PhD student

  • Doctoral College
  • Research
Michelle Deignan

I’m an artist, filmmaker, educator and Doctoral Researcher at University of the Creative Arts, Farnham.

Michelle Deignan

Bio

My PhD title:

My view, your earth – from landscape thought to landscape thinking (working title).

My PhD summary:

My research at UCA interrogates rural landscapes as historical sites that are produced by thought, through and with the medium of film. I aim to retrieve landscape thought from the nationalist and capitalist ideological desires that currently instrumentalise it, to create a new landscape thinking through film. This research challenges hegemonic interpretations of landscape to create new possibilities for landscape futures.

This research will be led by an experimental approach to narrative filmmaking with the aim of producing one long form moving image work. This film’s narrative is driven by a female traveller as she moves through and to European rural landscape, placed within the context of European landscape thought in 1837. Significantly, 1837 was a time before film technology, when the representation of landscape was not always aligned with realism.

This fictional traveller, whose place in history is informed by historical female travel writers is my research surrogate. She is a figure that carries and drives the research questions into a fictional historical context. This research asks: 

  1. Can landscape thought be retrieved from instrumentalising ideologies, by the production of new landscape thinking through film?
  2. Can landscape futures, a new and critical conceptualisation of landscape informed by feminist and cosmopolitan theory, be produced through film research practice?
  3. Can research surrogacy, situated within an experimental approach to narrative filmmaking, be an effective and innovative instrument of discovery within film.

The resulting moving image work is scheduled to be exhibited as part of a major moving image solo exhibition at Tromso Kunstforening, Norway in 2024. The film is being produced by Leif Magne Tangen an award-winning film producer and curator specialising in artists╩╝ moving image.

More about me:

I’ve been creating moving image work for more than 20 years, and had my work screened and exhibited internationally in film festivals, galleries, cinemas, and museums including: Bienalsur, Argentina; Louvre, Paris; Whitechapel Art Gallery, London; Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin; Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh; CAN Neuchatel, Switzerland; Rio Cinema, London; Trajector Art Fair, Brussels, Belgium; KG+, Kyoto, Japan; transmediale, Berlin. Since 2020 I have been working with The Crown Letter, a collective of international women artists and the London based Bad Ideas Collective.

With moving image, I create factual and fictional narratives that present alternative experiences of land, place and identity. These stories include ‘A Glimpse of Common Territory’ where fictional 19th century characters are trapped in a 20th century modernist industrial tower within a 21st century house estate; and ‘Looking for Gary’ where I search a street in London for a man called Gary to replace another man I can’t get access to. These films feature the triumphs and failures of protagonists struggling to be seen, remembered or heard as they fight for agency. In 2013, I released my first documentary feature, ‘Breaking Ground: the Story of the London Irish Women’s Centre’.

I’m the lead tutor for documentary at MET Film School Short Courses London and experimental film tutor for BA Filmmaking at MET. I also teach regularly at NCAD Dublin, University of Sussex, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design and Winchester School of Art. I am a former tutor at Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art Oxford University and a lecturer at University of Greenwich.

From 2020 to 2022, I was chair of the board of Irish Film London, a non-profit organisation that champions Irish Film, TV and Animation across the UK.

I’ve also worked extensively as a film editor, originally working in broadcast TV in the UK, and now specialize in documentary films by independent filmmakers and artists’ films as a film editor, line producer and camera person. I’ve worked with Apple Europe, Channel 4, ITV, BBC as well as Critical Arts Ensemble, Marcus Coates, William Hunt, Ursula Mayer, Axel Strachnoy, Jasmina Cibic, Nick Stewart, Mairead McClean, Lucy Reynolds, Sarah Baker, Rachel Mayeri, Chris Fite-Wassilak and Tom Flanagan, Anne Tallentire, Rosemary Toner.

Awards and Fellowships:

  • 2021 – UCA Post Graduate Studentship Award
  • 2019 – Visual Arts Project Award, The Arts Council of Ireland
  • 2018 – Visual Arts Bursary, The Arts Council of Ireland
  • 2018 – Film Pitching Competition Finalist, Galway Film Fleadh, Ireland
  • 2017 – Feature Expanded, feature film development programme, HOME Manchester and Lo Schermo dell’arte, Florence
  • 2015 – On and For Production, supported by Electra Productions with LUX and Auguste Orts at BFI London Film Festival, funded by Creative Europe Programme of European Union
  • 2014 – Experimental Production Pitch, LUX with Art:Film at BFI London Film Festival supported by Arts Council England
  • 2014 – Visual Arts Bursary, The Arts Council of Ireland
  • 2013 – Cultural Relations Committee Award, Dept. of Arts Sport and Tourism, Ireland
  • 2012 – Visual Arts Bursary, The Arts Council of Ireland
  • 2010 – Visual Arts Bursary, The Arts Council of Ireland
  • 2009 – The Elephant Trust Award, London, UK
  • 2009 – Commissions Award, The Arts Council of Ireland
  • 2008 – John Fell Fund, Humanities Board, Oxford University, Oxford, UK
  • 2007 – Visual Arts Bursary, The Arts Council of Ireland
  • 2004 – Professional Training and Development Award, The Arts Council of Ireland
  • 2003 – Cultural Relations Committee Award, Dept. of Arts Sport and Tourism, Ireland
  • 2002 – Visual Arts Award, Artist’s Fund, London Arts Board, UK
  • 2001 – London Arts Board Bursary, UK
  • 1996 – Art Flight Award, Aer Lingus, Ireland
  • 1995 – Exhibition Award (Art Hive Gallery, Cork), The Arts Council of Ireland
  • 1993 – Visual Arts Materials Grant, The Arts Council of Ireland

Commisions:

  • 2018 – Looking for Gary, short film commission for Essex Road V Tintype Gallery supported by Arts Council England
  • 2013 – Breaking Ground: the story of the London Irish Women’s Centre, 63 min film, funded by Mind Yourself and Big Lottery UK.
  • 2012 – Revolution, 124 part animation for Bus-tops artists take the lead, Cultural Olympiad Public Art Project, London.
  • 2007 – Europart – Contemporary Art from Europe, European City of Culture billboard commission, Vienna.

Residencies:

  • 2019 – Kråkeslottet Senja, Norway funded by Tromo Kunstforening, Norway
  • 2018 – Artist in Residence, St Mary’s Primary School facilitated by Tintype Gallery, Islington, London, UK
  • 2008 – Berlin, funded by ACAVA, Artquest London and Arts Council England