Professor Chris Dorsett

Associate Researcher, Pitt Rivers Museum
Research Fellow, OCHS 


Professor Chris Dorsett is an artist and academic whose career has been built on curatorial partnerships with collection-holding institutions. In the UK he is best known for his pioneering exhibitions at the Pitt Rivers Museum where, having stepped back from his art school commitments in 2018, he is now an Associate Researcher. Dorsett’s many overseas projects include museum ‘interventions’ across the Nordic countries and residencies at sites of scientific and historic significance in the Amazon rainforest and the New Territories of Hong Kong. These projects were developed during university appointments at the Ruskin School of Art, Oxford; Central St. Martin’s School of Art, London; Royal University Institute of Fine Art, Stockholm; Northumbria University, Newcastle Upon Tyne; and Edinburgh School of Art. He is on the editorial board of Museum Worlds and has written extensively on the interface between experimental art practices and the museum/heritage sector for publishers such as Routledge and Intellect Books. Most recently, in conjunction with the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, he has been researching the museological legacy of the historian of Indian Art, Philip Rawson.

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Research Areas

Research Interests


  • 2023: (forthcoming) ‘We contemporise, they persist’
    Book chapter. In Payne, E., Ellis, A. L. R., & Wootton, W., (eds), Ancient Plaster: casting light on a forgotten sculptural material, London: The British Academy.
  • 2022:  ‘It’s Not Junk – Where Museum Archives Meet Genetic Science’
    TEDx talk.
  • 2022: Crisp, F., Dorsett, C., & Mackenzie, L. ’Ruptures and wrong-footings: destabilizing disciplinary cultures’
    Journal articleLeonardo/ISAST, MIT Press.
  • 2021: ‘Doing harm in exhibitions’
    Conference paper – video screening. ASA21 Responsibility, University of St Andrews (online).
  • 2021: ‘Retreading the art school corridor to Cast Contemporaries’
    Conference paper – video screeningAncient Plaster: casting light on a forgotten sculptural material, British Academy, London (online).
  • 2020:‘Voice over: archived narratives and silent heirlooms’
    Journal articleentanglements: experiments in multimodal ethnography, 3(1): pp 43-54.
  • 2019:‘Voice-Over: archived narratives and silent heirlooms’: an artist-curator responds to a report prepared for the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration in June 1945’
    Conference paper. A presentation of work-in-progress at the Tavistock Institute’s archive, Archive-A-Live! the Tavistock Institute Annual Symposium, 6 November 2019.
  • 2019: The Path of Śakti – India and Nepal: visual story-telling
    Curatorial advisor. An exhibition of ethnographic photographs by Prema Goet held at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies to coincide with Śākta Traditions Symposium III.
  • 2019: Rituals of Refurbishment: an introduction
    Video screening. A reflection on recent audio-visual work by Dorsett & Nair presented as the inaugural session of the 2019 Visual, Material and Museum Anthropology seminar series at the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford University. Undertaken in the role of a Research Associate at the Museum.
  • 2018: Hidden Treasures in Private Academic Collections
    Curatorial advisor. An exhibition of Hindu objects collected by Oxford indologists curated by Iana Lukina under the supervision of Dorsett and Dr Bjarne Wernicke-Olesen. Held at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies as part of the Śākta Traditions Project.
  • 2019: Ancelin-Bourguignon, A., Azambuja, R., & Dorsett, C.‘Lost in translation? Transferring creativity insights from arts into management’
    Journal articleOrganization: The Critical Journal of Organization, Theory and Society, Volume 27, No. 5.
  • 2018: ‘the train starts – it stops – it starts again’
