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Coventry Biennial 2023

Following successful partnerships in 2019 and 2021, Warwick Research and Impact Services co-funded (with WIE and Sustainable Cities GRP) a significant and exciting collaboration bringing together University of Warwick research and contemporary art, together with local communities, to be a major part of the Coventry Biennial 2023.

Coventry Biennial is a social, political and critical platform for contemporary art, taking place every two years and attracting growing numbers of visitors. Its exhibitions, events and activities have been visited by a million people since it began in 2017.

The fourth Coventry Biennial '...Like a short cut through the brambles' took place from October 2023 - January 2024. You can read more about the Opening Event on October 5th 2023, at the Herbert Art Gallery, in a related BBC news article - Coventry Biennial: How art helps imagine a decarbonised future - BBC News.

Coventry Biennial and University of Warwick 2023 Collaboration:

Following a call for applications from interested researchers, Professor Graeme Macdonald, was selected to collaborate with CB2023 and a work closely with an artist on a flagship exhibition. Graeme has been paired with local Coventry artist Paul Lemon. This exciting collaboration was announced at the Launch Event on May 25th 2023 at Coventry Cathedral - Introducing … like a short cut through the brambles – Coventry Biennial

Graeme’s work is situated in the relatively nascent field of "petrocultures", an interdisciplinary research field which produces academic and cultural/creative work assessing and registering the social and cultural expressions and lifeworlds of oil and fossil fuels at various sites across the world. It is adjacent to the larger research concern known as 'Energy Humanties'. He is a founding member of the (ongoing) international After Oil collective which has for the last ten years produced collectively written (open access) books, podcasts and artworks that seek to initiate, imagine and think through the associated challenges of post-oil culture from a number of angles: aesthetic, political, infrastructural, affective, economic, etc. He is interested in science fiction and speculative cultures and more specifically the various visions this rich field has presented towards energy, environmental and futurological thinking in the broader sense. Graeme is also part of a team based in English and Comparative Literary Studies launching a new Environmental Humanities MA.

Image: CB2023 Launch Event, audience image featuring Graeme MacDonald (UoW) and paired artist Paul Lemon. Courtesy of Coventry Biennial.

Graeme MacDonald, English and Comparative Literary Studies
"I am thrilled to be able to engage in this kind of collaboration with a 'real life' artist. The process has already been instructive for me, testing the significance and capacity of the speculative mode that my research often turns upon. 'Open Futuring' has become an influential set of techniques in an Environmental Humanities oriented towards the world to come. I'm curious about the ways in which Paul's work, in form and approach, provides a novel means to think about transition and to get publics to engage with it in ways different to the speculative projections in scientific reports or environmental papers. The challenge that the climate crisis and the energy transition lays before us all—whether physicist or engineer, teacher or artist– is to think harder about how our way of apprehending its nature and possible outcomes might shape our practice—and how that practice in turn might offer something to shape those outcomes for the better. I'm excited to see what future this collaboration affords!"
"Our work with University of Warwick on past Biennial's has been really significant for artists, researchers, the communities that they work with and for our audiences. We're delighted to be building on that past work through a new collaboration that explores what is possible when HEIs and cultural organisations combine their expertise. The collaboration between Graeme and (the artist) offers impactful opportunities for both of them to understand their own practices through new lenses, but also to produce something entirely new that wouldn't otherwise be possible. At Coventry Biennial, we're particularly pleased to have offered this opportunity to an artist based in Coventry, ensuring that local artists are receiving high profile commissions that support creative and professional development."

Ryan Hughes, Artist and CEO

EXHIBITION at the Herbert Art Gallery:

Paul and Graeme's exhibition was open from October 2023 - January 2024. You can learn more about it on the Coventry Biennial website, which includes a short-video preview of the works and their development - Paul Lemmon and Graeme Macdonald – Coventry Biennial.

Image of UoW Jackie Hodgson enjoying the exhibit at Coventry Biennial Opening Event. 


When it comes to encouraging others to take part in artist-researcher collaborations, Khursheed is unwavering in her advice:

“I’d say to them – go for it! It really will be worthwhile – both in terms of what you learn yourself, as well as collaborating and engaging with people who don’t work in a university environment. We don’t do that enough. Some departments may have lots of experience in working outside of academia, but others may not have had many opportunities to do so, so I’d say seize the opportunity."

Coventry Creates Mosaic: featuring researchers and artists from collaborative teams. Photography and mosaic design by Stuart Hollis.