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Kate Johnson

Artist and Lecturer in Design

Kate Johnson

What is your area of study/research?

I am a recently appointed artist and lecturer in the faculty of Engineering and Informatics and although not an engineer myself, some of my interests and experience converge with engineering. My area of expertise is design, which regularly overlaps with a variety of aspects of engineering.

Building on a recent sculptural life-size piece, ‘Man and Machine’, executed for the 2011 British Science Festival which depended upon reverse engineering processes implemented by colleague Dr Fin Caton-Rose, I am currently designing an art piece in association with the ‘Fragmented Heritage’ project being undertaken by University of Bradford archaeologists.

What influenced you to study/research in your field?

I am interested in our ability as humans to communicate ideas and cultural values through the making of artefacts. This current art piece, conceived in spring 2014, involves the creation, ceremonial destruction and subsequent refitting of fragments of an eleven foot high figurative sculpture, which I am currently sculpting in clay.

What inspires you to continue in your field?

The sculpture is being constructed on an armature built by the engineering workshop to accommodate up to 1500 kilos of clay. It is fascinating yet terrifying to feel the sculpture sway in one direction or another as more weight is applied to the piece.  I am always aware that if the armature was inadequate, the sculpture could topple over at any time. It pleases me to know that this project shows how engineering research can feed into sculptural practice.

The sculpture will be cast in a special mortar mix which has been developed for purpose within the faculty. The mortar had to have a high compressive strength and not require an internal structure. Now the challenge is to build a trestle bridge to function in the sculpture’s ceremonial destruction.  The ceremony will be filmed using the expertise of faculty and students from the School of Media, Design and Technology, and the fragmented pieces will be put back together using cutting-edge refit technology being developed by university archaeologists.

What would you say to young females to encourage them to progress into your field?

It is important that women never stop venturing into spheres which men have traditionally dominated.  There may be significant prejudices to overcome, but it is necessary for women to be functioning in those spheres.

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