Vivant, E. (2018). Experiencing research-creation in urban studies. Lessons from an inquiry on the making of public space. Cities, 77, 60-66.
This paper examines collaboration between artists and social scientists in urban studies. The author was a participant in experimental research commissioned by a new cultural institution, which examined how this institution might participate in the making of a public space. In this paper she analyses the methodologies of investigation and the discussions about forms and representations, and shows the difficulties and rewards of this type of collaboration. To what extent may research based on art and social sciences, and rooted in references to the methodologies and theories of both, be a relevant and alternative way to explore, investigate and represent an urban issue?
Collaborating with a geographer/stage director and a filmmaker, the authors sought to create a common theoretical and methodological framework - between the artists and themselves (social scientists) - to consider the question at hand via field investigations and the design and implementation of prototypes. Following a pragmatist approach, they considered the producers of the cultural institution and the users as part of the same “interpretive community” and that the audience “was shaped by the process of the investigation…”. Seminars and plays were attended, and books and ideas were exchanged along with a joint development of prototypes. The prototypes helped create a means of representation via negotiation - these included a fanzine, performances, newspapers - which helped to solidify objectives around creating an artwork that would narrate a complex plurality of voices. Ultimately, this investigation and resultant prototype representations accomplished the initial goal: making a public for and through the research.
Description of method used in the article
To produce this paper, the authors referenced and drew from their own reflexive analysis of the process they undertook, the methods employed, and the final representations as well as their relationships with those who commissioned the cultural institution. Observations, discussions and emails were used to develop the analysis. Several methods of investigation were used to determine if the commissioned institution could contribute to making public space. The issues of knowledge saturation and complexity (of extant information about the working-class suburban areas) was creatively tackled, in part, by writing the history of one of the buildings from the point of view of the building itself as a way to open up an alternative voice on urban renewal. Personal experiences and perceptions were also collected regarding people’s first impressions of the suburbs. These products helped to produce prototypes to address their original question.
Of practical use