More outputs

By Jessica Bradley 

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Border image created by Charlie Wells, Faceless Arts, from the silk paintings made in the local festival workshops

I’ve been reading about the different outputs of co-produced research in the Connected Communities report, Creating Living Knowledge (2016 – link here). The authors detail six different categories of ‘research outputs’ from projects funded under the Connected Communities umbrella.

It’s a very comprehensive and useful report, and one which works to shed light on the complexities of conducting research of this kind – collaboratively.

The six different kinds of outputs are summarised as follows (I’ve also written about these on my own blog). I’m going to discuss each kind of output in this blog post – these are very much my own personal musings and don’t necessarily reflect the views of the wider project team.

Products

Described by the authors as ‘tangible outputs’, these are, for example:

‘material objects, software, exhibitions, artworks, booklets, guidelines, performances, reports and papers’. (p.122)

For our project, therefore, these are the tangible outputs. The artistic products – the paintings, the film, the composition, the performance, the book. There are the workshops too, which take place next month. The preview is on the University of Leeds campus on 22nd June and the festival itself is 24-26 June.And of course the papers, the conferences, and the publications. I’m speaking about it at the Language, Literacy and Identity Conference in Sheffield in July. I make reference to our work in a book chapter I’m currently drafting.

The film is travelling too! It will be included in a showreel for the Yorkshire Festival as part of an event called ‘God’s Own Country’ and projected onto Weston Park Museum in Sheffield. The idea is that the projections will ‘create a contemporary utopia’. We’re delighted that our film is going to be part of this.

People

The authors describe the ’embodiment’ of research in ‘participants’:

‘this includes legacies for community members, as well as community and university partners. Such legacies relate to learning, to capacity building, to confidence and capabilities, to feelings and emotions, to the development of careers and personal security’. (p.123)

The second category is in many ways less tangible – it can’t be quantified. How can it be measured? It’s difficult. This relates also to the groups we’ve been working with and will continue to work with. What will the legacies be? And how will we gather this information? Some of the groups with whom we’ve been working are very transient. Many of the participants from one site will have left the city now and will be housed elsewhere. We can stay connected to the organisations with whom we’ve been working and collaborating. We are inviting the participants from one group onto campus for the preview and we’re looking forward to seeing them again and talking more about ‘welcome’ and what it might mean in contemporary utopia.

Networks

These refer to the ‘communities’ that co-produced projects bring into being. These ‘new connections, relationships and networks’ are a significant outcome of the research. According to the authors:

‘these networks have the potential to produce a form of what Danny Burns calls ‘systemic action research’ that leads to ‘wider structural changes’ (Burns, D. (2013). Systemic Action Research: A strategy for whole system change. Bristol: Policy Press). (p.123)

I’ve written about the community that has gathered around this project before. Researchers have got in touch to find out more about what we’re doing. People have travelled to observe and take part in the workshops. We gathered together a community to start the project in the first place. Is this a community that can work together – that has the potential for research that can lead to these ‘wider structural changes’?

Concepts 

Do co-produced research projects produce new ‘concepts’? According to the report,

‘a number of projects are beginning to develop new languages, tools and ideas for understanding community that are beginning to gain currency in academic, policy and practice fields’. (p.123)

The word ‘languages’ here is interesting, of course, given the focus of the TLANG project and given the way that we are researching this in one way as a linguistic project. What is the language of ‘welcome’? In the film, Bev talks about the language of visual arts in facilitating discussion and for articulating understandings. The multiplicity of the ‘outputs’ allow for not only different ways of expressing ourselves but also for different ‘things’ to be expressed. In song we expressed the sadness of exile – in a language many of us didn’t speak – Arabic. But the melody and the emotions that we expressed through singing – together – enabled us to share.

