MA Visual Sociology, Social Research for Public Engagement exhibition, March 2017
Each year, those studying Social Research for Public Engagement,, part of the MA in Visual Sociology, produce sociological studies, presented in an end of term exhibition. This year, the theme was ‘repetition’. In this blog post, Riccarda Cappeller takes us through the different exhibits.
Diverse – might be the best word to describe the exhibition presented in the Hatcham St. James church at Goldsmiths. It showed the fifteen works produced as part of the “Social research for public engagement” course. Michael Guggenheim, Kat Jungnickel and Rebecca Coleman, led the study of Deleuze’s understanding of repetition understood through different approaches and methods and within a wide range of topics. The act of repetition was engaged with through training, rehearsal, testing, and the observation of changes within sameness.
Entering the church a visitor would first notice a video installation about Political Protest (Lewis MacLean) and then find a three-stage exhibit on Taste in Education (Tara Johnston-Comerford): A projection with of dada-memories was used as a provocation and starting point, moving to an exploration of artwork produced with children to then, in a third step, a negotiation with a pupil about their learning and interest in art.
Continuing, you find the huge main exhibition space. Central to it is a green sofa surrounded with plants, from which to watch MARCHMAS (Aby Baker), a Vlog exploring and documenting the in-between of the camera, the screen and the contemporary formation of public space. The multi-screen installation Cinque Femmes (Iris Finkelstein) on one wall, presents the “backstage-data” of women’s modes of preparing for a job interview. Next to it The Act of Drawing (Camille Poulet) focussing on learning to draw through copying.
Crossing the room, in a small and dark corner the Private Praxis-Space (Saorla Houston) was surrounded by a medical curtain letting through red light from the interior. Together with medical furniture and video footage, the installation negotiated professional codes of behaviour, gendered expectations, distance, intimacy and emotions in controlled working spaces of women – a sex worker, a doctor and a clinical psychologist.
Returning to the main space a combination of a material assemblage and different kinds of screens would catch the visitor’s eye. Architectures Ethic (Bianca Coppola) invited us to see the repetitive nature of ‘failed’ brutalist architecture through a case study of the Barbican. What do un-socialized spaces tell and can they measure architectural failure?
The understanding of an object or visualized research material was also part of the other two following projects in the same corner of the room. Seeing and Listening Emotions: Anti-Racism in Foreign English Accents (Thomas Verbal) takes writings from Shakespeare to analyse human feelings. Three participants with english as foreign language read one of his sentences – at first only reading it and after they were told about the context, which changed the voice and mode of reading the sentence. Here´s looking at you (Lesley Tang) explored how the indiciduum is curated or presents itself on social media platforms through images. With interviews and conversations about how the participants want to appear and what they see as characterizing about themselves, four different case studies are presented . Both of these presentations work in a non digital way, but have a clear connection to media, using audio, translation programmes and social networks.
The next stage of the exhibition used TV screens and also analogue modes of representation to show change through the process of repetition. Cybermedicine (Estefanía Muñoz), based on works of collages and paper testimonies with participants talks about the performance of illness across established and newly emerging cultures, reaching today‘s performance of web research to cure oneself. Built Temporalities and Material Transformations (Riccarda Cappeller) instead, documents the change of a building over time to show the repeated process of living and leaving traces as part of people’s necessity to make space. Food and its transformation into a meal was part of the Laboratory for the Preparation of Difference (Riccardo Agostini). Here recipes, presented together with memories people associate with them, reflect on how these can change if somebody else cooks the same dish.
Together with the multi-screen work Automatised Inertias: Contouring Boredom (Meredith Lawder), used slow motion to observe people being bored, waiting in an airport , two very forceful approaches completed this exhibition: a performance about backstage rehearsal, All the World’s Not a Stage, Of Course… (Vanessa Bray) and Mandatory Job Centre Simulator (Ben Peirson), a board game based on interviews with people going through the never ending job centre cycle.
Based on classical social research, qualitative interviews and literature reviews, the various research projects were presented in a very playful and artistic way that opened perspectives and let visitors make their own thoughts and conclusions. It also demonstrates the possibilities for future sociological research by combining with other disciplines, making research easily accessible and focusing on the exploration of a specific topic.
Riccarda Cappeller is currently studying for an MA in Visual Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London. With a former education in architecture and working as architecture journalist, she is interested in processes of transformation through the people´s use of space (Postoccupancy) as well as social relations and dynamics created within them.