Atkinson’s response to the exhibition highlighted the “double ontological status” of the objects as artworks and research data, both process and outcome. The exhibition included work by artist-researchers undertaking practice-based research degrees (in the UK higher education context) as well as practitioners undertaking thesis-based research degrees but exploring non-discursive/ non-textual forms of collecting data and/or communicating research, often described as “arts-informed research” (Knowles & Cole, 2008). The final part of this exposition will not dwell on these boundaries. Neither will it focus on the disciplinary and institutional tensions of artistic research within the academy as addressed in The Future of Artistic Research (Kaila, Seppä, & Slager, 2017); the relationship between theory and practice/ practice and exegesis (Goddard, 2007); nor even necessarily the epistemological questions of the ways of thinking and knowing possible through artistic research (Barrett & Bolt, 2007). Instead, it will consider what emerges when these things are brought together and put on public display. The exhibition understands the works presented as ‘live’ parts of the research process, finding the definition from one of the doctoral students included in Katy Macleod and Lin Holdridge’s Thinking through art: reflections on art as research (2009) that research artworks are “objects of thinking” particularly useful. This exposition will, therefore, contemplate what “objects of thinking” do when put together, and what research curation might mean in this context. This exposition will consider the concept of “curating research” (O'Neill, Byeon, & Wilson, 2015) from an ecological perspective, considering the exhibition as an ecology “of being-together, of attachments, of entanglements, of co-operation” (Hörl, 2017, p. 23), before interrogating the exhibition space through Fritjof Capra’s ‘principles of ecology’ (Capra, 1996). It posits that the presentation of research practices as “situated knowledges” (Haraway, 1988), with multiple partial perspectives co-existing within a space creates a potential space for Felix Guattari’s “heterogenesis” (Guattari, 2000) within an exhibition ecology.



Curating Research, a collection of essays by curators, artists, theorists and critics edited by Paul O’Neill and Mick Wilson articulated the different configurations of curating and research from the traditional curatorial tasks of research within the exhibition-making process (researching artists for interpretation etc.) to the positioning of the exhibition as research action in and of itself. The latter is, in other words, the curatorial as a mode of research practice (O'Neill et al., 2015). They argue that in this case “curating research” can “enact situated enquiries and construct multi-layered platforms of questioning, experience and production- platforms that fold sense, reference and meaning together rather than positioning a fundamental opposition between aesthetic and cognitive concerns in the art field” (O'Neill et al., 2015, p. 18). In her chapter ‘Home Works’, in the same publication, Sidsel Nelund argues that “curating research” does not simply mean “exhibiting research”, which implies stasis, it is instead the gathering together of different investigations which can “enable and enhance reflexive dialogues among audiences and participants” (Nelund, 2015, p. 174). The act of curation is, therefore, a facilitation, the bringing together of investigations, “objects of thinking” and research practitioners to create a social forum. Moreover, as specified in Joasia Krysa’s chapter in The Futures of Artistic Research (Kaila et al., 2017), exhibitionary practices at the “intersection of academic research and public display” sees the gallery as a ‘lab’ space where “experimental thinking and making can take place” (Krysa, 2017). The emphasis within these texts is on spaces of speculative enquiry, reflection and dialogue, and on the process of development for artist-researchers, curators and research communities, rather than necessarily on what it means for these exhibitions exist in the public realm, how they are received by public outside of research communities, or who is included or excluded from these spaces. 

