Professor Colin Fallows

Professor Colin Fallows is an artist, curator and Professor of Sound and Visual Arts at LJMU within the Liverpool School of Art and Design. His research explores crossovers between sound and the visual arts, frequently investigating the conditions and potentialities of listening in resonant spaces. As artist and curator, he has produced soundworks for live ensemble performance, recordings, exhibition, installation, radio and the Internet – and his artistic and curatorial projects have featured in numerous international festivals, galleries and museums worldwide.

Since 1978, Professor Fallows has been able to share his knowledge and experience with thousands of students who have passed through the doors of the Liverpool School of Art and Design in his various roles including visiting lecturer, part-time lecturer, Senior Lecturer, Principal Lecturer, Head of Fashion and Textile Design, Head of Contextual Studies, Reader, Faculty Associate Dean for Research, Art and Design Research Coordinator, and Head of Art and Design Research Degrees. He has also chaired all Faculty and Art and Design research committees amongst numerous others.

In 2002, as Associate Dean for Research, Professor Fallows focussed his efforts on influencing and designing the structures, processes and procedures for the leadership, management and co-ordination of research within the newly formed Faculty of Arts, Professional and Social Studies. He founded the first practice-led Art and Design MRes degrees in the UK, and pioneered practice-led PhDs in Art and Design. He has supervised 26 PhDs, over 60 MRes, and countless undergraduate student research projects to successful completion. He has examined research degrees at numerous UK universities including the Royal College of Art; University of Nottingham; Northumbria University; Manchester Metropolitan University; University of Salford; Goldsmiths College and Birkbeck College, University of London.

In his current role as Head of Research Degrees and Director of the Contemporary Art Lab, he mentors research-active members of staff, postgraduate research students, and undergraduate students engaged in research projects on the History of Art and Museum Studies programme.

Not only has Professor Fallows been pivotal in enhancing research at LJMU, but he also acted as a research consultant to the establishment of LIPA (Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts) in the early 1990s, and was appointed as the founding Head of Performance Design at LIPA, where he wrote the inaugural BA (Hons) Performance Design programme for the first international cohorts of students. He subsequently developed and took on the role of Head of Contextual Studies at LIPA, managing a team of staff from LJMU in the delivery of history and context to all LIPA students for many years. He also produced a number of large-scale international events at LIPA in the late 1990s.

At the same time as supporting the enhancement and expansion of teaching and practice-led research here in the city, Professor Fallows has also led the way for establishing a major archive at the university. He produced the vision and long-term strategy for the acquisition and digitisation of special collections and archives. Gaining initial substantial funding, the resource centre was established and newly named as the Special Collections and Archives at LJMU Library in 2004. This subsequently resulted in the employment of several specialist archivists who play a key role in cataloguing, conservation, preservation and exhibition support.

For over two decades, Professor Fallows has been instrumental in the strategic acquisition of over thirty world-class archives of popular culture and counterculture held at LJMU. Counterculture Archives and Exhibitions is the long-term research and curatorial project founded in 2000 by Professor Fallows where he has strategically compiled the biggest punk archive in the world together with a world-class counterculture archive.

The project focuses on punk, its relationship to counterculture antecedents and to wider socio-political contexts. Professor Fallows engages with artists, authors and collectors in the strategic identification, cataloguing and acquisition of specific archives followed by research and curatorial practice. Exhibitions and events create impact on the cultural sector and international public audiences. The significance and wide reach of this impact is demonstrated through institutional partnerships, high-profile exhibitions and cultural events, publicity reach, and support from the cultural sector, including key progenitors of the movement. He has curated rare, and many previously unseen materials from across the Counterculture Archives held at LJMU, in a variety of contexts, in a series of large-scale exhibitions in galleries and museums, experienced by over one-million people across nine countries. Collectively, the archives constitute a unique and lasting legacy for LJMU.

One of the most significant exhibition series linked to the archive is Punk 1976–78 (2016) curated by Professor Fallows (with Cleary, S. and Linehan, A.) and first presented at the British Library, London, coinciding with the 40th anniversary of the unique cultural phenomenon. This major exhibition series of over 300 pieces was presented in bespoke, revised and extended versions across three cities. The first edition of Punk 1976-78 at the British Library (2016) attracted a large-scale international audience as the flagship British Library entrance hall exhibition for attendance and public engagement and formed part of ‘Punk London’ International Cultural Tourism initiative 2016. A second bespoke edition was staged at Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens (2016–17); and an expanded third edition at Liverpool Central Library and Archives (2018–19). The exhibitions generated extensive national and international press on television and radio.

Professor Fallows also curated and chaired the allied public symposia at the British Library and Liverpool Central Library and Archives, including musicians, writers, designers and photographers, brought together for the first time to record eyewitness interviews and engage a wide audience on the cultural phenomena. This ongoing research also resulted in Prof. Fallows discovering and curating Sex Pistols – April 1976: The Art of PT Madden (2016) at Wilkinson Gallery, London, in an exhibition that presented and contextualised all twenty-six surviving photographs as a unified artwork for the first time.

