ABOUT THE REACH POP-UP PROJECTS 2019
During the course of 2019, the Arts & Humanities Research Institute (AHRI) invested considerable time in the development of the REACH (Research and Engagement in the Arts, Culture & Humanities) Space. The space (located on the 3rd floor of the Surrey Street East Wing building, Strand campus) was conceived as a creative and experimental hub for pop-up research projects, events and conversations. With a focus on inclusivity, wellbeing and sustainability, REACH serves as a place of connection, collaboration and engagement across institutional, departmental and disciplinary boundaries, generating ideas and conversations to forge positive social change.
To aid the development of the REACH Space, the AHRI ran a Pop-Up Research call where researchers and communities bid to use the space in creative and innovative ways, generating ideas and learning that would inform further development of the space. A researcher was hired to capture people's learning from the space, which led to findings outlined further down the page.
In total, six projects were funded through this call, involving 26 researchers and over 250 people from local communities. The projects took a range of different forms - workshops, practical skill sharing sessions, in-depth discussions, talks, screenings, pop-up exhibits and more, with each project transforming the space into an immersive environment to suit their needs.
Researchers used the REACH Pop-Up projects to inform and develop their research, share work with new audiences, and generate new connections and collaborations.Outputs were extensive and included:
- An edited anthology for MIT Press on Algorithmic Music
- A video-art exhibition on Imagining Gender
- Plans for a two-day symposium on practitioner-academics in dance
- 3D scans of museum objects
- Research proposals on Queer Museology
- Development of a new funding call through the AHRI, the Community Conversations Start-Up Fund
- Launch of an independent research project for an early career researcher
- Development of a cross-departmental network on Queer Museology
- Events management opportunities for postgraduate researchers
- Research opportunities for undergraduate students
Research on the projects' experiences of using the REACH Space noted the following points of interest that shaped the AHRI's thinking around, and development of, the REACH Space:
- Intimate, in-depth practice, research, skill- or knowledge-sharing projects were valued over large-scale broadcast-type events;
- Individual and collaborative research gains accrued,particularly in terms of beginning and securing relationships within and beyond King’s;
- Space does not necessarily create time to do, but it does play an important function in a university, particularly for less senior staff;
- Utilisation of personal connections and networks maximised projects' effectiveness;
- Space transformation should consider practical elements with elements like blinds, lighting, and speaker systems especially important to events that include a screening of some kind;
- Freedom to fail was crucial. Incubation, innovation, and experimentation arose from an emphasis on those initial stages of research where ideas were sparked through connections and conversations;
- The need to close feedback loops, to consider how to build new, and maintain existing, relationships.
Brief overviews of the six projects funded now follow.
1. Mora School Women's Group
Mora School Women's Group use creative practices to support those who are learning English as a second language. Their project involved inhabiting the REACH Space for several days, hosting practical screen-printing workshops on the theme of London alongside open house sessions where people could drop in. In so doing, they shared how creative practices can be used by women to lead.
The group visually transformed the space, moving in homemade jewelry, recipe books, and banners, as well as screen-printing equipment. The project created time and space to focus on non-productive or non-outcome based work, a pause for reflection, collection, and connection with others.
The project also cemented the group’s relationship with King’s and generated new community-based research connections, with one student attending Mora’s school workshop in North London and another student interviewing the group for their research project. Finally, the space enabled Mora to meet with another external group of women learning English to share best practice.
2. Queer Museology
This project, co-led by Dr Red Chidgey and Dr Serena Iervolino, used the REACH Space to begin to reflect on the question, 'what should a queer museum look like?' They used the space for creative methodologies to formulate and incubate research questions, methods and vocabularies in relation to this broad question.
Through workshops with museum practitioners, through reading groups and through an artist-in-residence day where activists and practitioners drawn from social media produced art works in response to the question, Red and Serena incubated ideas for a larger project. The space facilitated generative thinking, providing an opportunity for diverse stakeholders to meet and think together. Ideas generated through the project were then develop further through another project funded by the AHRI - Engaging Memory.
This project was led by Dr Jane Wildgoose, Visiting Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Life Writing Research (CLWR) in association with Professor Clare Brant and research student James Metcalf from the CLWR. The Wildgoose Memorial Library, Jane's collection of objects and books focusing on death and remembrance, is a well established project that she presents as a forum for debate about mortality and memory, in spaces ranging from crypts to museums and historic sites.
Jane transformed one of the REACH office spaces into a pop-up library lasting one week. The transformation included an installation of furniture, objects and books from Jane's collection which instilled an intimate and thought provoking feeling to the room. Jane hosted small group discussions of 3 - 12 people in the space. Participants were carefully selected as part of discussions around a series of themes related to life writing and death, which were designed to build connections and collaborations, to shine new light from alternative perspectives.
Those involved included curators and research managers from the Victoria & Albert Museum, Science Museum, Tate Britain, and Warburg Institute, as well as the Chief Executive of Highgate Cemetery. Other participants included practicing artists, independent scholars, and members of the public as well as undergraduate and postgraduate students, researchers and academics – from King’s; UCL, St George’s, Brighton, Durham, the Royal College of Art, London College of Fashion, the London Film School, and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Through this project, Jane built new connections with, among others, Neil Jakeman from the Critical Media Practice group (below) who 3D scanned objects from her Library.
4. Critical Media Practice
The Critical Media Practice project, headed by Dr Mark Shiel, brought together researchers and PhD students from across a range of departments (and including King's Digital Lab) to explore the role and potential of media technologies and practices in both research and teaching.
The project involved a range of activities including digital skills workshops, film screenings, music symposiums and discussion groups and surfaced new connections and collaborations.
5. Imagining Gender in the Multiverse
Dr Conor McKeown turned one of the REACH Space's offices into a typical teenager's bedroom to provide an immersive environment for individuals to play the game Gone Home. The game reflects on an experience of gender dysphoria. Conor captured video game play to create a video-art project demonstrating certain laws of quantum physics, questions of individuality and choice, and experiences of gender.
As an early career researcher, the project marked Conor's first attempt at conducting research on his own terms. Many of the video game players were his students, so the project also provided an interesting feedback loop between his research and teaching.
6. A Dialogue on Dance
A Dialogue on Dance, led by Dr Kelina Gotman, involved conversations with colleagues from the Rambert School and Netherlands Dance Theatre about potential shared research directions. The conversations led to plans for a two-day symposium on practitioner-academics in dance and inspired the AHRI to launch a new funding scheme, the Community Conversations Start-Up Fund.