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Personal profile

Research interests

Nicola Ashmore's research interests focus on artistic interventions and curatorial practice, notably the means through which this can leverage collaborative activism.

She has made use of film documentary and digital technology as methodologies, investigating museum practices, community artists and collaborative practices. She is currently researching remakings of Picasso's Guernica.

Scholarly biography

Nicola Ashmore's interest in Pablo Picasso's Guernica was inspired by her participation in a collective remaking of Picasso's Guernica as a protest banner. In 2015 Nicola received Rising Stars funding through the University of Brighton which enabled the international research project: Remakings of Picasso’s Guernica: Community, Collaboration and Activism. This has led on to a major research project: Guernica Remakings, South Africa which investigates the practice of cross-cultural translation through making. This project has received funding through the AHRC Translating Cultures and Care for the Future International Development call, funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund, UK. Nicola wrote a book titled Guernica Remakings in 2017 published to coincide with the opening of the exhibition Guernica Remakings she curated. The exhibition showcased an international range of 21st century collective remakings of Guernica. She is now working on an international tour for this exhibition.

Ashmore was awarded her PhD at the University of Brighton in 2011. Her doctoral studies span art and museum practices post 1997 and focus on the commissioning of source community artists to work with ethnographic museum collections. This interdisciplinary study locates this commissioning practice within the then dominant politics of cultural diversity. 

Whilst studying for her practice-led PhD part-time, Ashmore co-produced eight documentary videos on Brighton and Hove's Connecting Initiative which brought interdisciplinary artists and secondary school pupils together (2005-06). She carried out qualitative research on the Arts Council England, South East's regeneration funding scheme Art at the Centre, which used public art to develop towns and cities (2004). 

From 2003 to 2009 Ashmore worked in Brighton's digital media sector with Plug-in Media animation company (2006-2009) and with Wired Sussex the regional development agency for digital media (2003 - 2007). 

Dr Ashmore has lectured at the University of Brighton since 2007 in the History of Art and Design.

Approach to teaching

Dr Nicola Ashmore is interested in the creative development of students through place-based work. This pedagogic research began in 2009/2010 working in collaboration and across disciplines with Dr Jess Moriarty. In a workshop setting, removed from the classroom environment, undergraduate students were placed in interdisciplinary groups.

Through the workshops students were engaged in activities that encouraged experimentation and reflection on their own creative practice. Creative briefs were set requiring the interdisciplinary student groups to combine image and text from archival material and collections. They were encouraged to discuss their individual creative processes and identify how these were similar and how they differed. By working in interdisciplinary groups and articulating their processes, we found that students were better able to: understand their individual practices, take inspiration from archives and collections and equipped with some important skills to enable them to work collaboratively.

Findings from these workshops were co-presented at conferences including the Higher Education Academy Arts and Humanities conference in 2013.

This research underpins the flagship Creative Writing MA module Communities of Practice, launched in 2014. Within this module a 40 hour placement is undertaken. This creative residency helps the post-graduate students transfer their creative writing skills from the confinements of the classroom and their notebook to a site of their choice. They establish a creative brief in collaboration with their placement embedding their creative writing firmly in their chosen location. Through research and reflection, encouraged through semi structured life interviews with tutors, students gain confidence and understanding of the role of their writing in a public place.

Knowledge exchange

Dr Nicola Ashmore researches art and museum practice post 1997. The commissioning of artists, makers and communities to respond to collections is an important curatorial strategy used by many national and regional museums and galleries. Curating in this respect can be usefully considered as a process of meaning making that involves a range of people from both inside and outside of the museum and gallery. Within this research the curatorial practice of commissioning artists as a form of community engagement is investigated.

Nicola’s doctoral work focuses on the display of commissioned work within the ethnographic collections of Brighton Museum and Art Gallery and Manchester Museum. The role these commissioned pieces play is discussed in relation to shifts in curatorial practices; the influence of New Labour’s cultural diversity agenda on this activity; the emphasis placed on the visibility of community engagement; and the issues surrounding the framing of these museum commissions as ‘authentic’. The impact of this commissioning practice is critically considered through the discussion of four commissions that took place between 1995 and 2009. These commissions asked people living in the local area, categorized as ethnic minorities, to participate in their own representation and located them as a representative of their attributed community. This practice is a noticeable departure from that of artists in the 1990s that could be characterized as providing an institutional critique of the museum.

The collection of interpretations from source communities or living cultures has escalated throughout this period. Collecting interpretations is a collecting practice. It is, however, not often analysed yet in this way. This ‘collecting’ activity reflects the convergence of policy aims to increase engagement of people categorized as ethnic minorities, with museums’ work with source communities, informed by postcolonial debates surrounding the control and production of cultural identities. This convergence, combined with funding pre- requisites means the ability to demonstrate access and engagement with people from source communities has become of paramount importance to the museum, which in turn has directly impacted upon curatorial strategies. This research begins to attend to the impact of these influences on curatorial practices highlighting the erosion of the autonomy of the source community artist through the commissioning process in this period.

The publication of these findings in the professional journal for Museum Ethnographers (2011) and Museum History Journal (2015) means these findings can contribute to important dialogue that inform curatorial practice. This doctoral research has led Ashmore to publish on artistic interventions and curatorial practice more broadly. Ashmore’s insight into the display practices in museums is underpinned by exhibiting her own artistic interventions in Hastings Museum & Art Gallery’s exhibition Indian Summer (2009). 

Collaboration with Dr Megha Rajguru has prompted the development of this work within a global context. Together they have circulated this body of research. In 2013 they co-convened a panel, ‘Exhibiting South Asia, 1901- 2012’, at the Design History Society’s conference in Ahmedabad, India. In 2016 they co-authored a book chapter in the Bloomsbury publication Design Objects and the Museum entitled Indian Living Cultures: Collected, Exhibited and Performed. The representation of India through art commissions and performance is examined as an exhibition design agenda of the post-colonial museum on the one hand, and the performance of nationalist Indian identities by the diaspora, on the other. The exhibition of the deities is located within a contemporary global context by drawing upon exhibitionary practices within a regional museum in Pune, India, the Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum.

Keywords

  • NX Arts in general

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artist Social Sciences
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art Social Sciences
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Research Output 2011 2017

Guernica Remakings

Ashmore, N. 31 Jul 2017 Brighton. 68 p.

Research output: Book/ReportBook - authored

protest
Spain
civilian population
Basque
anniversary

Guernica Remakings

Ashmore, N. 31 Jul 2017

Research output: Non-textual formExhibition

File
Guernica
Protest
Artwork
Spain
Brighton

Guernica remakings: action, collaboration and thread

Ashmore, N. 21 Jul 2017 15, 4, p. 376-395 20 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

protest
opposition
event
Group

Guernica a play part 1

Ashmore, N. 29 Nov 2016

Research output: Non-textual formDigital or Visual Products

File
Guernica
Attack
Imagining
Spain
Canadian Writers

Guernica a play part 2

Ashmore, N. 1 Nov 2016

Research output: Non-textual formDigital or Visual Products

File
Guernica
Attack
News
Documentary Film
Statistics