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Sites of Practice

Introduction

A site-responsive project exploring the nature of “site” in relation to interdisciplinary art and science practice, looking at the considerations of working in and between different sites (e.g. studio, laboratory, field). The project investigates key questions around where the work takes place and how the context of site and mode of investigation impacts upon the nature of the work itself. 

Method:

Name: Sites of Practice

Partner organization: Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London

Authors: Heather Barnett, Adrian Holme, Susan Aldworth

Aims: Students explore a range of disciplinary and interdisciplinary methods in developing site-responsive work. 

Time: A seven-week project in the first Unit of Year one of the MA Art and Science. 

Original Context: A project developed for an interdisciplinary group of Master’s students in an art school. The project was originally developed for students situated across the globe, during the Covid-19 global pandemic, under various conditions of ‘lockdown’ and restrictions of movement. 

Group: Year 1 MA Art and Science students (37 students)

Resources needed: As an ‘online distributed’ project (people located in different places coming together via online platforms). Resources include video conferencing tool, Miro board. As an ‘in-person’ project: identified sites (laboratory, studio, field). For both approaches human resources are needed (tutors, administrators, technicians).

Considerations: Normal ethical and health and safety considerations apply. In addition evaluation of any biohazard or chemical hazard associated with chemical and biological materials. Considerations of ethics, health and safety of working in public spaces, and interacting with the public.

Case Study:

Aims:

Sites of Practice takes place within the first Unit of the first of two years on the MA Art and Science. 

Aims include:

Explicit 

  • Giving students experience of developing work in relation to a site (not necessarily a physical site)
  • Exposing students to different disciplinary and interdisciplinary methods for investigating, materially and conceptually, a chosen site. 

Implicit

  • Encouraging students to work through ideas quickly
  • Developing understanding of relationship between methods, processes and outcomes
  • Valuing of process within work
  • Facilitating peer work – sharing of process and outcomes, taking on board critical feedback, collaborative work where appropriate, presentation and social skills, developing confidence; building a community of practice.

Method: 

Students were instructed to choose a site accessible to them.

During the project, briefs were given by three different tutors for a one-week investigation of the student’s chosen site. All students received the three briefs at weekly intervals in rotation, maintaining an element of surprise. 

1. Sampling of the site (scientific method)

2. Human aspects of the site (artistic method)

3. Choosing a ‘hat’ for investigating the site (adopting a role with associated ‘disciplinary’ methods) 

Students were encouraged to develop final ‘outcomes’ or proposals for final ‘outcomes’ based on their investigations.

Participant-created videos are available on youtube: 

Merve Safa Erguner

Anita Chanda

Diana Krilova

Shivani Mathur

Laurane le Goff

Covid Context:

How might the method be adapted to other situations?

The context of the 2021 project was the global Covid-19 pandemic in which the UK was in ‘lockdown’, and students had no access to studios and technical resources.Teaching, presentations and ‘crits’ in which student work is reviewed and critiqued took place online using Microsoft Teams, Miro boards and ‘Workflow’. ‘Study clusters’ were also developed in which students might meet online to share work and discuss ideas

How might we adapt it? 

Under non-pandemic conditions the method would be redesigned with the potential to include face-to-face meetings and ‘crits’ in the studio. Some aspects of online teaching and working would be likely to be retained. There would be more potential for direct collaboration between students if they so wished. University technical resources, such as the CSM ‘GrowLab’ – a level 1 containment biology laboratory, could be integrated into the teaching, using scientific methods to sample and analyse material from the chosen site.

Sites of Practice was presented at the Camberwell UAL Remote Sensing Symposium (April 2021) and published here (see pages 16-19)

Test Process:

In course:

Critical Evaluation & documentation (research journal):

Students are required to keep a research journal in which they critically reflect upon and evaluate their experience of the project on an ongoing basis, 

Critical review, peer and tutor:

Weekly ‘crits’ with students in sub-groups were held to review the week’s work on one of the three briefs. 

Submission of work:

Student’s work is submitted along with other course work, with the Unit 1 submission, which includes other projects and independent work. Students were encouraged to consider ‘outcomes’ as well as to value and document process and progress of the work.

Evaluation:

Informal feedback is provided peer-to-peer and in ‘crits’ with students and tutors. 

Formal feedback is given in formative and summative form in the assessment of Unit 1, of which Sites of Practice forms a part.

Ethics:

The standard ethical policy of University of the Arts London applies to this method, as to all other student and research projects. https://www.arts.ac.uk/research/research-standards-and-ethics 










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