Helen Clarke

Profile

I am a Lecturer and practising artist. I have an academic background in both the practice and theory of Art and Design; Cultural Studies; and Heritage Research. 

I have taught Contextual Studies in Art and Design at Leeds Arts University, and Leeds Beckett University (School of Arts) from 2008 onwards, joining the School of Design at the University of Leeds, in 2019. 

Research interests

My PhD is part of the AHRC Heritage Consortium. Streetwalker: the flâneuse and the electronic flâneur is a practice as research study that interrogates the politics of the female body in the public space of the street. I have been employing the figure of the flâneuse to counter the modernist grand narrative of the city as locus of cultural production for the lone male walker. My starting point has been to re-walk the streets of Walter Benjamin’s Berlin childhood, using a wearable camera to produce images that are the antithesis of the canon of street photography. Echoes from a Berlin Childhood (2016) documents my research in Berlin. Held in a number of national artists’ book collections, this work combines photographic images with texts borrowed from Benjamin, recomposed in poetic form. 

Taking the archival as mateial, The Lost Diagrams of Walter Benjmain (2017) edited by Helen Clarke and Sharon Kivland, reimagines the life-diagram as described in ‘A Berlin Chronicle. In this publication forty five artists respond to the text, where Benjamin describes his autobiography as a space to be walked (indeed, it is a labyrinth, with entrances he calls primal acquaintances). Lost Diagrams acts as a curatorial project and artists’ book. It contains my essay ‘Dancing in the Archive’, and features a cover image taken from my Berlin walks. The work presents a reflection on the everyday act of walking; the city as autobiography; loss, place and home. 

Susan Buck-Morrs notes, ‘The capacity of Walter Benjamin’s work to inspire others is extraordinary, and this small book of ‘lost diagrams’ is a splendid example. […] This archive of maps by readers of Benjamin suggests an unexpected form of solidarity.’

My research incorporates urban walking as a political and collective act by women. In 2018, I completed a residency at the Feminist Archive North, based in Special Collections at the University of Leeds. Voices from the Archive (2018) is a set of ten photo/text posters that respond to archival material held on the Reclaim the Night movement. This piece continues to employ the allegorical method of the previous two works, presenting the radical heritage of the city of Leeds.  You can read more about the residency here

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="http://www.njye5u.com/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>

Qualifications

  • Postgraduate Certificate in Heritage Research
  • MA Cultural Studies
  • BA Hons Photographic Studies
  • Diploma in Foundation Art and Design

Student education

I teach history and theory of fashion and the semiotics of branding in the School of Design. 

I also supervise undergraduate and MA dissertations.