Visualisation Research Unit

As part of my ‘AHRC Preparation for Research’ funded Fine Art MA, I was based within the EU/AHRC funded Visualisation Research Unit at the Birmingham Fine Art School, BCU as a research student, assistant and associate.

The VRU was a major funded three-year project that explored ‘the role of and design of new digital system to support and expand the potential for fine art and performance practices.’

My role as Research Assistant for the VRU included assisting the lead researchers in collecting, analysing and writing up empirical qualitative research data for publication. Organising events and co-publishing work on my master’s research with members of the research team. This included presenting papers (SARC, Queen’s University Belfast) and leading a week-long practice led-research residency. The extensive resources of the {VRU} I had access to allowed me to explore the use of cutting edge technologies in my creative practice and research. More importantly, it gave me the opportunity to work within an arts-based research context as a research assistant whilst conducting my own research and practice within the same project.

Methods Network Workshop

On July 20th, the Visualization Research Unit (VRU) hosted a Methods Network sponsored workshop at the historic Margaret Street site of the Department of Art at the University of Central England in Birmingham and the IKON Gallery Birmingham. The VRU specialises in developing and applying technologies in the Visual and Performing Arts as part of its work in the Department of Art and collaborates with a wide range of researchers in the arts and computer science. This workshop focused on both of the Unit’s main aims, exploring technologies that can be adapted for use in the arts and networking technologies being developed for use in the blurred area between the visual and performing arts. The workshop also extended the VRU’s work with and attracted a number of contributors to our initial workshops on this subject in November 2006. 

Dit Da Bit Process Blog


Gough, M. P., Green, J., Grubham, S. and Williams, K. (2007) Real-time collaborative art making. Workshop presented to: Real-time Collaborative Art Making: A Methods Network Workshop, University of Central England, Birmingham, 20 July 2007.

The workshop was the culmination of a research process begun sometime before, with work developed in the previous three months and worked on during a week-long intensive by the Research Team. The programme included a presentation on e-Science in the Arts, an AccessGrid link up with the National e- Science Centre in Edinburgh, and the presentation and discussion of the creative work of the team. The two main projects presented were Gregory Sporton’s Collaborative Drawing through movement (research done with dancer Carla Wright), and the collaborative work devised by Keir Williams with Dr Matt Gough, Jonathan Green, and Suzanne Grubham. 

The initial idea for this structure for the workshop emerged from a previous series of events held by the VRU, which included presentations about the issues surrounding the use of network technology in art practice as well as practical demonstrations. From this emerged a small group who suggested that some collaborative working along the lines and principles expressed at the earlier workshops might shed some light on the practical methodological issues for art-making through technology that could be developed through the process of producing something interesting by way of exhibition/performance work. 

Amongst the biggest issues the team identified for creative participants working with technology was the need to experience creative art-making through the technologies as a way of assessing their potential and legitimacy as art-making materials. Additionally, the emergence of new forms for creative work and how to deal with the impact of those is significant for guiding developments in digitised, online art practice. Some interest was also shown in the use of technologies that could engage with computers differently from the keyboard/mouse/screen relationship. The workshop was structured to keep these at the forefront and encourage the development of the questions and issues that will support emerging practice in the future. 

Development process 

This first component of the workshop was a week-long ‘development’ period in which material to be presented on the final workshop day would be created. The team met some time prior to this to establish our ideas about how we might work together, culminating in the decision to split the group into two parts that covered each focused on a single issue.

This meant that Gregory Sporton and Carla Wright would work on the adapted technologies area, with Matt Gough, Jonathan Green, Keir Williams and Suzanne Grubham taking on the complex task of determining what we meant by the term ‘collaborative networks’ and developing a method for presenting our ideas about this area. In the lead-in to the workshop week, the team contributed to a Wiki as a means to test out ideas and post images that collaborators thought might be of interest.