Institutions

What are the legacies for institutions? All kinds of participating institutions. What are the implications for those who collaborate and co-produce? (p.124)

What does this mean for all the institutions involved – from large to small? We hope that it leads to further collaborations and partnerships. We would like to continue what we started. To perhaps do things slightly differently – to grow the project from this initial starting point. But it will also necessarily diverge into different offshoots. In the Centre for Language Education Research, a group of us are working together with researchers from a number of other institutions to consider different ways of what we are calling ‘transcreating knowledge’. The arts organisation wants to build on this initial research project. To create something from the prototypes they are putting together for this project. To take it into different places and into interactions with wider communities. The two community organisations have silk paintings which they can display in their buildings. A tangible legacy. But what are the intangible legacies? And for the individuals who participated in the workshops – who took home the small silk paintings they created – will this project mean a slight change in the way that they think about the institutions involved?

The research landscape

How do the effects of these projects affect the research landscape as a whole? (p.124)

This is a small project – and how it affects the research ‘landscape’ is not something that we can consider at this point. But at a ‘micro’ level it’s affected my own doctoral research. It’s given me a different way to consider translanguaging in visual arts settings – not solely as the interactions around the creative activity, but also as multimodal, as ‘within’ the paintings. The paintings as facilitators of translanguaging space (a place for ‘criticality’ and for ‘creativity’), following Li Wei (2011) and Ofelia GarcÍa and Li Wei (2014). It’s also given me new and more comprehensive understandings of co-production (following Lassiter 2005) and how collaborative projects across sectors can provide a space for developing empathic research relationships. These new understandings I take back to my PhD ‘project’, and although not the focus of my research, this side-project definitely feeds into it.

Of course, this side-project links to larger research projects. The TLANG project, of course. And therefore to the AHRC’s Translating Cultures theme. It’s part of the Utopias Festival which includes a variety of different artistic research collaborations. It’s also part of the Connected Communities programme. So it slots into and aligns with a number of different ‘communities’ research wise.

There is another arts project connected to the TLANG project that started in the Spring. Professor Zhu Hua at Birkbeck is working with a visual artist, Ella McCartney, to consider the ‘visual turn’ in translanguaging, (see, for example, TK Lee, 2015). It’s an exciting time to be researching these topics and to be able to contribute to this area. There will be a blog post on the TLANG Project blog very shortly about this (www.tlangblog.wordpress.com). There is also an event which will take place in London at Senate House on 13th June (details here)  on Translation, Translanguaging and Creativity, organised for the AHRC theme of Translating Cultures.

As a framework, therefore, the description of the six kinds of outputs in the report enables me to consider the different threads of the ‘welcome utopias’ project and how they weave together as a whole. It’s useful to think beyond the traditional academic outputs, and also to consider how outputs function for a group brought together for a short period of time to work on a specific project. At a meeting this week with a colleague from the TLANG team, Emilee Moore, and Lydia Catterall from East Street Arts (we looked round the newly opened Art Hostel), Lydia talked about a ‘collaboration of experts’ in co-production and how each individual is needed to perform a specific role. It struck me that this was the ideal way to describe a team working on a project of this kind.

References

Facer, K. and Enright, B. 2016. Creating Living Knowledge. [Online]. [Available from: https://connected-communities.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Creating-Living-Knowledge.Final_.pdf].

GarcÍa, O., & Li Wei. 2014. Translanguaging: Language Bilingualism and Education. Basingstoke: Palgrave.

Lassiter, L.E. 2005. The Chicago Guide to Collaborative Ethnography. Chicago, London: The University of Chicago Press.

Lee, T-K. 2015. Translanguaging and visuality: Translingual practices in literary art. Applied Linguistics Review, 6(4), 441-465.

Li Wei. 2011. Moment Analysis and translanguaging space: Discursive construction of identities by multilingual Chinese youth in Britain. Journal of Pragmatics. 43(5), pp.1222-1235.

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Driftwood drifts

By Jessica Bradley 

I’ve written before about how since starting the project, people from different places and different backgrounds have got in touch with Faceless Arts and with the TLANG team to either get involved themselves or to tell us about their work.

Mastanash got involved with the local festival workshops and translated documents into different languages for us. She also conducted some interviews and will be involved with the preview. Sam got involved through links with PCI. It links with his PhD research and he’s been observing the workshops and will be working closely with Faceless Arts to develop the production.

