Yesterday here at UWE we were privileged to attend a workshop run by Jethro Brice, an environmental and socially engaged artist whose projects include Future Museum, a project that plays with the idea of looking back into the past from a climate-changed future and Some:When, a project about flooding in the Somerset Levels. I won't go into a lot of detail about the workshop here, but there were a few things that I took away from it that are potentially relevant to this project. Others may already have a much better awareness of these things, but perhaps they will be new for some as they were for me.
Central to the hydrocitizenship project is the bringing together of 'community' through artistic practice, as well as working across disciplinary boundaries. All of this requires thinking through what it means to engage with others across such boundaries, including finding ways of both making arts practice central to the project and of finding ways to engage publics in this process. In this vein, as Jethro gave us a run-down of various 'socially-engaged' arts projects (making the distinction between this and 'community art' or 'public art'), he alighted upon one which offered a framework for engagement that I found intriguing, and because it has been broken down into simple terms, easy to mentally digest. This was the Helix Arts Organisation. (Click on 'Read More' below to read the rest of this post)
Although I hesitate to single out one of the examples from a list, the Helix Arts example struck me because of their simplified outline of co-working with communities in a participatory arts project. This involved considering both 'relational aesthetics' (art as a way of exploring and experimenting with new relationships with people) and 'dialogic aesthetics' (art as a way of enabling people to communicate and see the world, and themselves, differently). In order to enable arts practitioners to put these principles into practice, the group has designed a self-assessment framework for such projects, which can be viewed here: http://www.helixarts.com/pages/research.html and full version can be read here: Helix Arts Quality Framework.
I found this interesting not only in the context of an arts and humanities interdisciplinary project and its attendant questions, but also in terms of the Participatory Action Research idea, the academic equivalent perhaps. Importantly, the PAR toolkit also notes that PAR is an approach rather than a method or set of methods. How we translate these processes, and inter-mesh them, is one of the big questions we are faced with, but recognizing these overlaps in thinking and approach seems a fruitful first step to charting the various journeys of this project.