Dr Stephen Wilson

Postgraduate Theory Coordinator Senior Lecturer in MA Fine Art Theory

Chelsea College of Arts


Dr. Stephen Wilson is a writer, practitioner and theorist who programmes, curates and lectures in contemporary art. Since completing a doctorate at the Royal College of Art in 2007, his current research involves three book projects for 2016 entitled: Memories of the Future (Peter Lang AG), Taste After Bourdieu (Routledge) and Where Theory Belongs (Open Editions). The later of these is based off a series of ten lectures that took place at London’s ICA.

Wilson has published writings for international artist monographs, academic journals, books, zines as well as articles for Art Monthly. He has been the recipient of several awards including AHRC, Arts Council England, The Diawa Anglo-Japanese Foundation, The Great British Sasakawa Foundation and The British School at Rome. He is the Postgraduate Theory Coordinator at Chelsea College of Art based within UAL and the CCW Research Graduate School as well as heading MA Fine Art Theory since 2012. He is currently on a paid sabbatical in New York as a visiting research scholar at Columbia University in the Anthropology department. 

Research interests

Contemporary art practices, contemporary art theory, curating research theory, art in the public domain, transnational studies, cultural studies, contemporary art & higher learning, socio-political criticism.

Research statement

Selected Publications for 2016:

Memories of the Future is a co-edited academic volume by Peter Lang AG consisting of sixteen papers by international authors with an interdisciplinary framework. This book offers a significant contribution to the field of ‘digital futures’ and ‘memory studies’ alongside the recently produced volumes in the Peter Lang Cultural Memories series. It presents a highly engaged and critical platform within the contributors’ foci from the position of writers, academics, artists and intercultural institutions that respond to the advanced studies of memory, culture, art and futurity. It draws on the success of a conference involving seventy five international papers held at 45 Millbank and Senate House (May 2014) and expounds on the new knowledge debates of what an ‘after the future’ position of memory could imply - a genuine concern for the studies of contemporary art and design. Memories of the Future is also a re- envisioning of ‘memory’ in the theory and practice of cross-disciplinary specialisms; the role of the nation-state and present day economies in a globalised transmission of reproduction, memory and the differing positions of time, community, technology and modernization.

Where Theory Belongs follows on the success of ten lectures and panel discussions delivered at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in 2015. This publication operates across several platforms augmented in live events, lectures, seminars, workshops, readings that re-present the value of this activity in addressing the future of ‘theory’ and how this is presently practiced and applied. This book uniquely exposes a cross-disciplinary approach to theory that is both unconventional, sought after and refreshing to the subject itself. It attempts to relieve the traditional academic burden and reframe the value of theory in terms of metaphysical, social and conversational discovery. This is a form of engagement whereby specialists from diverse fields practice theory, integrate, renew and creatively come together.

The Persistence of Taste: Art, Museums and Everyday Life Since Bourdieu (Routledge) addresses Pierre Bourdieu’s writing on taste and distinction in relation to Japan as a new and overlooked field of research. The interdisciplinary approach of this contribution offers a nation-state perspective stemming from historical and contemporary conditions of art and culture within Japan. Wilson is a co-editor focusing on Japanese studies from: Prof. Toshio Watanabe (Co Founder of TrAIN, UAL), Dr. Sharon Kinsella (Manchester University) and Yuko Hasegawa (Chief Curator, Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo). This contribution establishes the transnational mobility of Asian and Japanese cultural studies within the present needs of contemporary art, sociology, anthropology and present day media and visual production. The subject of historical and contemporary figurative painting will be addressed by three of the contributors. 

In January 2016 a new series of lectures will be held at London’s Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) under the title: Decommissioned. This series will seek to address how strategies of disavowal, inactivity and transition are employed in contemporary art and design. When encountering cultural bias, uncertainty and co-option across the arts, how can dominant flows of information, language, policy and ideology be circumvented? Curators, sociologists, artists, politicos, academics, queer-thinkers, bio-designers, film-theorists and others, will respond through diverse fields of exciting and critical research.


Current students and thesis titles

Féline Minne

Thesis Title: Narrative Painting: The Bed and Role Play Design

Amanda Mills

Thesis Title: Narratives of Trans-Subjectivity: Feminist Psychoanalysis, Community Collaboration and Experimental Claymation 


Selected research outputs

  • Memories of the Future: On Countervision

    Wilson, Stephen and Jaffe, Deborah (2017) Memories of the Future: On Countervision. Cultural Memories (6). Peter Lang AG, International Academic Publishers, Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien. ISBN 9781787075757

  • Where Theory Belongs Four Ways to Experience a Seminar in Contemporary Art

    Wilson, Stephen (2016) Where Theory Belongs Four Ways to Experience a Seminar in Contemporary Art. Tate Research Centre Working Papers.

  • Neomaterialism

    Wilson, Stephen (2014) Neomaterialism. Art Monthly (374). p. 35. ISSN 0142-6702

  • Queer, Women, Art, Sport and Taiwan

    Wilson, Stephen (2014) Queer, Women, Art, Sport and Taiwan. CCW Graduate School Directory 2014/15. pp. 11-12. ISSN 978-1-908339-14-0

  • Notes on Low Immunity Painting

    Wilson, Stephen (2013) Notes on Low Immunity Painting. In: Limber - Spatial Painting Practices. Ecole Superieur d'Art et Design Le Havre- Rouen, Canterbury (UK) & Rouen (France), pp. 90-97. ISBN 978-0-9570797-8-6

  • Unpainting Collodi's Fireplace

    Wilson, Stephen (2012) Unpainting Collodi's Fireplace. In: Pinocchio, Puppets and Modernity: The Mechanical Body. Children's literature and culture . Routledge, New York; London, pp. 109-134. ISBN 9780415890960

  • Fiction Characters

    Wilson, Stephen (2011) Fiction Characters. In: ADVENTURE-LANDING: a compendium of animation. Revolver, Berlin, pp. 166-173. ISBN 9783868950342

  • Every alter ego has a different memory

    Wilson, Stephen (2009) Every alter ego has a different memory. In: Dancing with men: interactive performances, interventions and other artworks. Live Art Development Agency, pp. 51-71. ISBN 9780954604073

  • Every Alter Ego as a Different Memory

    Wilson, Stephen (2009) Every Alter Ego as a Different Memory. In: Dancing With Men. Live Art Development Agency, London, pp. 51-71. ISBN 978-0954604073