‘To make is to challenge…by practising things, practising life, practising creation.‘ Theaster Gates 

During the past two years, the EPRG has actively created a range of experimental projects which have pedagogy at the heart. Through this work, the group has built a vibrant network and developed a place for existing UAL wide creative pedagogic practice and research to come together. In doing so we have filled a gap and identified the need for funded, ambitious and advanced investigation into pedagogical practice in art & design, to address and work towards solving the real problems we currently face concerning student engagement and experience.

The Experimental Pedagogies Research Group (EPRG) was set up on the 14th of July 2020 in response to growing demands from various staff and doctoral students at UAL for a place where theoretical and practical ideas of experimentation in creative educational contexts could be explored.

Two colourful layered prints with the text our fur our fur
Image Credits: OUR FUR OUR FUR [Many): Ana Vicente Richards, Jonathan Martin, Mark Ingham, Sara Ortolani and The EPRG (2021).

Three concurrent aims were quickly identified.

To create and imagine more informal, online, hybrid and in person spaces. Where ideas of experimental and creative pedagogies, could be discussed and put into practice. This has been established over the last 2 years in our monthly meetings.

And

To locate funding streams for creative experimental projects that we wished to develop. We have had a number of funding bids that have been successful over the last 2 years and we are seeking more funding for our research from other sources external to UAL

And

To explore the possibility of setting up a Research Centre at UAL dedicated to developing, with our talented practitioners, new ways of practicing and thinking about creative education.

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As Tim Stephens argues in his working paper The Ethics of Staff Development (2021), ‘After rupture: forms of neo-disciplinarity in education after modernism … when the biosphere cannot sustain human development, we will need to re-wild pedagogy with a type of educational archaeology. Enacting the tension between a future-oriented and nostalgic world view, we engender immediate remedies of handing back, relinquishing our status to natural forces (Terra Carta), magnifying small acts of reparation to redeem utopia.’ 

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As UAL’s Honorary Doctor Theaster Gates exemplifies how socially-engaged art can work for the benefit of the underrepresented in our societies, the EPRG is fully engaged in socially conscious pedagogical work. Its work will be driven by research into ways of creating even better education for all our learners, staff and students alike. As Gates says in his 2018 UAL Doctoral acceptance speech, ‘…we are attempting to constitute a way of understanding a world of nothing and turning it into something’. Over the last two years, the EPRG has been doing exactly this through a series of collaborative and experimental events that model what is possible within all our limits of time and space. The EPRG spends its time between the research and creation of pedagogical ideas and the discussion and implementation of new pedagogical practices. This will include:

  • Advancing practice-led research into learning practices in art & design within the educational/ pedagogical context of UAL and the wider social and cultural contexts
  • Knowledge production through praxis (theory into practice and practice into theory) at the intersection of artistic practice and experimental pedagogical practice
  • Housing and disseminating research projects from scholars and students in the field of artistic-pedagogical practice where work is centred around social, racial and ecological justice
  • Create new forms of teaching and learning experiences grounded in the teaching and learning community at UAL

The EPRG currently provides regular meetings and action places for a diverse assembly of UAL staff and doctoral students interested in experimental and creative pedagogies. On the back of these monthly meetings, we have worked voluntarily, collectively, and non-hierarchically to develop a range of pedagogical focused experiments, including 24hrs ON EARTH experimental event which was programmed as part of the UAL Research Season 2022. We have identified a gap in the research portfolio at UAL for funded, ambitious and advanced investigation into pedagogical practice in art & design. The proposal for a Research Centre aims to address this gap within UAL, while providing time, space and funds through institutional recognition to advance our research into the crucial work of the UAL community and beyond.

The EPRG is a daring and safe place and space where new pedagogical knowledge is created and put into practice for the benefit of all UAL students and staff. It is a creative and critical learning space. We ask our students to take risks, be daring, try new things out, and experiment. We need to do the same in our pedagogical research. We should have the theoretical and practical tools to challenge what has gone before and to make new educational environments fit for our world now and that to come. The EPRG has demonstrated through its diverse community that it is possible to carry out new ways of qualitatively researching how our students feel about their experiences at UAL through funded projects like Falling Through the Gaps. We have shown how we can be a global group that takes into consideration all our students wherever they are in the world and at whatever time they are ready to learn and demonstrated to our staff and ourselves how in the space of 60 mins x 24, new work can be created collaboratively with strangers (24 Hours ON EARTH). We have used online spaces and their breakout rooms to meet new colleagues, collaborate and create hybrid artefacts (OUR FUR OUR FUR). We have presented at conferences including EdEx21 (Bodies without Organs ) We will engage our postgraduate students in this pedagogical research as we are already doing with the twelve PhD students currently members of the EPRG and through our ongoing funded projects (Talking Heads: How Did I Get Here?)

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“It’s not so much that it preexists or comes ready‐made […] you make one, you can’t desire without making one. And it awaits you; it is an inevitable exercise or experimentation, already accomplished the moment you undertake it, unaccomplished as long as you don’t. […] It is not at all a notion or a concept but […] a set of practices. […] you can’t reach it, you are forever attaining it, it is a limit.”

(Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari A thousand plateaus: Capitalism and schizophrenia, vol. 2)

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