Chris Dorsett

Professor of Fine Art

Chris Dorsett is an artist and exhibition-maker whose career has been built on cross-disciplinary collaborations with collection-holding institutions (most notably, a pioneering series of projects with the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford between 1985 and 1994). For three decades his activities have situated the aesthetic and political ambitions of experimental fine art within a diverse range of historical and scientific contexts. Thus his CV lists exhibitions set within outstanding national collections (for example, the Royal Swedish Armoury and the Natural History Museum in London) and fieldwork residencies undertaken at ‘collecting’ locations as different as the Institute of Amazonian Research (organised with the Centre for Economic Botany, Kew) and the Chinese walled village of Kat Hing Wai (commissioned by the Arts Development Council of Hong Kong).

Dorsett’s long engagement with the notion of the museum as a creative medium continues to shape his interest in the future of ‘collection holding’ cultures. Recent outputs include a commission to curate Cast Contemporaries, an exhibition about the fate of anatomical and sculpture cast collections in art schools (2012 Edinburgh Arts Festival) and a project instigated with the National Trust (Unfinished Business at Wallington, 2011) in which artists responded to incomplete Pre-Raphaelite murals at Wallington Hall in Northumberland. Dorsett also writes about the evolving interface between contemporary art and the museal for publications aimed at the museum sector. These essays reflect upon attitudes within the arts to the important distinction between exhibited presence and interpreted meaning, a topic that informs Dorsett’s conference presentations which range widely across adjacent interests such as the status of the object in Peircian semiotics and debates about mobile and sedentary environments in cultural geography. Currently, Dorsett is working on trainslidingtalk, a collection of short film/sound works made in collaboration with Volker Straub and David Elliott of the Institute of Genetic Medicine (Newcastle University), in which analogies between stored DNA sequences and museum archives are publically debated during a series of conversations on a local commuter train (Extraordinary Renditions, 2013).