For Temporary Contemporary, this meeting of academic research and public display raised additional negotiations of space, meaning and interpretation. The spaces of Temporary Contemporary have taken over empty stalls in Huddersfield Indoor Market, an area near to the campus of the University of Huddersfield and new Art, Design and Architecture building but separated physically and somewhat psychologically by a dual, carriageway ring road. While most students will cross the ring road to get to the university from the public transport depots, the majority of people using the town centre would not cross in the opposite direction to the university campus. The Market Gallery (the semi-permanent gallery space within Temporary Contemporary) with its programme of research-led exhibitions, therefore, brings a spatial presence of the university into the town centre and the opportunity for people to engage with academic artistic research for people who might not normally come into proximity with it. Moreover, it provides different options for showcasing work for both University staff and students who so far did not have designated spaces for the display of work, although this may now change due to the opening of a new building and café/gallery space on campus in 2020. The semi-permanent gallery space exists within a programme that includes pop-ups in empty stalls, used to showcase the work of local artists, student shows, a curated exhibition as part of a textile festival; and monthly evening events (the Temporary Contemporary happening). It is part of a mixed ecology; with these activities happening in proximity to market traders, cafes, food stalls, nail technicians and hairdressers etc. and also as part of an indoor thoroughfare from one part of town to the other.


The view fromt the roof of Queensgate Market 2019 (photo: Claire Booth-Kurpnieks)

There is further tension between Temporary Contemporary as a gallery/research/exhibition space and its surrounding environment in Queensgate Indoor Market. Following Henk Slager in Curating Research, the establishment of a research-led programme could be considered to a certain extent as a de-disciplining of the academy (Slager, 2015), with the ‘academic’ proving space for “a field of possibilities, and environment for non-instrumental, indirect, experiential, speculative thought processes” (Slager, 2015, p. 82). However, this raises questions about what, as artist- researchers, we are bringing in to this environment, what are we showing to people, and how. One of the main issues to negotiate within the Situating Practices exhibition was around exposition and disclosure, with many of the works exploring non-discursive, non-textual forms of research methodology, for example Harris’s Knowing from the Inside (2019). Due to their nature as ‘objects of thinking’ all of the works on display required significant, reflective, and non-instrumental engagement to uncover their narratives and stories. Others, for example Evans's installationA port facility for the return of the Knapdale Diaspora (2018-2019), explicitly sought to occlude this disclosure of narrative. As an interpretation strategy, we did not want to include wall texts for each piece, hoping that the audience would engage with the “indirect, experiential, speculative thought processes” (Slager, 2015, p.82) in and of themselves and then read about the works in the accompanying exhibition booklet. A reading table was set out at the centre of the exhibition to provide space for this. However, while this worked well for visitors who had come to see the show, or who could take the time to engage in this way, it also excluded many of the visitors who had just popped in from the market and who were unable to enter into the life-worlds of the works because they did not feel comfortable to take a map and booklet or ask the invigilator questions. As one visitor mentioned to me as I was invigilating, “this isn’t really for a market audience, is it?”. Whether it is or isn’t for a market audience is not the focus of attention here, but rather to note that instead of the question being about whether it is or isn’t art/ research, about disciplinary boundaries, it was more about whether it is or isn’t ‘market’, the boundaries in public space. 

This was complicated further by the two works situated outside the gallery space in a vacant stall in the centre of the market, John Carney’s Symbolic Retribution (2019) for the first week of the exhibition and then Charlotte Eagles The Forum (2019) for the second. Although the stall had an exhibition poster and included all the exhibition materials, it was not always perceived to be an exhibition space. Carney’s installation, seeking to explore the affinity between art objects and sacred object, or fetishes, through creating flower memorials was re-appropriated by the passers-by of the market, leaving sweets and other ephemera as ‘offerings’. Eagle’s work, The Forum (2019), included a typewriter and roll of paper, intending to create a collaborative narrative between the audience and the artists along with memories of the market also attracted hate speech and other inoffensive but unintended statements. This left us to consider the ethical implications of what we do and don’t censor, whether or not we tidy up the bits that people left, or move the furniture back if someone has moved it within this public space. Moreover, in the pre-opening round table discussion there were concerns raised about whether it is ethical to allow people to emotionally engage with an object without fully being aware of the research work. While ‘data’ as such was not being collected about the passers-by there is still an affective impact of the work that they may not have knowingly consented to. It was recognised that while academic research tends to have strict ethical protocols about data collection they do not account for more nebulous ethical quandaries, there is a more nuanced and personal approach in creative practice, and productive work often exists at that boundary.  



