Skills Exchange: The Politics of Collaboration and Co-Production

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 11:00 AM
Room: 417
Oral Presentation
Alison ROOKE , Sociology, Goldsmiths, University of London, London, United Kingdom
This paper identifies the ethical and methodological significance of this project  and discusses the productive blurring of the overlap between arts and visual research practice.

Skills Exchange: Urban Transformation and the Politics of Care was a collaborative art and social research project that took place over 6 years. It investigated the elderly in the city, relations of care and the civil spaces available for older people to participate in. The project from a notion that artists, researchers, older people, care-workers and others might exchange their skills, and, in this process, alter roles and well-rehearsed relations through processes of creative exchange. Skills Exchange challenged stereotypes of older people, and their capacity for critical thinking and interaction, the kinds of art they like, and the audiences for this kind of work. The resultant powerful evocations and artistic responses often exceeded the expectations of the institutions involved.

A Participatory Action Research (PAR) methodology, was combined with visual ethnography which employed methods of mapping, photography, interviews, and research diaries. These methods were oriented towards exploring questions about the distribution of power and voice, both within the research process and the wider society. This research methodology had questions of ethics, visibility and representation as central concerns. Well—rehearsed relations that risk being ossified in the framing of older people as the objects of research were challenged. 

The openness, conflictual responsiveness and reflexivity of all were integral to the development of the projects from artistic, research, and social perspectives. The distinction between art and social research was challenged as aspects of the research overlapped directly and contributed to the artistic processes. The research archive includes art works and social initiatives, opening events and manifestos in addition to interview transcripts and social mappings, each oriented towards the cultural and socio — political changes groups hoped to enact.