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Research

Plymouth College of Art Research, Scholarship and Practice Activities are gaining national and international attention. Find out more about the upcoming events related to our research activities.

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Making Futures

Making Futures is a research platform exploring contemporary craft and maker movements as ‘change agents’ in 21st-century society.

The biennial Making Futures conference is truly international with authors sending in abstracts for the most recent edition from over 23 countries around the world. This is important because these exchanges help us to develop a unique set of cross-cultural perspectives on the position of contemporary craft and related micro-maker entrepreneurs across non-Western as well as Western forms of Modernity. Indeed, invited editions of Making Futures have taken place in Beijing and Cheongju, Korea.

The most recent Making Futures conference was titled Making Futures: People, Place, Meaning - Crafting Worlds & Social Making, and took place at Plymouth College of Art on 19 & 20 September 2019.

Community is at the heart of the Making Futures agenda as well as appreciating the value of makers as singular creative agents producing material objects, focusing on the social dimensions of maker practices and how these can positively contribute to the construction and regeneration of communities.

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.

As such our purpose is to explore the possibilities for maker economies built around contemporary craft, neo-artisanal design-to-make and related creative micro-entrepreneurs and movements. We believe that these activities have the potential to consolidate into nascent post-industrial maker ecologies that, while not replacing global consumer manufacturing, can nonetheless contribute substantially to progressive economic and social change at local and regional levels, and beyond.

The Making Futures Journal is published as a free open-access resource on the official Making Futures website.

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Making Futures, Beijing (2014)

Making Learning

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.

Making Learning is performative, exploring the permeable structures and transformational agency of creative learning, across a range of educational paradigms, societal and cultural contexts.

Making Learning establishes a propositional dialogue that questions learning orthodoxies from the inside out. Making Learning is oriented towards new developments in arts and pedagogy, especially those that examine new ways in which individuals, groups and institutions might understand their agency.

Making Learning seeks to challenge implicit hierarchies of artistic engagement and linearity, using the processes of learning and unlearning to look afresh at the economic, political and ideological implications of ‘creativity’. At stake, are the kinds of 'making' - conscious individual and collective self-fashioning - that are required in a complex and unstable world

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Dialogues on creative learning

Listening is a core value for Making Learning. The Dialogues on creative learning project will make opportunities for diverse perspectives on creativity and education to be heard and considered alongside one another. In this way, Making Learning will record and instigate dialogue on creative education.

Societal and cultural agency

Creativity and education are both terms that suggest purposeful, transformative change. Making Learning seeks to understand new ways that individuals, groups and institutions can develop purposeful agency through creativity, in a complex and unstable world.

Learning and Un-learning / Making and Un-making

Learning within the creative arts is never a straightforward accumulation of knowledge. Although new skills and perspectives are acquired, they often arrive by way of unlearning. The most difficult and profound developments are part of the unmaking of a way of seeing, doing or thinking. Making Learning explores the implications of this non-linear learning process within and beyond the creative arts.

Making Learning is a discursive, multimodal platform for dialogue, able to be convened as a conversation or as an international symposium, across territories and boundaries, in itself a state of permanent conference.

Platforms include:

  • Making Learning website
  • Making Learning publications
  • Making Learning events

Vehicles include:

Tate Exchange

Plymouth College of Art is a founding associate of Tate Exchange, an annual programme that brings together international artists, over 60 different organisations working both within and beyond the arts, and the general public.

Tate Exchange aims to explore the ways in which art has become active over the last 60 years, and how artists have changed our understanding of what art can be and what it can do.

In the opening season of Tate Exchange, the theme itself was “exchange”, and was shaped with the help of artist Tim Etchells. For this season, Plymouth College of Art and Plymouth School of Creative Arts collaborated to extend a public invitation to explore creative learning over three days of Making Learning events at Tate Modern. Students of all ages explored new horizons in the intergenerational and interdisciplinary Making Learning: Pop-Up School.

Over the course of three days, participants of the pop-up school at Tate Exchange contributed to a shared understanding of how learning is made, asking questions such as: What will you make of this? What is Tate Modern as a place of learning? And what’s your role from now on in making learning?

The second season of Tate Exchange launched in late September 2017, exploring the theme of “production”, with artist Clare Twomey transforming Tate Exchange into a working factory.

Plymouth College of Art and Plymouth School of Creative Arts set out to challenge the prevailing idea that learning is a linear process, an idea that is commonly found in instrumentalised models of education. Our participatory installation in the Tate Exchange space, by contrast, modelled a non-linear experience of learning as creativity, including proposals from students across Plymouth's progressive continuum of creative education.

Referencing the idea that education is a preparation for work, the installation subverted traditional thinking by playfully modelling journeys through different learning experiences. Open to all ages and abilities, the college invited participants to consider the possibility that education is not a one-way process of accumulating knowledge and skills, but involves the interplay of learning and unlearning, where the frameworks of our experience are challenged and renegotiated.

The Plymouth continuum is the very antithesis of a linear production line designed to create mass-produced consumers; the methodology applied across the continuum supports the development of individuals, creates unique learning journeys for all and encourages learning, life and community to mesh.

Propositions for Change (2019)

In 2019 the college set out to create propositions for change, inviting the public to interrogate issues around social justice, health, education and the environment. Testing attitudes and preconceptions through participatory activities and three-way dialogues with artists, non-profit organisations, campaigners and activists, Tate and it's visitors came together to solve complex collective problems.

Students from Plymouth College of Art and Plymouth School of Creative Arts’ continuum of creative education, from early years to MA-level and professional practice, presented a four-day programme of events to crowd-source plans and effect positive change in our communities. Posing the question "If power separates people from what they can do. What shall we do?" invited speakers and guests such as political activists, policy-makers, researchers and historians (in varied fields including social justice, inclusivity, animal rights, environmentalism and the arts) came together to create propositions for change.

Staff and students from the college were also joined by international representatives from Atlantic Youth Creative Hubs partners across the UK, France and Spain, covering themes such as; borders & migration, creative education, gender & identity, and voices of activism.

Seeking the Marvellous

Seeking the Marvellous was a two-day interdisciplinary symposium that examined the work of Ithell Colquhoun (1906 - 1988) and other women connected both with Surrealism and with Britain. Organised by Plymouth College of Art in partnership with the Black Mirror research network, it was held at Plymouth College of Art in March 2018.

Our keynote speakers will include renowned international experts Susan Aberth, Amy Hale and Victoria Ferentinou. We are delighted to welcome Carrington’s great-niece, Joanna Moorhead, whose recent biography The Surreal Life of Leonora Carrington has added greatly to scholarship on Carrington, and independent scholar Richard Shillitoe, whose pioneering work on Colquhoun has done much to bring her work back into the public domain.

The symposium will include a new documentary film based on the memories of Jo O’Cleirigh, who worked with Colquhoun, and a performance of Colquhoun’s poetry.

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