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 examined 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 trialled 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 were:

  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 was built around two focused workshops series, both of which were blogged by participants and researchers from the beginning.

Workshop one took place over 5 days at Tate Modern in October and November 2013 and involved fifteen participants aged between 15 and 25 working with Sara Wookey an international artist and contemporary dance educator. Each day Sara will worked with participants and introduced them to key elements of Trio A (1966) by Yvonne Rainer a seminal piece in the performance/dance canon. She supported them to develop their own dance piece in response to the work. Every session was 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 was held for an invited audience. This performance and a following discussion were also filmed.

The second set of workshops involved eight of the fifteen participants working with Camilla in Tate Britain’s Digital Learning Studio. During these sessions the young people learned how to edit digital film so that they can collaboratively edit the film footage of the first workshop sessions. They produced 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 were also observed by the researchers.

The final films were shown at Tate Britain in the Learning Gallery and at a invitational seminar for academics, artists, teachers, gallery educators, and arts policy officers.

The workshop composite film can be watched on Vimeo.

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. Read the final report [PDF]. 

Project participant Katie Slee also produced a publication [PDF, 4.7 MB] to reflect on the many levels the experience addressed and developed .

For further information about this project, please contact Pat Thomson at patricia.thomson@nottingham.ac.uk or Emily Pringle at emily.pringle@tate.org.uk

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)