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Helen Collett

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your background?

I am an artist and researcher based in Manchester. I graduated from Interactive Arts (BA Hons) at Manchester School of Art and went on to tutor within the faculty whilst leading the curatorial artist-led residency programme, Lionel Dobie Project, and working as part of a collaborative duo with Lois Macdonald, Helen-Lois, exploring themes of creative discursivity and social practice. 

I am now a fellow of the 24-hour-art-bar/Barbican-of-the-North, The White Hotel (Salford), and recently designed a record cover for our regular classical residents, Manchester Collective.  Thinking about our obsession with social lubricants in our hosting of culture, my current work conceives ‘wine praxis’ as a performative act of inquiry into our understanding of artistic reasoning and motive.

What made you want to apply to your MA course and to Leeds?

When I began to feel that I needed to re-rigorise my practice after spending years away from the critical environment of an art school, a part-time MA (allowing me to work alongside my study) seemed like the best way to focus. 

I chose Leeds because I wanted to study in a Northern city (the best bases to go anywhere & do anything) that had an art offering of both well-known institutions and an active artist-led scene.  The faculty within University of Leeds appealed because it mixes up practice and theory, you can mingle between those working in the studio and those critiquing it.

What aspects of the course did you enjoy the most?  

Ongoing tutorials and crits mean I have had to think deeply and communicate about my practice in a way that has breathed renewed confidence into my work.

You sometimes find yourself going down a research path or type of making that you just could not predict because you are surrounded by so many different forms of knowledge and expertise. Because we are in a school with so many critical theory courses, it has been so invaluable to simply absorb some of the lectures and talks from such varied thinkers.

What would you say about the learning facilities in your School and at the University in general?

The faculty is based in a scenic building at the top of campus (great studio views) with basement workshops for practical work and a project space that you can exhibit in - it ticks the vital boxes for studio practice: space and resources.

Personally, I found myself drawn to the many libraries that the university boasts - the Brotherton is such a beautiful place to explore an incredible collection of art history books and once I started wandering the aisles of philosophy  history, I found myself there for hours at a time. 

Did you work closely with a particular tutor or member or the University’s academic staff? 

Being a studio-led course, we meet up as a group in weekly sessions led or coordinated by our programme director, Chris Taylor.  Apart from personally overseeing our singular and overall journey throughout, he makes sure our work is exposed to a variety of specialists from within the university and beyond through presentations and seminars.  The inter-institutional symposium and a recent series, Bodies of Difference, led by Griselda Pollock are memorable encounters that come to mind.

What do you plan to do now you’ve finished your course, and how do you think the skills and knowledge you’ve developed at Leeds will help with these plans?

The nitty-gritty of studying at masters level shows you that there is an incredible world of practice-led research that can be accessed and nurtured by art schools.  We have been pushed to develop our critical, as well as practical skills, in a way that makes you feel more assertive about your research methods within an academic setting & beyond.  Once you catch the research bug, it snowballs - I am hoping to pursue a practice-led PhD exploring one of the bigger questions that my masters work has brought to light.