The Wytham Studio is a visual arts research group in the Wytham Research Woods of the University of Oxford. The Studio is headed by anthropologist/printmaker Dr. Robin Wilson and co-run by artist Rosie Fairfax-Cholmeley with a wide web of collaborators from visual and fine arts research.
Research Questions: We are interested in how we understand perceptions of the environment, specifically how various skilled groups, including scientists, craftspeople and artists inhabit, perceive, and act in the world. What is the relationship between human beings and nonhuman entities, practices, crafts and commodities. We are interested specifically in variations in skill, which rather than genetically innate or culturally acquired, are incorporated into the human organism through practice and training in an environment. Working as and with artists in the natural environment of the University research woodlands, we aim to use a variety of traditional craft practices as tools for research, which place emphasis on dwelling, practice, and embodiment.
Our Methods: We combine traditional anthropological methods of participant observation with those of visual anthropology, particularly drawing on notions of vision as forms of practical, sensual and emotional knowledge of the environment. One role of the Wytham Studio is to build case studies of varying scientific perceptions of the same environment, evidenced from the multiplicity of University ecological scientific research groups operating in the woodlands, in terms of the artifacts, interactions and communications that help create a scientific view of ecology. Further, by working with artists such as printmakers and potters using traditional woodland-based and woodland derived routines of action, training and practice we hope to understand how such groups construct representations that substitute for the world in their various forms of visual practice.
Public Engagement: That we are known both as academic researchers and artist/printmakers ensures a wide range of public engagement. The Wytham Studio proposed and manages The Wytham Room Exhibition of Art and Science at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, and is behind an ongoing series of researcher-driven films shot at Wytham in the series known as “The Laboratory with Leaves” which are designed to make visually compelling introductions to the ecological research undertaken at the woods. The Wytham Studio is regularly open to the public and undertakes public printmaking teaching workshops for schools, fine art colleges, and local groups. We coordinate regular arts and science events in the woods and exhibit at galleries and museums locally and nationally throughout the year. Our current main project, which has significant public engagement is a five year collaboration with Japanese National Living Treasure Isezaki Jun and a team from Japan’s ceramics town of Bizen to build two traditional Anagama Kilns at Wytham Woods.
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