Joe got involved through his work with educational engagement and the arts team. He’s going to be performing in the production. A researcher from Cambridge came to observe our local workshops, as she had an interest in arts and literacy workshops with refugee and asylum seeker communities.

And today, an artist contacted Bev Adams to inform her about his own work in driftwood in the States:

I’m an artist living outside Washington, DC, and my artist collaborator on this “drawing-in-the-wild,” Marcos Smyth, is an Alexandria, VA resident, whose own work comprises 4 of the 5 driftwood refugees we “drew” on the low tide line of the Potomac River, just downstream from Washington.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/with-piles-of-driftwood-and-his-imagination-virginia-artist-creates-ghostly-works/2014/09/24/4944ed2e-43f0-11e4-9a15-137aa0153527_story.html

 

It’s fascinating how a small project can draw people together in this way – in a broader sense than was previously envisaged.

Artistic outputs…in progress

By Jessica Bradley

Our project has a number of different artistic and research outputs. This has been in part why working on this endeavour has been so invigorating and exciting. It’s also why – as the weeks go by – it’s so consuming. For all of us!

Here’s a quick summary of all the different ‘things’ we’re currently working on.

Small silk paintings

The first outputs are the small silk paintings that the workshop participants made themselves. These were handkerchief sized and were taken away by the participants to keep. We asked the groups to consider the word welcome, and what it means. We asked the participants to think about welcome in different languages, in their own languages, or in pictures. One that Bev Adams was particularly drawn to included a washing line. Where are you welcome? Where you can hang your clothes. Where you can take them out of your suitcase. IMG_6504

Large silk paintings

The second outputs are the larger silk pieces which were painted for the organisations themselves. With these, we tried to incorporate the images and words from the original silk paintings. One of the participants, in week 2, talked to me about preserving the language of his tribe. He wanted me to sketch out the words ‘Zaghawa language’ in Zaghawa. He wrote it on a piece of paper and I transferred it onto the silk. This now appears on the larger piece which will be given to RETAS to hang in their offices.

Artists Helen Thomas and Stephanie James led the painting workshops. You can check out some of Helen’s other work here on her blog: http://www.toastedorange.co.uk.

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The vocal score

During the final two workshops, local composer – the wonderfully talented Maria Jardardottir – led singing and vocal workshops. She also recorded our singing and vocal work and will be using this to create a soundtrack. This will be a vocal piece around the theme of welcome and the city. You can hear more of Maria’s work here: http://www.maria-jardardottir.com

The film 

Paul Cooke from the Centre for World Cinemas at the University of Leeds produced a short film for us, based on the workshop at RETAS, Leeds. You can watch the film here:


The book

I am working on a short book, or rather pamphlet, about the process – focusing on ‘welcome’ and what it means to be ‘welcome’ in utopia. This , I hope, will take the form of a fold out map of ‘utopia’. In this I will include extracts of conversations we had across the different workshops, in which we discussed the idea of welcome and what it means.

The performance 

Faceless Arts, with performers from the University of Leeds – the Schools of Performance and Cultural Industries (PCI) and Languages Cultures and Societies (LCS) will develop a performance based on the idea of migration and home, and of welcome. This will be previewed on the University of Leeds campus on 22nd June, and then taken to the Utopias Fair at Somerset House on 24-26 June.

We’ll be updating you over the next few weeks as work on the performance progresses. Please keep an eye on this blog!

More info about the fair is available here: http://utopia2016.com. Do come and see us if you’re in London that weekend! We’ll be sure to offer a warm welcome!

But, while we’re not only creating these threads, we’re also trying to weave them together. And it’s got me thinking about what it means to be welcome, and how we welcome. How does it feel to be welcome and how do we know that we are welcomed? How do I want to be welcomed?

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A few weeks ago a school friend invited me to come to a gig with her at Unity Works. She had a cold drink waiting for me on the table as I arrived at the bar, half an hour late, in a flurry, after struggling to leave the house in time during the tricky teatime, bedtime ritual (or dance) that having small children entails. The gig itself was Threshold – songs and stories of hospitality (do go and see if you get the chance). We all filled in pieces of paper describing when we feel welcome and what it means. Some alignment with our project – a nice alignment. Why are we thinking so much about welcome during these times? Is it as the referendum approaches and we think about staying together (or, for some, leaving) and how we all rub alongside each other in the day-to-day? Does reflecting on what it means, and how we do it, and how it feels mean we’ll change the way we do it? Will we do it differently? Or will we simply be more aware as we continue to welcome people in the ways we always have – just thinking about it a little bit more.

