Throughout your degree, there will be opportunities to share your practice with an audience. Those moments represent a snippet of practice at that time. Such sharing takes place within the rhythms of your particular PhD as appropriate to your research. At different times, you may choose to show work in progress – for your supervisory team and/or a group of peers for example – this allows you to get feedback on your work. Presenting finished work to the public (for instance, as part of a festival or within your institution), gives you an opportunity to develop your practice to a certain level of completion and to get audience feedback if appropriate. Sharing your work may take place formally (through an Annual Review), informally within your academic context, or in a more public manner in partnership with external organisations / venues.
Showing might be a cumulative or processual endeavour, where each iteration builds into the next. The relevance of showing depends on each individual project, but it is important to frame this in dialogue with practicing and writing. Take the time afterwards to reflect on sharing your work, to consider the next steps, to review your project journey, and to adapt as the research progresses.
Showing work in an Artistic Research context can also bring some challenges. Firstly, it enables you to experiment with the encounter with the viewer in ways which may not be suitable in a professional context (Arlander, 2020). Considering the audience as a co-creator of your work offers a space of experimentation where you can involve the audience in a safe environment. Arlander suggests that ‘maybe the main provider of tension is the role of the audience as co-creator. Because it is not possible to go too far in experimentation if you don’t get the audience with you’ (S3, 2020).
A second challenge is managing collaborative work and clearly defining authorship. Your doctoral submission is an individual project, but your practice may involve working and showing collaboratively with other practitioners in ways which are malleable with undefined boundaries. It is therefore important to specify everyone’s role in the process as clearly as possible: for example, a signed agreement by all collaborators that articulates each one’s participation in the project and a clear note in the dissertation outlining your contribution and the contribution of others. Annette Arlander, in her Visioning the Future Seminar, speaks of the many tensions in Artistic Research, particularly in performing arts:
Proposals for Action: Showing Your Work
Consider your practice and reflect on the following:
- When would it be helpful to get feedback from peers and/or your supervisory team? Ensure these moments are on your schedule.
- Is it appropriate / relevant for your project to engage in partnerships with galleries, festivals, and similar venues? Think about what your research might gain from presenting finished work in these contexts and whether there is a particular festival / venue / organisation where your work would fit well.
- If you decide to show / exhibit / screen / perform your work to the public, what are the ideal conditions to do so? In lieu of the ideal conditions being met, consider compromises you can make or alternative solutions.
- What steps can you take now to make that happen? Articulate these in your project schedule. This may include planning logistics such as finding appropriate venues, booking rehearsal rooms, sourcing equipment, running auditions, etc.
- What is the role of the audience in the work? Reflect on how they might be involved or not, and if there may be any ethical concerns.
Use this exercise to help you build in performing/screening moments in your schedule: with or without live audience, in a performing arts venue, cinema, or in the studio, work in progress or finished work. It is important that your practice is seen / experienced by your supervisors, your peers, and/or a wider audience at different stages of the process, as these moments advance your research. Make them work for you.