Mike Collier


Mike Collier (PhD) is a lecturer, writer, curator and artist. He studied Fine Art at Goldsmiths College before being appointed Gallery Manager at the ICA in London.

He subsequently became a freelance curator and arts organiser, working extensively in the UK and abroad. In 1985 he moved to Newcastle to run the Arts Development Strategy at the Laing Art Gallery, where he initiated the Tyne International Exhibition of Contemporary Art.

For the last 15 years he has worked in education and is currently Programme Leader for Foundation Studies in Art and Design at the University of Sunderland.

Throughout his career, Mike has maintained his artistic practice and he is now based in the High Bridge Studios in Newcastle. He has shown work in a number of one person and group shows in the UK.

Research Interests

Collier’s work explores the interrelated nature of ecological and cultural ideas through a detailed study of local environments and (through walking) our embodied engagement with `landscape’.

He maintains that our perception of the world is phenomenological – it is active and multi-layered which is why the act of walking through the environment is central to his work.

He has developed a hybrid practice (that of the embodied artist/curator) which bring these activities together, exploring new ways of curating through a series of curated walks linked to exhibitions and other engagement strategies (talks, presentation of papers and critical writing)

He is also interested in the phenomenology of language and etymology. Local dialect words are a poetic reminder that an understanding and feeling for the natural environment was there in the language ordinary people used and recently he has been working with the diaries and notebooks of poets and natural historians, exploring the embodied relationship between the form of the script they used and the landscapes(natural and social) in which the texts were written. His recent work reflects a twenty first century perspective on the relationship between contemporary society and the roots from which our understanding of natural processes comes from; a relationship based more on our direct experience of the environment than on hierarchies of class and ownership.

Collier’s research activity is multi-disciplinary. His work is 2d visual art; however, it links different areas of research – language, mapping, etymology, sound and colour, anthropology etc within the context of phenomenology.

Click here to see Collier’s website



Brian Thompson


Biography – Professor Brian Thompson graduated from The University of Newcastle in 1975 with an MFA in Sculpture. He has been awarded numerous prizes including: the Norwich School of Art Fellowship, the Pernod prize and the Peter Stuyvesant Art prize. His work has been disseminated through exhibitions and lectures in Europe, USA and Asia including; The Condition of Sculpture, Hayward Gallery London; The Paris Biennale; The British Art Show; Sculpture Trails Museum, Indiana; the House of the Artist Moscow and the Guandong Museum of Art, China. He was a pioneer of practice-based doctorates in Art & Design being director of studies of one of the first PhD completions in Sculpture in 1992. He is Associate Dean for Research, Resources and External Engagement at the University of Sunderland.

Research Interests

His research is studio-based with sculpture and drawing that brings together two themes; methodological invention in the manufacture and craft of sculpture with approaches to engagement with landscape. His work is topographical in nature and is part of a personal research project drawing together interests in a physical engagement with landscape through walking and related approaches to mapping with the developments of new crafts in making sculpture.

He is interested in how journeys inspire and explore landscapes, how places get known over time, how paths get worn, compress and build up over many generations. These journeys show the topography of the world, reveal something of culture and histories and give insights into how we come to know, understand and navigate. A significant part of the development of the sculptural work is the approach to form and the considered use of materials and process. Sometimes these become ‘patterns’ for casting or constructions in materials relevant to the location; such as wood, paper, iron, glass, bronze, stone or lead. The sculptures serve as records, memories, souvenirs or trophies.

Research Activities

Engagement with landscape through physical experience revealed through sculptural metaphor is a long-term and current concern. He is a founder member of the University of Sunderland’s; Walking, Art, Landskip and Knowledge (W.A.L.K.) research group. He is preparing work for W.A.L.K. seminars and exhibition in the UK, Europe, USA and Japan. He currently supervises five practice – based PhD students in Art and Design.

Current Project:

  1. Home Landscapes;  Responses to the familiar and regular and frequent walks on well-known landscapes and/or with well-known companions
  2. The Picturesque and Romanticism; Valuing landscape through notions of the picturesque and through a revisiting of the methodologies of romantic poets that link to existing and emerging methodologies of fine arts practice.
  3. Underground railroads; a site – specific project base upon the secret route to freedom from the Slave Trade in the USA.
  4. River Journeys;  Characteristics of named rivers; mapping and identifying routes to the sea.



