Nicola Foster

Associate Professor (Visual Arts)

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School of Social Sciences and Humanities
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Nicola joined the University of Suffolk in October 2022 as an Associate Professor in visual arts, to develop the PhD programme, with an emphasis on practice-based research. Her academic background spans Continental philosophy, art practice, history of art and museum studies. Her research makes full use of her interdisciplinary academic background. She was thus actively involved in the debate that led to the establishment of 'practice-based' research in the UK, and she has a long experience in successfully supporting PhD students in practice-based research and more traditional research approaches in the arts. Nicola is an experienced academic and researcher. She taught visual arts and supervised Research Students at the University of the Arts London, Cardiff University, Arts University Bournemouth, Arts University Norwich, the Open University and Solent University, Southampton, where she continues to supervise PhD students in visual arts.

Nicola was a member of the AHRC College Peer Review (2007-2017), AHRC Panel member, and continues to serve on the AHRC when required. She was a Trustee of the Association for Art History (2011-2017), with a focus on research and museums. She was a member of the Editorial Board of Women's Philosophy Review (1998-2004) and on the Editorial Board of the European Journal of Artistic Research (2011-2016). She served on many museum panels, contributed to exhibitions, and mentored curators. She is currently engaged in preparing to curate the University of Suffolk's art collection, as yet to be made available to the public.

Honorary Affiliations:

Visiting Research Fellow (visual arts), University of Bournemouth

Honorary Research Associate (history of art), the Open University

Nicola's teaching focus is in Research Degrees.

Nicola welcomes inquiries from prospective students in visual arts (practice-based, text based, creative writing or other approaches) to visual art and culture, art institutions, the art market, exhibitions, and cultural practices.

Nicola is currently supervisong the following topics:

Contemporary art interventions in/with/at Natural History Museums

Changing Perceptions of east Asian art: the history or curatorial practices in private and public museums

Walking with Benjamin and Freud in Australia, Japan, and the Philippines

Lafcadio Hearn's contribution to the construction of Japanese culture

Visualising illness

Art and the internet as the unsuspicious

Citizenship and the representation of cultural identity at moments of crisis

Contemporary curatorial practices

The Sharjah Biennials and the construction of located identity

The use, subversion and failures of data

The other story of colonialism: vernacular narratives in the Philippines and Mexico

Commemorating the past in the landscape

Exploring gender constructions and power relationship through fashion

Previous theses include:

Disobedient Daughters: Anna Aitkins cyanotypes

The State Corporate Military Complex: It's Representation, Visualisation and Constitutive Subjectivication - the politics and ethics of war photography and representations of violence

The Home I carry with me: Mapping the Home through drawing practices

Drawing/writing (an) autobiography: uncovering/covering women's space with nushu (women's script)

Drawing and Becoming Otherwise: The Archaeology of Linear Practice

Nicola's current research focus is in exploring the ways in which cultural value is constructed through visual works, curatorial practices and art institutions (museums, galleries, public and private funders, the art market) as well as the role played by their changing publics. Her research explores the way in which the above contribute towards the construction of art works and curatorial practices in the context of gender, race, culture and post/de-colonial debates. Nicola's perspective is philosophical but her focus is on the practice of art and curatorial projects by looking at how it is enacted and materialised in global visual works and curatorial practices. She is interested in facilitating creative practices which construct images and concepts that allow us to discuss the natural and human worlds differently and question existing values towards a more egalitarian and just society.


Selected publications (see ORCID ID: 0000-0001-8623-4884 for full listing)

Guest Editor, Journals

Davidson, J. & Foster, N. (eds) Special Issue:  Restaging Exhibitions,  Journal of Curatorial Studies (Intellect) November 2019

Florence, P. & Foster, N. (eds) Special Issue on Aesthetics, Women’s Philosophy Review, No.25 Autumn 2000

Edited Books:

Florence, P. & Foster, N. (eds) Differential Aesthetics: Art Practices, Philosophy and Feminist Understandings. 2000, Ashgate.


Chapters in Edited Volumes:

'Globalisation, Human Labour and the Poetics of the Sea: Alan Sekula and Ai Weiwei' in Hybrid Marines, (eds) Bryan Biggs and Gabriel Gee,  University of Amsterdam Press, (forthcoming)

'Contemporaneity as Curatorial Practice: Three Exhibitions of “Black Models” as Modernity', in eds. Handberg, K. Hansen, M. Madsen, B. Curating the Contemporary in the Art Museum Routledge 2023

'The Gift: Uli Sigg and the Emerging Chinese Contemporary Art Canon' (Le don : Uli Sigg et le canon émergent de l’art chinois contemporain) pages 92-107, in Orient Extrême : regards croisés sur les collections modernes et contemporaines, (Far East: Crossed Views on Modern and Contemporary Collections) eds. Marie Laureillard & Cléa Patin. (2019) . Lyons, Hemispheres.

