Staff profile

Dr Paula McCloskey

Researcher and Lecturer in Fine Art


College of Arts, Humanities and Education


School of Arts

Research centre

Digital and Material Artistic Research Centre




Markeaton Street, Derby Campus



I am an experienced artist, artistic researcher and Lecturer in Fine Arts. My art practice and research develop a critical feminist approach to interrogate three primary, intersecting, lines of inquiry – art & sovereign borders, cultural ecologies, and feminist new materialisms – which are connected through engagement with critical theories of effect, colonialism, and subjectivity.  

With a strong commitment to innovative forms of collaboration and engagement (with both academic and non-academic partners) and through performances, film, radio/sound work, walking as practice, installations, and artist books, my current work involves long-term digital/performance art at the UK border in Ireland (Eile); art & science collaborative research on culturally and community-specific relationships with ecologies of wetlands and the atmosphere (Amid the Air and Earth); research on human/nonhuman relations of the intra-uterine. 

I have been a Researcher in the Digital and Material Arts Centre, School of Arts, since 2018 and have published multiple peer-reviewed articles and other texts and spoken nationally and internationally about my research. I am PI and Co-I on several funded research projects. 

Since 2010, I have been a co-founder/director (with Dr Sam Vardy, MTU Architecture, Ireland) of an artistic and spatial research organisation a place of their own, through which we work on a number of transdisciplinary, feminist and anti-colonial collaborative research projects across the arts, architecture, science and technology, co-producing site-specific performances, the artist walks, films, installations, sound, invited talks and published texts.

Teaching responsibilities

I am Module Leader for Fine Art Contextualising Practice (Level 4) and Fine Art Practising Theory (Level 5) as well as Co-Module Lead for Fine Art Critical Inquiry (Level 5).

Professional interests

I am a professional artist.

I have also previously worked as a Participation and Engagement curator and Programme Lead in art institutions.

Research interests

Border Fictions & Counter-Cartographies

I have been working on the border in Ireland (where I am originally from) for more than 10 years.  Eile (a place of their own, 2016 – ongoing) (meaning ‘other’ in Irish) is a feminist artistic and spatial research project developed with Dr Sam Vardy, exploring the border in Ireland using site-responsive performance, storytelling, film-making, sound and peer-reviewed publications.

From this work, we developed the concept of ‘border-fictioning' (see McCloskey and Vardy, 2020, McCloskey and Vardy, 2021) which I am exploring further as co-editor of a forthcoming special issue of Architecture and Culture, ‘Border-Fictions’, due to be published 2023.

I am PI on the British Academy / Leverhulme funded project A Digital Counter-Cartography of the Border Busters (Ireland 1968-1998) which will develop a digital platform capturing some of the micro-resistant practices of countering the border in Ireland during this period. 

Amid the Air and Earth

Collaborative artistic research with architecture and scientific partners in the UK and Ireland, investigating sites and their histories, narratives and knowledge of certain ecologies, and their lived experiences of them in particular locations and communities.  

Wet / Land / Dwellers (Sheffield, UK 2021-22)

Part of Arts Catalyst’s ( Emergent Ecologies programme (see, which began in 2019 with Myths for a Wetlands Imaginary (2019), a radical socially engaged project in Walthamstow, London, UK. Funded by ACE £10000 and Derby University Impact Accelerator Fund. 

Atmospheric States (Ireland 2021-ongoing)

A transdisciplinary art, architecture and science research project investigating how atmospheric dynamics, pollution and their politics challenge fixed notions of the nation-state and sovereign borders on the land, and as experienced by different bodies. A collaboration with Dr Liz Coleman, a physicist at NUI Galway and Mace Head Atmospheric Research Centre, Carna, Ireland.

The project is supported by the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Research Centre for Energy, Climate and Marine research and innovation (MaREI) (€1,500), Sheffield Hallam University, UK (£4, 000) and Derby University (£2,500 Impact Accelerator Fund). 

In 2021, I established The Samhail Collective – to develop new approaches to public and community engagement around the Atmospheric States project - with Dr Liz Coleman, Dr Mairéad Hurley (Trinity College Dublin) and Dr Sam Vardy (MTU, Cork). Funded by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Discover (€50k). 

