media: drawing, digital media, online media

concepts: more-than-human, networks, environment, technology

This is a project of becoming-with and being-with animals through disease.

If networks have somehow become disconnected, how can we learn to track these back and discover our humanity through our more-than-human companions?

In collaboration with six universities in the UK, I am investigating our relationships with animals through farms and disease.

Funded by the FIELD Project, supported by the Wellcome Trust. Partners are the universities of Lincoln, Hull, Leeds, Edinburgh, Newcastle and Glasgow.


This project began in 2020, and will feature artworks about human and nonhuman collaborations,

Supported by the Wellcome Trust (UK) through the FIELD Project, with additional support and artwork development provided by the Leitrim Sculpture Centre, Ireland.

Farm Visits

research, dialogues

In November 2020 I visited five farms in Northumberland, one in Yorkhire, two in south Scotland and two in Ireland. This was to spend time with both animals and farmers, and to gain an understanding of livestock disease from the perspective of farmers.

This residency, with site-visits, took place at the Allenheads Contemporary Art (UK) and the artists studio (Wicklow). It was supported by the FIELD Project, and the professionals and academics affiliated with FIELD have helped in the design and understanding of this visit.

an image of farm life in the UK and Ireland taken as part of the FIELD residency by Shane Finan an image of farm life in the UK and Ireland taken as part of the FIELD residency by Shane Finan an image of farm life in the UK and Ireland taken as part of the FIELD residency by Shane Finan an image of farm life in the UK and Ireland taken as part of the FIELD residency by Shane Finan an image of farm life in the UK and Ireland taken as part of the FIELD residency by Shane Finan an image of farm life in the UK and Ireland taken as part of the FIELD residency by Shane Finan an image of farm life in the UK and Ireland taken as part of the FIELD residency by Shane Finan an image of farm life in the UK and Ireland taken as part of the FIELD residency by Shane Finan an image of farm life in the UK and Ireland taken as part of the FIELD residency by Shane Finan an image of farm life in the UK and Ireland taken as part of the FIELD residency by Shane Finan an image of farm life in the UK and Ireland taken as part of the FIELD residency by Shane Finan an image of farm life in the UK and Ireland taken as part of the FIELD residency by Shane Finan

The farmers and the animals form part of the research for this project.

A close-up photograph of the brown and white, furry snout of a sheep with the hand of the photographer reaching out to it from the camera. The sheep is smelling the hand as it touches gently the face of the sheep.

Project publications to date:

A charcoal drawing on white paper of a sheep looking directly at the viewer. The sheep is looking face-on, with two front legs straight down from its head and a slight turn in its body on the left-hand side. The drawing is made with quick, sharp charcoal marks, light on the face and upper body and dark below

learning to see with


Part of the process of research and learning on this project has involved veing-with and drawing as a process of learning.

Aside from spending time sitting or standing with sheep, I have also been observing behaviours and movements through drawing.

a charcoal drawing on paper of a sheep kneeling, its two front legs hidden, its head raised and looking out to the right of the image A charcoal sketch of a sheep with its rear turned toward the viewer. Its head looks deeper into the paper, looking the same way that we are looking, so we can only see the back of the head and the ears. Its wooly back is drawn with quick, sparse charcoal marks; darker areas are drawn at the rear and under the belly. The sheep is drawn standing on three legs; the fourth (the front-left) is held up delicately as if injured. a long charcoal drawing that shows five stages of movement of a sheep with lameness, drawn sequentially and in loose, traced outline

By studying how lameness is made visible in the movement of animals, I developed some sketches and gifs that illustrate this movement, leading in turn to some engaging conversaitons with the research team.

A lame sheep bobs its head while it moves:

an animated gif of an animal shape walking unsteadily, its head bobbing with the limp

A healthy sheep keeps its spine straight:

an animated gif of an animal shape walking steadily with a straight spine

As documented by PhD researcher Nicole Gosling of the University of Lincoln:

I was struck when you first shared your illustrations on Twitter because it was an aspect of lameness I had never thought about before. All of the historical sources I have looked at primarily discuss how to identify disease once you have already identified a lame sheep (i.e. skin lesions etc), but don’t describe what a lame sheep actually looks like. Looking at the sketch made me think about what the farmer would first see in the field. It struck me that since we have come at this question from different disciplinary backgrounds and different ways of knowing and investigating we have come up with different stories about lameness.

To which I responded:

When I think about it, I've realised that I didn't just observe how a lame sheep moved, I imitated it. I started out last December trying to design how people would move if faced with a similar disabling condition, for an installation, and noticed that it was always my head and upper spine that moved first when I tried to move like a lame sheep. Then I went back and looked at the sheep, and started drawing that movement and seeing it. So I suppose I'd consider your point that the texts "don’t describe what a lame sheep actually looks like" and offer that, maybe, the more important point is that they don't actually consider what a lame sheep feels like. We over-rely on our eyes sometimes. This is becoming with, and it's why I was so excited about that discovery. It's something that goes beyond empathy when you embody a condition like that. And it's a threshold that you all (on FIELD) seem to be crossing - the historian/social scientist/epidemiologist/economist collaboration forces you to think in different ways (or at least, it has forced me to do so!).

This type of discovery is also generating other interest in the broader research community. Professor Jasmeet Kaler, an epidemiologist at the University of Nottingham, pointed out on Twitter that they are using a similar observation to train machine learning algorithms to track lameness in sheep.

a charcoal drawing of a lamb tentatively holding up one of its legs a photograph of a lamb's leg tied up in a splint a photograph of the same lamb's face with black and white spots, looking at the viewer
A close-up abstract photograph of strands of white wool that look like individual gnarled hairs, twisted and tangled around the thorns of a gorse bush, which are dark brown and long

biocomputing: animals, disease and technology

activism and technology

A screen-capture of a Tweet by Shane Finan dated February 12th 2021 that reads: What trace do we leave in digital spaces? By sending this Tweet I have snagged a couple of hundred pieces of data onto a server somewhere underwater maybe in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Some gnarled, barely decipherable remnant proves that I was here, now, writing this.

