researching @tate: access and getting ready

I’m now in London to do a week’s research at Tate. I’m working with the Schools and Teachers team and this is an important annual event – Summer School. I thought that I would blog each day as a bit of show and tell about what I do when I’m not focused on academic writing and research education or on my day job running a centre.

Tate Summer School is always connected to a current exhibition. Last year coincided with the opening of The Tanks so it centred on live art. This year it’s the exhibition by Meschac Gaba, Museum of Contemporary African Art. Tate Schools and Teachers team always commission an artist or artists to curate the week, and this year it’s being put together by Harold Offeh, and Adelaide Bannerman. I’ve already met Harold and Adelaide to see if they are OK with me hanging around.

They’ve invited other artists to join the programme during the week – Larry Achiampong, Sonia Boyce, Eduardo Padilha, Robinson Stirling and Brian Shimkovitz. The programme of activities is designed, Harold and Adelaide say, “to explore how performative acts, gestures and interventions can inform, expand, question, challenge and open our understanding of artist’s practice and processes in the museum”.

The five days will be organised around the notion of ‘call and response’ – a form of communication and dialogue associated with, but not exclusively from, Africa. Call and response most commonly occurs in musical genres like Jazz, Blues, Gospel and Hip-hop. Call and response sets up a framework to look at forms of communications, knowledge, power and agency.

The notion of call and response is a wonderful fit with the way that Tate Schools and Teachers team and I now think about professional development in the art museum – as an offer which participants respond to in various ways, depending on their prior experiences, interests, energies and desires. I’ve also been thinking about Derrida’s notion of hospitality and the art museum as an hospitable place (with all of the ambiguities, paradoxes and incommensurabilities that this means), and this too just seems to fit really well with the ways in which the Summer School, and indeed the exhibition itself, will work.

A brief note from me was sent out to participants (along with other logistical information) to prepare them for my request about participation in the research – here’s what it said.

Everyone knows that TATE Learning works regularly with artists. What is perhaps less well known is that the Learning team also regularly works on research projects and with researchers. I am one of those researchers.

I am based in the School of Education at The University of Nottingham and I’ve been working with Tate Learning for about a year now. There’s a bit more about me at the end of this email with some details you can check out further if you want. I am coming to this year’s Summer School along side Amy from Tate Schools and Teachers team. I am researching how participants, including the two of us, take up what’s on offer in the five day programme. Amy and I will have conversations through out the duration of the school to collate and reflect on our experiences.

The Schools and Teachers team and I are not interested in looking at what the Summer School learning IS and measuring it in some way and deciding how effective it is or how effective you are when you go back to your day jobs. This is what a lot of researchers do. We want to do something quite different. We are interested in the processes of learning and meaning-making. We want to understand how our collective learning GOES, and what it DOES – or to put that in another way – we want to find out what we decide to DO with, in and as the learning from our week at TATE.

We are not going to research ON you, but rather we hope, WITH you. We will formally ask your permission about whether you want to be part of the research on the first day. Of course it is OK to refuse, but we hope that you all are interested in thinking about your own learning and that of the group, and will be happy to participate in a few non threatening activities that will help us talk about it.

We will use the Learning with Tate blog to put up what we are thinking, and to let you know about any writing we do about the week. You cant find the last Summer School report on the Tate website yet but we can send it to you if you’d like to see it.

Then followed a bit more about me. So that’s my plain English access begun. Now cross fingers everyone’s OK to take part.

I start tomorrow at 9 am… Looking forward.

About pat thomson

Pat Thomson is Professor of Education in the School of Education, The University of Nottingham, UK
This entry was posted in Access, Tate Summer School and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to researching @tate: access and getting ready

  1. Pingback: Practicing and the Primary Charter | Making is Learning

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