John Hughes

Research project: An investigation into the capture and public display of the Acton Town otter

Abstract

This research explores a strange and little-known part of London Transport history: the capture and public display of wildlife killed at the time of electrification of the underground railway during its expansion into suburbia at the start of the 20th Century. Fictioning a journey through a group of West London railway territories that exist on the edges of canals and motorways, the research explores contemporary perceptions of power, control and marginalisation within a broader cultural context.

The investigation starts with a photograph of an exhibition of stuffed animals that took place in Charing Cross Underground Station in 1929, including a female otter captured at Acton Town on the 4th April 1911. This exhibition also took place at Mansion House Underground Station, from 1914, and is referenced in Charles Pears' iconic 1915 Underground Electric publication An Alphabet of T.O.T.

  • Research degree: Practice-based PhD
  • Title of project: An investigation into the capture and public display of the Acton Town otter
  • Research supervisor: Dr Dean Kenning
  • Other research supervisor: Ms Amanda Ure

Biography

My sound work has been heard in Radiophrenia, Centre for Contemporary Art, Glasgow (2019), The London Open, Whitechapel Gallery (2012) and New Contemporaries, Coach Shed, Liverpool and Club Row, London (2006). I have taken part in group shows and performances at Five Years, studio1.1, Supernormal Festival, Café Gallery Projects and Rich Mix.

In 2019 I was awarded funding to take part in the TECHNE Conflux Geo-Humanities Summer School: Listening (to) Field, Voice and Body in Bude, Cornwall. I am currently a Project Assistant in the Geography department at Royal Holloway University.

As part of the artist group We Are Publication I have been involved in events, performances and exhibitions at Five Years, London (2018), Focal Point Gallery's Unit Twenty - One, Southend -on-Sea (2018) and Pratt Institute, New York (2019).

Areas of research interest

  • Contemporary Art
  • Psychogeography
  • Field Recording
  • DIY Sound Production / Soundscape Composition / Sound Foley
  • Literary London Fiction / London Cultural history
  • Walking
  • West London Railway Territories
  • Animality
  • Camouflage / Deception
  • Storytelling

Qualifications

  • MA Fine Art, Chelsea College of Art and Design, London (2005)
  • BA Fine Art, Central St Martins College of Art and Design, London (1996 - 1999)

Funding or awards received

  • Kingston University, Kingston School of Art, Studentship / Bursary 2016 - 2022
  • Kingston School of Art Conference and Event Fund 2017
  • Kingston School of Art Conference and Event Fund 2018
  • Kingston School of Art Conference and Event Fund 2019
  • Graduate Research School Activity Support Fund for PhD Researchers 2018 - 19
  • Graduate Research Achool Activity Support Fund for PhD Researchers 2019 - 20