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Wanshu Li  has recently been awarded a PhD degree for her thesis titled Exploring the potential of UV-reactive materials as body adornment through performance art at Birmingham City University.

Wanshu's practice-based research project aims to explore the application of light-reactive materials in body adornments and expand the methodological approach of performance art studies to the field of contemporary jewellery. Through collaborative engagement with performance artists, the creative process of making, wearing and viewing light-reactive materials is transformed into performative experiences. Co-creation and co-reflection are central to the collaborative projects, which not only facilitate the emergence of open-ended art forms but also contribute to rich iterations of creative practice. Within this context, light plays an instrumental role in further transforming the viewing and wearing of artefacts into an immersive and theatrical experience, inviting all participants to reconsider their roles.


The research process adopted an iterative and reflective research methodology that evolved with the development of studio practice. Studio practice served as the primary research method, which was continuously developed through critical reflections within the research context. Between 2019 and 2022, seven workshops were conducted, resulting in a substantial body of artwork, including jewellery or wearable objects made from light-reactive materials, performative installations, and live performances. An abundance of visual documentation, such as videos, photographs, sketches and drawings, was collected throughout the research activities. Informal discussions and more formal interviews with audience participants and collaborators served to expand and enrich the knowledge and insights already gleaned from the researcher’s studio practice.


This thesis argues that light-reactive jewellery, in its making, wearing and viewing, embodies a distinct form of performance through interactions between the body, light and space. This proposition draws upon a long-standing tradition in fine jewellery where light is intrinsically woven into the design and making of pieces to enhance the interactive and performative experience of wearing and viewing jewellery. The exploration of light-reactive materials as body adornments expands this tradition and adds a new dimension through interdisciplinary engagements with fields beyond jewellery. By borrowing performance art methodologies to investigate light-reactive wearable objects, it challenges and expands the boundaries of contemporary jewellery, emphasising the active role of the body in shaping and transforming the processes of making, wearing and viewing into performances, thereby blurring the boundaries between contemporary jewellery and performance art.

Wanshu's PhD supervisors are:

  • Dr Sian Hindle (First supervisor)

  • Prof. Aleksandar Dundjerovic (Second supervisor)

  • Prof. Stephen Bottomley (External supervisor)

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