A collaboration between two Schools at Nottingham Trent University (Art and Design and Arts and Humanities) and New Contemporaries, the PhD is titled Archives and ‘Contemporaneity’: art schools, art institutions and the cultural economy, and is supervised by Professor Tom Fisher. It is a key element in the university’s multi-disciplinary engagement with cultural life through critical and creative practice. It builds on an archive relating to the history of New Contemporaries going back to 1949, when it started as ‘Young Contemporaries’. Through the second half of the C20, selecting and curating the annual open submission exhibitions and events associated with New Contemporaries – showing the ‘pick of the crop’ of each year’s art school graduates – has reflexively characterised the culture of the moment. New Contemporaries has had a role in defining what it means to be ‘contemporary’. This has defined contemporaneity in art, and articulated the relationship of art school education to wider culture.
The purpose of the research is to extend from the extant archive material to understand what this reflexive relationship played out through curation and selection has amounted to. The research process will take advantage of contacts with still living participants in New Contemporaries. Given that many of the artists who have been selected for New Contemporaries are still alive, as are many of the selecting panel members, the archive work will be combined with oral-history interviews. One consequence of the work will be to feed the results of both aspects of the process into New Contemporaries public face through web access to the enhanced archive.