Dr Alexa Wright
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I am an artist who works with photography, video, sound and interactive digital media. I originally studied fine art (painting), but am now primarily interested in photography, video and sound installation. My projects usually require a long period of research, and are often collaborative, transgressing the boundaries between science and art. Since creating the award-winning After Image (portrait photographs made with people who experience phantom limbs, funded by The Wellcome Trust, 1997) I have regularly worked with people affected by disabilities, life-changing medical conditions and, more recently, mental health issues. In 2012, funded by an AHRC Fellowship, I made photographic portraits with people who experience psychosis. Since 2007 I have participated in an interdisciplinary study into the psycho-social effects of heart transplant led by cardiologist, Dr heather Ross at Toronto General Hospital. In response to this scientific research, I created the interactive audio installation, 'Heart of the Matter', (2014). My latest artwork is 'Piecing it Together', a participatory project involving people with mental health difficulties.
My single authored book, Monstrosity: the Human Monster in Visual Culture, was published by IB Tauris in June, 2013. While my research is interdisciplinary and is expressed in a variety of forms, the theme of human identity is key to all the different projects.
I joined the University of Westminster in 1999. Until 2011 I held two separate posts at the University, firstly as a Researcher and then as Senior Lecturer in the Photography department at Harrow, and simultaneously Senior Lecturer in the department of English Linguistics and Cultural Studies. I am currently a Reader (0.5FTE) in this department. The remainder of the time I am a practicing artist.
Artists International Development Fund
Arts Council, Grants for the Arts
AHRC Research Fellowship
Gulbenkian Foundation Award for Art/Science Projects
Wellcome Trust Large Arts Grant
AHRC Small Grant
Wellcome Trust Impact Award
From September 1999 to November 2011 I was one of the key teaching staff on the MA Photographic Studies in the department of Media Art and Design. Since 2000 I have also been a core member of the teaching team for the current MA Art & Visual Culture, and have designed several modules for this course. I also teach on the MA Museums, Galleries and Contemporary Culture, as well as on some undergraduate courses. On the MA Museums Galleries and Contemporary Culture I am module leader for Exhibiting Photography in the first semester and on the MA Art & Visual Culture I am module leader for Interpreting Space in the second semester. I also lead the Undergraduate module, Photography in London, in both semesters.
Exhibiting Photography is designed to give students a first-hand understanding of the way that contemporary galleries and museums present work through their public programmes of exhibitions, learning activities and events. It looks at a broad range of different curatorial strategies for exhibiting photography, both within institutions and in more public spaces. The module also looks at the way that the photographic image is collected, in both the public and private sectors.
In Interpreting Space we study the way that various forms of space are used and investigate how spaces are represented visually. We study the impact of a range of different types of spaces, including particular architectural and urban sites, public and private spaces and non-places. The module presents a range of theoretical and visual interpretations of these various types of space and examines the relationship between space and place. We also study the historical and social production of spaces and places, and examine some of the ways in which space is assigned meaning. The module aims to encourage students to make connections between the various types of space discussed within the context of visual culture.
Photography in London is a Study Abroad module that aims to give students from different backgrounds and disciplines a culturally specific yet broad understanding of the language of photography.
I welcome relevant PhD proposals, particularly those that are practice-led.
I work with photography, video, sound and interactive digital media to investigate the way that human identities are constructed. My projects usually require a long period of research, often involving collaborations with scientists or people with disabilities, or specific medical conditions. The resulting works aim to challenge expectations, sometimes undermining conventional disciplinary boundaries. One important and innovative aspect of all my work is the way that it encourages the viewer or listener to reflect on his or her own point of view. For example, in the computer installation Alter Ego (2005), which is a kind of virtual mirror, people literally see themselves. The most recent interactive installation, Conversation Piece (2009) reflects on the way that we (humans) communicate by giving the user the sense that he or she is entering into an intimate dialogue with an invisible virtual character. The photographic and video works, such as the digitally manipulated photographic self-portraits with disabilities, 'I' (1999) or the video installation Cover Story (2009), which explores the effects of facial deformity, also provoke viewers to become aware of the mechanisms we use to relate to human difference. Since the mid-1990s I have successfully raised and managed a substantial amount of research funding I have recruited and project-managed interdisciplinary teams working on several large projects. In relation to each of the large-scale projects I have undertaken I have conducted extensive literature searches and established links with other academic institutions, both nationally and internationally, and have presented my research at conferences internationally. I have successfully managed research budgets of up to £100,000. I have assisted and advised students and recent graduates to write successful project proposals and funding applications. I have been a regular referee for the Wellcome Trust Arts Awards, and have also been a referee for the AHRC.
My artwork has been shown widely, both nationally and internationally. Venues include: the International Women Artists' Biennale, Incheon, Korea; SESI Art Gallery, Sao Paolo, Brazil; Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh, Centro the Historia, Zaragoza, Spain; Compton Vernay, Warwickshire; BM Suma Gallery, Istanbul, Turkey; Ormeau Baths Gallery, Belfast; 21_21 Design Sight Gallery, Tokyo, Japan. An animated image from my recent series of photographs, 'A View From Inside' was part of the inaugural exhibition, Born in 1987: the Animated Gif on The Wall at the Photographers Gallery, London, 2012. Part of the series was also included in Digital Aesthetic 3 at the Harris Museum, Preston in 2012. In 2013 this work won an Honorable Mention at the Archisle Open photography competition in Jersey.
I am currently part of an interdisciplinary team of researchers based at University of Toronto studying the psychosocial effects of heart transplant. The results of this project were first shown at the PHI Centre in Montreal in January 2014.
At Westminster, I am part of the CREAM research group, which brings together the disciplines of ceramics, visual arts, photography, film, experimental media, music and fashion. CREAM runs a lively programme of seminars and visiting speakers, and has organised ground-breaking conferences and symposia in collaboration with other institutions. I am also a member of the trans-disciplinary, inter-Faculty research cluster, De-Centre.