Situating Practices was a group exhibition showcasing the work of postgraduate research students at different stages of their research and from different creative disciplines- this included artist practitioners, architects and researchers working at the boundaries of social science and creative practice. The exhibition ran for two weeks from 17.05.19 to 01.06.19 and was part of the Temporary Contemporary programme, a partnership project between the University of Huddersfield Art, Design and Architecture and the Creative Economies team at Kirklees Council, functioning as a space of live action research in Huddersfield Indoor Market. Nine practitioners were selected through an open call to explore different configurations of (art) practice as research or research as (art) practice. The exhibition sought to engage in a dialogue about what it means to do research in, with and through practice. Influenced by the ideas of “situated knowledges” and “heterogeneous multiplicities” in Donna Haraway’s essay Situated Knowledges: The science question in feminism and the privilege of partial perspective (Haraway, 1988), it explored what kinds of situated and tacit knowledges are produced in practice and how different narratives, making processes and spaces are negotiated within these practices. The works in the exhibition drew on different methodologies and modes of communication in their enquiries, from methods that embed practice within different research sites, such as auto-ethnography and field diaries (Christian Skovgaard Petersen, Beth Morgan), to fieldwork within making spaces and communities (Julia McKinlay, Susan Carron Clarke). Some of the researchers used their creative practice to uncover and illuminate tacit knowledges (Laura Harris) or reveal narratives and histories that would otherwise remain buried (Adrian Evans, Caitlin Kiely). Other practices in the exhibition sought to intervene in and activate public space, using a satellite space within Queensgate Indoor Market as a place of further exploration (Charlotte Eagles, John Carney). Through situating research practices within a gallery space, the group exhibition sought to consider not only how the artefacts of practice-led research function, but what kind of new knowledges and experiences encounters with this work can generate.
As well as the process of working together to build the exhibition, the exhibition also intended to facilitate conversations between the participating artists around their research practices through a round-table discussion. The discussion, held before the exhibition preview, was primarily targeted at the contributing artist- researchers although the invitation was opened up to the public. This was taken up by a few members of academic staff and PGR students from the University of Huddersfield not participating in the exhibition. The purpose really, was to introduce each of the artists to each other’s work and take advantage of the opportunity to share experiences across disciplines and institutions. Taking a walk around the exhibition space the contributors were invited in turn to present their work to the group. Dr Louise Atkinson was invited to write a response to the emergent themes of the exhibition drawing on this discussion these were identified as “ways of knowing”, “interdisciplinarity”. “place and memory”, “collaborative practice” and “public interventions” (see following page). Following this the contributors were invited to dwell on more general questions of research as practice. These were the negotiation of ethics within creative practice and practice-based research, the relationship of methodology to practice and process and the disciplinary boundaries that they may encounter. The implications of which are drawn out in the third part of the exposition. This was originally intended to be part of a lengthier programme of discussion around the exhibition, however due to a number of practical reasons this did not come to pass. First of all, the short nature of exhibition install (2 weeks) was difficult to reconcile with teaching schedules, deadlines and other commitments. Moreover, as contributors, particularly those who lived more locally, were already spending available time invigilating the exhibition (a service not yet fully provided by the Temporary Contemporaryinitiative) it was difficult to get more than one exhibitor within the gallery space at one time before the other had to rush off the next appointment. The handover point however provided a key point of contact between people- sharing who had been in and what they had said. The other practical issue was funding related- while the project had secured funding from the University of Huddersfield Graduate School ‘Postgraduate Research Environment Fund’, the maximum funding for a PGR exhibition only allowed us to cover material costs for the installation, travel expenses for the exhibitors to come to Huddersfield twice- once to install and once for the discussion and private view, and transport for the return of works where necessary. The technical support for install and invigilation was offered in-kind. It is important to remember therefore, when thinking ecologically about exhibition-making that these conversations are situated within the wider ecologies of funding parameters, institutional values and bureaucracy.
The exposition proceeds in 3 parts. First of all, Part 1 explore the exhibition itself considering the works side by side in the words of the practitioners. The artist statements and descriptions of the works were provided by the artists and have been kept as close the original contribution as possible. Part 2 includes the response to the exhibition by Dr Louise Atkinson in which she draws out the emergent themes of the exhibition and Part 3 situates the exhibition works within a broader discussion about ecological approaches to exhibition making.
ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS (alphabetical order)
Dr Louise Atkinson was awarded her practice-based doctorate from the University of Leeds in 2016 and now works as an independent artist- researcher, with recent projects including commissions from the Yorkshire Sculpture International ‘Making Matters’ project and the Refugee Council ‘No Place Like Home’. Dr Atkinson was invited to write a response to the work and themes of the exhibition from her subject specific knowledge in research as creative practice. Her response draws out the emergent themes of the exhibition, including multiple ways of knowing, interdisciplinarity, place and memory, collaborative practice and public interventions, through an analysis of the individual works included, concluding that these objects hold a double ontological status, representing both the processes and outcomes of the research, while existing within academia and as part of the wider artistic discourse.
Claire Booth-Kurpnieksis a final year Collaborative Doctoral Award candidate with the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and the School of Art, Design and Architecture at the University of Huddersfield. Her PhD research is addressing the question ‘How can we understand the Yorkshire Sculpture Park as generative of aesthetic and social experiences and what effect does this have on the wellbeing of the visiting public?’ through a qualitative methodology influenced by participatory research practices. Claire’s research interests are on the different modes of engaging publics with art, their potential impacts (aesthetic, wellbeing, transformative etc.), and socially engaged art practice. Her interest in the curatorial project of the ‘Situating Practices’ exhibition has arisen from the tension within her own PhD research, by thesis, about her own identity as a practitioner somewhere between research and art. Through this exhibition she is interested in interrogating how practice can be configured, with other PGR students, within the process of both research-as-art and art-as-research.