Feminist new materialisms

An ongoing strand of my research stems from my PhD research ‘Art, Maternal and Matrixial Encounters’ (2014). I continue to explore the maternal (as an experience, concept and thinking apparatus), art and affect. My most recent writing on this (‘The inhuman Within: Beyond the Biopolitical Intrauterine Imaginary’ in Studies in Gender and Sexuality, 2021) explores the materiality of the intrauterine, and how it is immersed in complex social relations of power, to stake a claim for the importance of attending to the human intrauterine as a way to connect with non/inhuman alterity.

Membership of professional bodies


PhD Art, Maternal and Matrixial Encounters, University of Sheffield, 2014

Recent conferences

Invited speaker: Arts, Activism and Human Rights for Leicester Human Rights Arts and Film Festival, 9 December 2021

Conference Paper: Towards an anti-colonial counter-cartography of the Border-Busters, Ireland, 68-98, Architectural Humanities Research Association International Symposium, Regions, Loughborough University, 11-13 November 2021

Conference Paper: The non/inhuman within: Beyond the Biopolitical Intrauterine Imaginary, Frontiers of Humanity and Beyond: Towards new Critical Understandings of Borders Conference, 21-23 July 2021, CHAM – Centre for the Humanities of NOVA FCSH, Lisbon Portugal

Conference Paper: Eile Project - Geopower and the Border in Ireland, The Line Crossed Us Conference, 10-11 June 2021, University of Lethbridge, Canada

Invited speaker Crossing the line: contested borders and bounded space in Ireland 4 May 2021 as part of the UCL Institute of Advanced Studies in London online festival ‘Alternative Epistemologies

Conference Paper: Geopower: Resistance and Border-fictioning, Vibrant Practices Symposium, 16-17 April 2021, University of Leeds

Invited speaker: Stopping the Fucking WheelMissing Mothers in Contemporary Art, Missing Mother Conference, University of Bolton, 23 April 2021

Invited speaker: a place of their own - talk and review of WIP, NN Contemporary, Northampton, UK, 27 June 2020

Conference Paper: Border-fictioning, Art in the Anthropocene, International Conference in Trinity College Dublin, 7-9 June 2019

Conference Paper:Border Fields, Spatial Apparatuses’, Eile Project, Field Conditions Conference, Architecture Association, Dublin, Ireland, June 2019

Conference Paper: Eile Project, Urbanism at Borders, Interdisciplinary Global Workshop for Research Network, Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, September 2019

Conference Paper: Eile Project, (Im)possible Complicities / Conference and Screening Programme, Berlin, May 2019. Joint presentation in collaboration with Architecture Sans Frontiers and Studio Polpo

Conference Paper: The Territories of Eile, The Audiovisual Body Symposium, University of Huddersfield, June 2018

Invited speaker: The Artists Journey, Transmissions, Sheffield Hallam University, UK, March 2018

Invited speaker: Reflections on Belongings and Becomings; Art, Maternity and Family Activism, Airspace Gallery Stoke, Stoke, UK, May 2017

Invited speaker: A Place of their Own: Art and the Family as a Place of Radical Imagination, Multivoices in Research: Co-Interpreting Art and Architecture, East Street Arts, Leeds, May 2017

Conference Paper: Becoming-Animal, Performance presentation, Royal College of Art, September 2016

Invited speaker: Paula McCloskey, Where does Art Happen? Transmission Series, Fine Art Department, Sheffield Hallam University, 23 February 2016

Invited speaker: Performance and the Maternal. Edge Hill University, January 2016

Conference Paper: Artificial intelligence, art and affect in Subrealism: A Series of Events on the Work of Bracha Lichtenberg Ettinger, 8-11/10/2014, National University of Ireland, Maynooth, Ireland

International experience

See international talks/conferences and collaborative work in Ireland, and Australia.

I am a member of a stakeholder group on the Global Challenges Research Fund Network ‘Coastal Wetlands’

In the media

Interview Performing Borders Live, 2019 European research and curatorial platform

Recent publications

McCloskey, P. 2021, ‘The inhuman Within: Beyond the Biopolitical Intrauterine Imaginary, Studies in Gender and Sexuality. 22 (3) pp 174-191

McCloskey, P., Duffy, C., Zvensden, Z., Chicago, J., Hawkes, J., Townley, A., Lovett, L., and Šimić, L. (2021). 'FAN Mothers in Our Fragile Social Network against Climate Change'. Journal of the Motherhood Initiative, 12(2), pp. 1-18

