Archive for July 2011

‘Kultivating Kultur’ conference, 15th July, RIBA, London

Last Friday, the Kultivate project hosted the ‘Kultivating Kultur’ conference at the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), London. There were around 80 attendees representing over 50 institutions, projects and national bodies, including many members of the ever expanding Kultur II Group. The purpose of the event was to present six Kultivate case studies about aspects of increasing arts research deposit. These were framed by a keynote presentation from Kerstin Mey, Director of Research and Enterprise at the University for the Creative Arts, on ‘What is Arts Research?’ and a presentation on Kultivate by Leigh Garrett, VADS Director and Kultivate project Director. A ‘Conference Fringe’ was available in the adjoining Hawksmoor Room featuring representatives of all the JISC Repositories: Take-up and Embedding projects. The day concluded with a plenary panel discussion.

With thanks to Anne Spalding, Kultivate Project Officer, and Repository and Digitisation Officer, UCA Research Online for providing the following summary of the day; and thanks to Amy Robinson, VADS Collections Manager, for the photographs.

Kerstin Mey, Director of Research and Enterprise, University for the Creative Arts
Kerstin Mey, Director of Research and Enterprise, University for the Creative Arts

Keynote: What is Arts Research?
Kerstin Mey, Director of Research and Enterprise, University for the Creative Arts

This presentation opened the conference and considered the concept of arts research. Kerstin spoke of arts research as a complex and dynamically developing field. There is tension between scientific and arts inquiry in the UK which does not exist in Germany. Arts research can be confusing, there is the assumption that the work speaks for itself without the need for contextualisation. There remain lingering tensions between thinking and doing. Kerstin showed three examples of arts research which crossed into other disciplines. Concluding the presentation with a plea that we should keep an open mind about arts research; it is about pushing boundaries and creating new ways of knowing.

Kultivate – increasing arts research deposit
Leigh Garrett, VADS Director, University for the Creative Arts

Leigh gave a brief history of VADS (Visual Arts Data Service) and an explanation of the services it provides in the areas of repositories, innovation, consultancy and research. This then led into the background of Kultur, the Kultur II Group and the Kultivate project. The critical success factors for this project are: the technical infrastructure, advocacy, simplifying the deposit process, demonstration of usage and impact, senior management, and REF2014. So to the future, this includes the JISC funded eNova project to ‘kulturise’ MePrints for arts repositories, and two further Kultivate workshops.

Theme: Advocacy for arts research

Art and advocacy: designing dialogues
Tahani Nadim, Assistant Repository Manager, Goldsmiths Research Online (GRO)

Tahani began with a brief overview of Goldsmiths and GRO before going on to describe research and the needs of artistic researchers. Two examples of researchers commenting on the process of engaging with GRO were given along with a clear explanation on the issues arising from the depositing process.

Advocacy is a dialogue with the researchers and various methods are used to engage with them. These include a brochure available to download from GRO, one-to-one clinics, presentations, workshops, and working to improve the interface. Advocacy is not a linear process, it should be continuous and not an instruction. Above all listen to your researchers. The presentation concluded with lessons learned followed by a question and answer session which highlighted that as a result of their advocacy, deposits had increased from 26 to 273.

Developing a screencast of the research deposit process
Sarah Hall, Institutional Repository Administrator, UAL Research Online

Sarah briefly outlined how advocacy is conducted at UAL before detailing the development of their screencast, which is available in UAL Research Online.

When creating a screencast the planning is absolutely key to ensuring success of the finished screencast. Sarah also emphasised the importance of using the same terms in all mediums, for both print and online advocacy tools. The screencast has acted as an aide memoir; it is short, only 4 minutes long and can still deliver a personal touch.

There has been very positive feedback from staff and the screencast could be developed to help with copyright training, editing material and for a step-by-step guide for researchers using the IRStats statistics package.

Image of conference fringe

Image of conference fringe
The Conference Fringe in the Hawksmoor Room,
with the JISC Repositories: Take-up and Embedding projects

Theme: Building repositories for arts research

Royal College of Art – Implementing a repository for research practice in post-graduate art, design and visual communication
Jonathan Warner, Head of Computing, Royal College of Art

Jonathan began by talking about the Royal College of Art and then how their Research Repository has been created and developed. Work started with discussing both the general requirements and then the specific needs of researchers. This was then followed by pilots and branding, illustrated with examples. Throughout the development Jonathan produced a mantra ‘simplify, reduce, reuse’ to help remove unnecessary parts of the process. Jonathan covered other aspects of the development including disambiguation and subject terms before concluding with recommendations. A particular recommendation is the idea of a project ‘container’ which could simplify the deposit process and is being developed as part of the Kultivate project’s technical enhancements by EPrints, University of Southampton.

EPrints and Mahara: Sustainable approaches to conserving Art/Design/Media/Performing Arts outputs using a consortia model
Alisa Miller, CREST Research Network Co-ordinator

CREST (Consortium for Research Excellence Support & Training) has been funded for two years, and involves 18 institutions across a range of subject disciplines. Alisa outlined the project outputs and activities to date all of which are part of the overall aim to produce a CREST repository (CREST Collections), an interface which will search across all the institutional repositories including content provided by institutions without repositories. This was illustrated with screenshots of how the repository will look.

