History of the Land/Water research group
'The Lawes of the Marches' – copyright Katie Davies 2015

This summer marks 25 years since the public event, hosted in the photography department at Exeter College of Art and Design (University of Plymouth), which became a foundation event for the research group, Site, Space, Location, Place, later re-named Land/Water and the Visual Arts.

Aims

Land/Water and the Visual Arts supports visual artists, writers and curators within academia through fostering individual and collaborative practices that question, reconsider and renew the nature and use of visual language and through developing international networks that promote creative work concerning the environment and sustainability.

History

The origins of Land/Water and the Visual Arts lie in the establishment of a Photography Landscape Group within the Faculty of Art and Design at the University of Plymouth in the early 1990s, led by Jem Southam and Simon Standing. The imperative for the Group’s formation was the first HEFCE Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) in 1992, which linked funding to research activities. 

For the second RAE (1996) in discussion with Liz Nicol, the decision was made to open the initiative to a wider field of art practices, and it was named Site Space Location Place (SSLP). Projects within SSLP developed, and Littoral became an umbrella title for creative and collaborative projects that explored common themes of coast/sea/estuary. 

The first project in 1998 used part of Exmouth Customs House for art projects that were both experimental and / or collaborative. From this point, we agreed – as a priority – to engage in the process of reflection on practice as research through a dialogue between artists and curators. In the early 2000s, under the convenorship of Liz Wells, the research group was renamed Land/Water and the Visual Arts.

From 2004, on moving to the main University of Plymouth campus, Land/Water and the Visual Arts established links with colleagues from other disciplines such as geography and marine biology. This offered exciting new opportunities within the broader context of the University to develop close connections between research and teaching through inter/multi/transdisciplinary approaches.

Research group initiatives have included publications, exhibitions, events such as our annual summer symposium, international artist-in-residence programmes, collaborative research initiatives and many visiting artists’ talks for our regular research seminars. We have also hosted two international, peer reviewed conferences, and collaborated with the UK Land2 research network on various initiatives.

People

University of Plymouth artists, writers, curators 

Visiting artists-researchers include

  • Wayne Barrar, Massey University, Wellington, NZ (2011)
  • Deborah Bright, Pratt Institute, NY, USA (2012)
  • Chrystel Lebas, independent artist (2016/17)
  • Caroline Mcquarrie, Massey University, Wellington, (2015)
  • Hantu – Pascale Weber, Sorbonne University, Paris and Jean Delseux – University of Clemont-Ferrand (visiting artist-researchers, 2012-14)

Associated artists and writers

  • Susan Derges, independent artist
  • Chrystel Lebas, independent artist
  • Stephen Vaughan, Bath Spa University
  • Martyn Warren, researcher and writer

Current doctoral students

  • Emanuel Bras
  • Fedra Dekeyser
  • Laura Hopes
  • Claudia Pilsl
  • Yan Preston
  • Laurie Reynolds
  • David Wyatt

Former research students

  • Lula Buzz – PhD, 2018
  • Jason Hirons – MRes Landscape, 2010
  • Kate Isherwood – MRes Photography, 2010
  • Laurie Reynolds – MRes Photography, 2010
  • Martin Shaw – PhD, 2010
  • Sally Waterman – PhD, 2010