This project addresses the difficult question of what young people ‘get’ from contemporary art.

Experience and value of live art project at Tate
Sara Wookey teaching Trio A (1966) to students at ArtEZ, Arnhem the Netherlands as part of her reDANCE residency in 2012

Over nine months, we will examine young people’s experience of live art by enabling them to engage directly in the creation of a contemporary dance performance in the gallery. Funded through the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s (AHRC) Cultural Value scheme, the project is trialling a collaborative methodological approach to research and the representation of experience. It combines ethnographic and participatory methods with the use of film and social media in order to examine how participants articulate and thereby retain control of their experiences. The project‘s objectives are:

  1. to experiment with film as a means of documenting and evaluating the value of cultural experiences
  2. to use social media as a means of enabling peer review and ongoing cultural meaning making
  3. to explore how to represent the experience of participants authentically using a range of ethnographic and participatory approaches
  4. to draw on methods of empowerment evaluation and participatory action research in order to support the positive aspects of collaborative creative production.

The Experience and Value of Live Art project is built around two focused workshops series, both of which will be blogged by participants and researchers from the beginning.

Workshop one takes place over five days at Tate Modern in October and November 2013 and involves  fifteen participants aged between 15 and 25 working with Sara Wookey an international artist and contemporary dance educator. Each day Sara will work with participants introducing them to key elements of Trio A (1966) by Yvonne Rainer a seminal piece in the performance/dance canon. She will support them to develop their own dance piece in response to the work. Every session will be observed by researchers and filmed by Camilla Robinson a professional filmmaker. At the end of the 5 days, a public performance of their own interpretation of the dance will be held for an invited audience. This performance and a following discussion will be filmed.

The second set of workshops involves the fifteen participants working with Camilla in Tate Britain’s new Digital Learning Studio. During these sessions the young people will learn how to edit digital film so that they can collaboratively edit the film footage of the first workshop sessions. They will produce individual films that best represent their experience of participating in the dance sessions and show what they think is the value of the experience. These sessions will also be observed by the researchers.

The final films will be produced and shown at Tate at two invitational seminars for academics, artists, teachers, gallery educators, and arts policy officers; these will also be recorded. All the data from these sessions will be analysed by researchers together with the content of all other films, and the results made available to all groups.

It is anticipated that the project will produce a richly detailed representation, in both words and images, of the cultural experience of young people involved in live art, in which the voices of young people will be foregrounded. This will be accompanied by an assessment of the value of participatory methods, formative evaluation, and film and social media as research tools.

For further information about this project, please contact Pat Thomson at or Emily Pringle at

Project Information

Lead department(s): 
Project leader: 
Pat Thomson (Professor of Education, Nottingham University)
Project team: 
Emily Pringle (Head of Learning Practice and Research, Tate)
Shaun Curtis (Curator Young People’s Programmes, Tate)
Laura Turner (Assistant Curator, Young People’s Programmes, Tate)
Paul Stewart (Learning Research Assistant, Tate)