Somewhere between research and practice

Arooj Khan is an artist who has lived her life between Thurrock and East London. She will be leading some workshops with community groups in the borough as a part of this year’s Art Trail, through which she hopes to create a locally inspired Monopoly game.

She recently gave us some words about what influences her and her methodology for arts-based research. Arooj is a PhD student with the University of Birmingham, studying Urban Geography.

For more on her work, check out the website

For more info on Arooj’s planned workshops, see her blog post.


I always hesitate when I tell people that I dabble in art in my spare time. To be honest, I’m a mediocre drawer, an average painter and an alright-ish calligrapher.

If I could create a descriptor for myself, I would be an arts-based researcher. I like to use arts-based research methods as a primary mode of enquiry, rather than the traditional research methods that I trained in at University.

I was never one to believe in the eternal rights of scientifically valid research. I’ve always been much more interested in how truth can be examined through both fact and fiction, and objective and subjective experiences. I truly believe that artistic appropriation of knowledge evokes different and nuanced forms of knowledge which complements scientific research.

It is at this intersection of standardised knowledge and community arts that I try to work. I’ve led discussions about ‘un-learning culture’; evaluated various London based community arts projects; used crafts as a medium to facilitate a ‘stay safe online’ workshop; utilised Arabic calligraphy to discuss Islam and Middle-Eastern culture with local students; and I’m now in the process of compiling young people’s perceptions of regeneration into a Thurrock specific Monopoly board.There is nothing quite like putting together a workshop, and seeing diverse groups of individual’s take part in something that they would not normally do and talking about things they would not normally discuss. There is nothing quite as affirming of your existential existence as creating something tangible.

Overall, my practice is summed up nicely by Pablo Picasso who states: “I never do a painting as a work of art. All of them are researches. I search constantly and there is a logical sequence in all this research.”

– Arooj Khan, May 2017