Thinking ecologically, or considering the exhibition spaces as part of a larger ecosystem, has been a useful counterpoint to these issues. With ecological thinking emphasising “co-existence” (Morton, 2018) and “being-together” (Hörl, 2017), while also creating space for diversity, heterogenesis and dissensus (Guattari, 2000). Elsewhere the ecological metaphor has been used in cultural policy to capture the connections between publicly funded and commercial aspects of the Cultural and Creative Industries (see Holden, 2015; Belfiore & Firth, 2014) or the various activities of place-based making (see Courage and McKeown, 2018). In the context of Temporary Contemporary, we have suggested instead that place-based cultural development could be considered as an action of ‘environing’, an active production of environment and making of place (see Bailey, Booth-Kurpnieks, Davies, Delsante, 2019). However, while recognising that the exhibition is situated within these ecologies existing at national, regional and local levels the exhibition itself can also be read ecologically as a living system. The ‘work’ as an organism-in-its–environment, drawing on the work of anthropologist Tim Ingold becomes “the creative unfolding of an entire field of relations within which being emerge and take on the particular forms that they do, each in relation to the others” (Ingold, 2000, 19). Thinking ecologically includes collaboration between human and non-human forces, thinking about materials in the artworks, communities that sustain practices, and the surrounding environment of the exhibition. This allows us to think beyond inter-disciplinary/ trans-disciplinary ways of working, rather it is about how material and meaning emerge, transform and are embedded in flows and cycles of practice and meaning-making. In the sharing of spatial proximities, between the works, the exhibition, the interpretation, the audience and the surrounding environment, there is not one component part which is independent of the others; they are contingent.



Reading table in Situating Pactices gallery space (photo: Claire Booth-Kurpnieks)

In the remaining part of this essay, I will elaborate on the exhibition as a living system, using Fritjof Capra’s “principles of ecology” (1996) in which he posits that an ecosystem must have “networks”, “nested systems”, “interdependent relations”, “diversity”, “cycles”, “flows of energy”, “development”, “dynamic balance”, before considering the different ecological systems at play within Situating Practices. 

1. Networks: 


The works and practitioners are implicated within networks both from the exhibition and the research community at Huddersfield, the generation of new networks, the relationship with other practices within the exhibitions as well as being embedded within larger networks of their home academic institutions and research and artistic communities. In the case of this exhibition this expanded from Huddersfield to London, Manchester, Liverpool, and abroad to Denmark due to the affiliations of contributors. While collaborative practice was common across these networks, for example Evans worked in collaboration with a poet Carole Webster and the communities of Arichonan in an earlier part of his work. Other collaborations were formalised at an institutional level, for example McKinlay’s collaborative PhD with the Yorkshire Sculpture International festival and Harris’s collaborative research with The Bluecoat. However, there is also an ethical imperative to these collaborative networks.  Clarke acknowledged how the stone carving association within which she was situated had invited her into their community and she therefore felt a duty to represent them accurately and advocate for their work. In her research into hidden labour within the Bluecoat, Harris was sensitive to the precarious position it may put people in, choosing to remove identifying factors from her video, as well as being cautious of projecting a theory driven narrative of unequal labour conditions onto another person’s lived experience. Similarly, in his work seeking to expose narratives of place in the clearance villages of the West Coast of Scotland Evans was wary of assuming agency for people and presuming to speak on their behalf. 


2. Nested systems: 


Each of the practices within the exhibition network had their own nested systems, the communities and ideas in their development. For example between Kiely, her family, photo album and a place; between Clarke and the stone-carving association; Evans and the communities and stories on the West Coast of Scotland; Harris, and the organisation structures her gallery research site. Or the materials of production, for example the transferware fragments that Petersen is collecting from the banks of the Thames; Isamu Noguchi’s stone quarry that inspired Mckinlay’s prints.  Moreover, the gallery space and Temporary Contemporary initiative is nested within their own systems of University interests and the local council and the wider market environment which has its own networks and systems. 


