material agency. She is interested in the ways in which performance, media, technologies and infrastructures intra-act through the material traces of the past to co-create place, land, belonging and exclusion. Her interdisciplinary critical writing and practice-based research often focus on methods and processes of collaboration, social practice and co-production. http://37looestreet.org/

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 and Zilina. www.aprior.net

Helen Pritchard is an artist and geographer whose interdisciplinary work brings together the fields of Computational Aesthetics, Geography, Design and Feminist TechnoScience. Her practice is both one of writing and making and these two modes mutually inform each other in order to consider the impact of computational practices on our engagement with environments. http://www.helenpritchard.info/

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.

Hannah Wood is a narrative experience designer, writer, director and developer working at the intersection of narrative and player agency in interactive forms – from video and pervasive games to immersive media, theatre and performance art. She is interested in supervising research students in interactive and immersive story and creative practice. https://storyjuice.co.uk/

Wide-ranging creative arts research

Arts Research embraces an interdisciplinary and multimodal approach to research. Projects utilise a wide range of media to explore various research interests such as migration, identity, eco diversity, the non-human, new materialism, representations of history, cinema heritage and the production of scientific knowledge. The research is primarily individually led yet it is collectively shared with practice as an essential methodology. The outcomes are diverse and are disseminated widely in museums, galleries, publications, cinema screenings, community spaces and conferences. Symposiums, seminars and events, with practice at the core, create a space for discussion and development.

Helicopter dragonfly, courtesy of Chris Cook

Helicopter dragonfly, courtesy of Chris Cook

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