As part of the broader critique of technology that I am engaging in, I have started to look at the role of farmers and livesstock through the lens of bio-technology.

Starting from philosopher Bernard Stiegler's description of "technics" as "organised inorganic matter", I present possibilities of disorganised organic matter-as-technology.

Taking most influence from the writing of Vinciane Despret, who observes researchers who observe animals, I am looking at how bias dictates our understanding of animals, just as it does our understanding of technology.

I am using the method of being-with, spending time with sheep in their environment and learning together with them. This follows philosopher Donna Haraway and design ethnographer Anne Galloway in their processes of making kin.

To place animals in the mix will help us develop nonhuman or post-human philosophies that can perform flatter ontologies. We won’t be able to ignore things we’ve long kept hidden. We’ll be forced to think of others, of difference, of becoming rather than being. And I look forward to the opportunity to learn from animals, and not just about them.

Anne Galloway, Designing Stories for Humans and Nonhumans: An Interview With Anne Galloway 2012

online interactive artworks

As part of this process, I am building online interactive artworks that will form part of an online exhibition, in collaboraiton with two other artists on the FIELD project, Michele Allen and Mark Jones.

To help carry out these artworks, I have invested in and built some new modes of documentation.

I spent some time setting up a local server using NGinx and a Raspberry Pi.

I built a set of binaural microphones for 3-D style audio recording that uses the shape of your head to affect audio.

an animated gif showing the construction of in-ear binaural microphones
A blurred and washed-out photograph of a person in winter clothes standing by a lake-side


dialogical process

I am lucky with this project to have an exciting network of collaborators on the FIELD project.

Aside from the academics, I have also spoken to farmers, vets, sheep and cows as part of the dialogical process. I document here some of those who I have spoken to or collaborated with in the formation of these ideas. We are always learning from one another, so it is difficult to document the value of these conversations.

My thanks and love to all!

FIELD partners (see all profiles online here):

  • Prof Abigail Woods, Pro Vice Chancellor and Head of the College of Arts at the Univeristy of Lincoln
  • Nicole Gosling, PhD student, University of Lincoln (lameness)
  • Prof Karen Sayer, Professor of Social and Cultural History at Leeds Trinity University, Leeds, UK
  • Dr James Bowen, Post-Doctoral Research Associate in History based at Leeds Trinity University
  • Sue Bradley, oral historian in the Centre for Rural Economy, Newcastle University
  • Dr Amy Proctor, Centre for Rural Economy at Newcastle University
  • Dr Beth Clark, Centre for Rural Economy at Newcastle University
  • Dr Lewis Holloway, Reader in Human Geography at the University of Hull
  • Dr Niamh Mahon, Post-Doctoral Research Associate at the University of Hull
  • Prof Rowland Kao, Chair of Veterinary Epidemiology and Data Science at the Roslin Institute at Edinburgh University
  • Dr Ewan Coleman, post-doctoral research associate at the Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh
  • Prof Nick Hanley, Professor of Environmental and One Health Economics at the University of Glasgow
  • Maria Suella Rodrigues, PhD candidate at the University of Glasgow

Other Academic, Farmer, Artist, Vet and other human Collaborators:

  • Menelaos Gkartzios, Senior Lecturer in Planning & Development, Centre for Rural Economy, Newcastle University
  • Cynthia Morrison-Bell, ArtCircuit, Highgreen House, Northumberland, UK
  • Helen Pailing, Project Director, Visual Arts in Rural Communities, Highgreen, Northumberland, UK
  • Sean O'Reilly, Director, Leitrim Sculpture Centre, Manorhamilton, Co. Leitrim, Ireland
  • Emma Lucy O'Brien, Director, VISUAL Carlow, Ireland
  • Jeremy Fitz-Howard, Acting Manager, Regional Cultural Centre, Letterkenny, Donegal, Ireland
  • Anne Galloway, More Than Human Lab, University of Wellington, New Zealand
  • Stefanie Wenner, Professor of Applied Theatre Studies and Production Dramaturgy, Hochschule für Bildende Künste Dresden (HfBK Dresden)
  • Alexis Bernstorff, Textile Conservator and farmer, Wexford, Ireland
  • Orla Shorthall, researcher, Aberdeen University

  • Helen Brown, farmer, Chatto, Scotland
  • Fransje Samsom and Peter, farmers and growers, Northumberland, England
  • Nigel Miller, farmer, vet and ex-National Farmer's Union Scotland president, Scotland
  • Rob Dyson, farmer, Northumberland, England
  • Robert Philipson, farmer, Sinderhope, Northumberland, England
  • Angel Porteus, farmer teacher, pickler, Allenheads, Northumberland, England
  • Johnny Archer, farmer, Allenheads, Northumberland, England
  • Guy Proudhom, farmer, Yorkshire, England

  • Sara Pedersen, vet, Farm Dynamics, Wales and South England

Sheep and cows:

  • Dandelion, a ewe who had lameness when I met her and is healthy now (Northumberland, my muse)
  • Flint, a lamb born 2021 with a splint on his leg
  • Many sheep and cows that have not introduced themselves or been given human names

Friends, colleagues, comrades:

  • The y-commons artist group (Tunde, Jen, Jules, Alexis)
  • Amy Bunce, my muse, my partner, my inspiration and guide for everything that I make