The CREST approach is to provide a hierarchy of options, advocacy supported by social networking technology (CREST Collaborate) and an interdisciplinary consortia model; the aim is for researchers to have a seamless workflow between CREST Collaborate and CREST Collections.

Initiating an Arts Repository: the gateway to research at University College Falmouth
Tim Shear, Learning Technologist, Thomas Readings, Digital Resources Officer, and Doreen Pinfold, Head of Library & Information Services, University College Falmouth

Colourful slides illustrated the context to both the University College site at Falmouth and to the new AIR (Academy for Innovation and Research) building. AIR has played an important part in developing their plan for an institutional repository. Tim spoke about the AIR portal which is currently in development, but will be available here: This portal will provide access to all research projects through a common interface.

Falmouth is still at the conception stage of a repository and are currently in the process of looking at two software options EPrints and Drupal (as this is the choice for the AIR portal). A key factor is the need for the institutional repository to be interoperable with other systems within the institution, although the team also want to ensure that the chosen software is fit for purpose; testing of systems is currently taking place.

Theme: Managing Research Data

Documenting performance for the archive
Stephen Gray, CAiRO (Curating Artistic Research Output) Project Manager, University of Bristol

Stephen’s presentation dealt with performance as research and the challenges posed by performance documentation as research data. There are possible solutions in the form of PADS (Performance Art Data Structure) and this was illustrated by an example in the form of Paul Hurley’s ‘Becoming Snail’.

Performance as research is often seen as impermanent and yet the performance can be used for teaching, directly and indirectly as the basis of new work and purely for enjoyment. There are however challenges in recording both the performance and the associated data that accompanies performance disciplines. Stephen went on to demonstrate how PADS has addressed the challenges and also pointed out there is as yet no national arts data centre.

In conclusion PADS is behind world’s largest collection of live art documentation (1600 performances) which should be freely available online in September. So watch this website for announcements.

Image of conference panel members
The ‘Kultivating Kultur’ Plenary Panel

Plenary – chaired by Leigh Garrett, VADS Director, with invited panel members

Leigh presented three questions for the attendees to discuss:

  • To identify key benefits to engagement in the deposit process
  • To verify technical enhancements
  • To discuss future issues and requirements

Points raised by attendees:
Senior management need to buy into advocacy at a higher level within institutions and this should encourage engagement with the process.

Technical suggestions included the potential re-writing of the institutional repository by making it a development tool so researchers can record research as works in progress.

There was also some discussion about metadata and although there is a desire to make depositing more streamlined it is also important not to remove metadata that will be required later.

It is recognised that research informs teaching and that quite often it is the process which is the most interesting part of completing an artefact. There still continues a split between ‘teaching and learning’ and ‘research’.

One attendee pointed out that much of the content for the day related to the EPrints repository platform and asked if there was some development in creating an overlay for DSpace and Fedora repositories. The JISC Repositories: Take-up and Embedding projects are involved in this task, further details are available via the Lanyrd Conference Fringe session page.

For the future there are other JISC funded projects investigating repository advocacy, repository consortia, automation tools and automated metadata generation.

The day concluded with an acknowledgement of thanks by Leigh to all involved in the Kultivate project.

CAiRO (Curating Artistic Research Output) Summer School

Kultivate represented the role of institutional repositories in the arts at the CAiRO Summer School, held at the University of Bristol’s Drama: Theatre, Film, Television Department. The event was spread over four days (27th-30th June) covering the following themes:

  • Evidencing
  • Managing
  • Delivering
  • Workshops

The following is a partial account of the ‘Delivering’ themed day held on Wednesday 29th June. The audience comprised of about 25-30 researchers from within and outside of UK Higher Education, from MA to PhD and beyond. The timetable for the day was necessarily fluid in order to accommodate the fantastic lively discussion and debate.

Morning session
Dr Paul Clarke spoke about documenting work for assessment. Stephen Gray tackled enquires about completing an AHRC technical appendix after his talk. Stephen mentioned that there had been a lot of discussion around the word ‘curated’ as this was used both in terms of ‘data curation’ and in the sense of curating works in an exhibition. John Hargreaves from JISC Digital Media gave a presentation on Copyright and Creative Commons. He reminded us that just because an item has a Creative Commons License, we shouldn’t assume it has been correctly applied. The issue was also raised of applying licenses to collaborative works, and a member of the audience mentioned that they had used a consortium agreement to establish which license would apply to the works.

Afternoon session
Michael Schwab spoke about the Journal for Artistic Research, which is an online journal that uses the Research Catalogue (RC) software. The RC software is available to all artistic researchers, with or without institutional affiliations, once they have signed and posted an agreement regarding the copyright of their works. The Journal for Artistic Research is an online creative environment in which artistic researchers can expose their work as research for it to be peer-reviewed and published. Some of the challenges that they are encountering include: the split between the academic and non-academic sides of research; the process for peer-reviewing artistic research; and issues with defining the borders between practice and writing. Michael spoke about his own practice and writing during his Royal College of Art PhD in photography and about the relationship between practice and theory in artistic research.