Other large-scale curated exhibitions and allied internationally distributed book publications by Professor Fallows reinterpret previously under-researched figures and works in popular culture/counterculture. These include: Stuart Sutcliffe – A Retrospective (2008); Astrid Kirchherr – A Retrospective (2010); Cut-ups, Cut-ins, Cut-outs: The Art of William S. Burroughs at the Kunsthalle, Vienna (2012) and the International Centre of Graphic Arts, Ljubljana, Slovenia (2013); and Into the Light – Jamie Reid: A Memorial Exhibition (2024) at the Exhibition Research Lab hosted at Liverpool School of Art and Design at LJMU.

In the 1980s, whilst co-directing the independent production company, Ark (with Pete Fulwell), he researched and compiled Dada For Now– A Collection of Futurist and Dada Soundworks (1985), which prompted a letter from the late Barry Humphries thanking him “for fulfilling a long-felt cultural need”, and he produced the design for the related soundtrack album Lipstick Traces (1993). He also founded links with leading Russian avant-garde artists and Ark produced the critically acclaimed album Insect Culture (1987) by Popular Mechanics. He was instrumental in the organisation of their first visit to the UK resulting in the multi-media event, Perestroika in the Avant Garde (1989) featuring a large-scale performance at St. George’s Hall. Simultaneously, he curated the first independent exhibition at the newly opened Tate Liverpool, together with an allied exhibition at the Bluecoat. Subsequently, Ark produced Sputnik of Life (1990) by the New Composers, which became the first number one Techno 12-inch record in Russia.

He co-founded the Stuart Sutcliffe Fellowship Trust and was Chair of the committee to support postgraduate research in audio-visual arts. He also co-founded the Susan Cotton Travel Scholarships at the Liverpool School of Art and Design to support undergraduate and postgraduate international travel. His research and consultancy credits for television include: The Brian Epstein Story (Arena, BBC 1998); The Real John Lennon (Channel 4, 2000); and Great Britons: John Lennon (BBC, 2002). He is the founder and Artistic Director of Audio Research Editions, a limited edition imprint for artists’ soundworks, which since 1998, has published over two hundred works by sonic artists from over twenty countries, including Trace (1999), which contained a unique soundwork by the artist Yoko Ono. Trace was produced to coincide with the first Liverpool Biennial of Contemporary Art, and Professor Fallows was instrumental in introducing LJMU to Yoko Ono.

Professor Fallows has also undertaken curatorial work in the field of art and technology including as Director of ISEA98 (International Symposium on Electronic Art, 1998); curator (with Grundmann, H.) and contributor in Sound Drifting: I Silenzi Parlano Tra Loro (1999), a nine-day long continuous online, on site and on-air international sound installation on the occasion of the Ars Electronica festival, Linz, Austria. He was an invited judging panel member for the Sciart and Science on Stage and Screen awards at the Wellcome Trust, London, and Chair of the allied award-winners symposium at the Liverpool Biennial (2002); and Director of Art–Place–Technology: International Symposium on Curating New Media Art (2006), FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology), Liverpool. He curated Location Installations, Location Live and the Location Conference at Futuresonic 2004: International Festival of Electronic Music and Media Arts, Manchester. He was a founder member of the Board of Directors (2005–2015), Chair of the International Awards Panel (2010–2015), and Chair of the Editorial Board (2013–2015) at Future Everything: the UK’s International Festival of Art, Music and Ideas.

Central to his sonic art research and practice, he also leads the Colin Fallows Ensemble – an electric guitar group dedicated to the performance of multi-layered soundworks, dense with microtones, which generate numerous overtones through bespoke tuning to resonant performance spaces. The Ensemble performed Reverbs (2015–17), a series of related compositions by Prof. Fallows for prepared and treated electric guitars, at Wilkinson Gallery, London - staged in collaboration with Boudicca fashion house, and recorded in ambisonic surround-sound by the British Library Sound Archive for publication as limited-edition artist’s multiples.

Related works include Colourfield For Strings (2012) originally produced as an immersive sound installation in conjunction with the exhibition of Mark Rothko’s Seagram Murals at Tate Liverpool (2009). The installation utilised a dense sonic mix of sustained electric guitar recordings by Prof. Fallows and Will Sergeant (Echo & The Bunnymen). Further versions of Colourfield For Strings included: music for the play Red (by John Logan) about Rothko, with accompanying sound installation at EuroTheater Central, Bonn, Germany (2012-13); and a one-hour radio programme for ORF Kunstradio, Vienna, Austria (2013) for listeners to experience the piece via three radio sources simultaneously.

Colin Fallows Ensemble published recordings are in many permanent collections including: Tate Archives; the British Library Sound Archive; the Research Centre for Artists’ Publications, Weserburg Museum of Modern Art, Bremen, Germany; SCCA-Ljubljana, Center for Contemporary Arts; the International Centre of Graphic Arts, Ljubljana, Slovenia; and the Archive of Recorded Sound, Stanford University, USA.

Professor Fallows is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.