Michelle Atherton

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Michelle Atherton

Senior Lecturer in Fine Art


I am an artist, researcher and Senior Lecturer in Fine Art working with images, temporal states and contingency. The starting point for the artworks is often lens-based taking an experimental approach to such concerns as the resistance of space in and through the image.

The artworks take a range of forms often incorporating video, photography, sound, collage and text, drawing, and sited interventions which informs my interest in multidisciplinary teaching.

My work is shown widely throughout Europe in variety of contexts including galleries and museums, festivals and conferences, and as live projects and through publications. My work has been supported by the Arts Council and Arts and Humanities Research Council.


My artworks and research-led practice involves working with images, temporal states and contingency. The starting point for the artworks is often lens-based, taking an experimental approach to such concerns as the resistant space in and through the image. Part of my research is exploring the rhetoric of the image, its materiality and our encounter with it. The work is critically focused on grappling with the negative, not in terms of valourisation, rather through a rehabilitation of its role in art practice.

The artworks take a range of forms often incorporating video, photography, sound, collage and text, drawing, and forming sited interventions. This multidisciplinary approach allows me to deploy a number of artistic strategies and informs my approach to practice teaching. The works aim to function critically as a series of after or pre-images.

The work has been exhibited throughout Europe including Kunstraum and Atelierhaus Salzamt Gallery, Linz, Austria; Tatton Park Biennale UK; Kino Babylon, Berlin; Zeppelin Museum, Germany; RAF Cosford, UK; Linergallari Tallinn, Estonia; and the Dagmar de Pooter Gallery, Antwerp, Belgium. Recent conference contributions include at the Department of Art and Art History and the College of Liberal Arts, Arlington University, Dallas (supported by the Institute for Sustainability and Global Impact); 6th Space and Place Global Meeting, Mansfield College, Oxford University, Oxford; the WaterWheel World Water Day Symposium, an international conference with participating researchers, artists and activists from twenty-five countries; and Water: Image Conference at University Plymouth.

My writing has appeared in such art journals as EROS and Contemporary Issues Magazine and I have been an art reviewer for Modern Painters, Art Monthly and Contemporary Arts Magazine. My work has been supported through the Arts and Humanities Research Council and Arts Council UK.


Subject area

Fine Art


BA (Hons) Fine Art
MFA and MA Fine Art
Postgraduate Supervision PhD


MFA Studio Methods


Current research projects

Trilogy (working title)

A research project using the tourist trip as a methodological starting point for artworks culminating in a trilogy of video works. Here travel becomes a means to gather foundational material and as a springboard for making works that refer back to the complexity of our experiences. To date the series encompasses the completed works Dreams of Flying and ARP (Absorbing red photons) with the final piece in development having been initiated through a recent studio residency at BANFF, Centre for Arts and Creativity, Alberta Canada.

Stimulated Heritage Laboratory is an interrogation at the limits or outer reaches of heritage in today’s culture, situated beyond the identification of obvious monuments and well-established frameworks. The aim here is to navigate away from stabilising features of traditions and to test more disruptive heretical boundaries in formulating art works and curatorial practices that inhabit the more unofficial and ephemeral sites. This research is undertaken through partnerships, to date with Jette Gejl, artist and academic at the Department of Art History at Aarhus University, Denmark, and TC McCormack, artist and Senior Lecturer in Fine Art, Sheffield Hallam University. 

The Image Research Group with Rose Butler

A practice-led screening and discussion group centred on current debates around the image, primarily through its lens-based form, in terms of production modes, divergent materialities and the methods and particularities of circulation. This open group brings together Sheffield artists, recent graduates and current researchers including postgraduate and undergraduate students from Fine Art at Hallam to engage with regional partners.

Agency Lab 

An artist-led research organisation set up to enable artists to connect with institutions, individuals and processes. We host interactions across different locations and sites to offer a reflective and open platform for equal exchange in generating art projects. Our aim is to sit apart from any existing hierarchical systems when building a creative network. Agency Lab works on two levels – one in terms of its organisation as a research project, in and of itself, and the other in terms of creative networks that enable longer-term projects to develop over time through the Agency, which has to date involved artists, academic staff and students. We have established relationships with institutions and organisations in mainland Europe and in Boston USA, where a colleague and I delivered a research paper and workshop Artists-led organisation: Agency-Lab and the Era of Dissolution, exploring the importance of speculative space within art practice, research and organisational structures at the ‘International Conference on Opportunities in the Arts: Expanding Worlds’, Boston University College of Fine Arts.


Key Publications

Atherton, M. (2015). 'Breathable fabric. Submersion. And Parrotfish: Homotopia Three Unequal Speculations'. E.R.O.S. Homotopia, (6), 217-222. http://erosjournal.co.uk/

Conference papers

Atherton, M. (2015). ARP & Submersive Aesthetics. In Space and Place Project: 6th Global Meeting, Mansfield College, Oxford University, U.K, 3 September 2015 - 5 September 2015.

Atherton, M. (2014). Absorbing red photons : work in progress presentation. In Waterwheel World Water Day Symposium 2014 – 3WDS14, Online Symposium across 30 countries from 5 continents, 17 March 2015 - 23 March 2015. http://water-wheel.net/taps-list

Atherton, M. (2018). Submersive Aesthetics. In 2018 Liquidscapes: Tales and telling of watery worlds and fluid states, International Conference, Dartington Hall, UK, 20 June 2018 - 22 June 2018.

