Testing New Ground

A new programme working with the arts to deepen your relationship with organisation.

“How do you make that very fine line?”

“It’s a drawing technique using metal wires called metal point and in this case, silverpoint. I start by laying down a layer of paint or ground that provides the material conditions, resistance, for the metal to deposit and leave a mark on the paper.”

“So it is a resistance that leaves the mark – a creative resistance?”

“Yes and this is even stronger in some printing techniques such as etching where acid eats a line in the metal in order to make a line that will hold and then print the ink.”

“How interesting if we scale that mark or pattern to the organisational level and think of the energy in the mark-making as organisational change…” 

This snippet of an art studio conversation between Tavistock colleagues illuminates the quality of exchange that can take place between art and organisation. A quality that derives from a Tavistock Institute of Human Relations (TIHR) belief in research and enquiry into social and organisational problems that shun the binary separations of art and science or even artist as separate from organisation so often constraining to the flow of knowledge and problem-solving across different disciplines and practice. 

Over the last few years, our work and partnership with artists and arts organisations have been increasing rapidly. Most recently in Liver in Bed Two East 15 Acting School animated Isabel Menzies Lyth’s seminal work on defences against anxiety in health systems. This was a participative performance at and partnership project with the Wellcome Collection in 2018. During March 2019, a ‘guerilla’ exhibition of drawings of older people was installed at Tower Bridge Care Home to evidence the creativity of the residents, with whom Entelechy Arts works. 

Building on these and further to our 70th anniversary Festival in 2017, where the arts were cited as an example of how Tavistock organisational development practice is being customised to different contexts, we believe the time is right to bring a new programme to TIHR’s growing portfolio of deeply experiential learning. 

Deepening Creative Practice will be a practice-based programme that will integrate the arts and social sciences to model new ways of working with and intervening in organisations. The programme design is currently in progress. Central to it will be the question of what working with the ‘arts’, in their broadest sense, can bring to the practice of working with organisations today: their problems and challenges. Participants will take up organisational residencies and from these co-curate a public exhibition, installation or other events that surface these questions.

The programme will have artists embedded as part of the faculty, working with participants around questions of organisation, alongside Tavistock practitioners. Together bringing unique perspectives such as:

  • the aesthetics of working with groups and intervening;
  • embodiment and creativity through the Alexander Technique;
  • archival and curatorial questions;
  • experiential learning – working with creative resistance; social dreaming.
  • working across difference in art disciplines – visual arts, dance and choreography, theatre and performance.
  • creative exploration of organisational ecosystems.

This programme is the first extended one of its kind in the field and will be suitable for those working across a diversity of organisational settings and roles, interested in exploring their creativity (however that might manifest) and working with artists and TIHR experts.

Watch this space for the programme brochure and dates for the programme in 2020.

To receive further news about the programme, tick the Deepening Creative Practice box on our enquiry page (in the Professional Development section).

Read more about Art and Organisation at TIHR

About the programme directors

Juliet Scott

Over the last few years and alongside other roles at the Tavistock Institute, I have had the privilege of becoming artist-in-residence. This is a role that evolved out of my work with the Tavistock Institute’s archive, where my art research formed a part of the deeply excavational and out-loud process of opening up and working with organisational history. 

The discovery of boxes of projective cards and then drawing over them to make new but connected artworks was a conversation with the ghosts and spirits of the past whose potency had been activated by our work with the archive. These works were shown at Helmsley Art Centre and later at 70th Anniversary Festival ‘Reimagining Human Relations in our Time’ alongside an exhibition of the archive and as part of a four-day programme where artists, dancers and performers joined Tavistock practitioners in an exploration of the festival themes. I am currently developing this work into a larger exhibition or visual paper of the whole archive project. 

Heather Stradling    

I joined the Tavistock Institute following a career in the arts sector, working across art forms and between sectors. My current evaluation, research and consultancy practice combines more recent training in social sciences and psychodynamic theory and practice with a background in using participatory creative methods – eg using creative techniques as part of interview designs with young people or drawing on the experience of leading creative processes within the facilitation of learning events. 

Alongside this, whilst leading the Arts Strategic Initiative with Juliet, I have brought the experience of working with and commissioning artists to inform the partnership with East-15 and our support and work with other artists, eg Robert Clark. I enjoy being curious and continuously learning and developing. This is supported through the embodying of my experience and work as a dance practitioner into my current work as a Senior Researcher/ Consultant at the Tavistock Institute. 

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