    Catalogue essay. In Christine Borland, I Say Nothing, Glasgow: Glasgow Museums. Linked to Thoughts for a journey (see below).
  • 2018: Dorsett, C. & Nair, J. ‘Rituals of refurbishment: remembering/remediating Philip Rawson’s Tantra exhibition’
    Conference paper – video screening. ASA2018: Sociality, matter, and the imagination: re-creating Anthropology, University of Oxford.
  • 2018: Nair, J.Mudra: when hands speak
    Narrator. Documentary film scripted and directed by Janaki Nair with Dorsett providing the voice-over.
  • 2018: ’Static Art and Temporal Imaginings: thinking about Philip Rawson amidst a numinous cast collection’
    Keynote conference paper. Lasting Impressions 2018, Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne.
  • 2018:‘OK this is my chosen object. Or rather it’s one of my objects’
    Invited lecture. Gravity:material public lecture series, Sheffield Institute of the Arts, Sheffield Hallam University.
  • 2017: Thoughts for a journey: a prepared text with passing discussions
    Event curator. Scripted train journey from Glasgow Central Station to Glasgow Museums Resource Centre, Nitshill. Contribution to Doubtful Occasion: A creative symposium based on artist Christine Borlands research into WW1 objects in Glasgow Museumscollection, 5 October 2017.
  • 2017: ‘the train starts – it stops – it starts again (effort, stasis, and the Glasgow Museums Resource Centre)’
    Conference paper. Contribution to Doubtful Occasion (see above).
  • 2017: ‘Studio Ruins: describing unfinishedness’
    Journal article. Studies in Material Culture.
  • 2017: ‘On waking up, say a spell backwards’
    Public event – seminar chair. Rebecca Heald with Amrita Jhaveri (curators), Thinking Tantra, Drawing Room, London.
  • 2017: Dorsett, C. & Nair, J. ‘Waving and Drowning: at the conjunction of contemporary British and Indian responses to a song by Rabindranath Tagore’
    Published conference proceedings, Équipe de Recherche Interdisciplinaire sur les Aires Culturelles, University of Rouen-Le Havre Press.
  • 2016:‘The pleasure of the holder: media art, museum collections and paper money’
    Journal article. International Journal of Arts and Technology.
  • 2016: Dorsett, C. & Nair, J. ‘Rawson’s Rasa: handling the taste of emotion’
    Conference paper. Presenting the Theatrical Past: interplays of artefacts, discourses and practices, IFTR 2016, Stockholm University.
  • 2016: Dorsett, C. & Nair, J. ‘Revisiting Tantra: contemporary British and Indian responses to the Tantra-oriented songs of Rabindranath Tagore’
    Conference paper. Variations, Rewritings and Adaptations of the Jātaka Tales and Buddhism in India Today, SARI 2016 Annual and International Colloquium, University of Paris 13.
  • 2015: Paper, table, wall & after
    Exhibition co-curator – lead artist. External partner: Taiwan National University of Arts, Taipei. This exhibition was jointly organised with artist Sian Bowen and featured the work of 38 artists who contribute to the research and teaching activities of Paper Studio Northumbria.
  • 2015: Dorsett, C. & Goda, S. Stilling the flow of signs: creative action and the discontinuity of the museum archive’
    Book chapter. In Paschalidis, G. & Yoka, L. (eds) Semiotics and Hermeneutics of the Everyday, Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, pp 176-192.
  • 2015: singlesingles
    Event curator. Contribution to Record Store Day 2015. Curated conversation with musicians Andy Elison (Johns Children, Radio Stars) and Paul Harvey (Happy Refugees, Penetration). The Stand Comedy Club, Newcastle upon Tyne.
  • 2015: Dorsett, C. & Nair, J. ‘Revisiting Tantra: a contemporary British and Indian response to the “seductiveness” of Tantric museum objects’
    Conference paper. The Culture of Seduction [The Seduction of Culture], Cyprus Semiotic Association, University of Cyprus.
  • 2015: ‘Studio Ruins: narrating “unfinishedness”’
