Skip to content

Duncan Higgins


Nottingham School of Art & Design


Duncan Higgins is Professor of Visual Art, Director of the Centre for Artistic Research and Bonington Gallery Committee Chair.

Professor 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.

Preview Professor Higgins work

Career overview

Currently Professor Higgins is also Professor of Fine Art at Bergen National Academy of Art and Design, Norway. In 2006 Professor Higgins was awarded a three year National Endowment for Science Technology and Arts (NESTA) fellowship. Professor Higgins was previously Joint programme leader for Fine Art at NTU and Visiting lecturer in Fine art at a number of art schools in UK, Scandinavia and Europe.

Research areas

unloud and Down On The Farm - 2004 ongoing - in collaboration and partnership with Solovky State Museum Reserve Russia. Artefacts consisting of over 2000 paintings, films, watercolours, drawings, edition of 100 artist books with single authored text, Museum publication, web site and educational programme.
On-going research can be found here
Previous iterations can be found here.

The current iteration of unloud and Down On The Farm will be critically evaluated through a series of one-person and collaborative exhibitions, publications, web presence and education programme resulting from a collaborative invitation that builds on the continual development of ‘unloud’ started in 2004. unloud and Down On The Farm is using artistic research to articulate and contribute to the dialectic narratives that are forming from the legacy of particular Soviet histories. This is situated through a unique study of The Solovki archipelago, site of the most sacred founding Russian Orthodox monastery that was also Stalin’s ‘mother’ of Russian gulags. unloud and Down On The Farm utilises artistic research methods to explore and contests how to (re) integrate images and actions through art into historically active conversations concerning both shared history and contemporary narrative experiences and voices of violence  - questions the representation of and contribution to particular narrative episodes of 'contested sites, spaces and places'.
The work articulates with contemporary questions of ethics and representation addressed in particular by the Russian painter Borisov, filmmakers Goldovskaya and Goddard and theorists Herling, Agamben, Arendt, Applebaum, Ratushinskaya and Didi-Huberman. The distinctive contribution to this debate is to situate painting in relation to the contested role of documentary photography and film-making, both through the process by which it came about, and its form when presented.  Higgins’ on going 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 which unloud has been tested through invited international contexts.  Formative exhibitions included; unloud
Solo exhibition of unloud paintings, The National Gallery of Art. Kaunas Lithuania. 31.8 – 2.9. 2012. Consisting of 1,927 paintings, each painting 10x8cms, 58 drawings, unloud - book, unloud - film and artefacts. Also exhibited in different critical iterations at Czech National Centre of Culture, Prague 2012, Russian Centre for Culture and Science, Prague 2012, Royal Festival Hall and South Bank Centre, London, 2009. Publications including unloud, RGAP and Cornerhouse Manchester in collaboration with Solovki State Museum Russia, 2013, What is unloud?, Bergen Academy of Art and Design Publications, 2008.


1994 – on-going
unloud and Down On The Farm

Artifacts for exhibition, paintings, drawings, texts and photographs, educational resources and publication.
Artistic and educational collaboration between Higgins and The Solovki State Museum Reserve Russia, M. K. Čiurlionis National Museum of Art, Kaunas, Lithuania.

2018 Down on The Farm – Where the eyes never see
Publication – How do we read trauma?
Published by M. K. Čiurlionis Lithuanian National Museum of Art – then touring - a unique and innovative publication that aims to contribute to enhanced public understanding of conflicts in which trauma has been a directly un-represented narrative.

An interwoven polyphonic narrative constructed and collated by Higgins from 14 years of conflict testimony from fieldwork in Russia and former soviet countries. The book takes a highly innovative and unique book design of texts, images and a ‘book within a book’ – the book will utilise a pioneering technique of laser cutting a ‘pocket’ for a 2nd book to be inserted inside the main book – the 2nd book is translated in both Lithuanian and English is the life testimony of a 92 year old gulag survivor who reflect on her life after deportation with her family at the age of 8 years.

The books construction proposes to ask: how do we read and discuss trauma and social narratives of conflict? It is designed, peer reviewed and edited to sit between documentation, history, poetic fiction, artists publication and educational tool. It is this recognition that The National Museum of Art in Lithuania agreed to publish and distribute Down On The Farm in how it can be an active tool in contributing to our unfolding dialogues with social history, memory studies, museum studies and will be placed in educational institutions to act as a tool to enable the exploration of social narratives and trauma. The book will accompany artistic research produced by Higgins in a serious of international Museum exhibitions, book launches and educational events over the next 3 years.

