Friday, May 14, 2010

Mashing Up: Practice + Research

Afternoon symposium on 19th May at CCA Glasgow, with many UWS staff and students, plus artist Chris Dooks, TV director/producer turned academic Nic Jeune (Bath Spa University), Jackie Sands, and Graeme Harper (University of Bangor).

Summary of what we're talking about below, with full details here
At UWS, we pride ourselves on the vocational and practitioner-led focus of our curriculum. Many of our academic staff have spent years working as cultural producers, artists and entrepreneurs outside of the university sector, and bring their knowledge of practice in the arts and cultural industries to bear on their teaching and research. At the same time, universities strive to build meaningful relationships between their research and teaching activites and wider communities, in order to justify their position as ‘places of learning’ and to maximise the social, cultural and economic ‘impact’ of academic work.

As the learning landscape becomes more convergent, with collaborations of all kinds characterising modern higher education research and teaching, it is important to consider the implications of these forms of academic practice. In this symposium we bring together practitioner-academics, artists, and researchers to consider such questions.

Knowledge-based communities often seem to divide themselves into distinct tribes of either theory or practice. But whether explicitly articulated or tacit, theory is always informed by forms of practice, and practice is always informed by theory. Within the disciplines that make up the creative and cultural industries, practice-based research has become increasingly prominent, but the place of such work within higher education can be contested, because it communicates knowledge in ways that are not necessarily written traditionally or ‘theoretically’ but expressed otherwise, for example through the production of artefacts in visual art, design, performance, music or moving image. At the same time, higher education must develop critical awareness and theoretical and analytical capabilities, to produce more competent and skilled practitioners and researchers.

Creativity, invention and discovery depend upon challenging disciplinary boundaries, playing with orthodoxies, and making new connections. Creativity may also involve leaps into the unknown or experimental and unorthodox approaches. However, funding and policy imperatives often mean that researchers are under pressure to justify the’ impact’ of their work in economic and practical terms; and artists involved in research, particularly in higher education, are expected to account for their methods and approaches in externally verifiable ‘research’ terms. So terminological confusion abounds.

What can researchers learn from artistic methods?  Practitioners and theorists may have more common methodologies than they think; the media theorist and the journalist often utilize similar methods of inquiry.  Artists and scientists conduct controlled experiments which depend on deep expertise, specialised knowledge, highly skilled technical facility, and intuition. Can cultural and artistic research reveal common ground between theory and practice? And in this context, how does theory help to illuminate practice?