Storytelling by fire graphic
  • Jill Craigie Theatre, RLB101, RLB Atrium 3, Roland Levinsky Building, University of Plymouth

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A postgraduate symposium hosted by
MA Fine Art / MA Contemporary Art Practice
School of Art, Design and Architecture

About the campfire, folk gather. It’s a frightening thing but it keeps us warm. The tales we tell are its fuel. Each of us has arrived here by different means — journeyed diverging paths. Our stories are vehicles for memory, for process, for findings. They live among us, in the flickering circle we occupy. What we choose to tell and how we choose to tell it matters, in the light of our fire and into the darkness long after.

As makers and researchers, we are in a constant exchange of stories and telling: between artist and work, between work and audience, between all the voices of the past and all the ears of the future. Stories can be about place, about people, about things, about time, about a pile of dry sticks. The telling is the spark, the medium, the performance.

MA Fine Art hosts a day of presentations, interventions and talks from MA students across courses in the School of Art, Design and Architecture at the University of Plymouth. This exciting one-day postgraduate symposium and exhibition considers how stories and telling stories are central to how we imagine work, make work, and communicate through our work.

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Our keynote speaker for the day is artist Abigail Reynolds

Her diverse practice reflects different aspects of storytelling: from her projects on lost libraries throughout history, to the new life she gives to beach sand through the manufacturing of glass.
Keynote title:
Strange Attractor - Narrations of plurality in art practice
Abigail Reynolds
Abigail Reynolds lives in St Just, Cornwall, and has a studio at Porthmeor in St Ives. She studied English Literature at St Catherine's College Oxford University and subsequently Fine Art at MA level at Goldsmiths College, University of London. 
Over 2022 Abigail will be exhibiting across the cities of the British Art Show 9 tour. She has just completed a permanent major commission for Kresen Kernow, the Cornish archive centre, accompanied by a publication. She will have a solo exhibition at Kestle Barton April 10th - June 12th.
In March 2016 Abigail was awarded the BMW Art Journey prize at Art Basel, to travel to lost libraries along the Silk Road. Her book 'Lost Libraries' documenting this journey was published by Hatje Cantz in 2018.

For more detail visit
Much of my work starts with images printed in books. Widely circulated images (for example, London’s monuments) shape our shared perception of places and identities, by which individuals navigate. 
I often use my work to think about how subjectivity is mapped onto both place and time. Photography is a direct way to think about time: you can’t avoid time with a photograph. I often work sculpturally with the fold, as a concept as well as a form. Glass is an important element in my work. I use it like a lens to focus the act of looking. This is also an extension of photographic looking which is necessarily through a glass lens.
Whether I am working on a sculpture, a film or an event, all my work is in essence collage: the practice of bringing found materials into a fresh context. As I work, I try to expose and spatialise the ideological and the formal structure of an image or a place. 


RLB Atrium

0930-1015 Reception (Coffee)

0930-1600 Neil Robinson - Installation

1245-1340 Neil Robinson – Live demonstration

Jill Craigie Cinema

1030-1045 Introduction: Stories and Storytelling - Neil Robinson and Trudi Browett

1045-1140 Panel A: Strange Transmissions - Trudi Browett; Sam Machell; Jamie House

1150-1245 Keynote: Abigail Reynolds - Strange Attractor - Narrations of Plurality in Art Practice

1340-1435 Panel B: Time Frames and Cycles - Betty Marsh; Lucy Lepchani; Aldous George

1450-1540 Panel C: With Matter in Hand - Julie Ellis and Derek Dickinson; Victoria McTavish

1600-1645 Panel D: Telling Liminal Encounters - Neil Robinson; Mitch Mackay

1645-1700 Closing words - Sam Machell

RLB 101

1000 – Opening of exhibition of Installed Works

1030-1600 Exhibition of installed and moving image works related to the symposium theme of Stories and Storytelling


Trudi Browett, MA Fine Art - What’s in a story?

Trudi Browett, MA Fine Art
What’s in a story?

