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Past events

Art Activisms Research Cluster # 04

Practice-Based Research and Social Impact

Main Lecture Theatre, Birmingham School of Art
Margaret St, B3 3BX
4 March 2020, 5pm-7pm


  • Mohamed Hafeda
  • Helene Kazan
  • Roma Piotrowska
Chaired by Professor Anthony Downey

What is meant by practice-based research in the Arts and Humanities? This question has become a core area of investigation for practitioners and arts institutions alike, highlighting as it does the role of interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary practices and how practice-based research contributes to the development of research methodologies within academe. To the extent that such practices support the institutional aims and ambitions of the Research Excellence Framework (REF), we also need to reflect here upon what is meant by “impact”—be it social or otherwise—and how we understand it in relation to practice-based research.
It is with these points in mind that the invited speakers for Art Activisms Research Workshop # 04 (Practice-Based Research and Social Impact) will address the subject of practice-based research, evidentiary structures in the humanities, architectural design, and curatorial research. In specific terms, the workshop seminar with ask the following:
•  If the visual arts are increasingly defined as a means to generate social impact and produce knowledge, then what value do cultural institutions and Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) assign to practice-based research?
•  To what extent does practice-based research, in curatorial and educational contexts, offer variations on the qualitative and quantitative methodologies commonly in use within academe?
•  How do curatorial programming and methods contribute to collaborative research practices and the production of alternative knowledge systems?

Speakers Biographies

Mohamad Hafeda is an artist, academic and a writer. He is a founding partner of Febrik, a collaborative platform for participatory art and design research working on issues of refuge and spatial rights. Hafeda holds a PhD degree in Architectural Design from the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London. He is a senior lecturer of architecture at Leeds Beckett University. Hafeda is the author of Negotiating Conflict in Lebanon: Bordering Practices in a Divided Beirut (I.B. Tauris, 2019); the co-author of Creative Refuge (Tadween, 2014) and Action of Street/Action of Room: A Directory of Public Actions (Serpentine Galleries, 2016); and the co-editor of Narrating Beirut from its Borderlines (Heinrich Boll Foundation, 2011). He is currently working on a new art research project with a group of refugees in Wakefield exploring the temporal bordering practices of displacement in the UK, funded by the Arts Council England.
Helene Kazan received the CHASE/AHRC award for her PhD at the Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths University of London. She is the recipient of the 2018-2020 Vera List
Center Fellowship at The New School, New York. Kazan is a Lecturer at Oxford Brookes University, the Royal College of Art, London, and was a Research Fellow at Forensic Architecture, Goldsmiths University of London (2012 - 2015). She has recently shown work at Ashkal Alwan/Digital Earth, Beirut (2019), Goethe Institute, Lebanon, the Arab Center for Architecture (2018), The Serpentine Gallery, London (2017), documenta(14), Kassel (2017), Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design, Moscow (2016), Ibraaz (2015), Tate Britain, London (2015), Mosaic Rooms, London (2015), The Showroom, London (2014), the House of World Cultures (HKW), Berlin (2014), amongst other venues.
Piotrowska is a curator at Wolverhampton Art Gallery. She co-ordinates and shapes a programme of exhibitions and events across Wolverhampton’s arts and cultural sites. Prior to that, she worked as the Senior Exhibitions Manager at Ikon Gallery, where she managed temporary exhibitions, publications, events and commissions. She has also worked extensively on the production of numerous catalogues, including Dan Flavin, Sheela Gowda and Roger Hiorns among others. Alongside her day job, she works as a freelance curator, including supporting the development of Iraq Pavilions at the Venice Biennale between 2013-2019. In 2012 she worked as the Curatorial Assistant for the 4th Guangzhou Triennial (China) 2012. She is also a freelance writer, producer and vlogger. Her work has appeared in exhibition catalogues including Artur Zmijewski: Selected Works, published by Neuer Berliner Kunstverein, and the 27th Biennial of Graphic Arts Ljubljana, as well as journals (engage journal) and art magazines (This is Tomorrow, Contemporary Lynx, Daily Art Magazine).

Art Activisms Research Cluster # 03

Curating Artistic Research: Critical Practice and Speculative Methodologies

Venue: Eastside Projects, 86 Heath Mill Ln
Birmingham B9 4AR
December 4, 2019 4-6pm

What is meant by artistic research and how does it contribute to the formation of experimental knowledge systems?

In this research seminar, speakers from across the spectrum of curating and programming will address how they work with artists’ research and how these processes relate to larger debates in the art world.

  • Amira Gad (Artistic Director, Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, Seoul)
  • Melanie Kidd (Director of Programmes, New Art Exchange)
  • Alona Pardo (Curator, Barbican Gallery, London)
  • Carolina Rito (Professor of Creative Practice Research in the Centre of Arts, Memory and Communities, Coventry University)

Throughout this research workshop, a number of key questions will be addressed, including:

  • What is meant by artistic research and how does it contribute to the development of knowledge systems?
  • What knowledge does curatorial research produce?
  • How do we understand exhibitions as forms of research?
  • If art as a practice is increasingly defined as a means to produce knowledge, then what value do cultural and higher education institutions (HEIs) assign to the performative, exploratory and speculative production of knowledge systems in the arts?
  • To what extent does artistic research, in cultural and educational contexts, offer variations on the qualitative and quantitative methodologies commonly in use throughout research-led practices within academe?
  • In terms of funding and research returns (REF), what role does artistic knowledge assume in relation to research outputs, impact, and teaching (TEF)?
Speakers Biographies

Amira Gad is artistic director at Lehmann Maupin (New York, Hong Kong, Seoul) where she works to advance the gallery’s artistic programme. Prior to her appointment, she was curator at the Serpentine Galleries in London from 2014 to 2019, and Managing Curator & Publications at Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam where she worked from 2014 to 2019. At the Serpentine Galleries, she has curated exhibitions of works (and edited accompanying publications) by Albert Oehlen (2019); Hito Steyerl (2019); Sondra Perry (2018); Torbjørn Rødland (2017). In 2018, she was nominated as a woman leader of the art world by The Sunday Times magazine.

