the research

Our research project addresses the the AHRC Cultural Value programme’s interest in methodologies to investigate, document and represent cultural experience and its perceived values. It builds on existing best practice in Tate in working with young people, and takes advantage of the museum’s experience in supporting live – or performance – art.

There is currently very little research into the experience and value for young people of directly engaging with live art (namely making, performing and watching). During the Undercurrent programme – a dedicated youth component of the fifteen week Art in Action programme launching The Tanks at Tate Modern – it was clear that the experience was significant for those young people taking part. However, the programme surfaced many of the challenges of accounting for the value of this form of cultural engagement to those taking part. Existing quantitative and qualitative research methods gave rudimentary insights into participants’ motivations for attending and their levels of satisfaction, but did not provide an in depth understanding of the nature of their direct engagement in live art practice. What was missing was a methodology that enabled the young people to capture, reflect on, analyse and represent their experience rigorously and authentically. It is this recognised lack of a satisfactory participatory research methodology that informs this project, which offers a study of one form of live art, involving a dancer, a film-maker and 15 young people.

A. Festival

Sara Wookey. Photograph Antoinette Mooy

Our project offers an innovative methodological case study. It will investigate the cultural experiences of young participants engaging in the construction of a contemporary dance performance within the art museum. Rather than seeing assessments of value (in the form of evaluation) as something external to and only valid at the conclusion of cultural production, we are exploring how to take advantage of the inherent procedural evaluative elements of the creative process.

This process orientation to evaluation is less common in the arts where the pressure is often to provide summative information about ‘effects’. Our study starts from the premise that understanding process allows affect and effect to be better understood. Our study also draws on creative processes and tools that have critical reflection and assessments of value embedded within them – namely live art performance and film making. Film is used as a medium to document activities and individual and group editing as a way to create fora for discussion and reflection. It also serves as a medium to represent the experience to others. The project extends the emergent field of participatory visual research with young people and places it in a new context of live art.

Our specific research aim is to better understand and assess the ‘live art’ experience of young people by:

– enabling them to participate directly in the creation of a live art performance in the gallery

– trialling a methodological approach that is collaborative and allows young people to use creative tools that embed critical and creative reflection throughout the process.

Our research objectives are:

1. to engage with young people in a process of collaborative creative production within the Tate Gallery

2. to experiment with film, and specifically participant-led film editing, as a means of documenting and evaluating the value of cultural experiences

3. to explore how to represent participants’ ongoing experiences of the creative process authentically using a range of ethnographic and participatory approaches

4. to investigate the potential of vimeo (a social media video channel) as a mechanism for peer review and ongoing cultural meaning making


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