CFAR: Research Generated by Curiosity

The Centre for Fine Art Research (CFAR) is an international / world-class 4* research environment whose ethos – research generated by curiosity – provides an intellectually rigorous, experimental, professional and extremely rich studio / practice-led research engagement with contemporary art and philosophy; visual, acoustic and curatorial art practices; speculative art/design topologies; photographic practices after photography; art history, arts policy, design and education; documentation and archive; contemporary Chinese visual arts; feminist transgressions and queer strategies inhabiting erotic praxis, sexualities, poetics and logics of the senses.

The Centre for Fine Art Research (CFAR), directed by Prof Johnny Golding, Professor of Philosophy & Fine Art, foregrounds 8 theatres of research excellence in areas ranging from making art public and accessible in all its diverse and intensive explorations of cultural values, wild sciences and life, to the inhabiting of contemporary philosophy, discursive methodologies, and the engagement with matter in all its forms. This practice-led research includes the re-thinking of art and education, traditional, new and nano-technologies of painting, sculpture, print-making, music composition, video, photography, meta-mathematics & physics, spatio-temporal research from 1st – 4th dimension, alongside theatres of mixed reality art: historical, political, literary, acoustic, speculative, electronic, digital, corporeal, psychoanalytic, fractal and ana-materialist. We support research developed via experiment, risk, invention and rigorous attention to detail

The Eight Research Theatres of Excellence are:


Chaired by the internationally recognised research, curator and designer, Dr Daniel Hinchcliffe, MAPS is committed to fostering cutting-edge curatorial, artist-led development at all levels of public engagement, experimentation, theory-practice and exchange. With an emphasis on contemporary fine art, digital, electronic and media arts, design, interpretation and documentation, MAPS is dedicated to encouraging radical, dynamic forms of art making in the public sphere.   Our research cluster and its development is directly linked to local, regional and national arts organisations, including EastSide Projects, Turning Point West Midlands (TPWM), The ART Market, Ikon, The Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, The New Art Gallery Walsall, and ARTicle Gallery. From Pop-Up to institutional engagement, MAPS is committed to strong local, international and global networks at all levels of the artist-led culture and industry.


Chaired by the internationally recognized and world-leading curator, Prof Joshua Jiang, Professor of Chinese Art, CCVA is committed to the increasing visibility and significance of Chinese contemporary arts on the international arena. CCVA is leading the UK in developing original research in the field through curatorial projects, publications and annual conferences. It offers academic support and joint supervision within the CCVA partnerships for postgraduate and research degree studies. CCVA draws particularly on its PhD research programmes, as well as the new MA in Chinese Contemporary Arts and Transdisciplinary Practice (to be launched in 2016), in collaboration with a number of important museums, art galleries and artist studios nationally and internationally.

  • RADICAL MATTER in Art & Philosophy [rMAP]

Chaired by international/world-leading philosopher, Johnny Golding, Professor of Philosophy & Fine Art and Director of CFAR, the Radical Matter in Art and Philosophy research theatre offers a unique platform engaging with questions of materiality, from social agency, feminism and logics of sense to acoustic visualities, lens based, analogue and digital in the contested and experimental cross-over terrains of contemporary art, philosophy and the wild sciences. With emphasis on radical forms of embodiment, materiality (fractal, digital, political, speculative, photographic, curved, sonic, poetic, holographic, artificial, augmented), several projects enter the fray, including Data Loam (with the Academy of Applied Arts, Vienna); Pyschomaterialism, Quanta, Entanglement, Flesh (with artists and philosophers from Berlin, Bremen, Hamburg); and the Radical Materialism in Art & Philosophy extensive network to include MIT, The New School, NY, Ghent, Berlin, Tokyo, Sorbonne. Several workshops and symposia are being rolled out from mid May 2015 – Nov 2016.


Led by the international / world-leading artist and theorist, Henry Rogers, Reader in Art and Queer Theory, EPQS primarily focuses on advancing a more supple/subtle exploration of existing queer theory, radical difference and the potential of queer strategies in art based practice. While identity politics are globally significant, we are exploring the potential of queer alignments with material practice beyond the traditional focus on LGBTQI representation and the queer identified body. The group is a community of all sorts.


Led by the internationally recognized and world-leading artist Jo Longhurst, Prof of Fine Art & Photography, the PE research cluster is committed to establishing a series of cross-CFAR research cluster events which will include group visits to Documenta/Venice Biennale/and other inspirational / debate inducing/ group building events. Current projects include work within Brazil via the British Council international Development Fund working with Brazilian national squads and favela gymnasts, archival research in both Rio and Sao Paolo.   Researchers are also involved with major projects in South Africa and China, linked with EastSide Projects and other local/regional and national institutes.