Tim Brennan


Tim Brennan (PhD) has exhibited internationally over the last 28 years. His practice is not limited by media and has incorporated performance, writing, object making, curating, publishing and teaching. Over the last 2 decades he has developed a methodology based on the guided walk and conversation as art, which he refers to as the manoeuvre. This activity is built on academic research to form new imaginative reflections upon the ways in which we ‘do history’.

Brennan could best be understood as a ‘mobilities artist’ – one whose work revolves around the object-hood of movement, peregrination and dislocation. He has been described as one of the most important practitioners to contribute to the social and political role of contemporary art.

Brennan is Associate Dean of Arts, Design & Media at the University of Sunderland.

Research Interests

Tim Brennan’s materials as an artist and curator are the ideologies, artifacts and events associated with ‘public history’, his MA subject at Ruskin College. Brennan has been best known for his ‘manoeuvres’ – guided walks which introduce alternative takes on landscapes, whether urban and rural; or bring individual life-histories to vivid life; or throw into question our conventional organisation of different bodies of knowledge and disciplines.

As artist-in-residence at the British Museum during the year of its 250th anniversary, Brennan created a series of events and a publication under the title ‘Museum of Angels’. This work catalogued all of the ‘winged creatures’ on display across all of the different collections in the institution, providing an alternative system of classification to this ‘universal museum’ which spans empires and millennia. Each ‘catalogue entry’ offers an oblique or unorthodox commentary on its object. By entangling stories from disparate times and places, Brennan creates an almost Borgesian encyclopedia, where forms of knowledge stray outside their ‘correct’ domains and illuminate one another anew.

In 2006-7 Brennan published two books. The first, ‘Codex: Crusade’, ostensibly documents the artist’s recreation of the Jarrow March, day for day, over an entire month, culminating in a meeting with Ken Livingstone at Westminster. This 300 mile walk was not merely a feat of endurance or a re-enactment of a moment in our national political story, however. The walk provided the opportunity to interweave Brennan’s own story – drawn out through a diary format – with those of predecessors and fellow travellers; and those in dialogue and disagreement, through the form of a Socratic dialogue. Here, Brennan gives voice to competing stories and diverse characters. ‘Codex:Crusade’ transcends any traditional typology or genre, breaking new ground in how artists’ books can stand alone as autonomous artworks.’



Alistair Robinson,

Programme Director, Northern Gallery For Contemporary Art, Sunderland

This period of Brennan’s oeuvre (1993 – 2013) might then be understood as one in which he developed a methodology for ‘discursive performance’, appropriating the guided walk form as a device with which to interrogate ‘place’ and our ‘doing of history’. This practice extended and complexified the work of those artists who, in the 70s had used walking  as a means of interrogating ‘landscape’ and ‘sculpture’and at times the phenomenology of walking itself. The artist’s use of the walk added a sociality to this art historical context.

From 2012 the artist has moved away from the debates surrounding walking to focus upon the relationship between ‘place’ and ‘space’ through the activity of running. His on-going work ‘Roman Runner involves Brennan running the edges (limes) of the Roman Empire in ultra-marathon sections.

The work outlines a new approach to the ‘epic’ form that heralds the artist’s shift in concern from ‘discursive’ to ‘recursive’ performance.



Heather Yeung


l’espace lui-même change et commande d’autres mappemondes
(Michel Serres, 1992)

My research interests primarily involve the poetry and poetics, and worldliterature, of 1900 to the present, and the way in which the diverse fields represented by these words and dates interact with, modify, and are modified by each other and other literary, cultural and artistic influences.  I am interested in the reality and metaphor of the map in both its noun- and verb- forms, and the role that liminal and contested spaces (in particular islands and cities, and the ethics, reality, and metaphor of the margin) play in the construction and articulation of the artistic imagination.

