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The Shivering Sands – notes on defining an artistic practice PhD

“It looks as if it had hundreds of suffocating people under it—all struggling to get to the surface, and all sinking lower and lower in the dreadful deeps!”  The Moonstone, Wilkie Collins, 1868, (

The Shivering Sands
In September 2011, I was asked to more clearly define my artistic practice and the methodologies I intended to employ to undertake my research enquiry for my PhD studies.

 While vaguely aware from comments heard at various post-graduate seminars that there were difficulties still, with the definition, criteria and evaluation of art-practice PhDs, even though arts practice PhD’s had been around since 1997 (but only since 2006 in Ireland), I felt relatively comfortable with this requirement (which contrasts the many uncertainties I often face with the direction of own artistic practice). After all, no doubt the quality of the enquiry would ultimately rest on the clarity and framework of the aims set out and methodologies employed.  My general ease with this proposition was that I have a considerable background in my early working life in scientific research and writing so I imagined that defining the research and outlining the methodologies shouldn’t be too difficult. However, as I was to find, almost most each word in the first sentence that I began this article with now seems uncertain; as shifting, and shivering as Wilkie Collin’s deadly and mysterious quicksand.

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