Artist as Superconnector Superconductor

Pedagogical Provocations

Friday, 24 March 2017 (All day)

Event Institution: 

National Association for Fine Art Education

Event Partner: 

Coventry University

Event Keynote: 

Sarah Shalgosky, curator of the Mead Gallery at Warwick Arts Centre

Callout Link: 

Call for submissions

Annual Conference

Booking website:

Event Booking Name: 

Andy Sheridan

Event Email:

Free to NAFAE members

Event Address: 

Coventry University
Graham Sutherland Building
Priory Street
United Kingdom

Venue Google Map: 

Click to view on Google Maps


  • Private View Thursday 23 March 6-8pm. All welcome
  • View and download the Conference Schedule
  • Register for the symposium (the deadline is the 17 March): Eventbrite - Artist as Superconnector Superconductor; Pedagogical Provocations

  • Introduction

    Creativity comes from being at a point of exchange

    Robert Hewison, Cultural Historian1

    In 2015 John Holden, proposed that we consider the interconnectedness of the various parts of the cultural world. In his report titled The Ecology of Culture, commissioned by the Arts and Humanities Research Council for their Cultural Value Project he suggests that we apply the metaphors of emergence, growth, evolution, complex interdependencies, systemic fragility, life cycles and webs to the worlds of culture and that rather than consider the cultural arena through the lens of economy it would be more helpful to examine it in terms of an ecology - a messy dynamic system of interconnecting strands. 

    This analogy could be broadened to consider the strands of interconnectivity that exist between the cultural arena and a diverse range of other fields too, including the scientific, economic, political, educational and social, bringing into relation a rich diversity of multidisciplinary activity. Frequently artists operate within such networks or ‘meshworks’2 navigating such complex situations and events, creating lines of movement, growth and creative (ex)-change, becoming sort of ‘superconnectors’ or ‘superconductors’3  

    The NAFAE 2017 symposium seeks to investigate how artists engage in collaborative activities and shared investigations within this arena. We would like to encourage debate on how Fine Art courses are working with cultural, commercial, social, public and private organisations to provide innovative learning opportunities for Fine Art students. How are our art educational institutions relating to the civic, social, commercial and cultural networks in which they operate and what are the implications of this for fine art pedagogy?

    1. Taken from Holden J. (2015) The Ecology of Culture, AHRC
    2. Ingold T. (2011). Being Alive 
    3. The term ‘artist as Superconductor’ appears in Regard F. (2003) A Philosophy of Magical Rhetoric p91 and was also the title of an exhibition by The Newbridge Project Jan-Feb 2012 
  • Schedule

    Thursday 23 March: Private View

    The conference Artist as Superconnector/Superconductor includes artworks in an accompanying exhibition in the Lanchester Gallery, Graham Sutherland Building.
    The Private View of the accompanying exhibition will take place on the evening of 23rd March 6-8pm – all welcome

    Friday 24 March: AGM & Conference

    9.00 – 9.30 am
    Arrival, registration and coffee in the Lanchester Gallery, on the ground floor of the Graham Sutherland Building, Coventry University.
    9.30 – 10.30 am
    Annual General Meeting in GSG22
    10.30 – 10.45 am
    coffee (registration continues)

    Conference- Artist as Superconnector/Superconductor: pedagogical provocations, GSG22

    Chair: Jill Journeaux, Jane Ball

    10.45 -10.55
    Welcome from John Devane
    Head of School of Art and Design Faculty of Arts & Humanities, Coventry University
    10.55- 11.15
    Key Note Speaker: Sarah Shalgosky
    Mead Gallery, Warwick Arts Centre

    11.15 - 11.35
    Jenny Walden, University of Portsmouth
    'All good dreamers pass this way some day'-(Joni Mitchell 1971)
    11.35 - 11.55
    David Haley, Visiting Prof. Zhongyuan University
    Steps Towards an Ecology of Pedagogy: The Art of 'Capable Futures'
    12.00 – 12.20
    Marsha Bradfield, Chelsea College of Arts, University of the Arts London
    Authorship and/as 'Riding the Hyphen': The Sensibility of the 'Artist and' in Economies and Ecologies of Collaborative Cultural Production based on the examples of #Transacting: A Market of Values
    12.20 – 12.40
    Louise Atkinson and Jessica Bradley, University of Leeds
    Meaning making and collaborative ethnography in transdisciplinary arts
    12.40 – 1pm
    Questions/comments led by Linden Reilly & Robert Williams

    1pm – 2.15pm
    Lunch at Drapers and an opportunity to view the exhibition in the gallery