At present I am working on time, use-value, complicity, and duty of care in poetry and the environment in terms of impropriety (improper as marginal play, excess, and dis-appropriation) and of maintenance (to preserve and keep, to hold in the hand, the now).  I am also writing essays on anti-narrative and lyric temporality in Alice Oswald’s poetry, and on affect and the enunciating I in Julia Kristeva’s novels.  With Marc Botha I am also editing a collection of essays on contemporary world poetry and poetics, provisionally entitled Cosmopoetics: New Essays in World Poetry and Poetics.  Both Tim Brennan and Mike Collier are contributing essays to this collection.  Marc and I also organised a 3-day international conference in September 2010, Cosmopoetics: Poetry as Medium.  We hope, soon, to extend the cosmopoetics project, and set up a website and research network in contemporary poetics.

In June 2011 my PhD thesis, Affective Mapping: Voice, Space and Contemporary British Lyric Poetry, was successfully defended at Durham University Department of English Studies.  The thesis was funded by a full doctoral award by the AHRC.  The thesis posits an ‘ontotopological’ (Peter Sloterdijk, 1998) method of approaching the ‘apparently phenomenal world’ (Jonathan Culler, 1985) of the lyric poem that takes into account the simultaneous existence of the poem’s I (written and enunciating first person pronoun) and eye (organ of sight and angle of poetic vision) with the voiced and textual spaces of poetry.  It is predicated upon ideas of present identification and space, rather than personality and theme.  This is a method built upon an originary, affective, intersubjective, and almost ventriloqual reaction to and interaction with the poem under scrutiny, and which acknowledges the fact that voice, and the spaces the I/eye of the poem articulates and visualises, is affective, contested, and multiple.

Present and forthcoming publications include:

‘“Making do with light”: Mimi Khalvati and the Poetry of Intimate Perception’ in Interactions (Winter 2010) 

‘Venice Ventriloquised’, companion essay to Vedute Manoeuvre, Tim Brennan (York: information as material, 2011).  Presented at the Venice Biennale 2011.

‘Affective Mapping in Contemporary Poetry’ in Geocritical Explorations, ed. Robert T. Tally (Palgrave, 2011)

‘Against Narrative: Alice Oswald’s Lyric Temporality’ in Soundings: Critical Essays on Alice Oswald, ed. Kym Martindale, Tom Bristow, Niamh Downing.

ego affectus est: Reading Kristeva with Kristeva’ in Studies in the Literary Imagination 46.2 special edition, ‘Reading with Kristeva’, ed. Rossista Artemis (Fall 2013)  



Janet Ross

After working on the contemporary exhibition programme at the Laing Art Gallery, Janet became freelance in 1994.  Since then she has worked for a number of organizations on exhibition curation and management of arts events but mostly on initiating and developing arts projects set in communities throughout the north east.  She currently runs the arts charity Visual Arts in Rural Communities (VARC) which hosts an artist residency programme with associated projects, talks, exhibitions, workshops and events.

Her most recent project has been to organize a series of Art-Walking events and exhibitions in Northumberland in association with Art Circuit Touring Exhibitions and Sunderland University’s W.A.L.K research centre.

Janet’s research interests are in walking and spirituality, in particular pilgrimages.



Walter Lewis

After 35 years earning a living at the interface of technology and commerce, Walter is following his dream of being a fine art, ‘ecocritical,’ photographer, and is a Research Associate of the WALK Research Centre. His role is to help establish a photography hub within the centre.  Click here for his photographic website, Walter Lewis – Ecocritical Photography.


Born 18th October 1949 at 02.45 am. Ormskirk, Lancashire.

First schooling at Burscough Methodist Primary School. Football team goalkeeper. Lost one nil in Ormskirk schools final. Then to Ormskirk Grammar School. Good at biology and chemistry so drifted into a biochemistry course at University of Manchester. Three plus three years later emerged as Dr Walter Lewis

First employer was Glaxo. Isolated a low molecular weight heparin which was taken to trials in patients at Royal Free Hospital, London. In 1981 joined a new company which manufactured a treatment for haemophilia from pig blood. Became board director but still tempted away to join a US operation as head of new manufacturing plant being built in Scotland. After 9 months the company folded – run out of money!