    Conference paper. Material Culture in Action: Practices of making, collecting and re-enacting art and design, Glasgow School of Art.
  • 2014:Commute-Converse 1: curated conversations on Northern Rail commuter trains
    Event curator. Genomics experts Volker Straub and David Elliott (both of the Institute of Genetic Medicine, Newcastle University) talk to James Atlee (First Great Western ‘Writer on the Train’), Margaret Stewart (curator, Edinburgh College of Art) and Shelley Trower (Department of English and Creative Writing, Roehampton University).
  • 2014: ‘Negotiating the Icebox: cold collections, dark museums and contemporary art’
    Conference paper. Art Out of Time, Institute of Visual Research, University of Oxford.
  • 2014: ‘Museum stores, genetic junk, experimental art– conversations on a train’
    Conference paper. ASA14 Decennial: Anthropology and Enlightenment, University of Edinburgh.
  • 2014: ‘Negotiating the Icebox: cold art and cinematic darkness’
    Invited lecture. Center for Computer Games Research, IT University of Copenhagen.
  • 2013: Extraordinary Renditions: the cultural negotiation of science
    Group exhibition and conference paper. BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art (Gateshead) contribution to the 2013 British Science Festival. Co-organised with Christine Borland and Fiona Crisp.
  • 2013: ‘At a moment’s notice: according to the pleasure of the holder: the semiotics of paper’
    Keynote conference paper. DeSForM 2013, School of Digital Media, Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China.
  • 2013: Dorsett, C. ‘Becoming an artist-in-residence: the ‘mobilities’ of Christopher Jones’
    Catalogue essay. In Unmonumental – Christopher Jones, Newcastle Upon Tyne: Northern Print, pp 3-9
  • 2013: Dorsett, C.‘Safe Houses on enchanted ground’
    Catalogue essay. In Sian Bowen and Nova Zembla: Suspending the Ephemeral (Rijksmuseum), Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum in conjunction with Research Group for Artists Publications (Sheffield), pp 107-113.
  • 2012: Cast Contemporaries
    Exhibition curator – lead artist. External partner: Edinburgh School of Art. Appointed Honorary Research Fellow to curate an exhibition for the Edinburgh Festival about the recent restoration of the City’s historic plaster cast collections.
  • 2012:’Synaesthetic Presences: new sights from old sound objects’
    Conference paper. Making Sound Objects: Cultures of hearing, Creating and Circulation, British Forum for Ethnomusicology Conference, Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford.…
  • 2012: Dorsett, C. Kolaiti, C. Longstaff, B. Tsuchiya, I. & Welcome, M., ‘Contemporary healthcare through the lens of the photographic arts’
    Invited lecture. The Royal Photographic Society’s 2012 Combined Royal Colleges Medal Lecture. Practice-led research undertaken by photographers within Northumbria University’s visual arts partnership with Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust (1999 to the present). Royal College of Physicians, London.
  • 2011: Dorsett, C.‘Things and Theories: the unstable presence of exhibited objects’
    Book chapter. In Dudley, S., Barnes, A. J., Binnie, J., Petrov, J., & Walklate, J. (eds) The Thing about Museums: Objects and Experience, Representation and Contestation, London and New York: Routledge.
  • 2009: Dorsett, C.,‘Making Meaning Beyond Display’
    Book chapter. In Dudley, S. (ed.) Museum Materialities: objects, engagements, interpretations, London and New York: Routledge.
  • 2008: Dorsett, C.,‘Glimpsing the archive’
    Book chapter. In Bacon, J. (ed.) Arkive City, Belfast: Interface University of Ulster & Locus+
  • 2007: Dorsett, C.,‘Exhibitions and their Prerequisites’
    Book chapter. In Rugg, J. & Sedgwick, M. (eds), Issues in Curating: Contemporary Art and Performance, Bristol and Chicago: Intellect Books and University of Chicago Press.
Chris Dorsett

Chris Dorsett, Circular Items, 2013. Pencil on 250gsm Arches Velin drawing paper (56 cm x 76 cm)