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Pioneer in student research

The European Commission recently pledged NOK 4.5 million to the three-year art project ENCOUNTERS - Through art, ethnography and pedagogy through the EU Erasmus+ programme.

NEW METHODOLOGY: Art researchers and students at UiA are developing new methods for students to use when researching their own practice. Here they work on film editing at last year's summer course at UiA's study centre Metochi on Lesvos. (Photo: Tormod W. Amundsen)

NEW METHODOLOGY: Art researchers and students at UiA are developing new methods for students to use when researching their own practice. Here they work on film editing at last year's summer course at UiA's study centre Metochi on Lesvos. (Photo: Tormod W. Amundsen)

Associate Professor Tormod Anundsen

Associate Professor Tormod Anundsen

The European Commission recently pledged NOK 4.5 million to the three-year art project ENCOUNTERS - Through art, ethnography and pedagogy through the EU Erasmus+ programme.

The three-year project, which is led by the Department of Classical Music and Music Education at the Faculty of Fine Arts, is a partnership between three European universities and three art groups, from Greece in the south to Norway in the north.

"The main goal is to develop new and critical methods that master's students in performing arts, visual arts, anthropology, sociology and related fields can use when researching their own practice", says project leader, Associate Professor Tormod W. Anundsen.

Together with Associate Professor Anna Svingen-Austestad at the Department of Visual Arts and Drama and Adviser Adrian Førde Andersson at the Centre for Young Art (FLUKS), they constitute the team from UiA participating in the new EU project.

Arts-based ethnography

The project leader uses the term 'arts-based ethnography' to describe what is new in the research project. It denotes a combination of various experience-based research methods that students are invited to explore in their own work, drawing from new ethnographic approaches to fieldwork, site-specific artistic practice as well as educational perspectives.

"We are particularly interested in how these approaches overlap in the investigative fieldwork stage, but also in the types of data that emerge, and in how such an approach to research affects the places and people we meet through our work", he says.

Fieldwork at Lesvos

Central to the project is the island of Lesvos in the Aegean Sea and UiA's study centre Metochi. There, the partners will organise summer courses focusing on "encounters". Students will explore how various, but overlapping, ethnographic fieldwork traditions, artistic research and critical pedagogy can produce situations and create new ways to get to know, experience and engage with the landscape, social context, institutions and people on the island. The latter includes both locals, tourists and refugees.

"We want to find ways in which student researchers can engage locally, in a non-representative way. So not only by representing local culture but by exploring practice, art and research as ways of engaging, rather than studying the local", says Tormod W. Anundsen.

 

METOCHI: UiA's study centre on Lesvos is in the annexe of the Metochi monastery. (Archive photo)

METOCHI: UiA's study centre on Lesvos is in the annexe of the Metochi monastery. (Archive photo)

Three-part backdrop

The backdrop for the research project is three-fold. First, the Faculty of Fine Arts has previously organised four closely related summer courses on Lesvos with some of the same partners. In these, art students have explored ethnography as a starting point for artistic research.

"The courses were so successful that we wanted to extend them. And that is what we do now in this EU-supported project", says Anundsen.

Second, awareness of how important it is to have a critical attitude to the power position of the researcher - even the student researcher - when he or she intervenes locally.

"We see this clearly in ethnographic research. But it is also a topic in debates about art research."

In art, this is particularly evident in the context of site-specific and social art where one encounters 'the local' and 'the real' — especially where the lives and stories of others are used as artistic material.

Third, critical pedagogy is also seen as an important field in participatory and community-oriented approaches to research. Education is not necessarily just a form of knowledge production, but also a practice that can establish ways in which human beings can interact, connect and overcome conflicts.

"The three-part focus is fascinating. I am looking forward to getting started", says Tormod W. Anundsen.

INTERNATIONAL EXHIBITIONS: From the student exhibition at EthnoFest in Athens in November 2019 where student Israa Mahameed from UiA participated with this work, "Spirits", video, drawing and installation. (Photo: Tormod W. Anundsen)

INTERNATIONAL EXHIBITIONS: From the student exhibition at EthnoFest in Athens in November 2019 where student Israa Mahameed from UiA participated with this work, "Spirits", video, drawing and installation. (Photo: Tormod W. Anundsen)

Exhibitions in 5 countries

In addition to the primary goal of developing a new and critical methodology, the ENCOUNTERS project also includes a number of measures to disseminate and present the results of the work being done.

An open website will be launched where it is possible to explore different collaborative methods related to art-based ethnography. A separate journal edition in the form of an open digital and multimodal dissemination platform will be designed where students, artists, and educators can share reflections and experiences around research in arts-based ethnography.

In addition, student work from the summer course will be included in the annual festival EthnoFest in Athens, which will remain until November. Experimental exhibitions and workshops will also be arranged in all five countries where the project participants live. For the University of Agder, that means Kristiansand.

Participating

The institutions participating in the collaboration are: