The SAJE project is a collaborative piece of research, undertaken by four attendees at the Extend programme: Susan Humble, Anna Francis, Johnny Gailey and Emily Druiff. In Wakefield the group each discussed what they wanted to achieve, this has been refined through our conversations and we now have:
What we each want to come away with:
I intend to research issues around sustainability and survival by exploring how artists can work with communities, and whether participants become co-producers. Questions to consider: What sort of exit strategies do the artists/organisations have in place in order to see the project continuing without them? Where is the artistic experience or object located within projects of this kind? I propose to visit 2 NVA projects: The Hidden Gardens in Pollokshields, 2003 to today and SAGE (Sow and Grow Everywhere.)
In relation to a current walking project with visually impaired participants, I will reflect on the way I document and share our experiences. I am concerned that current methods are focused on funding and justification. I am interested to explore ways documentation could further participation by existing and new audiences.
I aim to shift my thinking around this by inviting the participants on a journey to meet a project, ask questions and crucially document this process. The form of documentation and discussions we have on the train journey will inform the way I represent and share future events.
I hope this will deepen the involvement of participants and explore ways to represent experiences by inverting usual leadership roles.
I will look at the process of commissioning socially engaged practice within two organisations: Grizedale Arts and Peckham Space. I will do this by inviting people who have worked within each organisations with different roles including artist, participant and commissioner. Each member of the group will be invited to engage in conversation over a durational meeting with the responsibility to document the conversations from the variety of perspectives involved. This documentation will then be fed back to the group for consolidation in a document or format to be confirmed.
I propose to visit two projects based in Yorkshire:
The SeaSwim project in Scarborough: http://www.imoveand.com/seaswim/
and the National Education Archive, held at Yorkshire Sculpture Park: http://www.ysp.co.uk/page/national-arts-education-archive/es
My primary area of interest is to investigate what happens to the artwork after the project - the stewardship - of what is produced, and whether if we are aiming through our participatory practice to foster a 'democracy of making' , we equally have to foster 'a democracy of looking'.
Over the past two months the group have swapped practices, publications, ideas and have put together the following proposal:
Aug-sept Personal projects
Oct/nov Group meeting to share findings
Dec Compile outcomes
Our proposal is to focus on the key principles which we believe underpin participatory artwork. This focus would hold it all together while allowing room for individual exploration. Each of us would embark on some research, looking at two participatory projects each, to provide the content for a discussion, which will then be brought together over a weekend to discuss experiences and findings. This open-ended method would enable us to explore our own areas of interest in a way relevant to our work. The different areas of interest, expertise and practice will make the outcomes very rich. The project will draw on the experiences within the group to understand experiences of participation in meaningful ways and from multiple perspectives. This will create opportunities for learning within the group as well as presenting heterogeneous outcomes that does not treat one form of practise as superior.
The project aims to present imaginative ways to connect with participatory practice. The focus on environment and context potentially has important implications for ways we plan, conduct and evaluate educational and participatory projects. We will propose new approaches to who we involve in these processes and whether this can have revitalising and generative effects on our thinking. As an extension of that, within the research carried out by the group the context for conversations around participation will be carefully considered, as each researcher seeks to create an intimate space for the discussion around the participatory projects explored. Through the methodology of creating an intimate space, each researcher will be aware of and note the context and environment,, and who takes the lead in the gathering/discussion. This will add a layer to our research which will be further discussed at the weekend gathering.
Underlying principles or areas of interest will need to be strong for this to hold together. Initial discussions have centred on:
- What do we mean by ‘meaningful’ participation?
- Where is the value located?
- What motives do different stakeholders have for being involved in the process, at different stages of the project?
- What is the importance of environment and context to participation
- How do we authentically and honestly represent experiences
The project will seek to generate and understand social exchanges as part of meaningful participation in the arts.
Each participant will have the opportunity to reflect on and extend their own practise through a research period. Each researcher shall investigate their primary area of interest, however they will also have the three others' interests (as secondary interests) to investigate. This will generate rich content for a group sharing event. A central focus of the project is exploring authentic and appropriate ways to represent experiences. As this forms a part of the explorations and multiple perspectives, it is impossible at this stage to predict the method of documentation and outcome.
We do wish though to find a form that is appropriate – if we are seeking in our projects to foster ‘ a democracy of making’, we also must seek to create a ‘democracy of looking’. The coherence of the project will be maintained by a common aesthetic as outlined by Bourriaud: “we must judge that domain of exchanges on the basis of its aesthetic criteria, or in other words by analysing the coherence of its form and then the symbolic value of the world it represents”. The principles of participation and representation will be both employed and interrogated across all projects.
In gathering the research, we will pay particular attention to methods of retrieval – noting who is ‘leading’ the conversation and whether we can coach responses rather than being directive. Through the process of planning, negotiating, researching and presenting, each participant will reflect their developing understanding of leadership. This will be layered with reflection on ongoing professional development through participation in the Extend programme.