Data Stories and Arts-based Methods: Introducing the Artists

We’re pleased and excited to introduce the first cohort of artists to join the Data Stories team. Joan Somers Donnelly, Mel Galley and Augustine O’Donoghue will be helping the team to explore arts-based methods as a means for research-creation. Typically, arts-based methods are integrated into research projects toward their conclusion to communicate findings to the public in novel ways.

What makes this method stand out is that, with the integration of our artists and their specific skill sets, we will embed creative approaches throughout the entire research process. So rather than giving the artists our findings and asking them to share them to the public, they are working with us at the onset to change the way we approach our own work and challenge our pre-conceived understandings of Dublin’s planning, property and housing systems.

In the coming months each artist will team up with one Data Stories researcher to create data stories that respond to issues and challenges raised during our mapping of the policy, planning and housing data ecosystem in Ireland. While working with our researchers and various external stakeholder organisations, each artist will also develop their own data story concepts that express their unique approaches to artistic practice.

We hope you look forward to seeing the outcomes as much as we do.

Joan Somers Donnelly

Photo credit: Elien Ronse

I am an Irish artist based between Brussels and Dublin, with a collaborative practice that moves between performance, writing, research and organising. Previous work includes a human choir that performed for cows; a piece for swimmers in the Irish sea; an interactive fantasy about the politics of housing in Dublin; a video essay about social spaces of gig economy workers made with my father; and performances and other invitations for lamp posts, zoom calls, U-bahn stations and apartments.

My practice is primarily concerned with examining existing social rules and structures and creating not-yet-existing ones, using performance and other live situations as a testing ground for experiments in different ways of relating. Much of my recent work has focused on the creation of frameworks for playful encounter, exchange, and co-creation, such as the group improvisation practice messing, the platform for collaboration You and Me, an Anger Club, and a first manifestation of a practice-sharing space for women and non-binary multimedia artists called In practice(s): The wood and the trees. My work is currently supported by the Arts Council of Ireland and radical_house, Brussels.

I was drawn to the Data Stories project because of a long-standing engagement with the politics of space and space-making in Dublin, both in and outside of my artistic practice. I am also looking forward to working as part of an interdisciplinary research team, and to the new challenge of working with stakeholders across the public, private and civil society sectors. A practice-based research approach has become increasingly present in my work, particularly around the question of how to create conditions for collaboration between diverse actors from and in different contexts, so this residency presents an interesting next chapter in that trajectory.

Mel Galley 

Currently based in Dublin, Ireland, I grew up between the Dales and Cumbria in the UK. My closeness to these rural landscapes has heavily influenced my research; specifically how industrial or military activity exists alongside motifs of ‘wilderness’ in these areas. Growing from an early (and ongoing) love of science-fiction and anti-/utopian literature, in my practice I construct unreal places, translating ideas through mediums from contemporary technologies of CAD and CGI to laser etching and printmaking. Creating these unreal places allows me to analyse and reorder research, offering an alternative point of entry into existing discussions on place, ecology and ethics. Frequently my works are shown as multiples, such as pamphlets or handouts, which the audience can take out of the arts space with them and into the landscapes that they consider. The draw to join the Data Stories project, for me, was the focus around data and place, specifically through the lens of politics, ethics and narrative. I’m excited to be spending a year working alongside the researchers on this project to develop art works and workshops with and about the data!

I’ve shown work across Ireland and the UK, participated on artist residencies in Manchester, Cumbria and Dublin, and delivered classes and workshops at three universities. In 2021 I was awarded 2nd Place Practitioner Category in the RIBA Eye Line awards and in 2020 received the award for Young Cumbrian Artist of the Year (a real joy to be recognised by the county I’m from). Two of my works are held in the collections of the Bodleian Library, Oxford, whilst many more are on the walls and shelves of people I care about – which is equally meaningful to me.

Augustine O’Donoghue 

I am asocially engaged visual artist based in Dublin. My artwork engages with a range of local and global socio-political issues.Over the last two decades my art projects have been research based and collaborative throughout their development and creation. I use an array of socially engaged and participatory approaches to develop interdisciplinary projectsand have collaborated with diverse groups of people including students, scientists, migrant workers, academics, refugees and social organisations across Ireland, Latin America and Africa.

The Data Stories project really captivated my interest as it was an opportunity to draw together many topics and strands of my art practice that I feel really passionate about. The projects original research concept of using data stories to explore the data and analytics relating to property and planning, the opportunity of using creative methodologies to work with stakeholder groups that may not traditionally work with artists and having direct access to the research team and their vast knowledge and experience will allow me to create new work in an exciting and innovative way. More importantly it will allow me to create new work with a level of criticality that would be challenging to achieve without this project.

To learn more about the use of arts-based methods in research creation, please read the project working paper ‘Arts-based methods for researching digital life.’  forthcoming as a chapter in ‘Researching Digital Life’, James Ash and Agnieszka Leszczynski’s co-authored book.