Moving in and Out, or Staying in Bed
: Using Multiple Ethnographic Positions and Methods to Study Artist-Led Housing as a Critical Spatial Practice

  • Jonathan Orlek

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Tis is a collaborative research project concerned with the provision of housing by artist-led organisations. It is also an embedded ethnographic study of a particular house called Artist House 45, located in South Leeds. Artist House 45 is a pilot project by the artist-led organisation East Street Arts.

In this thesis I introduce the term ‘artist-led housing’ and stake a claim to studying it as a critical spatial practice. I adopt multiple, situated, research positions; each of which constructs a different relationship between Artist House 45, the architectural sites through which I work, and theoretical texts. Tis allows the roles and programming responsibilities of artist-led organisations to be analysed in new ways in relation to housing provision. In addressing the questions of why artist-led organisations are providing housing, what critical and spatial roles artist-led organisations are occupying in relation to housing and how embedded research can infuence these, I make original contributions to knowledge.

I argue that artist-led organisations are conceiving of housing projects as both collective artworks and interventions within the housing market and sector. As such, artist-led
organisations are occupying roles which differ from those of other ‘alternative’ housing practices such as community-led housing. Artist-led housing doesn’t nest easily within preexisting participatory models or coalesce into a coherent housing movement with shared characteristics, demands and goals. In response to this, I have developed new strategies and approaches, rooted in and among the day-to-day processes of artist-led organisations, for communicating, translating and scaling artist-led housing. Tis has involved the use of collaborative mapping and ‘multivoice’ writing. By adopting multiple research positions in relation to Artist House 45, I have sought to critique the project from different, and competing perspectives. Tis ‘moving in and out’ has involved changing my physical proximity to the house (i.e. from library-based study to literally moving in to live in Artist House 45 as a Researcher in Residence). It has also meant moving between different ethnographic methods and writing styles. Trough embedded ethnography, I have been able to feed research back to East Street Arts quickly, allowing responsive interventions to be made while Artist House 45 was unfolding.
Date of Award2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorAnna Powell (Main Supervisor) & Rowan Bailey (Co-Supervisor)

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