Led by the internationally recognized art historian, Dr Sue May, AHED encompasses the research specialism is the visual culture of the renaissance, the European history of art and design topics from the fifteenth through to the eighteenth centuries, as well as contemporary fashion consumption.   It also includes work of The Keeper of the Archive – a nucleus of research-based activity, directed and run by Dr Sian Vaughan and specialising in creative practice, research education methodologies and research experiences.  Current collaborations include: the Marion Richardson archive with Birmingham University and the Library of Birmingham.  Research also includes a strong emphasis on the artist-teacher, specifically looking at art practice as a site for educational enquiry, within the specific remit of schools.  There is a political edge, challenging the neo-liberalisation of school-based art education and leading critical debates concerning policy and pedagogy in art and design. AHED will also be linking with The Lunar Society (Birmingham); The Old and New Libraries of Birmingham; and Psychogeography in Digbeth


Led by artist/designer Steve Bulcock, leader of the Art and Design courses at the School of Art, the STIAdP research theatre focuses on the topological or non-metric properties at the interface between Art and Design practices.  Through an exploration of the dynamic relationships of contestation and control between elements, we aim to explore that which is formed/concealed when the resulting surfaces are exposed to an external view. The group centres around the Art & Design staff team and is primarily fed by the MA Art & Design: Interdisciplinary Practices course, though students and staff are welcome from across the entire ADM faculty. The STIAdP team concentrates also on the pedagogical question of growing this cutting-edge, technologically rich and new arena in relation to teaching and learning strategies around interdisciplinary practices.  


Led by internationally recognised artist Lee Hewett, RADI specifically aims to rethink art dissemination using social media platforms (print, web, blog, galleries) with a particular interest in peer reviewed publishing environments at the Gold Standard (open access) level. Current projects include: ARTicle Press (www.articlepress.co.uk), a unique publishing environment dedicated to advancing new forms of dissemination for arts-based/practice-led research and artwork in its contemporary manifestations, composition and form. With over 100+ titles, including the international, peer-reviewed Zetesis: Journal for Fine Art, Philosophy and the Wild Sciences (distributed by Art Data), this research theatre also focuses on inventing new forms of the ‘artbook’ from print to holographic or augmented platforms.

The Down and Dirty

Researchers at CFAR include Staff, Post-docs, PHD students at the Arts, Design and Media (ADM) faculty, along with national and international Research Fellows, Artists-in-Residence, Visiting Professors whose focus is on the ‘making of sense’ in the fullest use of the terms making, exchanging and translating into everyday knowledge and event, the techniques, methods, memories and practices that challenge, embroider and/or strengthen the tactility of our contemporary landscape and (dis)embodied intelligences.

With its state-of-the-art metal workshops and print-making facilities, beautiful 19thc Victorian studios of light and wood, the Centre for Fine Art Research (CFAR) offers an immersive, complex and magnificently dirty research environment in the best and fullest sense of the word: art.

Currently we have 35+ PhD students including several Midlands 3 Cities (M3C) –AHRC, AHRC collaborative awards, Gertrude Aston Bowater Award holders and BCU bursary/collaborative funded research.   The individual research staff members, honorary national and international Research Fellows, postgraduate researchers, post-docs and artists-in-residence, all have their works showcased on CFAR’s website, hyper-linked with various social network platforms (including twitter, tumblr, YouTube, FaceBook, ThisIsTomorrow). Debates, conferences, and workshops led by international and world-leading artists, scholars and practitioners in the field, alongside PHD and MA research methods seminars, are recorded as podcasts and archived for immediate accessibility via our website (www.cfar-bcu.co.uk).

Support for the 8 Research theatres/Centres for Excellence is underpinned by our commitment to engage with local, regional and global communities, organisations and agencies. This includes our world-recognised Contemporary Chinese Visual Arts (CCVA) which has initiated global triennales linking Gaungzhou and Zhanghuan with Birmingham and Manchester; the major award winning Turning Point West-Midlands (TPWM) and the establishing of the new regional ART MARKET targeted at supporting newly emerging artists/curators both regionally and nationally; the internationally recognised Eastside Projects (EP); and more recently ARTicle Gallery led by nationally and internationally renowned curators. Significantly also, CFAR houses ARTicle Press, our gold standard, open access and peer reviewed research publishing arm, which produces individual monographs, book series, alongside our cutting-edge journal Zetesis: The International Journal for Fine Art, Philosophy and the Wild Sciences, distributed by the leading Arts publishing house, Sternberg. ARTicle Press is also dedicated to providing an important online-curatorial outlet for all artists’ works associated with CFAR, which have been independently acclaimed by international curators and/or peer reviewers.

CFAR also maintains two major strategic research networks: The AHRC Photography Research Network and the Radical Matter Network in Art & Philosophy. Together, these networks bring in partnerships which include: CALarts (Los Angeles), PACTAC (Victoria), The Sorbonne (Paris), Parsons School of Design (NYC), MIT (Cambridge), STEIM (Amsterdam), Univ of Cologne (Cologne), Leipzig School of Art (Leipzig), The Vienna Academy of Art (Vienna), The Academy of Science and Art (Slovenia) and the University of Linz. It also houses the AHRC Strategic Research Network in Photography, which includes researchers from the UK, Israel, Brazil, USA and the EU. These Strategic Networks have enabled the Centre to address cutting-edge theoretical and practical issues, centrally placing it and the University as significant contributors to global critical and theoretical debates in Fine Art.

Come Join us – it is wild, exciting, and just plain happening!

Professor Johnny Golding, Director-CFAR

Professor of Philosophy and Fine Art

For more information on the arts-based masters courses at Birmingham School of Art, please visit:

For information on the Faculty of Arts, Design and Media (ADM), please visit:


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