Rob St John

Rob St John 2021

PhD Cohort 2021

HEI: University of Glasgow

Funding: AHRC DTP

Project Title: Exploded Scales, Island Imaginaries: The New Landscape in Art and Geography

Supervisor: Prof Hayden Lorimer

What was your research about?

My PhD research examined Geohumanities responses to Anthropocene environments. First, it traced a mid-20th century Geohumanities ‘pre-history’ through the archive of Hungarian artist and educator György Kepes, mapping the emergence of two discourses of socio-ecological concern and artistic practice, Landscape and Environment. Second, it diffracted insights from this period through contemporary research-creation on the former military Finnish Archipelago island of Örö to develop Geohumanities practices based on the interstices of site, skill and theory.

The PhD addressed key contemporary debates over the forms and function of Geohumanities research and practice through the documentation of detailed and reflexive research-creation. The PhD research resulted in a written thesis, a film/sound installation, and an artists’ book.

What made you apply for the SGSAH AHRC DTP?

I was attracted by the potential to spend an extended period of time reading, researching and experimenting with ideas across art, geography and ecology.

Which aspects of your PhD did you enjoy the most?

A key challenge – but one that proved creatively enjoyable – was to map how art and research were entwined in understanding Anthropocene environments, both in my own practice, and that of others.

How has your PhD helped you to decide on a career path?

The PhD ran alongside my own self-employed practice as an environmental artist and writer.

It has helped strengthen and deepen my critical understandings of my own work, and that of others, and given me new awareness of the complexities of contemporary ecological crisis.

And now?

This year I have had sound installations at the British Museum, London and Tramway, Glasgow, and I’m currently working on my first book.

One piece of advice you would give an incoming PhD researcher?

Trust yourself, your ideas and your capabilities. It’s easy to get lost in the opinions and achievements of others, but it’s pretty vital to remember that you’re doing something unique and important, and not to lose sight of the spark that drew you to your work.

Where can people find you?