Petra Johnson

Petra Johnson

Founding member

Short Bio

Petra Johnson (PhD) is a research-based artist whose interests focus on pedestrian movement (, the role of ordinary affects in everyday life and more recently sound and sonic thinking.

In 2021, together with anthropologist Dr Artpradid Vipavinee, Petra founded The Shape of Sound Collective. The collective has since been joined by members of the Centre for Dance Research at Coventry University: Dr. Karen Wood, Lily-Hayward-Smith and Louisa Petts.

Together, we seek to build a visceral bridge to an understanding of internally crafted technologies, in this instance the hair cells inside the cochlea. Our research combines explorations of human movement with artistic interpretations of the hair cells materialised as an installation. In co-operation with Coventry Historic Trust, we are constrasting understandings of hearing/listening/rituals in a Mortuary Chapel built in the 1850s  and a monastery built in the1400s. Prompted by these architectural settings, we explore shifts in sensual connection through the manifold forms and tactile sensations of movement, voicing and silence.

From 2018-2020, Petra was lead artist of the Lijiang Studio Residency Program in the Naxi[1] village Jixiang, Yunnan, China:

In 2017/8/9 Petra’s dual role as resident artist in both the city (in Professor Zhou Hongtao’s Making Lab at the Department for Design & Innovation, Tongji University, Shanghai) and in a village prompted her research in the use of technologies past and present.

In 2018, artists from across the world joined four residency sessions in the village, each one month long, which provided a platform to consider how to map the affective landscape

In 2019, artists who had been intrumental in shaping Lijiang Studio since it’s inception in 2005, were invited to return to a group-led interdisciplinary residency which sought to explore points of convergence between art and agriculture.


During the 2010s, Petra exhibited at the German Pavilion, Shanghai EXPO (2010); Shanghai Biennial (2012) and Art Berlin a.o..

Petra regularly initiates interdisciplinary research for a round of related topics. In 2018, her collaboration with Dr. Marceau Chenault, anthropologist and choreographer and Dr. Zhang Yinan, Associate Professor at Tongji University resulted in a performance shown at the Clore Gallery at SOAS, London. In her role as co-founder of the Screens Collective (with Dr. Stephanie DeBoers, Indiana University & Xu Zhifeng, artist/architect), she presented at the International Media Architecture Biennial at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing in 2019 and the conference Emergent Visions at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, 2018. See also (see also )

With reference to her personal artistic practice, she has presented papers at SOAS, London (2020) and China Academy of Art (2019 Shanghai & 2018 Hangzhou) amongst others.

Teaching and Mentoring

Petra has worked as lecturer in Contextual Studies in the UK (2001-2002) and China (2002-2006, College of Fine Arts, Shanghai University).

From 2004 to 2006 she acted as artist mentor for ‘artistlink China-UK’, a co-operation between the British Council and the Arts Council.

Since 2021, Petra teaches a course at China Academy of Art, Hangzhou together with choreographer Olga Merekina and textile artist Liu Yingchuan. The course explores contemporary understandings of embodied cognition and movement.

[1] Naxi are an ethnic minority of 300.000 people.

Achivements within the CSRP Institute scope


Personal relevant achievements


Journal Papers:

Book chapters:

  • Swatch (2016), Faces and Traces, Issue 2, 2016 p.113, Shanghai: Swatch Art Peace Hotel                                                 
  • Duxbury, N. (ed) 2013, Animation of Public Space through the Arts,  Coimbra: Al Medina
  • Kiyak Yingin, A.(ed) 2011, made in sishane , Istanbul :Salt 
  • Kirby, S. (ed) 2006, Artist links 2002-2006, London: Arts Council/British Council


  • 2021  Kassel21 Social Sculpture Lab, Research Sharing, Neue Galerie / Documenta Archiv project, Germany
  • 2019 Anthropology and Geography: Dialogues Past, Present and Future, A Practitioner’s Perspective, Royal Anthropological Institute, London
  • 2019   Digital Conservation and Innovation Symposium for Art and Cultural Heritage, Remote Sensing: Technologies of distance and modest mobile techniques, Tongji University and China Academy of Art, Shanghai
  • 2018    Social Aesthetic Education/Practitioner Forum 2018, On mapping and cognitive webs, China Academy of Art, Hangzhou
  • 2018    Media Architecture Biennial 2018, On the Way:  On the Geographic Affects of Waiting in Urban Transit, CAFA, Beijing
  • 2018    Movement Research Presentation: Art, Materiality and Representation, Poetic Encounters with Algorithm, British Museum and SOAS, London
  • 2017    Shi Hantao (moderator), Screens as Sites of Public Discourse, Shanghai Project, Envision Pavilion, Himalaya Museum, Shanghai.
  • 2016    BoDing, B. (curator), Mediated Body and embodied technologies, Chronus Art Centre, Shanghai, link
  • 2014    Duxbury, N (convenor), Mapping Culture, Composing the Ordinary, Coimbra University, Portugal

Recent Exhibitions/Public Performances

  • Maoma Warehouse, Shanghai (2021), Design, Nature and the Pluriverse, 5min video: The body ecologic
  • Centre for Dance Research (2021), The Shape of Sound, A performance/talk presented in Coventry as part of the UK wide Being Human Festival
  • Shanghai Museum of Glass (2019), Six Movement Variations, Concept and Choreography with Olga Merekina
  • Tongji University, D & I (2019), On Waiting with Screens in Transit, Exhibition with Xu Zhifeng and Step DeBoers
  • Tongji University, D & I (2019), Becoming Time, Performance with Marceau Chenault a.o.

Artist Residencies:

  • Lijiang Studio, Yunnan Province, China 2006, 2017, May 2018- May 2020
  • m&de research residency, Dartington, UK, 2006
  • Zendai Museum, Zhujiajiao, 2011
  • Taidong Art Museum, Taiwan 2013
  • Galerie Marzahn, Berlin, 2013
  • Kunstforum, Cologne, 2012, 2014, 2015
  • Swatch Art Peace Hotel, Shanghai 2015-2016
  • ReformerART, Shanghai 2016
  • Making Lab, Department of Design & Innovation, Tongji University, Shanghai (2017-ongoing)