    2.15pm – 3.15pm Parallel sessions

    Session A: GSG22 Chair-Linden Reilly

    Tracy McKenna
    The People’s Story and Making Museums: dynamic co‐devised projects
    Katrine Hjelde
    Collaboration and collective engagement: developing practice though Praxis
    Catrine Webster
    Contemporary Dialogues

    Session B: Lanchester Gallery Participatory Workshop

    John Hammersley
    Conduct and connectivity in socially engaged art

    Session C: GSG11 Chair: Paul Haywood

    Judy Thomas
    Collaborative Dialogue: Connecting, Conducting...
    Terri Newman & Stephanie Cantwell
    Inter-Institutional Collaboration in Arts Education

    Coffee break

    3.30 - 4.30 pm Parallel sessions

    Session D: GSG22 Chair: David Haley

    Martin Newth & Patricia Ellis
    Studiomakers. Is a new approach to the fine art curriculum required?
    Paul Jones & Adam Cooke
    Urgent and Emergent Practices: Establishing Connections and Feedback Loops

    Session E: Lanchester Gallery Participatory Workshop

    Andy Broadey, Richard Hudson-Miles, and Dave Griffiths,
    The Precarious University Workshop: Specters of the Art School

    Session F: GSG11 Chair: Maggie Ayliffe

    Catrine Webster
    Contemporary Dialogues
    Ian Hartshorne
    Teaching Painting; a collaborative network
    Judy Thomas & Susan Coles
    How do we change the system?

    4.30pm Reconvene in GSG22 Final Thoughts - Paul Haywood, NAFAE Chair
    Departure & drinks

  • Getting there


    The conference is taking place in the Graham Sutherland building (CV1 5PH).
    Download a campus map


    Download a City parking map


    A list of accommodation in and around Coventry is available on the Coventry and Warwickshire website. You can also find information on restaurants, shopping, theatres, nightlife and places to visit, while you are here.

    Getting There by road

    Coventry lies at the heart of a motorway network. Once you get to the city centre there are signposts to the University from all the relevant ring road junctions.

    From the north:
    From western Scotland and the Northwest: leave the M6 at Junction 3 and follow the signs for Coventry city centre. From the North: take the M1 to Junction 21, then to the end of the M69, following signs for Coventry city centre.
    From the south
    From London: follow the M1, leaving it at Junction 17 onto the M45. At the end of the M45, continue along the A45 and follow the signs for the city centre. From East Anglia and eastern England: Take the A14 until it meets the M1/M6 interchange. Then take the M6 to Junction 2 and follow signs for the city centre. From southern England: take the A34 to the M40. Leave the M40 at Junction 15, then take the A46 and follow signs for the city centre. From the southwest: take the M5, then the M42, leaving the M42 at Junction 6. Follow the A45 to Coventry. From South Wales: follow the M4 to the M5, then as above.

    Getting there by rail

    Coventry is on the main intercity route. Trains from London (Euston) leave every 30 minutes throughout most of the day with journey times of 1 hour to 80 minutes. It takes approximately 20 minutes to reach Coventry from Birmingham International Station.
    There are also daily services from Scotland and the Northwest, from Bristol, the Southwest and South Wales. In addition there are frequent services from Oxford, Southampton and Bournemouth, as well as Nuneaton, Rugby, Birmingham New Street and Birmingham International (for Birmingham International Airport and the National Exhibition Centre). Check the National Rail Enquiries website for more information.

    From the station
    If you take a taxi, the fare will be approximately £3.00 and you should ask for Coventry University in the city centre.
    Alternatively, bus numbers 8/8A/9/9A/85/585/X30 leave the station for the city centre every ten minutes (every 30 minutes after 6pm). Ask the driver for 'Pool Meadow', which is the bus terminus. This is opposite Priory Street. Make sure you have the exact cash ready as no change is given on the buses.
    If you choose to walk, it will take you 15–20 minutes. There are extensive building works between the train station and the city. There are pedestrian diversion signs to the city centre, then pedestrian signposts to Coventry Cathedral.

  • Call Out

    Proposals are invited for papers, presentations, workshops, artworks, exhibits or performative creative responses that blur the distinction between traditional academic papers and ‘exhibitable artworks’. 