Joined in Welsh Development Agency as manager of new seed capital investment fund. Three years later offered position of first Director of Research Support at University of Leeds. In 1997 set up a consultancy unit to promote university research to the consumer products industry. The activity gradually took over working life and became an expert in consumer products and their packaging –listed in Packaging News for three years running as one of top 50 most influential people in UK packaging!!

Finished ‘work’ and enrolled on an MA course in photography at Sunderland University. Awarded the Masters degree – with distinction – in November 2012

Photographic Practice

Interest in photography has been lifelong, initially as a means of creating holiday mementos, and then as a serious amateur landscape and travel photographer. With the support of the MA course at Sunderland, now evolving a practice which aims to create visual narratives which arise from, and which promote, serious reflection on our relationship with the world around us.

Our dizzying contemporary ways of living usually leave little time and space for such issues, yet we would seem to need a radical overhaul of our sensibility to the world and its resources if we are to overcome the enormous sustainability challenges which we currently face. In a culture where resource usage is close to or above finite limits, we must ask ourselves how do we want to live – are we sufficiently sensitive to the world around us. I thus seek out times and places which offer space for deep reflection. In particular I seek to find a new sensibility which is contemporary yet restores emotional connections back to the earth. In many ways it is a search for contemporary enchantment.



Rosalinda Ruiz-Scarfuto

Artistic path

I watched my mother paint at night on a large canvas at a very young age. However, ceramics became my main interest by age 14 mainly due to the influence of a neighbour who was an independent artist working in her garden with a small kiln and classes offered in high school.  In ceramics class we were exposed to the university art department and gallery across the street as an added value.  I continued this art form in university, where we were encouraged to create projects without the wheel for commercial use and move into the sculpture side of ceramics.  We mixed our own pigments and clay in a wonderful studio space.  We were able to experiment with new techniques in the patio to accompany traditional kiln firing.  After graduation, in Japan I had an opportunity to study Hanga wood printing in a traditional print making studio guided by Toshi Yoshida and his son.  The tranquil slow process of carving the cherry wood blocks and making our own ink brushes from bamboo leaves was quite amazing, not to mention the wonder of working side by side with Japanese masters.  Travelling around Asia I carried a Cannon A-1 camera documenting all my experiences, culminated in several projects with collaboration from writers, musicians and dancers.  A quite innovative performance was created for a planetarium space spanning three generations. Community art projects sprung from this collaboration and my main focus at that time was working with young artists in a multiethnic environment.  Later, a jazz program sparked my interested in Cabrillo college with an accomplished artist and I enjoyed this enrichment to my earlier classical piano experience.(age 9).

Poetry Canvas

I remember creating poetry at age 15. However, the most impressive point in my artistic life came as I sat on a Californian beach looking out beyond the sea to imaginary Japan contemplating the East. Finally I embarked on a journey alone starting at the age of 21 for five years around the globe from Japan to Spain.  Faces and experiences filled the pages of over 33 notebooks in a writing travelogue.  I extracted parts of this long stream of consciousness and created a series of poems.  I returned to the west and performed these poems on the radio and in open-mic formats near San Francisco.  Consequently, I found an avenue to publish in various projects with other artists of all disciplines.  I built on this experience and began to publish in Europe.  I became confident with my poetic canvas as I began to understand how changes in my style were a result of varying landscapes and cultural experiences.


My Masters project delved into literary routes inspired by Nature, culminating in an extended 5-year comparative study, which will be published in the coming year 2015 with Common Ground. My doctorate research for the W.A.L.K. Institute will investigate the “Re-play on the Poetic Canvas” in a practical PhD mainly how the “beat” of the walking paths carved out by poets can inspire a new a poetic collage. Furthermore, the poet as visual artist is a new strategy to test the methodology of how the creative writing process transfers to the visual arts through walking and then producing a textural 3D format to express it I will be exploring verbal, vocal, kinaesthetic and visual stimulating brain activity, which becomes an important part of the precepts that leads to the concept.  I am looking forward to combining the two mediums, writing and sculpture, which until now have taken separate paths in my artistic trajectory.