Drawing as a Method of Inquiry

“My engagement with touch is not an exploration of something I could strictly define as sensing per se but an encounter with the atypical expressions of a sensing body in movement.” (Manning, 2007:xv)

Laura Trafi Prats led a session this week on drawing as a method of inquiry. This methodological approach connects with Laura’s current research with young people in Manchester, asking;

  • What does it mean to do research on the senses?
  • How can we empirically research the senses within processes of art making?
  • How do the senses relate to expression?
  • How/when does instructional guidance in artmaking function as enabling constraints?

Laura is also interested in habit, and the role of habit in how we come to understand the body. For the first drawing exercise, we were asked to take off our shoe in order to draw it. Many people automatically placed their shoe in front of them, next to a sheet of paper, ready to draw. Laura pointed out this was a habit which we had acquired, one which indexed specific assumptions about drawing, the senses and the body, and implies that drawing is exclusively based on looking and using our eyes as a principal means of gathering information.

The drawing exercises included one drawing of an everyday object with an ‘extended arm’ (pencil on the end of a long stick). This aimed to unsettle our familiarity with picking up and holding pencils , and enable the chanceful discovery of unknown possibilities for mark-making. The second drawing was led by a sense of touch rather than sight . This involved focusing on our hand as we explored the textures and shapes of our chosen object, whilst the other hand responded to these sensations by drawing onto the paper using a continuous line. Laura offered the possibility of closing the eyes as we drew feeling our object to better reconcile drawing with touching.

Discussions after the drawing exercises were rich. Conceptualisations about drawing and what it means to draw reference specific ideas about the body and senses. The idea that drawing has to begin and end at a certain point, and to represent what can be seen, belongs to a specifically Cartesian notion of the body. Drawing on touch in particular in researching drawing can be generative because touch is a sensorial realm that seems to relate particularly to relationality. For many of us participating in the session, moving from what can be seen to what can be sensed through touch enabled particular kinds of attunement, that perhaps unsettled habitual assumptions we might hold about the body and drawing as a methodology.

From Arts Based Methods at MMU.

References used in the session:

Manning, E. (2007). Politics of touch: Sense, movement and sovereignty. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Manning, E. (2012). Relationscapes. Movement, art, philosophy. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Maslen, M. & Southern, J. (2011). Drawing Projects: An exploration of the language of drawing.  London: Black Dog Publishing.

Youth employment in the ‘gig’ economy, isolation and @youthloneliness

Isolation at the beginning of working lives 

As part of the @YouthLoneliness project (Twitter/Tumblr), we are interested to find out more about young people’s working lives, their casual employment, their experience of self-employment and their involvement in the ‘gig economy.’

The Co-op Movement (like the Trade Union movement) was a movement that brought people facing harsh conditions together in search of ways of improving lives. What networks of connection can we imagine that will do that today?

We are offering 3 workshops on Wednesdays 1.00pm to 3pm (with a Tuesday evening option too) in May based at the People’s History Museum and will be looking at archive material in the museum to inspire print making, documentary work and photography and ideas for today.

There is also the option for the same sessions to run on the preceding evenings at The Space, Great Ancoats Street, from 5.00-7.00pm.

The workshops will run on the following dates: May 3r​d​; May 17t​h​; May 24t​h They will have the following format:

Workshop One: ​ Starting a documentary process. Focussing on issues facing young people in employment and using the Museum archive to prompt ideas, this session will share learning about audio, photographic and video collection using a smartphone, all these things can be used to document youth employment over the following two weeks.

Workshop Two: ​This session will draw together what has been collected and involve the production of a multi-media, mixed art form, collage or mosaic piece based on the research done in the previous 2 weeks.

Workshop Three: ​A panel lead discussion and debate about isolation, loneliness and young people in the workplace.

To book your place follow this link

Priority booking will be given to people aged between 16 and 25 but the events are open to all.

What Can He Know? What Can She Know? Who Needs to Know?

In 2015, MMU removed a homeless shelter underneath Mancunian Way. At this time, were selecting case studies sites for PARTISPACE. Starting from the assumption that there is a relationship between the apparent lack of participation among young people and the limitations of what is recognised, the project defines participatory action as those that are carried out by the public.

In this context, an action research project was conceived with the Men’s Room, an arts-based homeless charity in Manchester. To foreground participants’ voices, they were positioned as the lead creations. Lost and Found aimed to highlight issues facing the homeless community through a series of installations, culminating in walking tours. A documentary was made, ending with a discussion centred on recognition and advocacy.

When a perspective has been silenced, the clash between mainstream perspectives and those emerging through the research process can make it difficult for the researcher to bear witness, and to know how to proceed. The seminar will seek to provide an opportunity for colleagues to watch the film and to enter a process of accompaniment.

I presented my work with The Men’s Room as part of the Partispace project at a recent Arts-based Methods at MMU session. The project included the development of art installations around Manchester, walking tours delivered by members of The Men’s Room, and a film about the project.

As the title of the session reflects, I have been thinking about epistemological understandings of knowledge in this project, drawing on Code (1991) to ask ‘who can know?’ In addition, the role of the researcher as advocate in this kind of project is important – self advocacy is difficult for marginalised groups, whose members are treated as lacking in credibility. We also talked about relation based practice, how to build trust and relationships in this kind of research, whilst also acknowledging the temporariness of researcher’s presence in that space.

We watched the film made as part of the project and then discussed it afterwards, thinking in particular about

  • Reactions to the film
  • Ideas for further dissemination
  • Advocacy/self-advocacy and alliance building
  • Role of arts-based methods
  • Further development of theoretical considerations

We left reflecting on the potential for film as a visual method to afford advocacy particularly for marginalised groups and the role academic researchers may have in supporting this.

Who stories the film itself?

How can film account for complexity?

How are participants portrayed in visual outputs?

Dr Harriet Rowley