Practice-based research



Dear Jenny,

I’ve been meaning to write a letter for some time now. We suggested writing to each other (can this also be for the blog?) to get down some thoughts on the project as it develops. I’m thinking of this process as our research diaries for Manual Labours where we can record our subjective experiences as we go.

On that note, I’d like to tell you about some reading and writing I’ve been doing about practice-based research. The realities of our working lives means that we are both multi tasking most of the time and Manual Labours is just one part. For me, it is not just another ‘project’, but a way of trying to develop and perhaps shift my critical understanding of as well as physical and emotional relationship to work. It’s a life project in that sense! I’ve been trying to write an article about practice-based research and as that is how we are describing Manual Labours, I thought I’d try and start to articulate how and why I think what we are doing is practice-based research.

Learning and researching through making and doing:
As well as the literature we are engaging with, we are trying to explore the labour of complaining through acts of facilitation. These are workshops which involve people who are employed to receive, administrate and manage complaints. The workshops themselves are the sites of practice-based research, co-production and reflection. Through these workshops we are trying to get beneath the skin of the complaint – what is it? how does it feel to receive and manage? what pressures does it put on the body and mind to absorb and respond? What are the invisible, unspoken, non-verbal, implicit aspects of the complaint? What is left unsaid/unspoken?

Tim Ingold in his work on anthropology, archaeology, art and architecture takes an approach of ‘knowing from the inside’. Estelle Barrett stresses the embedded, personally situated, tacit knowledge of the researcher. We are making these experiences of knowing from the inside explicit as we go, but they are difficult to clarify up front as the practice emerges and morphs through doing. The process of researching is described as iterative, emergent and a process of ‘diving-in’ to commense praciting to see what happens (Haseman (2006) in Smith and Dean p.6). I think we’re both eager to ‘dive-in’ now in order to ignite the flow between reading, writing and doing as I think it is through this process that we will start to understand better the culture of the complaint.

Also, here are some collages I did this morning – another way I’m trying to enact ‘learning through making’ and feed this into the diary.

Speak in a mo! Just need to fill up my coffee cup!


Heavy head
Get ready for happy