Beyond Fieldwork

5 & 6 December 2019

With Charles Danby & Rob Smith, Jo Joelson (London Fieldworks), Laura Harrington, Simone Kenyon and Alison Lloyd

The field may be understood as a region which is always in the process of being constructed, and not just in the eye of the beholder; and fieldwork as necessarily involving a variety of spatial practices – movement, performance, passages and encounters. The field in this sense is not just ‘there’; it is produced and reproduced through both physical movement across a landscape and other sorts of cultural work in a variety of sites.

Felix Driver, 2000

Beyond Fieldwork was a two day workshop that investigated the notion of ‘fieldwork’ in non-urban areas in relation to artistic practice, research, knowledge and understanding. Through a range of presentations and direct engagements with the field this workshop was designed to explore and further understand what goes on when artists work in the field and in what ways this can be utilised in the context of practice-led research. The aim was to see whether, in practicing a more nuanced, subjective and experiential understanding of fieldwork as it operates across all disciplines, we open up a space and the possibility for unexpected data and thoughts to occur. By privileging practice we explored an interdisciplinary way of thinking about fieldwork. A way that not only thinks between artistic, academic and scientific disciplines, but also between different ways of knowing. That ideas and knowledge can come from multiple places – body, weather, light, mood, seasons, experience – and have the potential to inform and shape thinking through dissemination in numerous forms.

Fieldwork activities are complex and performative acts of engagement. Fieldwork is also a space that involves a reciprocal interaction between the field and the investigator, where one shapes and informs the other. As Felix Driver states the act of fieldwork involves a variety of spatial practices – movement, performance, passages and encounters – that are all integral to its overall process. However, despite such apparent overlap the notion of artists fieldwork has rarely been reflected on as both a material and a medium of exploration.

Simone Kenyon talking about her project Into The Mountain, 2019
Photo by Laura Harrington

The two events were diverse in scope incorporating informal discussions, talks, workshops, walking, eating and traveling. A number of artists and academics with multiple perspectives and uses of the fieldwork form formed part of the events. Artists were chosen from those who
are currently engaged in or have completed doctoral research, to others who see fieldwork or working directly with the field, landscape and ecology in non-urban areas as an intrinsic part of their practice.

Beyond Fieldwork (Allenheads), December 2019. Photo by Laura Harrington

The event was facilitated by Laura Harrington, artist and a PhD student at Northumbria University, building on her current research interests and explorations around the notion of fieldwork in non-urban areas in relation to artistic practice, knowledge and understanding.

The event was funded by Northumbria-Sunderland AHRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Art and Design. With thanks to Andrea Phillips and Rob Tickell at BxNU Experimental Studio and Helen Radcliffe and Allan Smith at ACA (Allenheads Contemporary Art).

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