Workshops: investigating and developing participatory environments for artistic learning
Watts, Jake Thomas
Workshops: Investigating and Developing Participatory Environments for Artistic Learning is a practice-led (Haseman, 2006; Bolt, 2007; Smith & Dean, 2009) transdisciplinary (Klein, 2018) PhD investigation conducted by action-research (McNiff & Whitehead, 2008) and participatory action reflection (Kemmis, et al., 2014) approaches. This PhD includes a written thesis exegesis accompanied by a portfolio of descriptions of my artistic practice presented on the scaffold of critical action-reflection cycles. The thesis is a critically reflective account of how I have developed my own approach to composing, conducting, and playing workshops as a potentially exemplative approach to developing paragogic (Corneli & Danoff, 2011) artistic learning environments. This includes contextualising and exploring matters of concern that emerged or were identified in and through (Borgdorff, 2011) this artistic inquiry. This investigation explores the following questions: • What are workshops within a visual arts education context? • How can we understand the production of workshops as an artistic practice? • What critical vocabulary do we require to describe workshop practices in a broader context? The thesis exegesis includes three sections, each one involves its own subsets of focused investigations of the following areas: Section 1 Section 1 of this thesis is concerned with providing a historical and critical framework for understanding the role of workshops within artistic learning and knowledge production in the premodern era. This framework will then be used to explore the links between these formulations to study of the learning characteristics that workshop environments within visual arts education currently embody. The underpinning intention within this section is to establish the foundations of a critical vocabulary that communicates the nuanced and complex nature of workshops as artistic learning environments. These aims can be surmised in the follow questions: • What is the historical context of workshops as artistic learning environments? • How, if at all, has the role of the workshop within artistic learning shifted? • What kinds of learning have and can occur within workshops? • What is the current role of workshops within and outwith higher education institutions? • How can we critically and philosophically communicate the way workshops operate as environments of artistic learning? Section 2 This section of the thesis is focused on my collaborative research as a member of Shift/Work. The intention in critically reflecting on this work is to demonstrate how collective artistic learning experiences can interrogate emergent rhetoric within artistic practices and thinking. Examining how this process can generate ongoing research interests while also providing participants of the research with an understanding of how to compose paragogic artistic learning experiences for, and with, their peers. In this process I will explore the following questions: • What is the potential of workshop production as a collaborative research approach into the matters emerging within and through artistic practice? • What is the critical contextualisation for the emergent concerns within artistic practice identified through my practice-led research? • How can the types of practices and knowledge these collaborative and participatory investigation produce, or transform, be understood? • What is the value of a paragogical approach to co-producing these learning environments? Section 3 In this section I will critically reflect on case studies drawn from my own individual artistic practice. Prior to doing so I will provide critical contextualisation discovered and produced through my practice-led investigation, this is with the intention of contributing to the production of a critically robust and rigorous vocabulary that can advocate for the potential benefits of workshops as artistic learning environments. To achieve this, I will explore the following questions: • What does the historical role of the workshop in the cultivation and transmission of artistic knowledge relate to current pedagogical and artistic practices? • What practices within the action of composing, conducting, and playing workshops require critical consideration? • How can we produce and/or identify and develop a transdisciplinary critical vocabulary to articulate the nuances of these current workshop knowledge practices? • What can critical action-reflection research into my artistic practice yield as exemplars for composing and conducting paragogic learning processes within workshops? In the conclusion to this research I will explore the limitations of the research as it currently exists and potential future paths of inquiry it creates.