Tuesday, 23 September 2008

How am I doing It?

The Leverhulme Trust remit is for me to to interact and contribute. This generously open brief offers a great freedom and flexibility and is welcome after the public performative role of running of the Children's Art Studio at North Edinburgh Arts Centre. Occasionally it can feel disorientatingly open, especially when everyone else here at CRFR has a focussed brief for research and outcomes.

The give and take of it all at the moment is that on the giving side I am open to collaborative possibilities as they arise and I will continue the drawing sessions and start new lunchtime art sessions in the autumn term.

On the taking side I am having the opportunity to reflect on my practice. A reading of Art Encounters Deleuze and Guttari, Thought Beyond Representation, by Simon O'Sullivan, is useful for this:

'We might say then, that art practice names the careful process by which within a striated space (organised, regimented and representational) a smooth space is opened up....It is here that the 'in-between' nature of art practice again becomes important. Art is always situated between the actual and the virtual, in fact we might say operates itself as a kind of 'actualising machine' p34

This resonates with where Caroline and I are in our conceptualising of what we are doing in our collaboration. What started as a consideration of how best to 'present' or 'represent' her Phd findings has shifted or evolved. We are now thinking that the 'process' and the 'production' are inclusively about 'creating (creative) spaces for exploratory and critical dialogue'. This then resonates with Sarah Morton's evolving sense of generating 'impact' with research. She is considering the potential for each stage of the research process to generate 'impact' and for that 'impact' to be cumulative.

Another quote from Art Encounters delineating art practice could equally apply to this way of thinking research:
'..An art practice is a fluid, dynamic system always in connection with a number of different regimes and registers and always in contact with an outside, however that is theorised....in this sense, art is less the name for an object or a discipline as such but again a name for a function of 'deterritorialisation' - an affective 'moving away from the habitual'.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

What am I Doing?

What am I doing? There's a limit to how much can be explained when you in the midst of it! 'It' can be a bit confusing. Just had an 'artist's chat' with Dawn Cattanach who does CRFR graphics as her day job. Heartening. And useful to try and tell an artist what I'm doing.

I've been invited to do a two minute wonder presentation at next week's Threshold Networking Lunch hosted by the Knowledge Transfer Secretary of Edinburgh Research Innovation (phew!). I have two minutes and one slide to introduce myself and my area of work. Above is the slide I'm going to use. It features a A1 poster/chart I've made for Alice as an aid for family interviews she is conducting for the research project on work/life balance over time, entitled 'Work and Family Lives: The Changing Experiences of Young Families'. We are hoping that the personalised chart looks contemporary and feels a bit like a board game, where individually and as a group the family can chart their lives for the last six months.

For the Threshold Networking Lunch tomorrow, I've superimposed an image of William Taggart's 'Spring' (1864). I love this image of childhood.

Where am I?

Sometimes it takes me a bit of time to ask the key questions! Maybe I don't frame the questions until I am within sight of the answers. A paper from Caroline by Bernie Carter in the Journal of Research in Nursing 2006 helped me get to a view point and sparked this blog entry: One expertise among many - working appreciatively to make miracles instead of finding problems:using appreciative enquiry as a way of reframing research, http://jrn.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/11/1/48 . ' AI, at it's heart, is about studying and exploring what gives life to human systems when they are at their best'. This contrasts with the focus on problems and their solutions in much historical and contemporary social science research.
In The Politics of Aesthetics, Jacques Ranciere writes ' The nineteenth century was haunted by the Platonic paradigm of the democratic dissolution of the social body, by the fanciful correlation between democracy/individualism/Protestantism/revolution/the disintegration of the social bond. This can be expressed in more or less poetic or scientific terms...in more or less reactionary or progressive terms.' He goes on to say thay sociology was born from this concern with the lost social bond - as a problem.
Appreciative enquiry then, with it's focus on what works, relational processes, multiple knowledges and expertise is a radical departure. However it resonates well with a socially engaged arts practice both in terms of collaboration with researchers and in terms of engaging with participants in creative and/or research projects.
This is an o.k. place to be.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Theatre for the Very Young

Just back from a couple of weeks in St Andrew's working on a piece of theatre/art collaboration for toddlers. Since the 70's there has been a growing European movement of artists and early years practitioners interested in developing theatre for very young children. Charlotte Fallon of Theatre de la Guimbarde in Belgium has developed exquisite work at the same time lobbying for more early years access to theatre and creative arts. Although she doesn't consider herself an artist - she thinks of her work as a bridge that will encourage young children and their parents to access 'art' - her work is visually, materially and performatively captivating for babies and toddlers and their parents. La Barracca in Bologna develops work for children in it's dedicated theatre, a geographical and pedagogic neighbour to the Reggio Emilia nursery schools. Polka Children's Theatre and Oily Cart in London are also part of this movement.

In Scotland , we are very fortunate to have Imaginate, which presents the annual children's theatre festival and promotes and develops performing arts for children and young people throughout the year. Of the numerous children's theatre production companies based in Scotland, Star Catchers which emerged out of North Edinburgh Arts Centre is dedicated to producing work for the very young.

I am very lucky to be associated with this bunch of people. There is no equivalent movement in the Visual Arts. Maybe this is because theatre people tend to be more outgoing and extrovert by nature. Also, in the main, the work is more collaborative and group based, whereas visual artists often work alone. In general I sometimes wonder why there are theatre productions, books, films, television, computer games for children, but very little visual art dedicated to children. Infact most exhibitions that might appeal to children have to be covered in signs saying 'do not touch', 'children must be under control of parents at all times' and the like.