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Making Creative Policy

SPIN 2005 is now into its third day, after the conference dinner at Brisbane's Rugby Club last night (not as strange as that may sound...). The day starts with a keynote session involving Kate Oakley (currently also an Adjunct Professor at QUT) and Rod Wissler from QUT. Kate starts off the session, speaking on 'evidence-based policy making'. She points to recent policy documents in the UK which provided a great deal of data about the success or failure of policies, but are remarkably non-convictional. Indeed, this is something of a reaction against the 'conviction politics' of the 1980s and 90s, and is driven also by greater international tranparency (and hence comparability). Partly because of this, citizens are also more demanding and less deferent to their experts and political leaders, and more directly in touch with evidence about policy outcomes (of which there is a greater supply). Ultimately, Kate points to something of an ideology of managerialism - so ideology hasn't vanished altogether in policy-making, but a new form of ideology has emerged here.

Commercialisation in the Humanities

On to the next SPIN panel now - and I've had a coffee now so that feels much better. The panellists here are Toss Gascoigne from the Council for Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (CHASS), Steve Copplin from the Creative Industries Enterprise Centre, and Stuart Cunningham, the acting Dean of Creative Industries at QUT. The topic of the panel here is the question of commercialisation in the humanities and creative arts.

Documenting Creative Practice as Research, and Building the 21st Century Orchestra

We're back for the last SPIN session this afternoon. I skipped the post-lunch session to mark some postgraduate coursework students' project proposals (mostly pretty good), and then came in slightly late for the next session by my colleague Steve Dillon, with whom I work on the ACID Press project (soon to be renamed ARMS) within the Australasian CRC for Interaction Design. who began by playing a beatbox-style introduction to his talk, and then had audience members critique this piece. He's using this as an example of how much data emerging around the process of music composition is ephemeral in the process - lost soon after. Steve has also worked on a project called DMAP - digital multimedia art portfolios - which tracks the multimedia artefacts occurring alongside a project.

Owning Creative University Outputs

We've started on the first SPIN session for the new day now - a panel discussion on 'Universities, Creativity and the Real World?' So, this should keep me awake until I get my first coffee for the day. Paul Draper from the Queensland Conservatorium at Griffith University kicks off this session with the introductions - the other panel members are Matthew Hall from Swaab Attorneys and Jenny Wilson from the Griffith University Office for Commercialisation.

PD begins by speaking from a musician's perspective, noting the different IP licences which apply to different forms of content (composing & publishing, master licences of recordings, etc.) MH adds that unlike the case of scientific innovation, in a creative context many different aspects of a single work may be owned by different owners (lyrics, sound recordings, etc.). Ownership is also less than obvious as it arises simply and automatically through the process of creation, without anyone needing to stake their claim in an official sense. Further, there are various administering agencies which control the rights in various forms of musical works (recording, performing, reproduction rights etc.).

The Ethics of Invention

Finally for today (it's 7.30 p.m. already), we're moving into the last keynote session, by Paul Carter. He will speak on the ethics of invention, and begins by attempting a definition of the range of practices included under the overall heading of practice-led research. Importantly, all such practices are interested in invention - for which a precondition is a perception of ambiguity, the return of the repressed material. What conventionally functions in one role discloses other possibility - there is an excess of material that escapes semiotic categorisation. This is what enables invention to begin (but of course it is only a starting-point).

Smart Art

Next up is Robyn Stewart from the University of Southern Queensland, speaking on the practice-led researcher as a mindful 'knowledge worker'. (And I just lost my first paragraph, I'm afraid. Bugger.) She notes that there is no practice without an informed theory. Practitioner-research is a form of hybrid practice, then, which aims to capture and reflect the processes of artistic or design practice. It metamorphoses theory into practice, and studios function as experimental laboratories of practice in this context. Robyn points to creative work by Shelagh Morgan as an example here.

The research approach here is eclectic and breaks many boundaries; it is multifaceted. It creates intentional meanings through rigorous planning, documentation, and design. The process involves both artistic and scientific elements with elements of bricolage, perhaps reflecting a contemporary postmodern impulse of reconnecting with existing antecedents - we cannot break with tradition unless we are familiar with that tradition.

Redeveloping Auckland's Waterfront through Practice-Led Research

We start the next session with John Hunt, speaking on urban design as a form of practice-led research. He defines urban design as the design of the public realm, and focusses on the example of a site located on the Auckland waterfront. The project follows from an earlier redesign project in the site, which caused some degree of public controversy. Different approaches to the urban redesign project emerged from the initial call for project idea submissions (from the general public, not only from architects).

John describes this process in itself as a form of practice-led research within the criteria set by the city council. Judging on the submissions were representatives from a number of stakeholders (from political, economic, and cultural bodies as well as design professionals). Several themes emerged from the process - a distinctive character, a people-friendly environment, a pleasant and efficient transport interchange, and the arts and heritage aspects involved. In the stakeholder consultation and comment process large shifts in the submissions' character occurred; comments fed back into redeveloped submissions.

Intimate Transactions

Up next is Keith Armstrong, presenting on his interactive installation Intimate Transactions. This project has developed over the last four years; it is a dual-site installation by the Transmute collective with a number of additional interdisciplinary collaborators, using image, sound, and tactile elements. It was shown in various stages over the last few years in a variety of venues in Brisbane, Sydney, Glasgow and Doncaster. Now it's going to be dual-sited between Brisbane and ACMI in Melbourne before heading overseas again.

Home Videos in the Block

And we're back for the next session, in the multimedia arts space the Block on the Creative Industries Precinct. The presentations in this session will be by my colleagues Patrick Tarrant and Keith Armstrong, and blogging them will be an interesting experiment as they're largely multimedial and it's very dark in here.

Patrick opens with his project Planet Usher, billed as an interactive home movie. It is based around 20 years' worth of home video films created by his brother Peter who is deaf and gradually losing his sight as a result of Ushers syndrome. The project was always also devised as a creative practice as research project.

Perverse Research Practices

Finally for this session we're on to Allison Richards from the University of Melbourne, speaking on 'perversity as method' in practice-led research. She suggest that the advent of such research is an inherently paradoxical activity for universities, and follows on from some other paradoxes and historical accidents in the field. While some disciplines (e.g. music, art history) have been represented in universities for a long time, others have only recently joined arts programmes, and not all of these have traditionally had an active research culture, so that the pressure to engage in research has in some cases been an external rather than an intrinsic one. The scramble to engage in research has led to some interesting positional shifts, then - and have occasionally also led to the wholesale importation of existing modes of discourse into newly established university discourses (e.g. dance disciplines which are placed in applied science departments).

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