Dr. Phaedra Shanbaum (lecturer, Digital Arts and Media Education, UCL Knowledge Lab, Institute of Education, UCL) spoke to us about her research.

CPBRA: Can you briefly outline your research interests and their context in, or link with, your practice?

PS: My research interests lie in digital media and experimental art.  It draws on media and cultural theory, art history and computer science.  It links theory to contemporary digital arts practices exploring the ever-changing relationship between the human body and technology.  I am a curator. My curatorial work examines how the relationship between the human body and technology is staged from within a museum setting as well as the role the curator plays within the larger context of creative industries and academia.

CPBRA: How does research inform your practice, and how does your practice inform your research?

PS: I do not consider my research or practice to be separate things.  One does not exist without the other.  Rather, they co-exist in the sense that they feedback on and inform each other. Teaching plays a very important part in this relationship as well.  Practice-Research-Teaching.

CPBRA: What do you think practice, and your discipline in particular, has to offer the research contexts of universities? Do you think that this influences the way that you create or document your work, or decide to create new works?

PS: Academia is fairly conservative.  Experimental art, as its name suggests, is experimental.  Thus, my practice and my discipline offer different, more experimental, ways of thinking about research and institutions.  I think the experimental-ness of my practice influences my research in that I am willing to take more risks in terms of research. Part of taking this risk means that I am willing to let projects fail, if they need to.   

Phaedra Shanbaum’s research is interdisciplinary. It draws on media and cultural theory, art history and computer science.  It links theory to contemporary digital arts practices, exploring questions surrounding the ever-changing relationship between the human body and technology.  She looks at various iterations of interfaces (remote controls; joysticks; human bodies; temporary implants) and their use in digital media installations raising questions around what it means to be human in the 21st Century.

In addition to her research, she is a digital arts curator.  She has over eleven years of curatorial experience, working at commercial and non-profit galleries, festivals and museums in Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States.  Her curatorial work examines the relationship between aesthetics and new technologies – specifically how this relationship is staged from within a museum setting as well as the role the curator plays within the larger context of creative industries and academia. It also explores links between creativity, consumers and computers, how they feedback on each other and the role the museum and gallery as an institution play in this relationship.

Phaedra presented at this year’s symposium, and you can watch her presentation here.