The two-year fieldwork programme (April 2007 â€“ April 2009) consists of a number of Tate Encounters practical projects carried out with staff members at Tate Britain and undergraduate students in the Department of Arts, Media and English, in the Faculty of Arts and Human Sciences at London South Bank University. Some of the results of the fieldwork projects now form the basis of the display elements of the Research In Process programme staged in the Duveen Studio at Tate Britain between 19 February and 22 March 2009.
Since October 2006 over six hundred students from the Department of Arts, Media and English has visited Tate Modern and Tate Britain as a structured part of their Level One common programme. For the last two years the project has been working with a smaller number of volunteer students from who have been involved in documenting their own and in some cases families responses to Tate Britain. London South Bank University is local to both Tate Britain and Tate Modern, situated on the South Bank of the Thames at the Elephant and Castle. The university is a temporary home to both a globally and locally diverse population of over 20,000 students studying in London. The project declared its interest to students who had migrated to study, or whose family had migrated over the passed three generations.
Tate Encounters Projects
The Pilot Project (April 2007 â€“ October 2007
The first group of student participants joined Tate Encounters after visiting Tate Britain as part of their first year undergraduate programme in October 2006. This was a group of twenty students who took part in a series of organised workshops and who agreed to document their experiences at Tate Britain using digital media and uploading material to a project blog on a closed intranet site. This site is now archived as part of the keyword search of the Online Archive which is under construction.
Co-researchers Project (October 2007 â€“ April 2009)
In October 2007, having recruited a second group of first year students, we discussed with them the idea of becoming â€˜co-researchersâ€™ in the project, on the basis that they submit a proposal for a study, which we would subsequently discuss with them and accept. As a result the project accepted 12 participant projects, which have formed the basis of a completed series of video based presentations in the display.
Digital Media Arts Project (October 2008- February 2009)
At the end of the first year of the project it was noted that whilst participants attended workshops at Tate Britain and continued to document their experience, they made little use of the online blog. Instead they worked to the deadlines for submission to the Image/Sound/Text section of the [E]ditions online publication. The project still wanted explore what a digital encounter might be and negotiated to work with third year students on the BA(Hons)Digital Media Arts programme. Tate Encounters constituted itself as an external client commissioning a series of prototype interface portals for the Tate Encounters Online Archive. click here to view
Tate Encounters Fieldwork Methods
The data gathering methods used during the fieldwork programme have been based upon the ethnographic interview and modes of reflexive documentation on the part of the research team (in the form of email correspondence, unpublished papers, audio documentation of meetings). The ethnography took two directions, the filmed interview and filmed family documentation and the unstructured interview written up as interview notes.
In addition to the participant projects to document their own encounter with the museum the programme included a documentation of their participation which took the form of two ethnographic interviews, one upon entry and the other to take place at the end of the fieldwork period, during the Research in Process Display. The project has produced a large data base of video documentation, which will form the basis for further analysis.
Lure of the East Project ( November 2007 â€“August 2008)
As one means of understanding how Tate Britain reproduced its own notions of audience the project undertook to follow a section of exhibition and display programming between November 2007 until August 2008. 32 interviews were undertaken across four departments of Tate Britain who worked upon the exhibition, The Lure of the East. During August 2008, 15 video interviews were conducted with the research team and participants in the exhibition space. The study of the Lure of the East forms part of a wider organisational study of which two papers have so far been written.
Research-in-Process (February -Â March 2009)
Research-in-Process was the title of a month long series of talks and discussions held in the Duveen Studio at Tate Britain in March 2009, which was designed to be the culmination of a two year period of research fieldwork. The aim of the programme was to exhibit the fieldwork data generated by participants, extend the range of people contributing to the Tate Encounters research project and establish the beginning of public dialogue and debate about the research questions and the researchâ€™s emergent findings.
The research had asked what narratives of national British culture were contained in the collection and displays of British Art at Tate Britain and how such narratives were encountered by a non-traditional museum audience and individuals with migrant or diasporic backgrounds. The emergent findings presented a challenge to established taxonomies of race and ethnicity as meaningful measures of cultural difference and turned attention back upon the professional practices of museum in understanding the reproduction of exclusionary social practices.
The objectives of the month long Duveen Studio programme was framed by four related areas of research interest: Â education practice within the museum; the status of digital media in museum practice and culture; the racialisation of cultural policy and the role of museums in social regeneration; and narratives of British visual culture through curatorship.
Research-in-Process was conceived as a live research encounter in the museum about the museum, by inviting artists, academics and museum professionals who had an invested and parallel interests to make their own responses to our framing of questions about art museum audiences.
Reflexivity as a concept and practice has informed the ethnographic methods of the project as well as forming a distinct strand of thinking and activity. The project embraced reflexivity a a means of guarding against the dangers of data-orientated methods of grounded theory, ethnomethodology and inductive ethnology as, â€œmissing the main part of the interpretative problematic, so that the data appear as more or less unmediated, pure, and the research process is endowed with a naÃ¯ve character of gathering and threshing empirical material.â€ Alvesson and Skoldberg (p48-49). Reflexivity, whilst acknowledged as a convoluted process in research was a chosen method to avoid both positivism and postmodern poetics, providing as it does methodological processes which connect data to wider and grounded analysis.
Alvesson, M. & Skoldberg. K. (2000) Reflexive Methodology: New Visions for Qualitative Research. London. Sage