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Research, but not as we know it

5 June 2019

participants in multilingualism event at Tate Exchange

Arts, academia and activism came together in an exciting mix at the Tate Exchange ‘Who are we?’ programme organised by The Open University and Counterpoints Arts.

Five days of free public talks, installations, experimental live art, workshops and other activities explored themes of identity, belonging, migration and citizenship in an innovative way that drew in the public to participate.

“Who are we? is really interesting because it explores many of the global challenges that The Open University is interested in,” said Dr Umut Erel, leading the OU contribution with Dr Agnes Czajka, who is a Senior Lecturer in the OU’s Faculty of Arts and Social Science.

“It fits with the OU’s mission of being open to people, places, methods and ideas in an innovative way that brings together expertise from arts, academia and activism.” 

The event, which has run annually since 2017, was launched to develop a dialogue between academics, artists, audiences and art institutions about identity and belonging in contemporary UK and Europe. 

Academics drawn from across the OU’s faculties took the lead in organising and taking part in activities which included symposia on Migration and Identity and Movement and Identity, workshops on language learning, a multilingualism installation and Instagram-based storytelling.

Another key theme was ‘artists who risk and artists at risk’, and a highlight of the programme was a new installation by Kurdish artist Zehra Dogan, co-commissioned with Tate Exchange in collaboration with Index on Censorship, English PEN and PEN International.

The event’s creative and participatory approach offers an innovative way to engage people with complex and emotive issues involved in migration, citizenship, participation and belonging, says Dr Erel.

“It’s not so much about producing answers as asking questions, and it benefits the researchers by refreshing our perspectives as well as giving us a unique mode of disseminating our research.

“That doesn’t mean we’re sending out a message, it’s about talking to, and hearing from, people we would perhaps not normally reach with academic presentations.”

Who are we? ran from 21 to 26 May at Tate Exchange in Tate Modern. It was supported by Higher Education Innovation Funding, Open University Strategic Research Areas in International Development and Inclusive Innovation and Citizenship & Governance and the university’s Research Enterprise and Scholarship unit.

Photo by Irene Silvera Frischknecht, showing participants in multilingual installation Soundshapes

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