The experience and value of live art: what can making and editing film tell us?

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham
Department Name: Sch of Education


In 2012 Tate launched the Tanks. Converted from their former function as huge oil containers the Tanks at Tate Modern are the only designated museum space for 'live' art (installation, performance, new media and film) in the world. The Tanks present a unique challenge and opportunity for the gallery to understand the experience of live art, not least as the opening 15 week Art in Action programme attracted 565,000 visitors. A key element of Art in Action was Undercurrent, a multi-disciplinary 11 day festival programmed by and for young people. Attracting young visitors from across the UK, the Undercurrent programme actively questioned how young people engage with and develop mainstream and alternative cultural forms and, as with much live art, troubled the barriers between artists and audience and involved multiple layers of involvement.

This study draws on the unique potential offered by Tate as a site of cultural creation and engagement for young people. The project builds on on the museum's existing good practice in involving young people working collaboratively with artists in the making and viewing of live and participatory art. It extends this work by addressing the methodological challenge of accounting for the value to participants of engaging in processes of cultural production.

The research is an in-depth case study which explores the potential of a participant-led, creative evaluative methodology to evidence the cultural value of making and viewing live performance in the art museum. In tune with the practice it addresses, this study is cross-disciplinary. It draws on methodological approaches from art practice, ethnography and participant evaluation. The study is both a formative and summative evaluation. Its focus on process relies on an innovative use of the practices of individual and group film editing as a means of stimulating critical reflection. One of its prime contributions will be an assessment of the possibilities offered by film and social media as a means of enabling wider peer assessments of cultural value and ongoing critical meaning making. Film also offers a medium for the representation and communication of the participant's experiences to peers and to wider audiences.

The case study focuses on 15 young people working as performers and researchers. They will take part in two hour workshops with a dancer. They will work each morning for five days to develop a piece of live art, culminating in a public performance on the fifth day in the Galleries at Tate. The workshops will be filmed by a film-maker and each afternoon the young participants will split into groups and, alongside the dancer, work with the film maker to produce rough edits of the day's activity. Embedded within this editing process will be evaluative judgements, as participants will be asked to shape their films according to the following question: What part of the creative process that you have been a part of do you consider the most valuable, and what does it look like? At the end of each day the rough edits will be posted on a vimeo site. Participants will be invited to comment on each other's films alongside a wider cohort of young people who Tate will recruit as peer reviewers prior to the project.

Over the following four month period participants and peer reviewers will continue to edit their own and other's films. The young participants and dancer will reconvene at Tate in March 2014 for a two-day workshop led by the film makers. During these sessions, the group will collaborate to produce one film that takes account of the varied representations of their experience of the dance workshops and performance. This will articulate the cultural value to them of engaging in the process. To gather further evidence of the cultural experiences of young participants and to assess the integrity of the evaluative process, two participant researchers will also observe, film and interview participants.

Planned Impact

The research is designed to have six layers of impact. The impact will primarily be cultural knowledge about the experiences of live art and how it can be researched.

The first layer are those directly involved in the workshop. The young people will report to their school and their peers, thus assisting the transfer of understanding about the benefits of cultural participation. They will build sustained interest in live art, critical reflection and skills in evaluation and research.
The artists - dancer and filmmaker- will add to their own repertoires of practice in evaluation and research.

The second layer is young people involved in the regional Circuit programme. Circuit is a youth led contemporary arts project funded by Paul Hamlyn, and directed by TATE Learning. Selected young people from the regional Circuit programmes will be involved as interactive commentators and volunteer film editors. Their participation will be coordinated by the regional Circuit gallery worker, and via their participation and that of the young people, this approach to formative and summative evaluation will enrich the repertoire or evaluation approaches available to the Circuit programme and its funder Paul Hamlyn.

The third layer is the TATE learning team and the TATE staff more generally. There is a great deal of interest in the museum about understanding the experience of artists, performers and visitors alike. They will engage with the blog, the performance and the final publications. We will give at least one internal seminar to TATE staff but we may also well be invited to represent TATE's work in wider fora.Their knowledge of formative evaluation will be enhanced, and they will also have further evidence of the value of cultural experiences in art museum contexts.

The fourth layer consists of gallery educators, evaluators and curators, teachers and artists interested in the issue of understanding artistic experience. We anticipate this group will be the primary readers of the blog. Because TATE has global reach and influence, we anticipate that this will be a big group. Some who are able to get to London may well attend the performance, but we expect that many more will look at the films that result on the vimeo channel. We will be able to track statistics about location and visits via daily reported wordpress data. They will add to their understanding of cultural experience, what it is and how it is produced, as well as learn more about formative participatory and multimedia evaluation

The fifth layer consists of arts policy advisors interested in evaluation processes. We will circulate details of the blog and all publications to them; TATE already has a mailing list of relevant people. We will also invite them to a discussion about evaluation which will further inform our proposed edited book. Costs of this event will be borne by TATE. They will be better informed about the benefits to young people of live art experience, of participatory approaches to formative evaluation and we hope inspired to support further developments in this area.

The final layer consists of interested members of the public. The performance will be advertised and managed via TATE booking systems, and the blog will be open access and publicized via a new twitter identifier. The vimeo site will be made public at the end of the project on a view only basis, and the blog will remain as an archive of the events and the research results. We hope these will contribute to building understanding of the benefits for young people of participating in cultural activities. This is critical at a time when the broadly aesthetic, social and educational value of the arts in under threat. We hope that the project will have social impact through these more general activities for the interested public.


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Description We are still working on our results. An interim finding is that film can communicate some of the experience of a youth live art workshop, and the editing does indicate what events had the most impact on young people involved. However if the text is also an art object, it raises doubts for the audience as to the veracity of their interpretations.
Exploitation Route We intend to work more on the question of how this use of film differs from the ways film is used in other disciplines. We also intend to work with some of the young people from this workshop on a co-designed project which also combines a workshop in a contemporary art practice and the use of film as data and as representation.
Sectors Creative Economy,Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

Description Tate Learning Research Centre 
Organisation Tate
Department Tate Education and IT
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution I have an ongoing partnership with Tate Learning which encompasses funded and unfunded projects and reciprocal supervision and research input. Pringles is Special Lecturer at Nottingham and supervises doctoral students, Thomson is on the steering group off the Tate learning FResearhc Centre and co organises seminars and other activities.
Collaborator Contribution See above
Impact Joint supervision of two doctoral students, one of whom is AHRC funded via Tate. Several publications are in process, one working paper on the Tate Learning Research Centre website,. Joint presentations at conferences. Shared research into teachers learning led to successful Arts COUncil bid.
Start Year 2009
Description TATE conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invitational seminar at tate to discuss use of film in gallery education research. There was considerable discussion and a following seminar was organised to consider ethnography. A firth seminar is about to happen on ethics.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
Description conference presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact One day conference in Melbourne Australia on creativity in education. Organised by Monash University.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016