‘Anthropology, Mythology and Art: Reading Beuys Through Heidegger’ in Beuysian Legacies in Ireland and Beyond: Art, Culture and Politics, ed. Lerm-Hayes LIT Verlag as part of the European Studies in Culture and Policy series, 2011

‘Nikki de Saint Phalle's Hon: An Ethics Through the Visual?’  in Art, History and the Senses P. di Bello and G. Koureas (eds.) 2010, Ashgate


Refereed Journal Articles

'Curators as Keepers and Exhibition Makers: The British Museum's African Galleries'. Museum History Journal (Taylor and Francis), forthcoming.

'Nushu in Translation: Visual Art and Dance', Journal of Art in Translation,  (Taylor & Francis), Volume 11, issue 4, (393-416), February 2020

'Re-Staging Difference: Re-staging Origin?' Journal for Curatorial Studies, Intellect,  Volume 8 issue 2, (232-258), Nov 2019

'The Art Market and Politics: The Case of the Sigg Collection', Journal for Art Market Studies, on-line, May 2019.

‘”Chineseness”: The work of Lo Yuenyi in Memory of the Women of Nushu', Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art,  Intellect, vol. 3 issues 1&2 (131-152) Autumn 2016

'Photography and the Gaze: The Ethics of Vision Inverted', Parallax Issue 47, vol. 14, number 2, (78-92), Spring 2008

‘The Eurydice Complex', review article on Matrixial Borderspace, Radical Philosophy, January 2008, 

Photography as social Archaeology: Riga’ article and photographs Street Signs autumn 2006, published by the Centre for Urban and Community Research, Goldsmiths College

Review article of Gender and Aesthetics, by Carolyn Korsmeyer & Differences and Excess in Contemporary Art, by Gill Perry, British Journal of Aesthetics, (July 2005, Vol. 45, no 3)

‘Boundaries of Sight and Touch: Memoirs of the Blind and the Caressed’ (Re-Reading Drawing(s): Derrida, Irigaray and Nancy Spero), Published in (CD format) Drawing Across Boundaries, ed. Judith Mottram, LUSAD, 1998. Now also in Tracey Issue 1, 1999, on-line.

Review article,  Feminism and Tradition in Aesthetics, eds. P.Z. Brand and C. Korsmeyer. Women’s Philosophy Review no. 19, Autumn 1998

Review of Body-and Image-Space: Re-Reading Walter Benjamin by S. Weigel. Women’s Philosophy Review, No. 18, Spring 1998.

‘On Husserl’, Women’s Philosophy Review, no. 17, Autumn 1997.

Conference Papers

'Ai Weiwei's Life Cycle: A Hybrid Marine Story', Association for Art History Annual Conference, University of Birmingham 17th April 2021

'Re-staging Practices as Conservation: The conservation of Contemporary Art' in Conservation and Philosophy UCLA on-line, 26th -27th November 2020

'The Heritage of Nushu in Art Works: Literature, Visual Art, Dance, Film and Music, in the biennial conference of the Association of Critical Heritage Studies, University College London (on-line) 26 – 30 August 2020

'Artists and Corporate Organisations: Ai Weiwei and LEGO' in More Than Money: Art In Organisations, University of Amsterdam 20–21 March 2020

'Contemporary Curatorial Approaches: Re-staging Black Models at the Musee d'Orsay', in Curating the Contemporary in the Art Museum, University of Copenhagen 12-13 March 2020

'Exhibition Reconstruction: When Attitudes Become Form, Bern1969/Venice 2013', in 'Reconstruction: Method and Practices in Research, Exhibitions, and Conservation'. University of Cambridge 24-25 February 2020

'The Ethics of Intangible Art' in Bridging the Gap: Conservation of Contemporary Art. University of Maastricht 24th-27th March 2019 

'Decolonising Colonial Artefacts at the British Museum' in Decolonising Heritage: Border Thinking, Border Practices. University of Hangzhou 1st -6th of September 2018

'Bracketing Categories: Contemporaneity' in Changing Global Hierarchies of Value? University of Copenhagen 20th Aug 2018

'A Controversial Contribution to Art and Culture: Jiang Qing and the Cultural Revolution' in Celebrating Female Agency in the Arts, Christie's Education, New York (USA) 26th - 27th June 2018

'Re-Staging the Rent Collection at the 48th Venice Biennale: Re-thinking Temporality', in Re-staging Exhibitions: Past, Present,             Futures? CAA Los Angeles (USA) 23rd February 2018

'The Visual Discourse of “Home” Through the Ideological Divide', joined paper with Fran Norton in Narrating Home in Visual Arts Through an East West Divide. University of Stockholm 24th – 25th January 2018

'Three Contemporary Translations of Nushu: Dance, Music, Visual Art' in Art In      Translation, University of Edinburgh, 16th -17th October 2017

'China at the Venice Biennale: Art and Politics'. The Politics of Display: Collateral Events and Pavilions at the Venice Biennale,           University of St. Andrews 24th of November 2017

'The Contemporaneity of Nushu in the work of three artists: Tan Dun, Helen Lai and Yuenyi Lo', The Contemporary Contemporary, Aarhus Denmark, 16th -18th  June 2017

'The “Opacity” of Contemporary Chinese Art Histories' (AAH Annual Conference) University of Loughborough, 8th April 2017