Where the eyes never see
- Book launch and exhibition
Kunsthall 3.14 Bergen, Norway.09/12 – 11/12

Buffer Fringe Festival 2019_ Urban Glenti – Site specific installation, texts, images, projections and paintings. Home for Cooperation, Nicosia, Cyprus in collaboration with Creative Center for Fluid Territories, UN and Goethe Institute. 26/10

Nothing was up – 48 hours of multiple site-specific installations, screenings, exhibitions, sound works and sculptural installations – Vaksdal, Norway. 01 -03/02

Where the eyes never see
Multiple Site Specific installations – sound and bookwork
Agios Sozomenos, Cyprus. 24 – 27th March

Down on the farm - M. K. Čiurlionis National Museum of Art Lithuania, Mykolas Zilinskas Art Museum
Over 1000 paintings, textiles, works on paper and artist bookwork. 26/04 to 3/06

Down on the farm – City Museum of Art Skopje, Macedonia.
1227 paintings and artist bookwork. 26/06 to 7/08

European dreams – MIKULOV ART SYMPOSIUM "workshop" 2018, 25th year - QUARTER CENTURY
The City of Mikulov, Czech Republic, July 14th - August 11th

2000 on-going

In a Place Like This.
Collaborative research project Johan Sandborg (Norway) & Duncan Higgins (UK)

Peer reviewed Publications.
The publications brings together the work, ideas and discussion that have resulted from 6 years of research within the project. The publications are constructed as an interwoven container and exists in three elements: 5 unique hand bound books, artefacts for exhibition in galleries, museums, public spaces and libraries. Unique printed photographs, paintings and drawings.
A 500page edition containing 230 pages, images and texts. October 2013.
ISBN 978-82-8013-094-5 Available on-line/ebook publication 

Down on the farm – Open Residency
Bloc Projects Sheffield. 21/10 – 3/11

Multiple exhibition iterations consisting of over 350 paintings, video, drawings, sculptural objects, talks and public presentations.

In a Place Like This - Blue book exhibition
Kunstgarasjen - Møllendalsveien 15, 5009 Bergen - throughout October

Where the eyes never see.
Site specific text and sculpture installation
Curated Site specific exhibition in the former Bergen children’s hospital.
Gamle Barneklinikken, Universitetssjukehuset Haukeland, Haukelandsbakken 1, 5009 Bergen 18-21 February

In a Place Like This - Blue book

Exhibition, workshop and conference paper
Open Design for E-very-thing – exploring new design purposes
November 21 – 24, 2016 Hong Kong, China
Hosted by the Hong Kong Design Institute

Creative Centre for Fluid territories: People-place-processes
Convening a one-day international symposium. Presentations and Round table discussion
11.11.2016, Architecture Research Center. Architecture Department- University of Nicosia
Curated Group Exhibition
7-11.11.2016, Architecture Research Center. Architecture Department- University of Nicosia

Clash – Part 2
Curated by Higgins and Souto – 9 International artists group exhibition at The Bag Factory Johannesburg throughout September 2016

Clash – part 1

Ithuba Gallery, Braamfontein, Johannesburg South Africa. 9-16 September. Curator and contributor to a 72 hour creative workshop and group exhibition exploring the representation of conflict; 22 artists from South Africa, UK, Finland and Tanzania. Curated in Partnership with Amnesty International, British Council South Africa and Civicus.

2014 ongoing

In a Place Like That – Orkney and Odda
Co authored and curated exhibition Reid Gallery Glasgow School of Art 16-21 September
The first iteration of a collaborative research initiative between Bergen Academy of Art and Design, Glasgow School of Art and Nottingham Trent University. Seed funded by Creative Scotland.

BOOK LAUNCH 'In a Place Like This': 3 publications.
Johan Sandborg & Duncan Higgins in Dialogue with Alistair Payne - Thursday 13 March
Litteraturhuset i Bergen, Østre Skostredet 5-7 Bergen Norway


In a place like this

Sensuous Knowledge conference paper Sandborg and Higgins, paper delivered in a live setting of an exhibition that introduced, expanded upon and explored the research project:
In A place Like This. Rm8. Bergen, Norway. 23.01 - 25.01.2013
Paintings, photographs and digital photo display frames.

Sensuous Knowledge – 23 – 25 January 2013. Bergen Academy of Art and Design
The Sensuous Knowledge Conferences started in 2004 as an international venue for presentation and discussion of artistic research projects.
The overriding purpose of these three-day working conferences is to contribute to the creation and refining of a discourse for critical reflection on artistic research.

