Duncan Higgins

Professor II i visuell kunst
Kontor:Fjerde etasje, Vaskerelven 8

Duncan Higgins is Professor II in Visual Art at Fine Art Department at Bergen Academy of Art and Design.

Duncan Higgins uses painting to explore how to (re) integrate images through art into historically active conversations concerning both shared history and contemporary experience of violence. He explores how the production of painting can communicate an understanding of violence, faith and place through a research process involving the production of paintings, photographs, videos, texts, critical reflection and fieldwork.

Area/s of Expertise

Practice and theory: painting, cinematography, image making, drawing, critical contexts of art production, research based teaching, critical and reflective writing.

Artistic Research Projects

The project 'unloud' is a body of work that grew from a study of The Solovki archipelago*, a north Russian monastery that was part of the Soviet gulag.

The work articulates with contemporary questions of ethics and representation addressed by painters including Luc Tuymans and Gerhard Richter, filmmakers such as Marina Goldovskaya, Claude Lanzmann and Martens and theorists Aby Warburg, Giorgio Agamben and Georges Didi-Huberman. The distinctive contribution of 'unloud' to this debate is to situate painting in relation to the traditional (and contested) role of documentary filmmaking, both through the process by which it came about, and its form when presented. Higgins' experience of Solovki - richly textured and 'non-linear' - was necessary to, and reflected in, the multiple narratives available in the work as displayed.

The effectiveness of this approach is indicated by the settings in whichunloudhas been tested through invited international exhibitions, events, publication, teaching, research papers and the production of artifacts.  Formative exhibitions included Lithuanian National Museum of Art, Kaunas, 2012; Czech National Centre of Culture; Prague 2010; and Russian Centre for Culture and Science Prague 2010; Royal Festival Hall, London, 2009. It has generated publications including 'unloud'; RGAP; Cornerhouse, Manchester with Solovki State Museum Russia, 2013; 'What is unloud?' Bergen Academy of Art and Design, Sensuous Knowledge Publications, 2008.

* The Solovetsky Islands, often referred to as Solovki in northwest Russia is a remote archipelago of islands known for their scenic beauty and has long been used for both retreat and exile. Founded in the 15th Century, its' monastery is one of Russia's most famous and holy, and became a major pilgrimage destination - but it was also a place of exile and in the 20th Century was used as one of the first and largest brutal Soviet Gulag prison camps.

'In a place like this'

The project 'In a Place Like This' is building on the project 'unloud'. It investigates particular relationships between place-identities and a questioning of the relationship between place and their visual narrative constructions. Like 'unloud', it does not take 'place' to be an a-priori but something that is under constant negotiation. Using a variety of media including painting, video, sound, photography, collaboration and texts it reflects in particular on the role of photography in constructing place-memory and cultural identity through a variety of methods and site specific installation. This practice has generated fieldwork, exhibition in a variety of international contexts, events and publications. The eproject has explored how art can potentially define and re-define the relationship to material and conceptual understandings of particular post industrial and post cold war sites, in Poland, Russia, Lithuania, Norway and the UK.

Like 'unloud' the work articulates with contemporary questions of ethics and representation addressed by writers such as W. G. Sebald, Anne Applebaum and Hannah Arendt and artists such as Kestutis Grigaliunas, Robert Smithson and Susan Hiller. The work is not aiming to document these places, but to open a discursive space for critical dialogue about them, this has involved Higgins' reflection on archival material, field work and the production of artifacts representing their history as it is re-integrated into the narratives that define them and direct responses constituted in the art work itself. The distinctive dialogue contributing to the debate is how the work has positioned itself in a variety of forms, creating multi layered narrative possibilities in contested cultural sites. In light of recent social and political events concerning the identities of the specific locations identified in the research, combined with the reportage that currently exits in the public domain, the work positions itself in one of our unfolding 'frontiers of geographical uncertainty' (Simon Schama 2006).


Johan Sandborg, Associate Professor, Bergen Academy of Art and Design (KHiB)

Bergen Academy of Art and Design; Solovki Museum; The Hermitage; UNESCO; British Council; Creative Scotland; ACE; Lithuanian National Museum of Art; South Bank Centre; National Academy of Arts, Warsaw; Finmark Fylkeskommune, Norway; Icelandic Academy of Arts; Ingmar Bergman foundation; Kulturkapital, Sweden; NESTA; Committee for Culture for Arkhangelsk Oblast, Russia; Barents Regional Council; Museum of Occupation Riga, Latvia; British Ceramics Biennale (BCB); The Spode factory, Stoke; Oslo National Academy of the Arts (KHiO); Bergen University; KINOKINO, Norway.

Odds, Hardanger Fjord, Norway, 2012 
Losing Darkly, Bergen Kunsthall,Bergen, 2012
Down on the Farm, Dlezew, Poland, 2011 and publication by National Academy of Arts, Warsaw funded by EEA, Tracing Mobility Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, 2011
Re: Place, Vaskerelven, Bergen, 2010
Flowers Violence Landscapes, Rom8. Vaskerelven 8, Bergen Academy of Art and Design, 2011
White Flowers & an Elephant in the Room, 2011
Re: Place projections, Solovki, Russia, 2009

Recent activity by Duncan Higgins:

Duncan Higgins part of group exhibition in Berlin

Flowers Violence Landscapes at Rom8 (mars 2011)


Image: Duncan Higgins & Johan Sandborg, from the artistic research project 'In a Place Like This'.

Publisert: 14.10.2011 av Peter Klasson Oppdatert: 04.11.2016 av admin