3. Interdependent relations: 


The exhibition is wholly dependent on its individual constituent parts. Throughout the exhibition- building as works arrived and were discussed and installed they become part of this interdependence, negotiating spatial proximity, lighting etc. developing a space of relations. The gallery space itself is interdependent on external relations, including but not limited to the local cultural strategy of Temporary Contemporary providing the space, local cultural interest in attending the Temporary Contemporary programme and institutional support and funding on a case by case basis. Moreover, on a practical level it is dependent on relations with the surrounding stall holders- who may keep an eye on the storefront as you’re unloading- the market facilities staff- who you have to collect the keys from in the morning- and a multitude other people whose work behind the scenes keeps the building open and the lights on.


4. Diversity: 


The practices and their objects are distinctive and diverse, different disciplinary positions, modes of inquiry, different stages of research within academia from MA students to Senior teaching staff who were undertaking their PhDs, without privileging one over another. Moreover, this ecosystem approach allows for differing interpretations, experiences and situated knowledges to emerge, allowing for Guattari’s “heterogenesis” (Guattari, 2000). Each work is engaging with place and site but in different ways- the exhibition allows for the experience of multiple viewpoints at once, in a way that a textual form like this does not necessarily achieve. 


5. Cycles: 


As in a natural environment an ecological approach considers the nutrient cycles within the ecosystem. In the case of the exhibition, we can consider the cycles of understanding, interpretation and evolution that feed into iterative research practices. In the discussion on methodological approaches it was recognised that research and practice are part of a cycle that enrich one another, although there was tension felt between the intuitive nature of creative practice and then the need for the justification of analytical decision in academic research. While at time the processual and the contextual sides could be felt to be out of sync it was recognised that this more often ended up in a “closed loop” in which the contextual research and practice joined back together.


6. Flows of energy: 


Here we can consider the flows of meaning around the exhibition that connect the works together in different ways, energising each other. In Dr Atkinson’s response, she identifies the flows of energy and meaning between the artworks around themes of ‘interdisciplinarity’, ‘place and memory’, ‘collaborative practice’, and ‘public interventions’ that feed into the different works. As was elaborated on in the discussion and acknowledged by Atkinson in her response, the exhibitors drew widely on theory and methodology from different disciplines including anthropology, sociology, urban design, philosophy as well as the different disciplines of creative practice. Flows of energy have the potential to extend the network of the exhibition in the reflections that visitors take away with them. 


7. Development: 


The making of a group exhibition is a collective and collaborative effort with the curatorial strategy having to adapt and develop as new artists and works arrived, the works had previously only been seen in images of previous iterations, or works in development and communication with the artists mostly by email. The exhibition ecosystem had to adapt to new developments and evolutions of work. Moreover, as pieces of live research, there is potential for developing future iterations of practice and past their physical manifestations in the gallery space as an online repository and this exposition. 


8. Dynamic Balance: 


Importantly, the exhibition itself was held in a dynamic balance, between the diverse practices and outside pressures, holding itself together as an entity but not in stasis; balancing between disclosure and ambiguity; and balancing the internal forces of energy, relations and nested systems with those of the external market.




To think ecologically allows us to bring together these different nutrient cycles and energy flows to consider the multiple ecologies existing within the space of the exhibition as well as within the other systems in which it is embedded. Within the exhibition these could be summed up as ecologies of materials, ecologies of place, and ecologies of research practice. The materiality of stone cycles through the exhibition, as material in the case of Clarke (The Girl with the Paua Shell Eyes, 2019), as inspiration in the case of McKinlay (Quarry I and Quarry II, 2018), and as metaphor in the case of Kiely (Body as Landscape and Landscape as Archive, 2018). Found objects, mixed media and ephemera as containers for narrative are utilised in the work of both Petersen (Practice Fiction, 2019) and Evans (A port facility for the return of the Knapdale Diaspora, 2018-2019). Harris’s work (Knowing from the Inside the White Cube, 2019) represents a transposition of the materials of exhibition building (paper, glass, chalkboard) from one gallery space to another, whereas Morgan’s (A walk in Scarborough, 2019transposes sensations and feelings between the materialities of paint and clay. Different ecologies of place also circulate through the different works, whether the communal workshop environment (Clark); the stone masons yards around Isamu Noguchi’s studio (McKinlay); the materiality and tacit knowledges of the exhibition installation (Harris); the colour and sensation of the seaside path in Scarborough (Morgan), the narratives of clearance villages in the Highlands (Evans), the unearthed attachments to place through an excavation of a photo album (Kiely); the reconstructions of fragments found on the foreshore of the Thames (Petersen); or indeed the place-making practices within the market itself as in Carney's Symbolic Retribution (2018-2019) and Eagles's The Forum (2019). 


