Directed by Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop (Dan Brown) and Edinburgh College of Art (Prof Neil Mulholland), Shift/Work is a collective that composes workshops that cause participants to reflect upon and recalibrate processes of artistic learning. Key to this is an open engagement with practice (work) as a means of both generating and transferring new knowledge (shift). Our workshops enact new practices and collectively compose open educational resources for artists, art professionals, curators and art educators to adapt and implement. ‘Shift/Work’ is an iterative process, a rolling workshop that can be continually re-performed like a musical score. Given that SoTL generally does not feature in contemporary artistic practice or pedagogy, Shift/Work is distinctive and significant in its engagements with, and innovative contributions, to SoTL.
We will briefly outline the genesis and aims of Shift/Work in relation to SoTL and ‘educationally-turned’ contemporary artistic research, before focusing on Speculations, a participatory workshop composed at Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop then play-tested as part of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale in India (March 2017) and at the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Agder, Kristiansand, Norway (Sept 2017). In Speculations participants develop, learn and apply speculative methods, processes and practices that cannot be held, observed or enacted without taking risks or experiencing their consequences. Rather than simply reflect upon speculation and artistic research, the workshop actually generates new speculative-artistic methods through participatory action research.
Speculations offers a unique insight into Shift/Work’s ludic approach to workshops as reciprocal and enmeshed game-rules governing how actants interact. Playing the ‘game’ – Speculations – leads to the rules being revised and updated, offering fresh game-theoretic insights. Speculations is, thus, a paragogy, a ludic and ‘meta’ practice of peer-to-peer learning that is central to artistic learning. It is a heuristic to improve our understanding of how parameters calibrate and enable adventurous, creative play. In turn, it demonstrates that play does not just make learning fun, it is constitutive of learning. Speculations unravels and clarifies Shift/Work’s commitment to codifying playful paragogy in order to publish and distribute it as an open educational and artistic resource. This has invaluable implications for SoTL as an experimental paragogy that can transform the whole field of education.