We have walked, looked, listened and read our way through an exhibition, a symposium and two books. As the project is the work of practice-based art research students, it might be expected that what is being tested are hypotheses, or the answers to research questions. There is this, but this sits within a spectrum of other processes of testing. The title of the project invokes the filmic stereotype of the performer checking sound equipment to ensure effective transmission. Within an audible amplified sound lie many variable qualities including volume, clarity, tone, echo, reverb, and feedback. What ‘being heard’ is depends on all these factors, inseparable in, and dependent upon, the receiver.
All sorts of testing is going on here. The process of making art is always testing. For some, making is a test to find the right way to do something planned, for others the process involves dismantling initial thoughts through making. For other artists making is used to find out what is being tested or noticed in the first place. Here, the space of display is also being employed as a research ‘condition’. We often expect the ‘cold light’ of the gallery to enable us to see works afresh, but no context is neutral, not the studio, the gallery or the lab. In this case the test conditions—the University gallery—enables us to see the works through the lens of art and education.
Testing, Testing also asks whether it is possible to make both the process and the end point of research communicable. It’s arguable whether any end point can ever be considered research, as research is an act, a practice, not ‘results’. The works are experienced in the present, in real space, but they are made as part of a research inquiry that operates in moving time in many spaces. The symposium and the dialogues presented seek to get in between these different timescales and draw them together in dialogue, but they send us into different times and spaces too.
The relationship between the exhibition, texts and symposium elements is also being tested and it’s hard to describe how they work together. Jerome Harrington describes these as ‘points of visibility’: the way multiple different elements give us access into a wider body of work or social phenomenon.1 Testing, Testing explores what the relationship between the parts and wholes can be.
1 Jerome Harrington, ‘Research Degree - Process Made Visible: In and Outside the Object | Sheffield Hallam University’, 2012 <https://www.shu.ac.uk/research/specialisms/cultural-communicationand-computing-research-institute/what-we-do/projects/fine-art/research-degree-process-madevisible-in-and-outside-the-object> [accessed 11 October 2016].