Collaborative Research Forum Event Report

Jill Journeaux is Professor of Fine Art Education in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at Coventry University. She reports back on the Forum's recent event on Collaborative Research at Nottingham Contemporary convened by Carolina Rito, Head of Public Programmes and Research at Nottingham Contemporary; Isobel Whitelegg, Programme Co-Director, MA Art Museum & Gallery Studies at University of Leicester and Bill Balaskas, Associate Professor in Visual Communication & Research Coordinator at Nottingham Trent University.

Midlands Higher Education Culture Forum working group on Collaborative Research
What is Research?
16th October 2018 at Nottingham Contemporary

The event comprised 60 participants including researchers and supervisors from NTU, University of Nottingham, BCU, University of Birmingham, University of Leicester, people in the process of applying to AHRC and to institutions for doctoral and post doc study.

I really enjoyed my day at this workshop and it made think more carefully about the nature of research undertaken between HEIs and Cultural Sector Providers (CSPs) and how we might best shape future collaborative work with our partners. My colleague, Geoff Willcocks, is involved in this Forum and it was he who suggested that we should send someone to this event. I would strongly recommend that we send at least one person to each Forum meeting – some of the M4C partners had several people at this event.

The following is a brief report on the proceedings:

Carolina Rito introduced the day and gave an overview of the work of the Forum which covers 5 areas:

Collaborative Research
Cultural Education
Talent and Employability
Placemaking
Health and Wellbeing

She spoke about the need to move beyond a case study approach towards an integrated model of knowledge production across HE and CSPs. She explained the intention of the MHECF to create an online provision with a glossary of terms, a range of collaborative case studies, information for and on the work of PhDs Post-docs, and a range of impact case studies. She stressed the importance of the inclusion of local communities in collaborative projects in order to create and enhance rich regional cultural ecologies and the importance of archiving this work so that it can be studied and better understood and articulated. The forum will also act as an advocate to ACE and REF with regard to the particular characteristics of the evolving nature of collaboration between HEIs and CSPs.

The first speaker Dr Sian Vaughan, RDL in Art & Design and M4C co-ordinator at BCU, articulated the breadth of practice based visual arts research as a context for CSPs. She focussed on the potential of metaphor in practice based research and also in supervision. She asked questions about the status of the outcomes of collective/collaborative research in relation to the participatory nature of collaborations between HEIs and CSPs. She spoke about the legacy of a lack of confidence in the visual arts around definitions of practice based research and how these must be put behind us to enable the production of new knowledge between HEIs and CSPs and referenced the work of PRAG UK See https://prag-uk.org/ especially their use of the term Practice Research to build confidence and ensure translation to success, and their advocacy of the use of archives by artists as characterised by serendipity, borrowing and the construction of new narrative. Finally, she drew our attention to the emerging field of sensory history as an opportunity for HEIS and CSPs.

The second speaker Dominic Gray, Projects Director at Opera North and a contributor to events in Hull City of Culture, argued for the recognition, articulation and creation of third space research – as greater than the sum of the HEI and CSP. He gave examples including:
NTU’s Bonington Gallery collaborative project Future Factory, which gave Opera North a space between education and performance - a third space. Also, Centre CATH which led to DARE – a partnership between Opera North and Griselda Pollock at University of Leeds and to the DARE Prize for artists to work with scientific groups. See www.dareyou.org.uk
for the resultant Liberty Lectures, and the sandpit events on YouTube – A DARE Sandpit, Music and Violence. Dominic is looking to work with other HEIs and is particularly interested in City of Culture initiatives.

The round table discussions focussed on the need to develop and advocate for third space collaborative research. The Forum is planning to undertake work that will result in papers to ACE and REF regarding the nature of research that is generated in the interface between HEIs and CSPs. The CSP participants were particularly vocal about the need for work that articulates impact in a meaningful way and is not simply metric driven but is measured in ways appropriate to the values in our cultural fields. There was wide agreement on the need for further work around the dynamics of collaborative practice – currently an under researched area. There was a lengthy discussion about the challenges and potential of using partnerships to generate research from rather than through communities, and how to better understand how dialogues with communities are effected through the arts.

Jill Journeaux
October 2018

Photography: Victor Simao