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TESTT space : groundwork and experiment in a complex arts organisation.

Hudson, Martyn and Donkin, Hazel (2019) 'TESTT space : groundwork and experiment in a complex arts organisation.', Arts and the market., 9 (2). pp. 188-201.


This paper documents and describes an omni-disciplinary ethnography of a complex arts and cultural regeneration organisation in Durham (TESTT Space). The organisation and its art spaces is a hybrid combination tool explicitly designed to test and experiment with ideas, social forms, human interactions, and arts practice. Its ground or practice is a repurposed ‘meanwhile’ space in a city centre embedded in a unique cultural landscape of local communities, a University and a World Heritage Site. The research attempted to understand its groundwork, its interactions and its civic mission and aspirations in a time of radical change and rupture. We assumed an ethnographic approach, working with and within this organisation for a year, thinking of the research as embedded, intimate research and committed to social change. It was a work of co-production – working with studio-holders, curators, artists and facilitators using a range of triangulated qualitative research methods. These included structured interviews, auto-ethnography, ethnography of spaces, arts-led research, art as research and research as art. TESTT Space has allowed both the retention of artists in the city and the propulsion of artists into the world. It has offered different ways of engaging in the complex lives of artists and curators and allowing them to test aesthetics and try out new social models. It has thought up its own network and as a thinking practice has developed its own politics, civics and imagined a set of new futures. The extended description and documentation that the paper offers illustrates not just the power of experimental, complex and hybrid arts organisations, but also that the kinds of omni-disciplinary methods of messy ethnography that we use have wide applicability in understanding arts and its markets in times of rupture.

Item Type:Article
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
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Date accepted:25 October 2019
Date deposited:17 December 2019
Date of first online publication:09 December 2019
Date first made open access:17 December 2019

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