    • Some of the key issues are as follows, however we are open to other suggestions not covered here.
    • Are students active agents in the shaping of the cultural ecology?
    • The role of the artist in information networks.
    • Designing learning strategies that engender transformative connections between students, or between students and external collaborators.
    • How do we prepare our students for the role of ‘superconnector’ or ‘superconductor’?
    • The social roles of art.
    • What are the potentialities and limitations of these types of projects for arts education?
    • Authorship and co-authorship
    • Performative strategies for collaborative engagement
    • What is the role of art and the artist in the wider social ecology?
    • What educational projects are addressing real life problem solving- such as environmental and sustainability concerns?
    • Where are these collaborations and conversations taking place? Outside traditional gallery/artists studios/web/café/PV/talk? 
    • How are these connections and collaborations impacting on the freedoms of creativity?
    • What is the role of art educators in this? Tutor as curator? 
    • How do practitioners, tutors, students, curators, critics and audience relate. 
    • In what ways are Fine Art courses initiating or responding to key relationships with other external organisations or social groups?
    • What new opportunities for learning are these experiences/relationships creating? How are they driving and or being driven by pedagogy and how are they responding to students’ pedagogical needs? 
    • The incorporation of human and informational connectivity in the fine art curriculum- locally, translocally, regionally, nationally, internationally?
    • Artist as communicator or connector? 
    • How is this impacting on the Degree Show as a formal strategy for final assessment?

    Proposals should be no more than 500 words and should include your title, email address and institution, along with the title of the proposed paper, presentation, workshop, artwork/exhibit/performance etc. All proposals will be peer reviewed and feedback given. 

    Proposals should be submitted to no later than 1st January 2017.

    Cost: the event is free for NAFAE members, or £30 for non-members, £20 for artists and students.
    Registration and payment details will follow in due course. 

Event Map Location: 

Event Papers: 

Presentation Papers: 

'All good dreamers pass this way some day' - (Joni Mitchell 1971)
Jenny Walden
PDF icon Jenny Walden Abstract

Steps Towards an Ecology of Pedagogy: The Art of 'Capable Futures'
David Haley
PDF icon David Haley Abstract
PDF icon David Haley Biography

Authorship and/as 'Riding the Hyphen': The Sensibility of the 'Artist and' in Economies and Ecologies of Collaborative Cultural Production based on the examples of #Transacting: A Market of Values
Marsha Bradfield
PDF icon Marsha Bradfield Abstract
PDF icon Marsha Bradfield Biography

Meaning making and collaborative ethnography in transdisciplinary arts
Louise Atkinson and Jessica Bradley
PDF icon Atkinson Bradley Abstract

The People’s Story and Making Museums: dynamic co-­‐devised projects
Tracy Mackenna
PDF icon Tracy Mackenna Absract
PDF icon Tracy Mackenna Biography

Collaboration and collective engagement: developing practice though Praxis
Katrine Hjelde
PDF icon Katrine Hjelde Abstract
PDF icon Katrine Hjelde Biography

Contemporary Dialogues
Catrine Webster
Session A  :
PDF icon Catrine Webster Abstract

Conduct and connectivity in socially engaged art
John Hammersley
PDF icon John Hammersley Abstract
PDF icon John Hammersley Biography

Judy Thomas
PDF icon Judy Thomas Abstract
PDF icon Judy Thomas Biography

Inter-Institutional Collaboration in Arts Education
Terri Newman & Stephanie Cantwell
PDF icon Newman & Cantwell Abstract
PDF icon Newman & Cantwell Biography [48kb]

Studiomakers, Is a new approach to the fine art curriculum required?
Martin Newth and Patricia Ellis
PDF icon Martin Newth Abstract
PDF icon Martin Newth Biography

Carousel: Ruination and Reconnection
Jane Ball
PDF icon Jane Ball Abstract

Teaching Painting; a collaborative network
Ian Hartshorne
PDF icon Ian Hartshorne Abstract
PDF icon Ian Hartshorne Biography

Urgent and Emergent Practices: Establishing Connections and Feedback Loops
Paul Jones & Adam Cooke
PDF icon Jones & Cooke Abstract
PDF icon Jones & Cooke Biography

Independent Creativity and Education Consultant: How do we change the system?
Judy Thomas & Susan Coles
PDF icon Thomas & Coles Abstract
PDF icon Thomas & Coles Biography

The Precarious University
PDF icon Abstract

Foundation Press
Joe Woodhouse
PDF icon Joe Woodhouse Abstract

Opening Remarks

QUOTE - “I don’t know anyone who voted leave; I didn’t on the day after the 23rd June and I still don’t.”

 The chap who spoke these words lives in Scotland meaning that his observation is probably true. Even if it is a bit of a generalisation it does shine a light on something of a reality. If you work in the Arts and, more specifically, Higher Education and the Arts, it is likely that you will experience your primary community as an international body of interest with shared or similar professional experiences and habitus. For anyone in this position, it is possible that Internationalism and a sense of transnational community is an understandable and common position. Therefore, the idea of separation and social segregation on the grounds of national distinction is likely to be pretty repellant..

QUOTE - “I haven’t heard anyone talk about the  imminent renegotiation of our national arrangements and agreements with the European Union in terms other than economic impact and business outcome.”