The Kultivate project presented an introduction to the concept of institutional repositories, which is difficult due to the terminology used and their traditional text-based appearance. The participants had mostly signed up to attend the ‘Building an online portfolio’ workshop (for the following day) and so it seemed particularly important to highlight the benefits of using a repository as a ‘secure online showcase’ for your work. The Kultur enhancements (judging by their audible reaction) were well received. Paper-based feedback was gathered about institutional repositories from the audience as part of the talk, and will be written up in another blog post shortly.

Jo Ana Morfin Guerrero spoke about her PhD research into ‘Unstable Documents: Archiving and Preservation Practices’. Her background is as a conservator, but she also has an MA in Curating, and is currently undertaking her PhD at the University of Bristol supervised by Dr. Paul Clarke. The audience were shocked to learn that the Dutch government is cutting funding for Media Art from January 2013. Her talk emphasised the importance of documentation in preserving Media Art and raised issues she had encountered in her investigation including: the disorganised state of some archives; the lack of funding for preservation or documentation as the money was needed to support new exhibitions; and the problems with inaccessible data housed in proprietary database programmes.

The event ended with a presentation on the National Review of Live Art’s Video Archive by Amanda Egbe, and further discussion.


Capturing Process? Practice Research within the Creative Arts

Anne Spalding, Repository and Digitisation Officer at the University for the Creative Arts, and Kultivate Project Officer has provided the following account of the ‘Capturing Process’ symposium, held on 29th June, to celebrate the launch of the Practice Research Unit at Kingston University. The programme for the day is available, although the website won’t be formally launched until autumn 2011:

The event began with an introduction and welcome from Professor Matthew Pateman, Dr. Helen Minors, and Professor John Mullarkey. This included references to the current economic times and an impassioned plea that it is now more vital than ever to promote the validity of the arts.

Session One: Capturing Process
The session began with Michael Chanan (film/music) talking about reflection within the research process, which was a recurring theme for the day. He also spoke about the important relationship between the creator/performer and the audience. There is an unspoken dialogue between the two and it is not always easy to capture the reaction of the audience to the creator/performer. Yet it is this feedback which is important for the impact in the REF, so how does one record this? The contact with the audience is not formalised or quantified. In addition the creator/performer never sees their own work in the same way that an audience outside of that work views it.

John Irving (music) introduced his current research and explained that he was recording all aspects of this research. The research output for this project is a CD of the recording of a selection of Mozart’s keyboard works and also a web based documentary resource. Before undertaking the performance of the musical works John spent a month developing the ‘clavichord touch’. A different technique is required to play a clavichord as opposed to a fortepiano and this learning informed the performance. John also spoke about the technical challenges of trying to capture performance on an instrument that had a personality of its own and in an oval room in which it is difficult to record in because of the acoustics. The clavichord could not be removed from the room for legal reasons.

Simon Ellis (dance) discussed the huge amount of material that is produced in order to document the research process and performance. Processes may not be relevant to the project yet there is pressure to document everything. There are questions about where to put this information, who will use it and what is it for, how is it valuable? It is important to be able to assess this information. Simon also mentioned the many roles researchers may have:

In my various roles as choreographer, video-maker, teacher (what Cat Harrison calls a “slashie” as in dancer slash maker slash …) I seek collaborations.

Reference: (accessed 30.06.2011)

Defining Practice: Rehearsing Applied Strategies
The next session demonstrated the work of three researchers working in the areas of: digital media, Maria Mencia; film, Fiona Curran; and music, Oded Ben-Tal.

Maria Mencia explained how her sonic poem ‘Birds singing other birds songs’ had been adapted to suit different exhibition venues. In the process of adapting her work she discovered its versatility.

Fiona showed her film ‘Clean’ in which ten women were shown cleaning their faces. The soundtrack to the film gave clues to the characters of the women but the audience were not privy to this information.

Ben explained how his collaboration with his performing partner worked because their shared a vocabulary, they each possessed different strengths which complemented each other; they viewed mistakes as opportunities and took time to develop ideas.

After lunch the keynote address was given by Robin Nelson (Central School of Speech and Drama). Robin gave a very clear and concise view about Practice as Research. Reflection on your research was absolutely key in his experience; building in time to do this only enriches your research.

Round table discussion
This covered the guidance on the weighting in PhDs for the practice and written context. Essentially this varies between universities and countries but in the UK this balance can be negotiated. There is a relationship between practice and theory which will never go away. A lively debate followed on whether recording research interferes with the spontaneity of developing the research. It is difficult to decide at what point to turn a camera on or off, a theme which had also been discussed earlier in the day. The final point was around ownership of the work and the wish that IPR issues were less complicated and that all material for educational purposes was exempt from such restrictions.


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