Introducing… André Piza
What is your name?
What is your background?
My first background is in journalism. Although it has been a while since I worked as a journalist, it is still a strong point of reference for my understanding of research practice and how it impacts the world beyond academia. I worked in print, radio and film production, gradually transitioning to the creative industries. Eventually, I spent quite a few years working in theatres as a producer and a theatre director. I have an MA in Theatre Directing (RADA) and have directed in projects produced by the Theatre Royal Stratford East and Battersea Arts Centre (where I am currently devising a new show). As much as this seems distant from managing academic projects, in a wider sense, doing or facilitating research has always been central to all the projects I worked both in the media and the creative sector.
Fortunately, research and arts institutions are increasingly working together and that is how I ended up working more and more in academia. Before the Alan Turing Institute, I worked at People’s Palace Projects, an arts research centre based at Queen Mary University of London. There, I managed international projects in collaboration with major arts and policy organisations as well as some of the most radical independent artists and activists. This experience made me passionate about the impact that the arts and research can make on people’s lives and it has since become an important focus of my work as a manager. At Queen Mary I also managed Network, the university’s hub for research in the creative economy, where I delivered projects bringing together businesses, academics and practitioners from a wide range of disciplines, from computer science to law, business, history and the arts.
In one sentence, what is your role on the project?
My responsibility is to manage and nurture the structure and networks that allow researchers to make the most of their work.
What excites you about the project?
Its scale and interdisciplinarity makes it unique, but if I’m really honest, what made my heart beat faster when I first learnt about the project, was that one of its main sources is newspapers and the stories that they tell about the lives of people. I am very curious about what new threads we will discover as we develop technology that can deal with this kind (and amount!) of data.
What challenges do you see ahead?
Research is never easy, but the challenges are huge when your data is text produced so long ago, and in paper not made to last much more than 24 hours. Also, from a Project Manager’s perspective, how do we keep track of the wider objectives whilst making the most of the opportunities we find along the way, especially when we have such a diverse team?
What’s the last (non-work) book you read, exhibition or performance you saw?
Battersea Arts Centre’s production of Frankenstein: How to Make a Monster got me on the edge of my seat as such a young cast beatboxed their way through the madness that is trying to make sense of our half-real and half-digital life.
Finally, where can people find out more about you and your work?
I have written about cultural exchange practice in The Art of Cultural Exchange (Vernon Press, 2019) and I’m on twitter as @andrepiza