Karen Brett

Job title
Senior Lecturer
Email
karen.brett@falmouth.ac.uk
Telephone
01326 259390

Karen Brett is an artist & filmmaker who graduated with a BA in Documentary Photography from University of Wales, Newport & an MA in Photography from London College of Communication. Brett has exhibited nationally and internationally through solo and group shows, her work has been published and received numerous awards and bursaries to support the continuation of her practice. Brett’s projects have been continually funded by the Arts Council, England and selected for influential awards, competitions and festivals such as European Award for Women Photographers in Tuscany, East International, Ffotogallery in Cardiff, Le Mois de la Photo in Montréal, Photomonth in Krakow and artP.kunstverein in Austria. Her work is also held in the permanent 20th Century Fine Art Collection in Cardiff Museum. 

Karen has been lecturing at Falmouth University since 2007, her role as a lecturer is to create a platform to enable students to question themselves in a way that challenges their own visual perception, encouraging them to push their ability as photographers/artists and represent the world they encounter in a more dynamic way.

Qualifications

YearQualificationAwarding body
2005
Master of Arts
London College of Communication
1998
Bachelor of Arts (1st Class Honours)
University of Wales, Newport

Honours and awards

YearDescription
2004

Small Wonders Award (Picture This, Bristol)

2001

Melhuish Fine Art Award

2000

European Woman Photographer of the Year

Research interests

Research interests and expertise

In a society that generates an ever-increasing unhealthy and unreal perspective of what one should ‘be’ to fit in mental health awareness is paramount to disable ignorance and stigma. Through participation and inquiry I engage with others who live with complex conditions that disrupt their mental health and wellbeing such as obsessive compulsive (OCD) and body dysmorphia (BDD). 

Aesthetics of the unfamiliar, body and mind disturbances, presence and performance within the domestic space are areas that underpin my practice.  Since 2005 I have been making short films/installations that encompass ‘everyday’ living with neurological and psychological conditions. My current research concerns body integrity identity disorder (BIID) an extremely rare condition where by the sufferer feels an overwhelming urge to amputate an otherwise perfectly healthy limb.  My aims as an artist are to encourage the viewer to ‘see’ rather than just ‘look’. I use processes that problematize the ethics of exchange, representation and relationships between artist and subject to challenge conventional perceptions of ‘otherness’ through the use of photography, moving image and sound.  

I am currently creating a series of pieces that encompass ‘everyday’ living with mental health, my completed pieces so far are:

‘Conversations with Myself’ portrays a woman living with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). The complexity of the work revolves around the psychological tension that the subject creates in and around her physical space. At first glance, it seems like a ‘fly on the wall’ documentary, it is very telling in the way the piece unfolds. However, the voiceover disrupts the realism of the work and pushes it into a more profound area of representation by portraying the subject in a more conscious and intriguing way. The poignancy of the work is the fusion between the tension of the inner voice and the rhythm of the physical movements of the subject whilst moving around within their ‘own’ reality. A reality that does not exist for the majority of those outside it, looking in.

‘Horses Warped on an Altering Canvas’ is a ‘moving’ portrait of a young woman engaging in her everyday ritual of ‘mirror checking’ - a common symptom associated with body dysmorphia (BDD). The psychology behind the work evolves around the tension that can build up internally when one looks in the mirror. Therefore, the mirror acts like a switch and ‘turns on’ an obsession that is magnified by the mind's eye. Recurrent thoughts whilst this process is taking place will cause distress to the sufferer and will hinder their everyday function due to their preoccupation. Body dysmorphia causes an inaccurate view of reality, with the ‘imperfection’ being non-existent or slight.  

Research topics

Mental Health
Video
Photography
Fine Art Practice
Psychology
Neuroscience

Research outputs

Publications and research outputs

Exhibition

Brett, Karen (2015) Psychological States. [Exhibition] Item not available from this repository.

Brett, Karen (2015) Press Play: Short Film/video work, screening & discussion, curated by Susan Francis. [Exhibition]
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Brett, Karen (2015) Loose Space:Group show curated by Claudia Pils, showing at artP.kunstverein, Perchtoldsdorf, Austria. [Exhibition]
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Brett, Karen (2009) Three. [Exhibition]

Externally funded research grants information

Year startingYear endingProject titleFunderValueCollaboratorsHESA Category
2006
Horses Warped on a Altering Canvas
The Arts Council of England
5,000
2003
Conversations with Myself
The Arts Council of England
5,000
2001
The Myth of Sexual Loss
The Arts Council of England
5,000
GBP

Teaching

Areas of teaching

Photography

Courses taught

BA(Hons) Photography

Professional engagement

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