McCloskey, P. and Vardy, S. 2021 ‘Performing Geopower: Resistance and Border-fictioning’, in SCENE (Special Edition on Contemporary Irish Performance) 8(1-2), pp. 195-212

McCloskey, P., and Vardy, S., 2020, 'The Material-Discursive Border & Territorial-Apparatuses {The Eile Project}'. Building Material, 23, pp. 1-28

McCloskey, P. 2018, ‘A Place of Their Own’, Multivoices in Research: Orlek, J. Ed., East Street Arts

McGarry, J. Hinsliff-Smith, K. Evans, C. and McCloskey, P. 2017, ‘The experiences and impact of mistreatment and obstetric violence for women during childbearing: Protocol for a systematic review of qualitative evidence Protocol for a systematic review of qualitative evidence’, JBI Database of Systematic Reviews and Implementation Reports. 15(3), 620-627

McCloskey, P. 2016, ‘Paula McCloskey’ in Contemporary Mamactivist Artists: A Forum on Maternal Activist Art for the Special Issue: The Everyday Maternal Practice: Activist Structures in Creative Work, Studies in the Maternal

Hogan, S, Baker, C, Cornish, S, McCloskey, P. 2015 ‘Natal Signs: Exploring Pregnancy, Birth and the Transition to Motherhood Using Participatory Arts’, in Burton, N. (ed.) Birth & Its' Meaning: Representations of Pregnancy, Childbirth and Parenting. Canada: Demeter Press

McCloskey, P 2015, 'Art and the Maternal: An Ongoing Relation' M/Voices Column, April

McCloskey, P. 2013 'Post-Partum Document and Affect' in Special Edition Maternal Aesthetics: The Surprise of the Real, Studies of the Maternal 5 (1)

McCloskey, P. 2012 'Paula McCloskey in Conversation with Mary Kelly' Studies in the Maternal 4

McCloskey, P. 2012 'The Potentiality of Encounters: A Response to Lisa Baraitser's Maternal Encounters' Studies in Gender and Sexuality 13 (2)

McCloskey, P. 2011, 'Transformative Birth' Association of Radical Midwives Journal 1(2)

Stories of the Air/Spéirscéalta 2021-2022 Science Foundation Ireland Discover funded €50, 000 relates to the atmosphere and climate with communities in Galway city and Connemara, Ireland comprising texts, photographs, and maps that will document scientific, cultural, and personally imagined narratives related to the atmosphere

Wet / Land / Dwellers 2021-2023 (Part of Arts Catalyst Emergent Ecologies programme. Art, spatial and science collaboration

The Air we Breathe: Sites of Sympoiesis 2020 and 2021(Architecture at the Edge Festival commission, Ireland, 2020/21): co-inquiry (local communities/scientists) investigating the politics of ‘air’ performance walks, participatory film workshops, talks and public-realm sculpture, AV film); Science Foundation Ireland, MARiE funded, Sheffield Hallam Uni, Derby Uni

Eile/Bog 2021: film screening at All the Small Things (group exhibition), 2021, Art Core, Derby

Myths for a Wetlands Imaginary 2019; commissioned by Arts Catalyst funded Art Fund. Exploring global wetlands, this de-colonial co-inquiry (local people and scientists) included 3-month residency (Walthamstow Wetlands), participatory workshops (maps and myths), site-responsive performance, and multi-media installation.

Geopower (and Spatial Self Organisation Against Injustice) 2019 (Arts Catalyst commission): a performance walk, curated event and participatory workshop around the post-extraction landscape of Orgreave/Treeton (Rotherham/Sheffield, UK)

Eile/Lobster 2019: film screening at Otherlings (group exhibition), 2019, Art Core, Derby

Insensible 2019: film screening at ‘Is There a Future?’ - Performance and Installation Art on Reproduction, the Ecological Crisis and Our Future, London, UK

The Territories of Eile 2018: film Screening, Departure Lounge Festival, Derby, UK, July 2019

Kin-Entanglement 2018: Participatory performance 'Lab' at Social Art Summit, Sheffield, 2018. With national and international artists and follow up workshop at Tate Exchange, 2019

The Territories of Eile, 2018: film screening: an exhibition of experimental moving images in 'Manifest Dismantling' at Boston Cyberarts, USA co-curated by Mobius artists El Putnam and Margaret Bellafiore – 2018

The Territories of Eile, 2018: film screening, The Cave, University of Leeds, UK, 2018