Platform: In the Making
Group exhibition
: Anna Barham, AUDiNT (Toby Heys + Steve Goodman), Ben Cain, Brigid McLeer, Duncan Higgins, Elizabeth Price, Graham Ellard & Stephen Johnstone, Hester Reeve, James Brown, Jerome Harrington, Mat Do, Richard William Wheater, Ross Jardine, Sarah Staton, Simon Blackmore, Sonya Dyer, Tom Woolner
Celebrating Site's Platform programme, Platform: In the Making, brings back to the gallery 15 artists and collectives who carried out residencies with us over the past seven years. The exhibition considers the impact the residency had on the artists' practice.
29 March - 1 June 2013
Site Gallery Sheffield


Five by Five

5 days of screenings of unloud films
Monday 24 September – Friday 5 October 2012
Bonington Gallery, Nottingham.

Topographies of the obsolete

Site specific text installation exploring place memory and cross cultural place narratives
Text and unfired earthenware.
Closed Spode Ceramics factory Stoke. September 2012

In this place

Odds. Site-specific temporary text installation
as part of 'Odds' an international exhibition and seminar
exploring 'place – the post industrial ruin'
in Odda, Hardangar Fjord Norway. 10 to 13 October 2012

Losing Darkly.
8th November 2011. Bonington Gallery. Nottingham
Bergen Kunsthall, Bergen, Norway. 25 April 2012
40 minute looped projection of images, moving images and music.
Images. Duncan Higgins. Music. Ken Hyder. Editing. Fred Perkins


Solo exhibition of unloud paintings parts 1+2+3
The National Gallery of Art. Kaunas Lithuania.
31.8 – 2.9. 2012
Consisting of 1,927 paintings, each painting 10x8cms,
58 drawings,
unloud - book,
unloud - film and artefacts.


unloud. Down on the farm.

Solo Exhibition
National Academy of Arts in Warsaw, Poland.
September to October.

Tracing Mobility: Cartography and Migration in Networked Space.
23rd November to 12 December. Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin

Losing Darkly.
40 minute looped projection of images, moving images and music.
Images. Duncan Higgins
Music. Ken Hyder.
Editing. Fred Perkins
8th November. Bonnington Gallery. Nottingham
23RD November. USF Verftet, Bergen, Norway.

Antiphony fuge

Live performance with projected images of Solovki archepelago, live sound and music manipulation.
The Harley. Sheffield. 25 October.
Room B122 Nottingham Trent University. 4th May

Down on the farm.
Dlezew, Poland.
Site specific installation of texts, sculptural objects and photographs on a disused farm in a small village in Dlezew.
30 April to 6 May

Lead artists in a creative workshop in Dlezew Poland between artists and students from The National Academy of Arts in Warsaw, Poland and The Bergen National Academy of Arts, Norway
30th April to 6th May

flowers violence landscapes

Rom8. Vaskerelven 8. Kunsthogskolen i Bergen, Norway
Joint exhibition with Johan Sandborg.
1- 8 April 2011

white flowers + an elephant in the room

A one day conference organised by Johan Sandborg and Duncan Higgins as part of FS3 – a series of annual seminars examining the role of the photograph in contemporary art today. Held at Bergen National Academy of Art Norway.
Speakers included:
Writer Lesley Chamberlain, Associate Professor Susie Linfield, Professor John Roberts, Johan Sandborg, Duncan Higgins and artists Jannicke Olsen


Outdoor projection.15 minute looped film.
Vaskerelven(city centre), Bergen, Norway.
Various dates and locations. April 2010.


Solo exhibition of 1600 paintings.
The Czech Centre Prague.
10 February 2010 – 20 March 2010


Solo exhibitions, book launch and film screening.
Russian Centre for Culture and Science Prague.
17 – 30 March 2010.

The two exhibitions were made in collaboration with the Czech and Russian Cultural ministries in Prague, as part of the 20years celebrations since Soviet rule. This was the first collaboration in 20 years between the two ministries.
The exhibition was also selected to be a partnership event included in the ONE WORLD International Human Rights festival in Prague. 10 – 18 March 2010.



Projection installation.
Leeds General Infirmary Chapel. Collaboration with artist Henry Tietzch Tyler.
25 November

*Periphery. Installation as part of the Out There Festival Great Yarmouth
Contribution of an image and text for *periphery Publication Edited by Aaron Juneau, Jonathan Watts and Harriet Mitchell
YH485 Press, September 2009


Site specific installation
Gallery Kronborg Bergen, Norway.
Throughout September 2009.


