Transforming lives: pilot project for multimedia exhibition that investigates how young people transform their worlds through the arts

Award Holder

Professor Paul Heritage


Higher Education Institute

Queen Mary, University of London


This research will look at how to create a live visual and interactive installation on how young people transform their worlds through the arts. It will bring together young people who are making performance with those who research the impact of their participation in that making, and find innovative ways to express what can be made from that encounter.

The research will draw from the social sciences, medical sciences, arts and humanities and also from thinking and practice in public policy. The research will be led by Paul Heritage, who has two decades experience of working at the interface between art practice and academia, creating large-scale mixed arts projects in partnership with government agencies.

The Research Assistant Gary Stewart is a scholar-artist who has researched, curated and created live visual and interactive installations on complex issues of identity and representation, with particular reference to the lives of young people perceived to be 'at risk' because of issues of race, poverty, socio-educational opportunities. We will work with Gringo Cardia, a multimedia designer from Brazil who has extensive experience of performative installation, and the social impact of the arts in shaping young people's lives. Above all it will engage in the enquiry young people [from london and Manchester who are themselves using mixed arts activities to address complex challenges.

One of the most problematic intellectual and political issues today is the impact of the arts on urgent social questions - in relation to uses of health and wellbeing, civil rights and social violence. If young people want to transform their worlds, then how best can they investigate and advocate for those creative processes? How can the social organizations of youth culture, the technologies and forms that they express themselves with, the means of dissemination and reception of the arts they produce be used as a means of enquiry which is itself a part of the transformations they seek?

A field research team of young and emerging artists will work with young people who are both at the crux of these questions and who themselves are seeking to express their different understandings of the process of transformation. Together they will experiment with different media to articulate their enquiry: their questions and their discoveries.

The focus for this investigation is the UK, but distinguished scholars, policy makers and artists from Brazil will participate as research consultants on the academic and artistic processes. The scale of the social crises that Brazil faces are daunting, but the sophistication of its cultural responses offer rich insights to those researching these issues in the UK. The project is built around the sharing of knowledge and insights between researchers from different disciplnes, between academics, artists and those involved in policy, between Britain and Brazil.

The project will seek to find ways to create a live visual and interactive installation that express and question these processes within a framework that reflects the understandings of the research team and the young participating artists.

There are two key research imperatives:

1. To draw on expertise from different academic disciplines, from arts practitioners and those involved in developing policy into practice to create a framework for an enquiry about the means by which young people seek to transform their worlds through the performing arts.

2. To pursue the enquiry with young people engaged in the practice of performance so that they can articulate and disseminate their questions and understandings through a prototype for a multimedia exhibition. It will benefit the young participants, their peers, those who work with them, those who form policy about the arts and cross-disciplinary academic research communities.

The results of the research will be widely seen through an installation that will eventually be exhibited in accessible public spaces.

Arts & Humanities Research Council: Each year the AHRC provides approximately £100 million from the Government to support research and postgraduate study in the arts and humanities, from archaeology and English literature to design and dance. In any one year, the AHRC makes approximately 700 research awards and around 1,000 postgraduate awards. Awards are made after a rigorous peer review process, to ensure that only applications of the highest quality are funded. Arts and humanities researchers constitute nearly a quarter of all research-active staff in the higher education sector. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK. See Arts & Humanities Research Council website.