John Carneyis currently engaged in a practice-led Masters by Research at Manchester School of Art, titled ‘Concretising God- Dematerialisation, Fetishism and the Social Construction of Objects’. As an artist, he produces work that investigates the power and social agency that material things possess, to address the contention surrounding 'the material' of artworks (a well-documented problem for art production since the 1960s) and their immaterial antipodes (the mental and social forms that artworks produce, prompt or instigate). It is by viewing the agency of immaterial form as a sacred power- and by exploring the potentials of this affinity through the phenomenon of fetishism- that his practice takes root.
Susan Carron Clarke is a practice-based PhD researcher in the School of Art, Design and Architecture at the University of Huddersfield. HerPhD research investigates the resurgence and revival of traditional stone carving techniques in community art and craft organisations. As an embedded researcher with the West Riding Stonecarving Associations (WRSA) she is documenting learning processes, techniques and the attraction to the materiality of stone in a communal workshop environment. The use of creative practice is part of a multi-method qualitative approach to studying a stone carving community in a way that allows for total immersion in a situated context.
Charlotte Eagles is currently engaged in a practice-led Master by Research in the School of Art, Design and Architecture at the University of Huddersfield. Her practice explores and investigates ideas of the audience, community, collaborative narratives and participation. For Situating Practices Eagles has created a socially engaged platform to be both observed and engaged with, using her artistic practice as a methodology to investigate what it means to be an audience member.
Adrian Evans is a Senior Lecturer in Architecture and PhD student the School of Art, Design and Architecture at the University of Huddersfield. Evans's PhD research engages with narratives around the clearances and diaspora in/from Scotland, speculating that a creative deep mapping of place and landscape can disclose a narrative which has been overlooked and suppressed by a modernist, rational architectural approach.
Laura Harris is a PhD student at the University of Liverpool and Bluecoat Gallery, Liverpool. Working at the intersection of sociology and art practice. Harris's PhD project 'Knowing from Inside the White Cube', uses artists' filmmaking to explore and express embodied and sensory knowledges. In particular, the project is concerned with the hidden labour required by the 'white cube' model of arts institutions. Working with gallery technicians, cleaners and volunteers, the project interrogated the installation of an exhibition In the Peaceful Dome, Bluecoat 2017-18. Focusing on the materiality of the exhibition as it interacts with embodied practice and tacit knowledges, the research aims to make visible the 'white cube' obscures: manual labour and unruly, lively materials. Sociological filmmaking tends towards the documentary format. Harris attempts to challenge this, using the film camera instead as a tool for 'sensuous scholarship'. Resisting linear narrative or voiceover, her films are an invitation into sensory worlds and as an exploration of artists filmmaking for sociological research.
Caitlin Kiely is a visual storyteller undertaking an MA in Visual Communication at the Royal College of Art. Her practice is concerned with the landscape and how it is an archive for memories, histories and narratives to be contained and unearthed. She has developed a type of archaeological methodology to her practice, as she observed, surveys, and excavated meaning and information from the landscape by considering traces of the past. Kiely is continuing to develop a practice-based research approach toward place. With this, she is challenging the conventional parameters of the landscape whilst exploring alternative methods of representation.
Julia McKinlayis working on a collaborative practice-based PhD at Leeds Beckett University in partnership with Yorkshire Sculpture International (YSI). YSI was a new sculpture festival delivered by the Henry Moore Institute, Leeds Art Gallery, The Hepworth Wakefield and Yorkshire Sculpture Park from June to September 2019. As part of her research for YSI, McKinlay has been researching the space and facilities for sculpture production in Yorkshire. Visiting foundries, fabricators and quarries has revealed new materials, accidental assemblages and industrial fabrication techniques. Finding links between processes and material by-products of these spaces for production and geological and biological formations has influenced the direction of her studio research.
Beth Morgan is a Graduate Teaching Assistant and is currently engaged in apractice-led Masters by Research in the School of Art, Design and Architecture at the University of Huddersfield. Morgan’s creative practice is focused on giving her own personal, remembered experiences of walking through landscapes visual form. Overly saturated colours, biomorphic shapes and layered forms build up as she recollects her experience of a specific walk in a particular site, transforming and shifting until it inspires a sculpture. Her practice-based Masters by Research concentrates on understanding her relationship with the landscape, considering how it is transformed through the act of walking and how memory distorts and abstracts, forming new experiences. Walking is an important part of her practice, the more she walks the more responses she creates, giving her a greater understanding of how walking informs and encompasses who she is as a creative practitioner.
Christian Skovgaard Petersen is a lecturer in Contemporary Art and Illustration at the University of Huddersfield. He is currently engaged in a practice-based PhD project titled ‘Practice Futures’. Travelling to work between London and Yorkshire on a weekly basis, and having trained in Denmark, Sweden and Britain, Petersen is a veteran commuter who self-identifies with the travelling journeyman. Both in his research and practice as a maker and graphic novelist, he looks to the artisan craftsmen and craftswomen that have taken to the road to train and ply their trades across Europe since the 17th century. In anticipation of challenging current models of creative working, Petersen believes that the travelling journeyman can serve as a model for future creative practice.