Solo exhibition Royal Festival Hall and Spirit Level. South Bank Centre, London.
1600 Paintings, 17 video work installation, outdoor projection on Royal Festival Hall, drawings, book launch and film screening.
During the exhibition I lead a NESTA creative seminar exploring how artistic practices can engage in the intercultural exchange of new knowledge, can construct cultural memory and enable new artistic initiatives.
Throughout September 2009.


book launch and film screening.
Site Gallery Sheffield.
Collaborative event with Dust Designers, Research Group for Artists Publication (RGAP) and Site Gallery.
19 June 2009.

unloud projections.
Solovki State Museum Reserve and Salon for Arts, Arkhangelsk Russia. 2 inter-related site specific solo exhibitions.
16 January - 3 February 2009.

unloudFilm screening and unloud video installations.
Nygardsdaten 2A, Bergen, Norway.
Various dates March/April 2009.

Tethervision podcast. Joanne Lee and Duncan Higgins in conversation, to be broadcast June 2009. Thether Group Nottingham.



Solo exhibition of 1600 paintings.
Bonington Gallery Nottingham. 7th to 28th November 2008.

Solovki - Sound, Image and Memory
Curated live collaboration with Concert Organist Graham Barber. three hour durational multi-video projections and live organ music.
Sheffield Cathedral. 2 November 2008


Site specific video installation.
Solstrand, Bergen, Norway. 23 - 25 September 2008.

Loud and unloud

Curated live church organ music and projected images.
Collaboration with organist Graham Barber. St Bartholomew's Church, Armley Leeds.
15 June.

"A Space to Think Outside the Body"An exhibition of Digital Drawing curated by Frank Abbott at Southwell Artspace, Nottingham.
Saturday 15 March to Saturday 26 April

Drawing out.

Curated exhibition.
58 Drawings of imagined Russian cinemas. Bonington Gallery, Nottingham.
21 April – 9 May



One Person exhibition of paintings, video, drawings and talk.
Pushkin House, London
18th December 2007 to 22 January 2008


One person exhibition of texts, paintings, video and drawing.
Solovki State Museum Reserve. Russia
October 2007 – February 2008

58 cinemas

58 Cinemas constructed in various locations on the Solovki Archipelago.
Solovki Archipelago Russia.
October 2007.


One-person exhibition of painting, drawings and video.
Fodal Centre. Kjollefjord, Norway.
July 20 – 5 August 2007.


One-person exhibition of painting, drawings and video.
Centre for Art. Oulu, Finland.
August 10 – 20 2007.


One-person exhibition.
Site Gallery, Sheffield.
15 – 18 November 2006.

unloud - "Little things".

One-person exhibition.
The Museum of Fine Arts Arkhangelsk. The Art Salon of Arkhangelsk, Arkhangelsk, Russia.
17TH March – 31 March 2006.


unloud. Prt 1.
One-person exhibition.
The Museum of Fine Arts Arkhangelsk. The Art Salon of Arkhangelsk, Arkhangelsk, Russia.15 July – 20 August 2005.

External activity

  • Arts Council England and Esmie Fairburn Foundation artists Mentor
  • External examiner for Brighton University
  • Peer reviewer for Austrian Research Council

Sponsors and collaborators

  • The Hermitage
  • St Petersburg
  • British Council
  • Creative Scotland
  • The Lithuanian National Museum of Art Kaunas,
  • South Bank Centre, UK
  • Arts Council England (ACE)
  • Finmark Fylkeskommune Norway
  • Committee for Culture for Arkhangelsk Oblast, Russia
  • RGAP artists publishers
  • Czech and Russian Cultural ministries in Prague
  • National Academy of Art Warsaw and Barents Regional Council.

It includes awards: A three year National Endowments Individual award from NESTA, individual grant Arts Council England, research funding from Bergen Academy of Art and Design and research funding from Solovki State Museum Russia.


Full list of publications can be found by clicking on 'go to publications' link above.

Selected publications:

HIGGINS, D. and HARRISON, G., 2011. Response and Responsibility, In DHUPA, V. and TILLER, C., (eds) An Eye on Intercultural Dialogue, London: VSDB Publishing, pp.9-12, ISBN 978-0-9565027-1-1

HIGGINS, D., 2009. Unloud. Cromford, Derbyshire: Research Group for Artists Publications (RGAP), ISBN-978-0-9558273-5-8.

HIGGINS, D., 2008. Unloud, An edition of the Sensuous Knowledge series ""Focus on Artistic Research and Development"" No.05, Norway: Bergen National Academy of the Arts (KHIB), pp.39, ISSN 1890-2154 "

HIGGINS,D. and Sandborg,J., 2013.In a Place Like This, Norway: Bergen Academy of Art and Design Norway.

See all of Duncan Higgins's publications...

Press expertise

Professor Higgins is willing to discuss topics in relation  to art and design curriculum and pedagogy, art research, Bonington Gallery and International art networks