Atherton, M. (2018). Submersive Aesthetics. In Rendering (the) Visible III: Liquidity Conference, Georgia State University, Atlanta USA, 8 February 2018 - 10 February 2018.

Atherton, M. (2012). Absorbing Red Photons. In Water: Image International Conference, Plymouth, UK, 4 July 2012 - 6 July 2012. http://www.plymouth.ac.uk/files/extranet/docs/FoA/ProgrammeWaterImageConference.pdf

Book chapters

Atherton, M. (2022). The invite, the impetus & the chat. In Povall, R., & Osmond, M. (Eds.) Borrowed time: on death, dying and change. art.earth: https://art-earth.org.uk/product/borrowed-time/

Atherton, M. (2021). Park. In Shifting Horizons: Women's Landscape Photography Now. (pp. 62-65).

Atherton, M. (2015). Absorbing red photons : work in progress. In Fuks, S. (Ed.) Water Views : Caring and Daring : Waterwheel World Water Day Symposium 2014 : 3WDS14. (pp. 293-295). Australia: Igneous Incorporated: http://r.water-wheel.net/3wds14ebook.pdf

Theses / Dissertations

Griffin, J. (2022). Aura in the post-digital: a diffraction of the curatorial archive. (Doctoral thesis). Supervised by Mccarthy, P., Ling, Y.F., & Atherton, M. http://doi.org/10.7190/shu-thesis-00481


Atherton, M. (2019). Performance Lecture of the Repository of Irrational Gestures (RIG’s): Dissonance in the era of Fake News. [Performative Lecture]. https://www.bathspa.ac.uk/news-and-events/events/digital-ecologies-ii/

Atherton, M. (2019). RIGs: the repository of irrational gestures - backdrop ♯ IIII 2019. [Looped video work installed in largescale printed imaged with accompanying lights].

Atherton, M. (2018). Repository of Irrational Gestures (RIGs) ♯ 1 (2018). [Video installation looped video with spasmodic disco lights].

Atherton, M. (2018). Repository of Irrational Gestures (RIGs) 2018. [Single screen video installation (15mins)]. https://www.kunstraum.at/index.php/sammlungen?lang=en

Atherton, M. (2017). ARP (Absorbing red photons) 2016. [Video installation].

Atherton, M., & McCormack, T.C. (2015). Desk Mobile No. II.2015. [A site-specific sculpture].


Atherton, M. (2005). Missed the boat: selected solo exhibition. [Portfolio]. Millais Gallery, Southampton.

Atherton, M. (2007). Missed the boat II. [Portfolio]. Linnagalerii, Tallinna Kunsiihoone, Tallinn, Estonia.

Atherton, M. (2011). Dreams of flying. [DVD]. Zeppelin Musuem, Friedrichshaven, Germany.

Shaw, B., & Atherton, M. (2013). BRUTE: Test 1: Transmission Symposium. Co-curated with Michelle Atherton. [Live discursive event]. Centre for Creative Collaboration, London, WC1X 9NG. http://creative-collaboration.net/030513-transmission-brute-test-1/

McCormack, T.C., & Atherton, M. (2015). Always doing something, with somebody, somewhere. [Multiple. including DVD, Print, Assemblage, Drawings]. Atelierhaus Salzamt gallery, Linz, Austria.

Atherton, M., & McCormack, T.C. (2016). A Ragged Gesture. Kunstraum, Linz, Austria. http://www.kunstraum.at/

Atherton, M., McCormack, T.C., & Gejl, J. (2018). As Much About Forgetting. [Mixed media]. Viborg Kunsthal, Denmark. https://viborgkunsthal.viborg.dk/UDSTILLINGER/2018/As-much-about-forgetting


Atherton, M. (2023). The Soil Séance Sessions: Listening to the Soil Season 1 2023. Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest, Haringey, Wandsworth, Sutton & Newham & Vienna & Reichenau an der Rax Audio. https://blogs.shu.ac.uk/c3riimpact/tag/michelle-atherton/

Atherton, M. (2023). Ecstatic Rot LIVE Broadcast 2023. Eden Valley Natural Burial Ground, Kent, UK Audio. http://streams.soundtent.org/2023/streams/utc1_-82d0c6c8-2627-41d5-81b1-e6277c991a62

Atherton, M. (2021). A Celebratory Gathering: Live From the Rowan Tree and the International Space Station. artdorearth; Dartington Hall, UK & Online https://art-earth.org.uk/borrowed-time-a-celebratory-event/


Atherton, M. (2015). ARP III 2015. [Single screen video work].


Atherton, M. (2016). Submersive Aesthetics. Presented at: Submersive Aesthetics, University of Texas at Arlington, Dallas, U.S.A

Atherton, M., & McCormack, T.C. (2016). Artists-led organizations: Agency-lab and the era of dissolution. Presented at: International Conference on Opportunities in the Arts: Expanding Worlds, Boston University’s College of Fine Arts

Other activities

I am currently the undergraduate external examiner for Fine Art at Plymouth University.

Postgraduate supervision

Discursive production of amateur filmmaking: An investigation into how the meanings and potentials of amateur filmmaking are shaped by networks of commercial, institutional, and amateur texts
Reclamation Ground: Creating subversive place to explore frames of power, gender and resistance
Spatial Practices: Image, Ideology and Production in Retail Space

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