PABR connects a (social, cultural, artistic) topic, problem or need to a research question and investigates it by using artistic procedures and practices in a participatory way. The research formats proposed in this online publication have been developed from a corpus of fifty research projects. The road map above is a visualisation of how these formats operate between artistic practice and academic research. The map can help to navigate their application in social, artistic and academic contexts. Researchers can start at any point of this circular process. A project can result from an ongoing social, artistic, or academic practice or from a perceived desire or need in a specific field of research. One could also just start by investigating a format itself, trying out its potentials.
A single research format is realised in a specific context to configurate the collaborative research of different experts in a physical way. It can structure one complete research project or become a smaller element within another format.
The process starts with a desire, need, or question that brings together the participants as co-researchers, creating a collective agenda and interest in the research process. This collective interest has to be established before the participating researchers are able to perform, test, act, or assemble collaboratively. The co-researchers should be able to arrange, rehearse and plan details and activities for the performative events. The activities and events need to be evaluated or compared in relation to the underlying needs, questions and desires. Only after this evaluation can it be decided whether the same process should be repeated, whether the rules and conditions should be adjusted or modified, whether the format should be changed entirely or whether researchers should proceed to another application/publication.
The original projects our research formats are based on, were developed in the frame of the two postgraduate programmes, where methodologies had to be considered within a research design that fulfils academic standards. However, our formats are also intended to be applicable outside of an academic context, in art projects, education, or activist action. Researchers are invited to pick, choose, mix and further develop the proposed research formats within a bigger research design or within a single PABR project. For example, Intervention into the Real could result in a concrete solution to a problem and have a specific effect on the given social practice, while also providing data for a theoretical argument to be published. Creating a Media Device, in turn, could result in the introduction of a new device that might find other applications as well as providing a concrete framework for an academic piece of writing.
Within a wider research design, several research formats can interlink, modify and support each other. For instance, hypotheses found by implementing a Laboratory Series (research format 1) can be validated with Testing in Performance (research format 2) and be implemented in an Improbable Assembly (research format 3). As the map also indicates, the combination of different research formats is optional and depends on the demands of a specific research design.
Application/publication then can be a book or article, a demonstration, a digital media artefact, or a public performance. As an artwork, the publication can overlap with the event of its public reception. It could also be a rehearsal that leads to another performance or to a later application in another medium. This act of publication can enter into a productive relationship with the field it addresses and might also change ongoing practices (this aspect is addressed in the sections on Potentials, problems and outcomes in the descriptions of the individual research formats). At the same time, new questions, needs, or ideas that arise from the application of a research format can subsequently become new research questions.
Our research map illustrates relationships between processes with arrows and lines. We understand these links as translation processes that indicate different possible access points. Researchers need to make (artistic) choices about how to navigate between these steps of the process. In order to translate the different starting points into a situational and participatory research project, it is important to imagine PABR as a triangular relation between academia, art and society. That means asking how desires or needs connect to an academic question and to an art practice (Peters 2018).
General research questions frame the direction of the research and unite the heterogenous participants with their different agendas. Deriving from a given practice, need, problem or interest, the field and subject matter are defined. After mapping out the current state of research, the question, as well as identifying factors and actors relevant to the given context, an appropriate research format can be chosen that is able incorporate the participants and the expertise required to approach the research question (examples can be found in the sections on What is researched? in the descriptions of the individual research formats).
Creating a research format means initiating a research collaboration. In order to invite people to be part of a research process, the researcher has to clarify the different roles participants can take. We here use the term ‘researcher’ to refer to the person or group who is part of the research process from the very beginning until the end and who is thus is responsible for the shape and the progression of the research process. Being the initiating researcher means leading the research process, which includes making major decisions about the shape of the project and the steps to take. Organising the constellation and the process of participatory research means assuming a position of power. The nature of this position has to be made clear to everybody involved, and assuming it includes the responsibility to provide space for questioning and discussing decisions.
We refer to those who are invited to take part because of their specific expertise (may it be academic, artistic, political or based on everyday knowledge) and who join the research process for shorter or longer periods of time as ‘co-researchers’. In order to organise participation on equal terms, it is crucial to recognise and acknowledge the different questions, interests, responsibilities, capacities and availabilities of the different co-researchers.
We refer to people who are invited to join the research only at certain points, for instance during its public presentation, and who are involved in different ways, as ‘participants’. The researcher has to be cautious about who she involves, in what role, and what relevance specific parts of the research have for the different participants’ own research interests. At the same time, the researcher has to acknowledge that she cannot fully control what research processes are actually triggered and what the outcomes and results of a participatory process will be.
For the evaluation, several moments of presenting, analysing, reflecting and discussing results are implemented within the operational steps. Results can include solutions, knowledge, theories, practices, artefacts, feelings, etcetera. Many outcomes can be verbalised or visualised, but some manifest in a way that eludes the discursive grasp.
Knowledge production within PABR means that explicit and implicit forms of knowledge are valued equally. The researchers try to choose forms of presentation and analysis that make these forms recognisable. It has to be made clear that this analysis is one of many possible research narratives. Besides, there might be diverse research narratives that can be known and recognised, but also some that remain unknown to the researcher. PABR is distributed knowledge!
Being aware that PABR produces diverse outcomes on many different levels, questions of documentation are crucial. How processes of PABR are documented depends on each project and cannot be determined in a general way. Researchers are advised to put documentation measures in place that help to store and translate processes and outcomes for those contexts in which she wants the project to proliferate. Documentation should be intertwined with moments of presentation and of gathering research material. Each project should develop a documentation method appropriate to the project, which may consist of several forms of documentation. Performances can be documented by video recordings, whereas collections, archives and media artefacts may become their own documentation. However, the collective activities are fleeting and perceived differently by each participant. The same event can be evaluated differently from the outside than from the perspectives of the performing participants. For comparison and evaluation purposes, these different experiences need to be represented in some form: collective writing, questionnaires, drawings, transcriptions of discussions or interviews, formal responses, and so on.
Sebastian Matthias, Maike Gunsilius
Peters, Sibylle (2018): “A Plea for Transgenerational Research in Live Art”, in: Performance Research, A Journal of the Performing Arts, Volume 23, 2018, Issue 1: On Children, pp.98–101.