Furthermore, as well as situating practices within an exhibition context the works included are also situated in the broader context of the artist-researchers practice. This demonstrates the different research ecologies within which we are all working- being at different stages in the research process and acknowledging different disciplinary boundaries that sometimes felt more porous than at others. These works could therefore be considered a protuberance of a particular point in that practice. For some of the exhibitors the work presented was at an early stage of the research degree whereas for others they were much further along. The selection process was attentive to this. For some exhibitors the work was already fully formed, existing as a discrete entity within their practice. For others, it was a reactive process- the proposal was a loose idea of a work still in process and it was more of a collaborative process of installation, thinking through what would work and what wouldn’t and how it could be done. Thinking ecologically about exhibition-building means recognising that as well as ecologies of meaning or narrative; there are also ecologies of place, materials and interpretation nested within it. These are all part of a larger, complex ecosystem in which the surrounding environment and actors within it, in this case, Huddersfield Indoor Market and it's public, are both constitutive and contingent. In curating research for public display these interdependent, emergent and developing relations need to be taken into consideration.





Situating Practices as an exhibition sought to bring together the work of artist researchers from across different creative disciplines and at different stages of research to explore what it means to do research in, with and through practice. This included contemporary artists, architects and researchers working at the boundaries of social science and creative practice. The work presented ranged from print making, stone carving, video installation, model making, painting, ceramic sculpture and mixed media installations.The works represent the “situated knowledges” (Haraway, 1988) of the artist researchers and the different ecologies in which they are situated. The artist researchers draw on methodologies across different disciplines, including art, architecture, archaeology, anthropology, and sociology, often embracing interdisciplinary or collaborative approaches embracing different methodological approaches that excavate narrative, illuminate tacit knowledges, develop skilled practice within a community or methods that embed practice within place. However, these practices are also situated within academic, institutional and, as part of the Temporary Contemporary programme, local place making ecologies which are dependent on the wider ecologies of research priorities, funding parameters, instructional values and bureaucracy. The three parts of the exposition explored these from multiple perspectives- first of all engaging with the art works themselves drawing on the research texts provided by the contributors, secondly through the response to the exhibition by Dr Louise Atkinson, and finally through attention to the different and intersecting ecologies at play. 


Situating research practices within the indoor market made visible tensions between the curated inside and the non-curated outside, and the delimitation of space between instrumental and non-instrumental values. As identified in Atkinson the works in the exhibition hold a “double ontological status” as both an art object and as a research object. In this sense, they can be considered as “objects of thinking” (Macleod & Holdridge, 2009) existing within both academic and artistic discourses but also as material objects situated within an environment. While these “objects of thinking” exist outside of the market, both physically and metaphorically, they also created space for “indirect, experiential, speculative thought processes” (Slager, 2015, p. 82) within this wider ecosystem. Whether or not this was directly felt by some visitors is part of the cyclical process of a research-led public programme. Presenting research practices as "situated knowledges"(Haraway, 1988) with multiple partial perspectives co-existing within a space, creates a potential space for “heterogeneous multiplicities” (Haraway, 1988) or, in the words of Guattari (2000), cultivating a capacity for “heterogenesis” within an often homogenising public space. 




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