Children feast on the spoken word, on the rhymes and lush illustrations in story books, their diet of fiction fed to them by trusted (or not) adults in the safety (or not) of the schoolroom or home. This presentation explores the development of my book-lantern created earlier this year using themes derived from the fairy tale portrayal of females through four representational stages of life: baby, girl, woman and crone. In contrast to the formal layout of the book, and the cold stillness of the lantern’s silhouettes, female representations are converted to shadow theatre players, bringing them to life and breaking their stillness as they move through the flow of light. In shadow scenes there can be movement and freedom; the creator has a chance to play with the codes, the archetypes, and to disrupt the themes. Imprecision is introduced, the words removed, the stories are set free and the tropes can be turned on their heads.

Julie Ellis and Derek Dickinson, MA Contemporary Art Practice - The Narrative of Matter

Julie Ellis and Derek Dickinson, MA Contemporary Art Practice
The Narrative of Matter

What is it to hold? It is to keep fast, set aside, to bear, sustain, keep, contain, to remain faithful, adhere to, or maintain a grasp on something. Perhaps in a need to not let go, to maintain ones position against opposition or inevitability, there is a sense that to hold something is equally both physical and cerebral. The most banal of objects can be vehicles of remembrance, a kitchen bowl, for example, will over time physically evidence its use, marks imprinted and carved by hands holding, pushing, dropping, and storing the object, leaving visible etchings of past actions. Each time it is selected, used, repaired, and cleaned, narratives form, documenting celebrations, disagreements, hungry families, conversations, and relationships with each action. ‘The Narrative of Matter’ explores the relationship between physical matter and human interaction and its potential to unlock narrative and stories.

Aldous George, MA Contemporary Art Practice - Transhumanism & Cyborgism: The Art of Extension

Aldous George, MA Contemporary Art Practice
Transhumanism & Cyborgism: The Art of Extension

In a recent essay, ‘Transhumanism & Cyborgism: The Art of Extension’, I discussed how the relationship we have with technology will shape society now and in the future, and looks specifically at the work of cyborg artists; artists that have some kind of neural modification, creating a new sense as a medium to create artwork, and how this new art movement is being received. My presentation shares moving image work from my current project that takes my latest leg sculpture on a journey from the sea, through woods and over hills and ends up in a more industrial sci-fi setting. The concept for the film is an evolutionary tale of emerging from the sea, coming down from the trees, engaging with technology and points to where we may end up from a transhuman and cyborg point of view. The text of the film is taken from my essay and invites questions and investigation from the audience. I have created a forum for those interested, to join in the conversation:

Jamie House, MA Photography - Mapping Time and Space: Nocturnal Field Studies in the Investigation of Earth Stations

Jamie House, MA Photography
Mapping Time and Space: Nocturnal Field Studies in the Investigation of Earth Stations

This paper discusses my nocturnal field studies conducted as part of my art research practice at public and private Earth Stations across the UK. Using a posthumanist photographic methodology that acknowledges non-human ways of viewing the world, I explore what it means to live in a world of visible and non-visible interconnected and networked entities. My presentation includes projected still images, voice-over, recorded audio field studies, and electromagnetic recordings. My experimental practice conducted at GCHQ NSA in Bude and Goonhilly Earth Station in Cornwall prioritises photographic research methods but also considers multi-sensory technological methods of observation. By combining current research from critical plant studies, landscape studies and satellite communication technologies I aim to provide novel readings of sites designed for research through an exploration of notions of terrestrial and extra-terrestrial more-than-human agency. The narratives recounted are kaleidoscopic with past, present and imagined futures merging and overlapping; from ancient standing stones to satellite dishes and from plants to planets. The juxtaposition of different layers of time and reality are envisaged through Deleuze’ metaphorical reading of “Crystal-images”, which visualises stages of layered time that coexist and are permeable.

Lucy Lepchani, MA Creative Writing - From Edge to Edge

Lucy Lepchani, MA Creative Writing
From Edge to Edge

I will read a selection of poems from a sequence that is still in progress. 'From Edge to Edge' presents insight into climate-change challenges of the Mesolithic era, and its similarities and differences to current crises in the Anthropocene era. It offers an impression of our shared belonging with, and alienation from the natural world, each other, and ancestors in ancient history. Research for the subject continues through embodied experience in Mesolithic defined landscape features, and haptic or sensory experience while searching for, and discovery of its ancient artefacts; as well as by other personal experience, and by conventional means such as researching holobiont assemblages, stone-age archaeology and climatology papers. Working a new poem in response to those already written in the sequence, as well to research material, creates an overarching narrative that shifts and changes as it progresses, drawing story across, in between, forward and back, and connecting eras across time.