Some further reading on hospitality includes Derrida on Hospitality (a useful short summary is available on this webpage which offers an encyclopaedia of philosophy); Thomas More’s Utopia and Zygmunt Bauman’s Liquid Modernity.

Front-stage, back-stage

By Jessica Bradley 

In yesterday’s update I focused on the local festival workshops, the silk painting and the film. These formed the first stage of our project. The next stage is to produce a piece of theatre – a performance – which is then taken from place to place. We’re working together on the production of this. Faceless Arts are developing the puppets, the props, and devising the piece itself. Sam and Joe, both from the University of Leeds, are helping with this process. They’ll also be accompanying us down to London for the Utopias Fair in June.

We’ll be heading off at the end of May to a residency to work on the making side of this project – the puppets, the props.

And in the meantime I’m working on the book about ‘welcome’ that will accompany our stand, and that will hopefully provide some kind of overview for what we’ve done so far in the project.

We have a preview planned on campus (more details to follow, watch this space). We’re working on the budget to try and accommodate unforeseen expenses (extra train journeys for the students, a visit to campus for one of the refugee groups). We’re adding the last edits to the press release. We’re thinking about publicity and marketing and how we navigate building work on campus for an open air ‘happening’.

So, yesterday, when I asked on Twitter whether this was the calm between the storms, I think I knew what the answer was…

Utopia in progress!: project update

By Jessica Bradley, University of Leeds

We have had a few days to pause. Our local festival activities finished last Thursday and the artists are tidying up the silk paintings, creating borders for the silk edges and finishing off the pieces ready for displaying at the Utopias Fair in June. After the Fair, we’ll be giving these back to the organisations with whom we’ve had the pleasure of working over the past month. These are the almost finished paintings :

More pictures to follow!

The larger pieces incorporated the individual designs of the smaller silk paintings that were created by the workshop participants. Helen and Steph then worked on the banners to transpose the original drawings onto the silks. This enabled everyone who took part to take something away with them as a souvenir, or memento, and also to leave something behind.

The vocal workshops led by Maria were recorded, and she will be using the voices, the sounds, the singing, and the shared songs and melodies to create a piece of music – a composition – which will be part of the main performance. This piece of music will also be given to the organisations involved and shared, where possible, with the participants. In this way, we experiment with creative ways of ‘giving voice’ to the people with whom we are working, and with whom we are collaborating. This project is all about experimentation.

During the penultimate session we made a short film. We’re currently in the process of editing the film, of making little adjustments and ensuring the details are all accurate. There are a number of people from the project who feature in the film and we are awaiting their feedback. The vocal workshop provided a soundtrack to this – as did an interview with one of the workshop participants. Paul Cooke from the University of Leeds is producing the film and we are very grateful for his input and expertise. The film will be screened as part of our festival stand at the Utopias Fair. It will also be made available to one of the organisations involved, RETAS, and we hope that they will be able to use it in their work. We also hope, perhaps most of all, that those who feature in the film are proud of their involvement and pleased with the final piece. Because more than anything, this film is about the workshop participants themselves. Mastanash, one of our community volunteers, sent the following in an email after she saw the first edit of the film: ‘…thanks for counting me and my words in it’. In linguistic ethnography we talk often of giving voice, and we talk about trying to flatten the research relationship (see for example, Copland and Creese 2016)- in co-production we get the opportunity to really try and put this into practice. It’s a learning curve in many ways and we’re both supported and restricted by our different institutional guidelines and processes – and our different practices. The filming, and seeing the (extremely fast) way in which the many bits and piece that were filmed by Paul and Rosie were put together into a coherent piece, has been illuminating for me – it seems to be a very interesting and very powerful way of putting (quite literally) words into action. I’m learning so much from this.