Coming up next year will be the first ever submission by Leeds Arts University to the Research Exercise Framework. This means that I will have to submit what I have been doing as research and also in my case prove that it has 'impact'.
Because this is the first time of asking there is a lot of uncertainty as to how it works, what is classed as research and how to measure its impact.
I have thought about it quite a lot but have yet to really nail what I should be doing.
The first thing that alerted me to a deep seated problem was that of all the various things I do, after our initial submissions were looked at only two of my various 'outputs' were considered 'ref-erable' . Both were written academic papers, one a chapter for a book on drawing and another for a journal focused again on drawing. As the majority of what I would consider I do as research is making things, either at the moment by drawing or ceramics, I felt that something was going wrong. When I'm writing about drawing I'm reflecting on what has been done as research, the writing is a type of documentation of what has happened, but as far as I'm concerned the actual research is the engagement with material thinking. The research is first of all about how graphite moves around and opens up possibilities for images to arrive or how clay forms itself into shapes because of an interaction between itself, gravity and my hand movements. It is also about how my conversations with people become kernels or grains around which can grow materialised ideas or reflections on what I understand people to be saying. My preoccupations with other humans become embedded into my preoccupations with materials. But the doing is not enough, something else has to be given to the collective academic mind that is not claying or imaging in pigments suspended in liquids. Sentences like these are needed, especially ones that state the claying or imaging had some sort of effect on someone. There is a desire on the part of the academic measuring machine for evidence of change. "I saw one of Garry Barker's ceramic exhibitions and it changed the way I understood my relationship with objects". "I encountered one of Garry Barker's narrative drawings and it changed my views about the role of migration in society." Well if people wrote things like that in those comments books that you put out in exhibitions there would be no problems. But instead they put, "Loved the work", or "Great stuff, really enjoyed the drawings". I have now realised that I should have been much more thoughtful about the way I collected evidence of how an audience is effected by visiting an exhibition. In particular by putting on workshops or soliciting reviews.
So I'll have to do some work trying to collect evidence and in the meantime carry on researching, i.e. making art and following my nose as to how materials are 'speaking to me' and wishing that I could submit a sketchbook to the REF rather than a form.
This is what we will be assessed on, "For each submission, three distinct elements are assessed: the quality of Outputs (for example, publications, performances, and exhibitions), their Impact beyond academia, and the Environment that supports research. The weighting of the elements is 60% Outputs, 25% Impact, and 15% Environment". As outputs are weighted the highest, I presume my job is going to be how to explain that the artefacts I make are worthy. But exactly how is the problem. For instance my sketchbooks enabled me to win first prize for SKETCH2017, the feedback stating that I was given the award because of the combination of imaginative imagery and beautiful observational draughtsmanship. However this is not yet enough, so I need to construct a more powerful narrative around my work if it is to be seen as good enough.