 I said that.  And even if it is a bit of a generalisation, it is largely true. As it happens, impacts on the economy and on business are not my primary concern in life. Possibly because of my professional involvement with education, impacts on people, on individuals and the status of their rights and cultural freedoms, are. Most of my close associates, therefore friends, were born in other parts of the world and other countries. Most of them are still there but some of them are on this island. It is likely that we all know people who are genuinely scared about the new arrangements and about how they will be driven from their jobs and homes and about a rising temperament of hatred that is dividing cultures and harming our general humanity. We might be that person. We know, rather than suspect, that there will be significant restrictions on the Free Movement of People. And yet we also know the creative, intellectual, emotional and spiritual benefits derived from a Free Movement of Culture. Open borders underpin our experiences of humanity, cultural ferment, and intellectual discourse; it is unthinkable that this simple privilege should be withdrawn from the next generation and from students new to Fine Art education.

QUOTE - “I don’t know anyone who is truly British or is fully convinced of their Anglo-Saxon heritage and yet I am consistently drawn into conversations about Britishness and British values.” 

 Actually, I said that as well. But when I said this, what I really wanted to say was, please don’t call me British or expect me to be proud of a nation that I simply don’t recognize or care about. I don’t particularly care about Britishness, except that the concept scares me. I definitely don’t think about my own subject interests as having specific national characteristics and I’m horrified that future students may become tainted or confined or polluted by the nonsense of patriotism and the ridiculousness of sovereignty. 


The point of all of this is that, as a community of artists, our themes and our considerations and our expectations and our aspirations for humanity must prevail. Our habit and practice is to challenge authoritarian values, reactionary voices and domineering powers. We are united and given community precisely because of our individual differences and because of our compulsion to link and to connect and to speculate and to observe and to question and to share. This is the essential purpose of the NAFAE conference this year and of the contributions that will promote our discussions throughout the day and beyond. 


In my professional life, I am increasingly expected to advocate in defense of the creative industries and to justify the economic value of the arts and arts education, but I refuse. Bugger off!  These are not our primary concerns. I don’t understand economics; I can barely add up and I’m completely lost when it comes to difficult sums. I wanted to teach art and work as an artist because, like all of us here at the conference, I have to (it’s a conviction) and because it is the most important function of humanity. This is the theme of conference in Coventry. Not the 7 to 10% contribution of the creative industries to GDP and the high rate of growth across the sector (of course, this is a suspicious statistic in any case depending on how one defines the industry base and employment outputs from the subject field of Fine Art). Conferences, such as today, give us time and purpose so that we can focus on a wider and more realistic representation of our diverse community. That is the cultural importance of a healthy society with access to creative means and artistic freedoms and the rights of absolutely all of our citizens to participate and contribute to the arts and to education. This is the motivation for the 2017 conference event. The habits and inclinations of contemporary practitioners in Fine Art is to work in spaces in between defined or siloed interests or cultural dialectics and that is to be celebrated. The instinct to connect and to join up discourses through lateral association and without the prejudice of prescription, or through direct action and genuine humanity, is the bit of the arts that we all work to nurture in our students and what we need to preserve as our central value. We work with and between people. Art is not an economic instrument for politicians to manipulate, nor a cultural instrument of national government; it is, in itself, a dynamic socio-political process and conversation and advocacy on these terms is essential.


Our job, as educators, is to connect. To open up dialogues and discourses that promote difference and distinctiveness in our students. To encourage discovery and curiosity. To support our students in their journey and the exploitation of their own cultural capital and creative agency. I don’t intend to train students in business skills and practices, or enterprise skills, or prepare them for a fantasy job market or turn their potential into an instrument of economic growth in the service of a dysfunctional capitalism; I wouldn’t know how. Our purpose, as educators, is to service education, the fulfilment of personal objectives of uncertain prescription and the development of independent practitioners fully confident with their own critical perspectives and fully competent in defining their own social and political values. To be honest, this is not really any different from an educator of business or economics or difficult sciences, or really, really hard sums. The general purpose is to foster independence and criticality and human agency in our students and this is intrinsically reliant on open cultural discourses and, therefore, open borders for knowledge exchange and intellectual enquiry. We are connectors because that is our job. This conference is important because it is a reminder and an expression of our value and values. Today, we may be talking to ourselves and to each other but we deserve that opportunity; it is essential that we meet and share discourses to reinforce ideas and principles that are the foundation of our very being. I doubt that we will win many political debates in the wider public realm, not at the moment, not with the political classes working the way they are and the legions of post-truth propagandists functioning in media spaces. But we have to persist in our failure (it is failure to be proud of) and we have to remain focused in our convictions.


Special thanks: Jane Ball, Andrea Hannon, Linden Reilly, Andy Sheridan, and Jill Journeaux for making this conference happen.