Vice-Chancellor's Creative Research Fellows Scheme

Supported by funding from the Vice-Chancellor, this innovative Scheme is the first of its kind in an Australian University, and demonstrates the high regard in which visual arts and practice-led research is held at the ANU. It aims to promote collaborative research between disciplines in the University and provide opportunities for developing future trans-disciplinary ARC funded projects in which practice-led research and creative design logic would be embedded.

For further enquires contact 

2020 Vice-Chancellor's Creative Research Fellows 


Dr Leah Bullen

Dr Leah Bullen will be collaborating with Professor Stephen Eggins, ANU Research School of Earth Sciences and the Climate and Fluid Dynamics Group (RSES).

My research focusses on sites that reconstruct nature; aquariums, habitat dioramas and botanic gardens. Like the world of images, these locations of ‘virtual nature’ function through the virtual qualities of simulation, liminality, presence and immersion. Virtual nature has become assimilated into scientific systems of knowledge and is integral to raising public awareness about environmental issues. 

I will consider the science laboratory as a site of virtual nature, examining natural systems and processes that are reproduced through means of simulation. I will work between both the Marine Ecology laboratory and the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics laboratory, where the researchers simulate natural environments and natural phenomena. 

The Marine Ecology laboratory reconstructs marine environments in order to better understand environmental, climatic and archaeological events. This can provide crucial information about past climatic and chemical changes in the marine environment, providing data for developing mitigation strategies and modelling for future climatic and environmental changes. The Climate and Fluid Dynamics group simulates a range of natural forces responsible for many large-scale weather patterns, and the movement of ocean currents.

I will observe, visually record and document the workings of these laboratories through drawing and photography. This research will inform the production of works on paper and paintings depicting virtual marine environments, marine species, the science laboratory as a virtual environment and virtual natural phenomena.

Leah Bullen was awarded a PhD in the School of Art & Design, ANU in 2019. Her solo exhibition Biophilia, was presented at the New England Regional Art Museum, Armidale, in 2019.


Dr Pia van Gelder 

Dr Pia van Gelder will be collaborating with the Crawford School of Public Policy, ANU College of Asia Pacific, the Energy Change Institute and the Climate Change Institute.

I will investigate how shifting cultural understandings in energy and the ethics of materials can shape creative practice. The aim of Survival Studio is to facilitate practical discourse about how studio practices can adapt into sustainable enterprises in the face of climate crisis in Australia. 

Engaging in an interdisciplinary collaboration with the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific’s Crawford School of Public Policy, the Energy Change Institute and the Climate Change Institute, the project seeks to realise what is meant by a ‘sustainable studio’ and how an artist can transition to carbon zero or carbon negative, developing a tool kit of methodologies that respond to these challenges. This transition will necessarily inform the work that practitioners make and how they engage with cultural institutions.

My collaboration will draw on ANU researchers’ expertise in environmental management and behaviour of social groups in adapting to climate and environmental issues. Such research parallels my investigation of how artists can adapt and change in the face of climate crisis and how this transition takes place within a community. Survival Studio initiates the possibility of an ongoing interdisciplinary research across art-making, design and environmental and energy research and policy making. The Survival Studio tool kit will take the form of a published manual that includes practical strategies for artists as well as a prototype for a Survival Studio.

Awarded a PhD in Art & Design from UNSW in 2019, Pia van Gelder is a Post Doctoral Research Fellow working across the School of Art & Design and the Centre for Art History & Art Theory, while lecturing in Art and Design.

Image gallery

Updated:  6 January 2023/Responsible Officer:  Head of School/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications