Over the last week I’ve been receiving a number of emails from Basecamp. This is the name for the project management software used by the CREAM Caucus for their communications in the build-up to their 2017 exhibition, Between Here and Then. As I click on different boxes (‘to-do’s’, ‘schedule’, ‘docs and files’) what unfolds is the efficient, digitally enabled, process of organisation necessary for an exhibition of multiple participants with a diversity of creative practices. The emails and the links are practical and purposeful, as the deadline for the show grows closer. I see discussions of budgets for the installation of works in the gallery; I note schedules for film screenings; I read biographies and descriptions of works that attest to creative and professional experience both long-standing and just beginning. From experimental fiction and video performance, to photography and text works, all perspectives and creative approaches are given equal weight here. ‘Here’s the Activity Across Everything’ they declare.
Yet, the gathering of materials at Basecamp does not comprise of any kind of homogenising process. Rather, the exhibition functions as a point of radius (to labour the metaphor) from which the visitor can follow a number of individual paths of creative enquiry, but productively trace points of overlap and collision. For it is important to stress that Basecamp reflects not simply the organizational structure for an exhibition, but functions as the repository for a confident and developed research community particular to CREAM. As I discover, scrolling back in time away from the urgency of more recent missives to messages about earlier reading groups, exhibitions and screenings, Basecamp documents a different model of research from that of traditional doctorate study.
Indeed, it could be argued that, with the decision to call themselves a caucus, the artists exhibiting here have already launched their challenge to the singular authorship common to practice-based research, in favour of a more openly discursive approach. I note that the connotations of political electoral processes associated with the term ‘caucus’ are foregrounded in the group’s bold manifesto of intent, countering existing research systems and positing their alternative. Reading the document, I am struck in particular by their articulation of doctorate research as ‘an opportunity for community making and sharing of students’ research.’ This brings to mind Janna Graham’s fruitful concept of the ‘possible study’. She envisages creative research as a speculative and relational experience, one that is: ‘not yet constituted and emerges only through relations formed between artists and transversal constituents’ (2010:129). I feel that Graham’s notion, arguing that research processes and their findings might only be meaningfully advanced through reciprocity, is reflected in the approach of the CREAM Caucus. Her reference to ‘transversal constituents’ stresses that these relationships lie outside the academy, and that only through encouraging dialogues beyond its walls, ‘across the divisions of the creative class and its others’, as she puts it, can we achieve a ‘decentring [of] the artist researcher as author and propellant’ (ibid.).
There is political imperative inscribed in Graham’s proposal, her references to the ‘transversal’ and to processes of ‘decentring’, for example, call for the hierarchies inherent to research processes to be dismantled. ‘Possible study’ urges seekers of knowledge not to default to traditional methodologies and systems of affirmation, but to continually test themselves against accepted models through the dynamics of peer discussion; making porous the boundaries between each other as researchers, at the same time as they seek to rebalance their relationship to the people, places and spaces which hold the knowledge they seek.
Graham is not referring specifically to doctorate research when she posits her idea, but it echoes through the correspondence in Basecamp and resonates through the work of the CREAM Caucus, not just in the research community which they have formed, but in the communities which their art individually explores. Shared questions of agency and movement emerge in their films, performances and photographs: of histories and identities in flux and displaced through migration, for example, in the mapping of journeys internal and external, and, as artists, in their own speculative and shifting relationships to these transversal constituents – and each other.
Graham, Janna (2010). Between a Pedagogical Turn and a Hard Place, in O’Neill, Paul (ed.), Curating and the Educational Turn, London: Open Editions, 124 – 139.