The Physicality of Research
Thursday 7th June: 11.00-17.00
Tate Modern, Level 5, Tate Exchange Space
…….activity and change are a matter of fact’ Alfred North Whitehead (1968)
What does research look like, how do we see it, what happens if we poke at it?
What is the value of research when we push it towards a physical form?
How do we remain open to what research is and can become?
We would like to invite you to co-investigate the multiple ways in which research manifests itself. The day will consist of a series of collaborative interventions, actions and experiments facilitated by Emily Pringle as part of her AHRC fellowship and Kimberley Foster PhD student at Goldsmiths University. The event will take place in the Tate Exchange space on level 5 at Tate Modern and is organised in collaboration with Tate Research Centre Learning: Beckie Leach, Helena Hunter and Rita Evans.
The event aims to position us in the midst of not knowing, of forming possibilities, asking questions and intentionally playing with risk. We hope to create a space to co-consider the materiality of research and question research spatially and visually.
Your participation in the day is invaluable as our multiple voices of research gather together. Therefore, we would like you to contribute to this event by bringing in something that weighs 500g. The 500g may be multiple things, one object, composite parts, random collections, made, or found, domestic and functional, related to your research or not. These will be exhibited in the Tate Exchange space and act as conduits for action and dialogue throughout the event.
Introduction to Tate day.
I am an artist and academic currently undertaking PhD research within Art Practice and Learning at Goldsmiths, University of London. My teaching has a direct correlation with my practice, questioning how materially driven pedagogies can inform and heighten approaches to learning, reflexivity and praxis.
Part of my research is located here at Tate where I work with 2 research groups activating spaces, sharing actions and questioning how we may be mobilised through materiality - Asking what learning looks like and feels like when it is transformative and we are potentially transformed. My practice-research questions the status and necessity of vital materiality and the embodied encounter within the context of art pedagogy. I am interested in approaches that re-frame the learning event as a material act of thinking and towards a sculptural and performative exchange. . These new objects aim to directly reference and negotiate the learning experMy practice is collaborative existing between people, spaces, objects and materials where practice outcomes are fundamentally informed and activated by others or other things and matter truly drives the research.
I have worked extensively with exhibitions and, collections as one half of collaborative partnership sorhed. This practice focuses on the development and enactment of pedagogical art objects that focus on enquiry and interpretation objects that both provoke and enable a questioning of authorship, affordance encounter and affect, bringing into active consideration the pedagogical agency of social and participatory practices.
I see myself as a conduit, the objects I make as catalysts and the practice as a set of events.
However, it can be easy to act with stuff to have an active practice active research and still allow actions to not be embedded in the thinking or that theory isn’t embedded in the matter. The space that we are questioning today is a space for theory, action, reflexivity, purpose and value systems and understanding that whilst that is always complex it can lead us to new transformative states of knowing, questions and manifestations.
I am interested in how we are mobilised through the stuff of research but that we can also become very comfortable with the stuff if we don’t understand its framework and separate it out as an experience in parallel rather than an emergent state entangled and enmeshed. An old tutor of mine on my ma once said it is interesting that you might understand each of the components of your thinking and making but have you ever thought that when pushed together they have the have the components’ of a bomb. This idea of imploding difference aspects of practice of research purposely together letting the disruptive tendencies of stuff drive us forward isn’t necessarily comfortable. It is easier to separate. Especially within art practice/research there are times when the stuff/material may be manifestation of thought, and interpretation of an idea or concept and developmental rather THAN the thinking itself. It is interesting to consider what then the material/physicality of research is…. how was see it, circle it and jump in it.
You will see unlike the Oscars when the goody bags they give out are expensive potions and designer goods that today you have a flat pack box and an armband. As we hope to however difficult it may be to keep the physical materiality of thinking close at hand today we wanted to provide these things as emblems of that. Rather than a note pad and a pen, the box may be a place for writing notes, it may remain flat, be made, folded differently, or anchored under your chair leg - or underneath you like a mat. The armband may be inflated, worn, provide a pillow, sit in the box, or be attached to your pen. There are no prescribed roles for these objects – but why would we choose these - what do they bring with them, what identity, what questions - what does their original function afford. In the context of research, they may allow us to change form, to be the same materials reordered, reframed.
The box and the armband have the capacity to be filled to allow us buoyancy and containment, a vessel, a vehicle, as Karin Knorr Certina discusses - knowledgeable objects if these are in fact that, are ready to be complicated by others - or in a sense are never quite themselves. But they may provide a continuation and unfolding. Whilst the box has a specific way it is supposed to be put together that isn’t a rule we have to adhere to and the armband signals something by its presence within the notion of research that maybe we don’t always know and sometimes we make that place of not knowing visible to others and ourselves. Both are potential empty spaces - and filled spaces as we may choose to invest in them or a process or in fact reject it. So today your objects may be left as they are now or they might shift through the day - dependent on you and what you want, or don’t want from them.
So my HOPE FOR THE DAY refers to something said by Brian Massumi:
One of the reasons affect is such an important concept for him he says - is because it explains why focussing on the next experimental step - rather than the big utopian picture isn’t really settling for less. It’s not exactly going for more either. `it is more like being right where you are – more intensely.’ This is what we are interested in today.
So our hope is that by the end of the day we may be slightly re-ordered
When is a salami the same as a shoe…when you weigh it.
2. A football
3. A package of bacon
5. Three medium-sized bananas
6. A typical guinea pig
all weigh 500g.
How do we understand measurement, value systems and the hierarchies we place on matter, experience, thought, research? We cluster things under definitions that hold us, contain, reason and rationalise an approach or an outcome. But these ideas are slippery and equivalences within research can push us to measure things in a multitude of ways.
So, what do we mean by research, what do we mean by its physicality. Does this have to be matter based, what are we measuring anything against.
When we asked you to bring 500g the narrative of the task started maybe weeks ago for some of you or maybe hours ago for others, some things have been ordered selected weighed, some have intentions, emotional connections, some are haphazard, guesstimations, grabbing’s as you walk out the door. But are they all equal?
What is the intention behind this stuff collected here today, these 30/35 lots of 500g they are reflective of a choice, an individual, they stand for something and some stand for more than their weight?
What is the stuff of research as stuff - how do we look at it as practice, how do we see it, manipulate it and measure it? What do we say through the material that we say differently in words, through voice and what disruptions do these materials potentially cause, not necessarily as art but as physical manifestations of thought, intentionality, of making and meaning?
How do we keep the material with us and embedded in the way we think through things and why would we need to? Is it just more problematic to pick up research and move around with it in its material form? Not as an illustration of research findings, not as an accompaniment but as itself – weighty and charged.
For the first part of the day we invite you to share your stuff, understanding that your matter matters.
In pairs, you will have the opportunity to discuss what you have brought and what it is, could be, what it stands for, how you understood the 500g. was thought processes enabled it to manifest and be brought here today.