Thinking through making
Our research reflects the vision, ethos, purpose & values of the college as a unique specialist HEI and community of practice-led, academically robust learning opportunities that articulate with social, cultural and economic needs of Plymouth, the creative industries in the South West region, and the wider UK creative economy.
Our research ambitions are supported through the Research Engagement and Impact Strategy 2018-2023, whose principle objectives are to:
- develop distinctive research in creative learning and practice;
- build social capital, cultural leadership and economic impact in Plymouth and our wider region;
- foster strategic partnerships to grow influence and visibility of our work.
Our aim is to cultivate a research environment that reflects and supports the educational character of the college by fostering close links between research and pedagogy, and between research and professional practice.
At the centre of this tripartite figure is a progressive vision of ‘thinking through making’ that radiates through all our communities of practice: as artists, makers, designers and creative media producers. For us, it denotes the fundamental importance of the practitioner’s relationship to, and understanding of, materials, media, tools and processes relating to their area of practice-based enquiry.
Accordingly, our philosophy for research focuses upon creative making and its contexts (studio, workshop, gallery, digital realm and beyond) as fertile sites of scholarship, knowledge generation and exchange, that also promote efforts to build resilient communities of practice.
The specialist, professional art, design and media focus of the college’s academic portfolio is central to its higher education identity and ethos and is the determining factor in shaping its definition of research. The college fully recognises and operates to a definition of research used by the Research Excellence Framework, UK (REF 2014) in that; research is defined as a process of investigation leading to new insights, effectively shared. It includes work of direct relevance to the needs of commerce, industry, and to the public and voluntary sectors; scholarship; the invention and generation of ideas, images, performances, artefacts including design, where these lead to new or substantially improved insights; and the use of existing knowledge in experimental development to produce new or substantially improved materials, devices, products and processes, including design and construction.
The college also accepts that art and design research is often concerned with particulars, is qualitative and holistic in its expression, and can have a worth or impact that at times cannot be adequately captured through metrics-based indices (features that are typically contained in descriptors such as ‘experiential’, ‘embodied’, ‘tacit’, ‘situational’, and ‘procedural’). For these reasons the college definition of research is inclusive of activities whose primary outputs can sometimes consist of material artefacts, audio constructions, creative writing forms, exhibitions, and the production of ephemeral and time-based performances and related phenomena. The college has developed a series of benchmarks for staff research which recognises this inclusive definition.
The college also recognises that research in art and design forms an integral part of the creative process, and will therefore at times interpret the title of ‘artist’ or ‘designer’ as synonymous with ‘researcher’ or ‘Principal Investigator’. In support of this direction, the college will judiciously encourage and support links between research and professional practice, and research and pedagogy.
Research and Scholarship at Plymouth College of Art is involved externally on regional, national and international levels. The sections below provide a brief synopsis of notable research projects supported by or led by staff and students of the college.
Making Futures is a research platform exploring contemporary craft and maker movements as ‘change agents’ in 21st-century society.
Convinced of the transformative potential of small-scale making and its capacity to contribute to new progressive futures, Making Futures seeks to situate these material cultures at the centre of the critical issue facing global consumer society: how we move beyond the reductive instrumentalism of ‘homo economicus’ and modes of mass consumption that are destructive of human and non-human natures.
Making Learning is a crucible for open inquiry through arts education, that places making at the gravitational centre of learning. Creative learning and social justice are the double helix of our DNA.This cross-disciplinary conversation assembles the most progressive thinkers and practitioners in creative education across the full learning continuum.
Making Learning is also a biennial symposium convening an international community of expertise and practice in creative pedagogy throughout the full continuum of learning, from early years education to Masters level, research and professional development.
The college's Tate Exchange activity also takes place under the banner of Making Learning. Tate Exchange is an ambitious ‘open experiment’ which enables associate organisations to devise and develop creative learning through public participation at Tate. For more information on Tate Exchange, please visit our Events & Conferences page or contact Head of School (Critical + Cultural Studies), Stephen Felmingham.
The Art & Social Action research group explores how socially engaged art practice can have a positive impact within our communities of shared interest. The group looks into what social practice, research and enterprise means for creative learning, and how it can have a wider impact within and beyond Plymouth College of Art.
The Memory, Site and Artefact research group focuses on cultural discourses and contemporary articulations of collective and personal memory, through the investigation of image and object, as well as textual, performative and interventionist practices. Shared research interests include themes such as globalisation, borders, migration, decolonisation, archives and materiality.