Betty Marsh, MA Fine Art - A botanical archive of mortality

Betty Marsh, MA Fine Art
A botanical archive of mortality

A collection of stories, documentation and personal discoveries surrounding the connection between botany and mortality: how life and death can be represented through a botanical perspective. Within my talk I will look at some of the symbolism behind florals, trees, and nature paths and how we create meanings from these subjects. Throughout I want to explore how life’s themes can be visualized through a botanical pilgrimage; how we can understand our own journeys by observing the environment around us, finding importance and emotion in landscapes and nature’s objects. As part of this I will present my own works of botanical studies in relation to death and life.

Sam Machell, MA Contemporary Art Practice - Dinner Machine Cross Section

Sam Machell, MA Contemporary Art Practice
Dinner Machine Cross Section

The Castle is in turmoil: crops rot ... rebels run amok … storms topple the royal structures. We find our King adrift; bunkered up and thinning fast. With the expertise of his faithful Fool, the pair catch rats in elaborate traps, for stringy meals and simple pleasures. This follows this follows this follows that. Will his majesty be going hungry this evening? Regardless … the dinner machine churns.

Mitch Mackay, MA Games Design - The Feral Cat & The Lighthouse Guard

Mitch Mackay, MA Games Design
The Feral Cat & The Lighthouse Guard

This presentation will share an interactive story to demonstrate the art of storytelling through an interactive narrative. The narrative of ‘the feral cat & the lighthouse guard’ is based on a true story passed down from generation to generation, retold by my Scottish friends and relatives. The project will use the lens of the tradition of ceilidh Scottish storytelling to demonstrate the importance of traditional storytelling. They are told in memory and by an elder or villager to recount a story to encourage others to think thoughtfully on their actions and develop awareness of others within the narrative. The retellings are built on what they learned from their elders and include stories based on wars, magic, love, and sorrow. The shared story aids in getting people to feel like they gain a sense of self and a sense of being part of the community. Who they are within the community and where they are from.

Victoria McTavish, MA Contemporary Art Practice - Spellbound

Victoria McTavish, MA Contemporary Art Practice

The story I wish to share involves a conversation I had with the Neptune. I say a conversation as I acknowledge that the unseen elemental life forces are implicit in any dialogue and participate in synchronizing the inner worlds with the outer. This is perhaps a mode of seeing that is non-linear, pre patriarchal and it is a running (cyclical) conversation. It ebbs and flows, doubles and weaves. I titled the work ‘Spellbound’ as in a sense I became like Astrida Neimanis and was captivated by the idea that we are “All Bodies of Water”. This idea considers human and non-human boundaries: membranes, collective memory and non-straight trajectories. It seeps into theoretical frameworks that allude to this way of seeing that have been termed Hydrofeminism, or Hydro logics. Using a three-pronged (trident) approach to storytelling I use personal and political material and throw it out to the cosmos so that the transpersonal elements can have a voice. The starry heavens are a map, a guide, that have been the source of knowledge, inspiration and divinatory insight since humans walked the Earth. Even today as we contemplate the night sky, when the sun is about to go in; the Solar God bows down to the Mythos of the Moon we are bearing witness to an ancient Cosmic Drama. This is a small drama, that sits quietly inside a bag of stars.

Neil Robinson, MA Contemporary Art Practice - Printmaking Through Ceramics as a Way of Encountering the Liminal Tidal Region

Neil Robinson, MA Contemporary Art Practice
Printmaking Through Ceramics as a Way of Encountering the Liminal Tidal Region

This video piece presents a snapshot of my working practice in creating ceramic forms, an attempt at creating conversation with the tidal habitat, documenting a point of contact within a landscape and having a blast.

Neil Robinson, MA Contemporary Art Practice - Printmaking as a Means of Provocation

Neil Robinson, MA Contemporary Art Practice
Printmaking as a Means of Provocation

In this live demonstration, I aim to piss off people jovially so that they feel comfortable to come over for a chat. Open dialogue is key to breaking down the barriers of political divides and a coastal carpark with nice views and surf breaks, or in this case a university campus, provides the perfect opportunity for a diverse crowd to gather and discuss the ways of the world.

Event photography and video

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