As a solo practitioner and researcher, I am accustomed to fairly clear and defined lines of inquiry, which I can control and track with relative ease. It has therefore been a real education to work on a project like ‘Challenging Place’ where the researcher is not once, but twice removed from the activation of the inquiry. In the Half Moon project, the activities of the young people are a response to the framework and activities put in place by the project facilitators and artists, which in turn emerge from the initial research inquiry and questions defined by Sally.
It has been compelling to see an academic research inquiry activated by and through others and to trace the threads of the original questions, while also tracking the changes, shifts and surprises which inevitably arise from the responses to these questions in action. There are, without doubt, challenges in conducting practice as research in this context; there are many conditions which impact upon the work, but which are outwith the control of the researcher. However, it is also true that the filtering of the research through a range of people in a number of different roles serves to enrich and develop the inquiry in ways which cannot be anticipated prior to it commencing.
If the thinking in practice as research sits in its doing, then in a collaborative PaR project such as the one at Half Moon, there is a complex web of thinking through doing taking place, from the posing of the initial questions, to the defining of the activities, to their delivery and the responses of the young people. It’s not always a clear and defined line of inquiry which emerges and it is certainly challenging to trace its threads, with detective work often required! However it does feel like real PaR, with ideas emerging from and through the collaborative practice.
Jo Scott 02/07/12