Progress Report Framework
Keywords: progress report framework • progress • report • framework • text • reflect • document
PROGRESS REPORT FRAMEWORK
A framework to support artists reflecting on artist placement experiences
Written by Nicola Ellis during a Henry Moore Artist Research Fellowship 2022-2023
In my experience, artist placements - or elements of placements - shape themselves as their timelines progress. One form of this shaping is ‘the domino effect’, where one experience/interaction/realisation very logically and clearly leads to another, in a reasonably controlled and linear fashion. Another form of placement self-shaping is the ‘rolling snowball’, where material, ideas and actions are collected via the inevitably linear passage of time on a placement site, and become compressed together in a less clearly defined mass of overlaps. The task of reflecting on these overlaps becomes increasingly complex as the snowball continues to roll down the hill. Due to the nature of artist placements, it is often the case that multiple rolling snowballs and sets of dominoes are in motion at any one time.
Reflecting on an artist placement while it is happening can be difficult - particularly in the early stages - because the artist is trying to:
*Develop a way of working in a new environment, which is most likely overstimulating.
*Compare this new way of working with the way they have worked elsewhere.
*Consider how people in the new environment perceive them and perceive what they are doing, despite what they are doing being - most likely - unknown at that time.
*Consider how people outside of the new environment perceive them, what they are doing and how information about these unknowns will be presented to the world outside of the new environment.
While the above points are being resolved, a lot of time is consumed with moment-by-moment negotiation processes which are ZOOMED IN on small details and occurrences. Moving through these experiences becomes the priority and deep reflection on the placement's relevance to a wider context can often take a back seat.
However, reflection eventually becomes crucial and a ‘ZOOMING OUT’ needs to take place. This zooming out might be enforced due to an event in the timeline of the placement which demands it, such as an exhibition or other public presentation. The zooming out might also be prompted at a more natural point at which some breathing space in the placement activity reveals itself.
Below is a framework to help structure this zooming out process, whenever it occurs. It features a non-exhaustive list of points to consider when reflecting on an artist placement experience, which may in turn help communicate information about relevant contexts in which the activity is informed by/relates to.
The list is in no particular order of importance and features main points in bold text, with sub-points for consideration underneath these in Italics. I recommend the list be edited and additional relevant points added as necessary.
Consider the following points and how they affect(ed) the artist placement activities:
1) How the artist and the organisation met and how the placement was initiated
2) The size of the organisation's workforce. The size now, in the recent past and plans for change in the future.
3) The physical layout of the organisation’s property. How does this impact the organisation and the artist?
4) How the workforce communicate with each other Consider formal and informal communication. When do these take place in relation to the working day and the working week? Do social events take place outside of work time?
5) How the workforce communicate with the artist. Consider formal and informal communication and how this compares to communication with other people in the organisation.
6) Individual characters within the workforce at the time of the placement and the amount of time they have been in the workforce. The workforce is a group of individuals who enable the artist. Consider how individual people enable - or don’t enable - and why this is. Consider the impact of any long-standing members of staff. How do they contribute to the workforce and impact the artists' activities?
7) If the workforce and the artist share a common language (knowledge of process, material, systems, intent etc). A common language can build the initial bridge between an artist and individuals working in an organisation. What are these common languages?
8) If the artist and the people in the workforce understand each other's values. What are these interpersonal common values and how have they been identified and discussed? Are there any non-shared values or clashes?
9) If the artist and workforce find each other interesting. Is there mutual interest in each other's work or approach? How is this communicated?
10) If the artist and organisation share common values. What are the organisation's values and how are they communicated to people outside of the organisation? How are they communicated to the artist (formally and informally). How does the artist communicate their values?
11) How workload is managed in the organisation. This may include formal and informal systems of information and data moving around the organisation. Reflect on hierarchy and the agency of individual people in relation to their working environment and tasks. How is labour performed, by whom and when?
12) How the artist manages their workload . Does the artist work with or encounter any similar types of information (by choice or out of necessity) to people in the organisation? How does the artist manage this, comparatively?
13) How much time the artist spends on the organisations site. The frequency across a timeline e.g per day, week, month, year. The length of time per session.
14) Does the artist have autonomy on the placement site? Does the artist have access to facilities or systems to work autonomously, if required?
15) How long the organisation has existed. What is the organisation' timeline? Has it always existed in the same form and provided the same services/products? Does it have a significant history of changes in management
16) How the organisation is funded. Has this always been the same? If not, how has this changed over time? How does the source of funds impact the organisation and by extension of this, the artist's activities.
17) What state the organisation is in. Financially, physically, personnel, public opinion, the organisation's immediate position in their ‘market’ or other relevant field.
18) The state of the wider industry or market the organisation belongs to. Consider the position of the organisation in national and global markets, league tables, industries or any other relevant contexts. How does this impact the artist's activities now and in the future?
19) What are the artists and the organisation's agendas? Are they the same, compatible or incompatible?
20) Are any other interested parties or stakeholders involved in the placement? Who are these other parties? What is the power dynamic between all parties involved?
21) How has the placement impacted the practice, operations or approach of all parties involved, during the timeline of the placement? Consider formal and informal processes. Zoom in on individual people and zoom out to consider wider organisational structure and policy.
22) How will the placement impact the practice, operations or approach of all parties involved, beyond the timeline of the placement? Speculation may be necessary here. Consider asking this question to all parties involved.
23) Is context ‘half the work’? In reference to the phrase ‘context is half the work’, which was coined by Artist Placement Group, how does the context of the placement inform or relate to the work? ‘The work’ could be physical outcomes or any other activity appropriate to your reflective process.
Some of the above points may be instantaneously relevant and some may become more or less relevant throughout the timeline of a placement, if at all.
Placements are ongoing and constantly shifting. You may wish to keep a copy of your reflections and re-edit a copy at a later date. This could be a good way to keep track of a shifting experience without having to reinvent the wheel every time.
You may want to enforce a word limit on each section as a useful parameter. The point of this exercise is to reach a kind of summary or punctuation in the timeline of the placement.
You may wish to change the language used in the points above. For example, there may be a more appropriate word to describe the organisations ‘workforce’ in the context of your placement.
Each artist placement experience is different to the next. Reflecting on the experience using this framework - or a similar version - could be a way to create some common ground and calibration between the placement experiences of different artists.