8.01 Methodological considerations

a) The Effects of Intrusion

My method of research was an active one. As I have said a passive researcher could not really have existed comfortably within such a small and active voluntary group. As an active group member I may have contributed to changes that took place in the group. The most noticeable differences from when I joined are technical and financial. Having bought a video projector and Public Address system, the expenses for each show were reduced by around 100, which makes for more income or the possibility of smaller audiences.

There are a few ways in which my contribution could be seen to possibly create a new direction within the group or in which I challenged the groups modus operandi or came into conflict with members of the collective. This seemed to be due to the differences between my own art practice and the established practices of the collective.

When we did the first show on the factory roof in Peckham I built some substantial structures with timber that was freely available on the site. This needed to be hauled five storeys up the outside of the factory on ropes - an arduous task especially as the weather was very hot at that time. Later there were complaints from the older collective who saw this as being in conflict with the Exploding Cinema style of operation which, it was said, was about projecting images rather than building actual structures. 'We are into theatrical illusion - not architectural construction' (Duncan Reekie).[1]

Another example occurred at the AGM in December 1999 where Duncan Reekie presented a written proposal that aimed to confront the film establishment and become the basis of a petition. This proposal suggested a new basis for funding film production.[2]

This seemed idealistic to me and I argued against it. A radical democratisation of film funding seemed unrealistic outside of a much broader cultural critique. I also argued that a programme of change that would find wide support would need to arise from a prolonged process of open debates rather than be prescribed. Many others in the group were not so vocal in their opposition as me but they were also not enthusiastically supportive of the petition. Nothing more seemed to come of it. Did I contribute to the demise of this initiative? Could it have evolved in practice and, even if apparently impractical in its early form, still have provoked a useful debate on how film was funded? Did this intrusive criticism unwittingly dampen a revolutionary spark? After all such innovations are likely not to arise in the most reasonable of guises.

The extent to which researchers invalidate their research by changing the object of their study is a complex theoretical debate that there is not space to go into here. It is also possible that the publishing of the history of a group which has had a lack of recognition can cause the subsequent demise of the group. Such groups may be hanging on waiting for such a recognition in order to feel their project is completed. Documentation does have this meaning, often providing a sign of a project's completion.[3]

What Michael Agar calls the 'professional distance/ personal involvement paradox' cannot perhaps be theoretically resolved in favour of one position or another - it is rather a point of ongoing critical awareness for both sides.

This study tends to a viewpoint borne out of personal involvement but the possible error that could arise from this bias has been offset with as much methodological rigour as possible within my triangulated strategy.

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[1] L1 p120 19-7-1998. L1 refers to Logbook 1. There were two other logbooks, L2 and L3. These books will be made available as archival sources with the presentation of this thesis.

 

[2] Its main proposal was to end the state sponsored production funding for short film and to redistribute that money to a decentralised circuit of autonomous centres for exhibition and distribution. Proposed at AGM 5-12-1999. See L3 p357

 

[3] My experience with supporting the publication of a documentation of the Greenham Yellow Gate peace camp group, as part of Working Press, seems to reinforce this view. The camp group disbanded a year or two after the book was published. It would have been a natural end point. But could it have renewed itself had the book not been done? Was the lack of recognition part of the motivating force?