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David Cross

University of the Arts London
Researcher Research
David  Cross


David Cross has given lectures internationally and chaired events at the South London Gallery, Tate and Whitechapel. As an artist, he began collaborating with Matthew Cornford while studying at St Martin’s School of Art in 1987, and graduated from the Royal College of Art in 1991.

In London, the work of Cornford & Cross has been exhibited at the Camden Arts Centre, the ICA, the Photographers’ Gallery and South London Gallery. They completed a solo touring exhibition at the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art, Aspex Gallery, Portsmouth, and the Exchange Gallery, Penzance. They have carried out an Arts Council residency at the London School of Economics, and a British Council residency at Vitamin in Guangzhou, China. In Europe, they have exhibited in Bologna, Rome and Stockholm; in the USA, they have exhibited in San Francisco, Philadelphia and New York. Perceiving a conflict between his values of internationalism and environmentalism, Cross stopped using jet travel in 2005.

Cross' research, practice and teaching have long been informed by a critical engagement with the relationship between visual culture and the contested ideal of ‘sustainable’ development. More recently, his focus has been on financial systems, fossil energy dependency and climate breakdown. He is now shifting towards promoting a cultural transition to a post-carbon society.

In addition to producing aesthetic experiences, he maintains that a key function of contemporary art is to test concepts, assumptions and boundaries. In public debate, he explores the ‘instrumental’ potential of contemporary art – not as a channel for didactic messages, but as a space for dialectical propositions. In making such propositions, he aims to stimulate the kind of debate that is at the heart of active social agency.

In 2012, in homage to the Artist Placement Group, Cross designated his employment at UAL as an artist’s placement, as a way to move beyond the separation between his artistic and academic activities. In September 2015, he began working with students (especially Georgia Brown) to initiate and run a campaign to persuade UAL to divest from fossil fuels. In November 2016, UAL announced not only that it would divest its £3.9 million endowments from fossil fuels, but also sign the UN Principles for Responsible Investment. Cross is now proposing that students and staff work together to identify and map the extra-economic value produced in the University/art school, as a prelude to producing a viable model of the University as a not-for-profit co-operative.

Recent work Cross has undertaken to develop this proposal includes, ‘Radical Rethink’ at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, and ‘What Happens if We Push This?’ at the Tate Exchange.

Research Outputs

Art/Design item





Current research students

  • Voon Pow Bartlett, Spectacle as myth: The relational and the quotidian in contemporary Chinese art (2005-2008). (Lead supervisor)
  • Ana Beatriz Ferreira de Rocha e Silva, Spectacular architecture, identity crisis, cultural politics and the reinvention of the significance of museums of modern art. (Lead supervisor)
  • Olivier Desvoigners, Blackboards were turned into tables: Questioning ‘horizontality’ in collaborative pedagogical art projects (Lead supervisor)
  • Manoela Dos Anjos Afonso, Language and place in the life of Brazilian women living in London: an artistic approach to life writing. (Lead supervisor)
  • Emma Drye, Incidentally: An art of hospitable encounters in the contemporary workplace (Joint supervisor)
  • Hannah Franklyn Entwisle Chapuisat, Displacement and Climate Change: Is there space at the table for artists to influence international policy development? (Lead supervisor)
  • Maryclare Foa, Sounding out: performance drawing in response to the outside environment. (Lead supervisor)
  • Sara Grisewood, Lineside Stories: Following the tracks in the Anthropocene (Lead supervisor)
  • Nelson Guzman Avellaneda, The Problem of Natural Depletion: Artistic Approaches to Environmental Conflicts in the Capitalocene (Lead supervisor)
  • Thomas Helyar-Cardwell, Still Life & Death Metal: Painting the Battle Jacket. (Lead supervisor)
  • Diego Masera, Eco-production in the Purepecha region of Mexico (Lead supervisor)
  • Vanessa Saraceno, Sustainability. A New Sensitivity in Contemporary Art. (Lead supervisor)

Past research students

  • Vasiliki Christouli, Site-Specific Art as an exploration of Spatial and Temporal Limitations. (Lead supervisor)
  • Marianne Guarino-Huet, Knowledge exchange and artistic practices with a pedagogical dimension: a vector for change. (Lead supervisor)
  • Bridget Harvey, How can Re-making and Repair Function as both Political Action and Design Strategy? (Lead supervisor)
  • Clara Vuletich, Full Circle: A Practice-Based Reflective Investigation of Qualities and Values for Transitionary Textile Design (Lead supervisor)