I began my doctoral research at University of the Arts London in 2021, based in the Creative Research into Sound Arts Practice centre at London College of Communication. I am currently an AHRC-funded, part-time, practice-based PhD student, with the support of Prof. Cathy Lane (Director of Studies) and Dr. Nela Milic (Second Supervisor).
Listening in Socially-Engaged Art: Artistic Strategies for Equitable Collaboration
Socially-engaged art projects are rarely initiated by the communities they seek to serve. Though arts organisation’s efforts (consultation, co-production and partnership models) go some way to address this, inequality often remains ingrained in projects from their inception. As a practitioner and researcher, my work critically reviews tensions around participation, ownership and representation in such projects, seeking strategies that respond to and mitigate issues of inequality within artist-community relationships. My research asks, how can social art challenge uneven power-relations, even when set within frameworks serving neoliberal agendas?
My research reflexively argues for ‘listening’ as an artistic practice that can facilitate equitable collaboration. Within this I suggest models such as ‘distributed listening', developed as a way to carve out space for listening, circulate authority and place value on multiple ‘hearings’ within projects. Ultimately, the thesis asks how such methodologies can enable genuine co-production, and manifest the emancipatory potential of socially-engaged art.
Three central questions will be addressed by this research: how can social art challenge uneven power-relations, even when set within frameworks serving neoliberal agendas? Can listening serve as a levelling tool, applied as a useful and usable model for dissecting power dynamics? How can such a listening support the process of creating art, and remain an artistic practice in itself?
These questions link to recent debates within artist networks and stem from a desire to support socially-engaged artists working today, in a distinct political and economic climate, rather than defer action in the hope a more favourable environment emerges. Research-in-progress is shared via a podcast series, and the project overall will result in the production of a workbook for artists, that directly addresses inequalities, and applies listening to the specific contexts of social art practice.