Melanie Kidd is an arts professional working across fine art, design and contemporary craft and specialising in exhibition curation, commissioning and production, audience development strategy and socially engaged practice. She is currently Director of Programmes at New Art Exchange (NAE), Nottingham - an arts organisation dedicated to culturally diverse artists, audiences and perspectives - where she leads the strategic development of NAE’s artistic and audience engagement programmes. Melanie is also NAE’s Senior Curator. A selection recent exhibitions include: Doug Fishbone’s Leisure Land Golf (2016), Hurvin Anderson: Dub Versions (2017), Akram Zaatari: The Script (2018) and Hardeep Pandhal: Paranoid Picnic, The Phantom BAME (2019).

Curator Alona Pardo has worked at the Barbican since 2005, curating shows including, recently, the Jean-Michel Basquiat retrospective Boom for Real (2018); Richard Mosse’s Incoming (2017), a monochrome video piece documenting the refugee crisis by photographer, John Akomfrah’s ground-breaking installation Purple (2017), and Trevor Paglen’s From Apple to Anomaly (2019). Pardo regularly writes on art practices for the Barbican Curve series.

Carolina Rito is Professor of Creative Practice Research in the Centre of Arts, Memory and Communities at Coventry University. Carolina is the executive editor of The Contemporary Journal, the co-editor of Architectures of Education (e-flux Architecture, 2019), Institution as Praxis; New Curatorial Practices for Institutional Research (Sternberg, 2020, forthcoming), and FABRICATING PUBLICS: The dissemination of culture in the post-truth era (Open Humanities Press, 2020, forthcoming). Carolina is executive group member of the Midlands Higher Education Culture Forum (UK), and researcher in the Institute for Contemporary History at Nova University of Lisbon (Portugal)

Art Activisms Research Cluster # 02

Critical Methodologies and Research Practices

Venue: Eastside Projects, 86 Heath Mill Ln
Birmingham B9 4AR
June 5, 2019 4-6pm

Critical Methodologies and Research Practices will bring together 5 speakers to examine both research-led practices and practice-led research and how they collaboratively generate a series of questions about critical methodologies within academic institutions. More broadly, speakers will address the impact of research outputs, forms of knowledge exchange, and what is meant by knowledge transfer in the context of the REF exercise and research funding bids.

Speakers include:

  • Demitrios Kargotis, who will talk about his recent Arts Council funded project and its post production phase;
  • Jakub Ceglarz, who will present an overview of his Midlands 4 Cities (AHRC) Creative Economy Engagement Fellowship (CEEF);
  • Nat Muller, who will be presenting an overview of her curated show for the Venice Biennial;
  • Anthony Downey, who will give a short overview of his new book series Research/Practice  (MIT/Sternberg 2019).
  • Stuart Whipps, who will present his new film, Necessary Amendments, 2019
Art Activisms Research Cluster # 01                             

Research Networks and Art Practices

Venue: Eastside Projects, 86 Heath Mill Ln
Birmingham B9 4AR
June 15, 2019 4-6pm

This research workshop will bring together speakers from arts institutions based in the Midlands and staff from Birmingham School of Art to discuss the role of research networks and knowledge production in art practices today.

Speakers include:
  • Gavin Wade, Director (Eastside Projects, Birmingham), Presentation of Housing Manual: Eastside Projects User’s Manual Draft #7.3 and housing work in progress.
  • Craig Ashley, Director (New Art West Midlands), Presentation on research practices and research networks.
  • Alis Oldfield, Artist and Lecturer (Birmingham School of Art, BCU), An introduction to the School of Art’s First Protest Choir, a student voiced and issue-led project.
  • Dr Lisa Metherell, Artist and Lecturer (Birmingham School of Art, BCU), Presentation of “Practising Networks of Care (Encompassing Love, Care, Pedagogy and Octopuses....)”
  • Sofia Lemos, Curator of Public Programmes & Research (Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham), A Presentation on “Practising the Institution as a Site of Knowledge Production”.
  • Linzi Stauvers, Head of Learning (IKON Gallery, Birmingham), A Presentation on “Locating the Artist in the Archive and Community Centre”
  • Skinder Hundal, Director (New Art Exchange, Nottingham), Presentation of “The Role of a Contemporary Art Space in Activating New Perspectives on the Value of Art in Society”.
  • Chair: Dr Anthony Downey (Professor of Visual Culture in North Africa and the Middle East, Birmingham School of Art, BCU)
Issues to be discussed will include:
  • What is meant by research networks and how do they contribute to the formation of experimental practices and new forms of art activisms? 
  • How do artists-cum-activists engage constituencies beyond the art world through research networks?
  • What forms of knowledge do artists produce?
  • Does art as a form of activism have a future in a post-neoliberal age?

The event will start at 4pm with an overview of the Art Activism Research Cluster and an introduction to all speakers.