Alana is a multi- and inter-disciplinary artist and writer, writing theory of art about the role and value of art in society from the perspective of a contemporary practitioner.
Alana comes to the RCA having completed three consecutive five-year post-doctoral research roles. The first two were with University of Cambridge’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Her most recent role was as Vice Chancellor’s Fellow with University of Hertfordshire where, in 2021, she initiated UH’s art:sci:lab.
She is currently working with a virologist to write a book that explores how viruses exemplify the value of diversity as strategies for success – as well as the role that luck plays.
Alana’s doctoral research into art as a democratic act, the interplay of content and context was conducted in the disciplines, fine art practice and art history. Her interest in working across disciplines began as an undergraduate, where she studied philosophy, history and philosophy of science, history of art, gender studies, postcolonialism, which fed into her research into archaeology and social anthropology.
School, Centre or Area
Alana is interested in trying to understand art as a knowledge-forming discipline, akin to any other knowledge-forming discipline. She writes about the role that art plays in society working from first principles and about the relationship between art qua art and democracy.
She is interested ethics, specifically the ethics of artists working with non-artist communities and groups. Her approach to inter- and multi-disciplinary work is guided by the philosophy of Emanual Levinas, namely, the violence of ‘we’ and the unknowableness of the other as Other. In addition, Alana brings the specific sensitivities acquired from working with social anthropologists for nine years and their honed reflexivity around culture and difference.
Alana achieved a BA in painting in 1990 from Victoria College, Prahran, in Melbourne Australia. Since 2000 she has worked across various media, including novel writing, performance, participatory and collaborative practices.
The choice of medium depends on the subject explored in an artwork. For example, to explore colonial relations and the legacy of colonialism today, Alana wrote a novel from the perspective of a nineteenth century Fijian ‘cannibal fork’ in the collections of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge. Whereas to explore the sensation of nature taking back London during lockdown, Alana used painting, specifically birds eye views of the 1 hour of exercise allowable during lockdown.
In addition to working as a practicing artist, Alana has curated exhibitions for various organisations and galleries, including for terra incognita art organisation (1997–2017) as founding director.
Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Network Grant, University of Hertfordshire, ‘Visual Arts and Theatre Collaboration – new models for art practices in post-conflict situations’.
Co-investigator with Sam Jury (PI)
This grant enables a network of artists, theatre practitioners, curators and scholars to research through practice methods the potential of visual art and theatre collaboration to foster new models of practice that enable people in post-conflict situations to reconnect with recent history.
European Research Council Advance Grant with Prof Nicolas Thomas (PI) University of Cambridge
Senior Researcher ‘Pacific Presences: Oceanic Art in European Museums’
This grant enabled research in art practice, art history, museums practice and anthropology from Europe and the Pacific region into the ethnographic collections held in European museums. Alana’s research within the wider project was into the question of repatriation of objects from museums to their host communities, and the specificities of colonialism and independence in the West Papua region.
AHRC Fellowship ‘The Collector’s Desire: Investigating the relationship between collectors, collections and the collected, where the collected is both people and things’, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge
The post-doctoral fellowship enabled Alana to work with anthropologists and archaeologists on issues of representation and knowledge-creation with regard the museum’s collections.
AHRC Doctoral Award
The award funded doctoral research across fine art practice and history of art on the question of art as a democratic act, the interplay of content and context, at Oxford Brookes University.
Kaleid Best Books 2014 for ‘The Fork’s Tale, as Narrated by Itself’ LemonMelon
Current and recent projects
Diversity is Everything: & viruses know it, 2022–24
Collaborative writing project with Reader in Vector Biology, Dr Naomi Forrester-Soto (Keele). The book attempts to work in an inter-disciplinary space, bringing together the knowledge and perspective of a microbiologist with a practicing art, who writes about the role and value of art in society.
The book aims at reframing the value of diversity as existential imperative, over and above the questions of morality and politics.
Visual Arts and Theatre Collaboration – new models for art practices in post-conflict situations, 2022–23
With artist Sam Jury
Collaborative investigation of the intersection of artistic and theatre practices in the specific context of post-conflict Abkhazia. Abkhazia - a country, language and ethnic identity of the Caucasus - was formerly part of the Soviet Union with borders with Russia and Georgia. Until the war in 1992-3, Abkhazia was part of Georgia. It remains unrecognised by the UN.
Cultures of Mediocrity: A Case in Paint, 2023–25
Publications, exhibitions, other outcomes
2020 Between Discipline and a Hard Place: The Value of Contemporary Art (London: Bloomsbury Academic).
2020 ‘Feminist Artivisms: Examples of an art history’ chapter Feminist Art Activisms and Artivisms, Ed Katy Deepwell (Valiz).
2019 ‘Questions of Belonging’ chapter Matters of Belonging: Ethnographic Museums in a Changing Europe, Eds Modest, Thomas, Prilic and Augustat, (Sidestone 2019)
2018 ‘Corporate Censorship’ chapter Censoring Art: Silencing the Artwork edited by Roisin Kennedy, University College Dublin, and Rhiann Coulter, Trinity College Dublin, (London: IB Tauris)
2018 Cherry Laurel (Prunus laurocerasus): Prunus laurocerasus and Other Species’ chapter in Botanical Drift: Protagonists of the Invasive Herbarium edited by Khadija von Zinnenburg Carroll (Sternberg 2018)
2018 ‘In Process’ chapter Pacific Presences: Oceanic Art and European Museums Vol. 2 Eds Carreau et al, (Sidestone 2018)
2018 'Knowing and Not Knowing' chapter Pacific Presences: Oceanic Art and European Museums Vol. 2 Eds Carreau et al (Sidestone 2018)
2017 ‘A Response to the Issues Raised in the Special Edition of Ethnos’ (2015) afterword Special Edition on Ethics of Ethnos: Journal of Anthropology (82:1).
2014 ‘Introduction and Response’ commissioned by the Journal of Visual Art Practice on the publication of This is Not Art: Activism and Other Not Art (I.B.Tauris 2013).
June-Sept 2022 ‘Life in the Time of Covid’ site-specific painting including work by participants, St Pancras Hospital, curated by The Art Project
September 2019 ‘Anobium Punctatum (Woodworm): An Intervention’ is an installation-intervention working with participants, part of Yorkshire Sculpture International at Leeds Art Gallery at the invitation of Rebecca Wade, Assistant Curator at the Henry Moore Institute.
2018 ‘Belonging' audio artwork created as a series of 12 x 10min podcasts. It was created by editing original interviews conducted with indigenous people from across the 'Oceania' region, living in the diaspora away from the countries of their indigeneity.
2015 ‘Knowing’ 48-minute video art made for ‘Pacific Presences: Oceanic Art in European Museums’ funded by European Research Council
2014 ‘The Collector's Set’ funded by Arts Council England, designed by Marit Muenzberg, released chapter by chapter by LemonMelon over 2013, as The Fork’s Tale, as Narrated by Itself, culminating in The Collector's Set.
External collaborations and activities
Alana is currently co-director of Numbi Arts and a trustee of the Somali Museum UK. She is founding co-director of the World Art School, to be launched in 2023.
Horizon 2020 Grant Peer Reviewer European Union.