'Gender and Patronage: 3 Women Collectors of Contemporary Chinese Art'. With Sylvia Schlegel. University of Loughborough, 6th April 2017

'The Promise of Art for an Urban Future'. Imagining the Future: Community Innovation and Social Resilience in Asia. The Chinese University of Hong Kong. 20-23 February 2017

'China Dream meeting another Dream: the case of Uli Sigg'. University of Stockholm, Exploring the China Dream.15-16 August 2016

'The case of Uli Sigg: Collector, Agent, Advisor and Promoter of Contemporary Chinese Art'. Warburg Institute, University of London, Collecting and Display: The Art market, Collectors and Agents: Then and Now 13 July 2016

'Two Exhibitions: The Shanghai Biennial and Guangzhou Triennial. University of Edinburgh' (AAH annual conference). Co-Convenor of the AAH Session: The City in the Biennial. 7-9 April 2016

'Contemporary art Collectors and Emerging art Canon: the Case of Uli Sigg'. Lyon, ESN & Muse des Confluences. The Far East: Collectors and Collections today, 23-24 March 2016

'Thailand and China at the Venice Biennale'. London, Senate        House, The Venice Biennale and the Art Market 3-5 February 2016

'Towards The Construction of an Alternative 'Chineseness' in the work of Yueni Lo' – Indirect Speech, 'Chineseness' in Contemporary Art Discourse and Practice, Art Market, Curatorial Practices and Creative Process, Lisbon 16-19th of March 2015

'Heidegger's Late Work as Conceptual writing' – Annual conference of the American College of Art conference, Chicago 13th Feb 2014

'The Rhythm of East West Dialogues in the work of three Thai Contemporary Artists' – Annual Conference AAH Reading 2013

'The Ipswich Art School in the 1960's' transnational Flows in European Fine Art Education 1900-2000' AAH University of Reading 2013

'Photography: the Materiality of the Event of Art?'  the Association of Art Historians Annual conference at the Glasgow School of Art (April 2010)

‘Photography in the process of globalisation: a new form of (post-) colonisation or the practice through which difference can emerge? Dublin School of Art and Design 27th June – 29th June 2007

Invited respondent and Chair of the Round Table at the Photography Postgraduate Research Conference, University of Wales, Newport July 2006

‘Aesthetic Hybridity and the Dominance of the Visual’, Annual Conference of the Association of Art Historians, University of Leeds, 5-7 April 2005

‘The Use of Philosophy in Art and the use of art in philosophy’ in Uncertainty in Philosophy: The Learning Experience and Research, Regent’s Park College, University of Oxford, 29th October 2005

‘The Ethics of Performance: Yoko Ono and Marina Abramovic’ in East 05: Ethics into Aesthetics, August/October 2005, Norwich School of Art and Design

‘Rethinking Aesthetics: performance and the Object’ Relics of Performance, University of Ulster, Belfast, April 2005

‘The Philosopher and the Poet/Artist: The Resistance of Embodiment and Art in Heidegger’s Ontology’ Society for European Philosophy, 7th Annual Conference, August 26th – 28th, University of Greenwich

‘Philosophy and the Work of Art: Aesthetics, History and Gender’, Discovering Aesthetics, July 2004, 

University College Cork, Ireland

‘Art, Truth and Gender in Heidegger’s Late works’, Aesthetics and Politics, University of Essex, September 2003, Society for European Philosophy

‘Towards an Aesthetics of Difference’ Writing Aesthetics, University of Leeds, May 2003, International Association of Philosophy and Literature


Conference Organiser:

Poetic Translations: Conversations across the Plurality of Arts Disciplines in Visual Art Exhibitions. Large international conference with the support of the visual arts PhD students. Solent University, 16th -17th December 2020.

Double Session Chair (with Jane Chin Davidson) of 'Re-staging Exhibitions: Past, Present, Futures?' CAA, Los Angeles (USA) 21st - 25th February 2018

Session organiser (with Joel Robinson) The City in the Biennale  Annual Conference of the Association of Art Historians, University of Edinburgh 2016

Co organiser of the annual conference of the Association of Photography in Higher Education 2008 at University of West of England

Goldsmiths College, London and the Society for Women in Philosophy: Philosophy, Feminism, Art and Society, Nov 2006

In collaboration with the University of Ulster Relics of Performance, University of Ulster, Belfast 29th April 2005

My research usually involves international collaboration with many academics. I also collaborated with international academics on funded research projects.

Professional Membership and Activities:

Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (since 2001 as ILTM 14321)

Trustee of the Association for Art History (2011-2017)

AHRC, Panel Member and College Peer Review (2007-Dec 2017, present)

Member of the Ipswich Museum Committee (2000-2006)

Member of the Essex University Gallery Panel Group and the Minories Gallery (Firstsite) (1998-2005)

Member of the Association for Art History

Member of the CAA (USA)

Member of ICOM (International Committee of Museums)

Member of the Society for Critical Heritage Studies

Member of the International Network for the Conservation of Contemporary Art

Member of ILAS Institute for Area Studies (Asia & Middle East)

Member of the Art Market Association