Kiln fired decals on glass, set in vintage optician’s lens casings. The designs incorporate drawings generated from ethnographic fieldwork interviews between 2020 and 2022.

This legacy work is for the University of Exeter, the culmination a two year residency with the Department of Social Sciences as part of the project ‘Inequality, Identity and the Media in Brexit-Covid 19 Britain’. This research was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council as part of UK Research and Innovation’s rapid response initiative to COVID-19. An accompanying website, which also hosts an interactive app launches on 26th September, and features Helen’s responses to research findings and methodologies. This online presentation enables our research findings to become accessible to audiences beyond the academic community. 

Helen collaborated with an interdisciplinary team of ethnographers (Katharine Tyler, Principal Investigator, Joshua Blamire, Research Fellow) and political scientists with expertise in media analysis and surveys (Co-Investigators Susan Banducci, Daniel Stevens, and Research Fellows Laszlo Horvath and Andrew Jones) at the University of Exeter and an ethnographer (Co-Investigator Cathrine Degnen) at Newcastle University. The team are interested in the ways in which Brexit and covid-19 – and the intersecting inequalities that these processes produce – have been framed by the media and experienced within the everyday. Examining these inequalities, and their potential effects on social and political polarisation, is crucial to understanding how British society will emerge from these dual processes.

Professor Tyler said: “The work captures the spectrum of different experiences we have shared throughout the past two years. The drawings and animations reflect news headlines, government statements, personal experiences, information and disinformation. They get to the heart of the ways in which our participants from across the country have experienced both Brexit and covid. These have been unique times which have exposed the major inequalities that underpin British society.”

Dr Laszlo Horvath reflected: ‘Working with Helen designing the app allowed us to explore new ways to translate our research and provided a new opportunity to get feedback from the public. It was also a great opportunity to connect with the research software engineering team at the University of Exeter’

Dr Joshua Blamire said: “This approach has allowed ordinary people to share their own unique stories in innovative ways, and to challenge media and government narratives. The creative materials – including drawings, photographs and interview excerpts – bring to life the diverse experiences of people in different places, and capture how Brexit and Covid have shaped our lives.”

Professor Degnen said: “Working as an anthropologist and an ethnographer with Helen on this project has sparked exciting insights into our research materials that would not have otherwise been possible. I know too that many of the people who participated in and contributed to Helen’s wonderful artwork were moved and inspired by this interactive aspect of our work”.
With grateful thanks to Fabrizia Bazzo for her technical support with the glasswork.