TESTT Space: Groundwork and Experiment in a Complex Arts Organisation

Martyn Hudson, Hazel Donkin

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The purpose of this paper is to document and describe an omni-disciplinary ethnography of a complex arts and cultural regeneration organisation in Durham (TESTT Space). The organization and its art spaces are hybrid combination tools explicitly designed to test and experiment with ideas, social forms, human interactions and arts practice. Its ground or practice is a repurposed meanwhile space in a city centre embedded in a unique cultural landscape of local communities, a University and a World Heritage Site. The research attempted to understand its groundwork, its interactions and its civic mission and aspirations in a time of radical change and rupture.

The authors assumed an ethnographic approach, working with and within this organisation for a year, thinking of the research as embedded, intimate research and committed to social change. It was a work of co-production – working with studio-holders, curators, artists and facilitators using a range of triangulated qualitative research methods. These include structured interviews, auto-ethnography, ethnography of spaces, arts-led research, art as research and research as art.

TESTT Space has allowed both the retention of artists in the city and the propulsion of artists into the world. It has offered different ways of engaging in the complex lives of artists and curators, allowing them to test aesthetics and try out new social models. It has thought up its own network as a thinking practice, has developed its own politics, civics and imagined a set of new futures.

The paper documents interactions and aspirations, describing the lived phenomenological experience of being in this experimental space.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)188-201
JournalArts and the Market
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 9 Dec 2019


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