Tuesday, 8 February 2011

8.2. Artistic Research

Going first through most of the ideas for an ethnographic research or a design probe. Next time artistic ideas!

Artistic research is an actual issue. A lot that it written seems to be written from the perspective of legitimating artistic research, especially works for doctoral thesis, which consist of an art work and a written part. This is clearly visible in many books on the matter, such as versions of Artistic Research (eds. Mika Hannula, Juha Suoranta & Tere Vaden, Artistic Research. Theories, Methods, Practices. Gothenburg University/ArtMonitor & University of Fine Arts, Helsinki, 2005.; or eds Satu Kiljunen & Mika Hannula. Academy of fine Arts 2002, suomeksi Taiteellinen tutkimus. Kuvataideakatemia 2001.), also Basics of Artistic Reserch by Juha Varto. University of Art and Design Helsinki B94. Gummerus 2009.

There is also a need to establish a common ground for artistic research, as explained by Michel Foucault in his preface to The Order of Things:

This book first arose out of a passage in Borges, out of the laughter that
shattered, as I read the passage, all the familiar landmarks of my thought
- our thought, the thought that bears the stamp of our age and our
geography - breaking up all the ordered surfaces and all the planes with
which we are accustomed to tame the wild profusion of existing things,
and continuing long afterwards to disturb and threaten with collapse our
age-old distinction between the Same and the Other. This passage quotes
a ‘certain Chinese encyclopedia’ in which it is written that ‘animals are
divided into: (a) belonging to the Emperor, (b) embalmed, (c) tame,
(d) sucking pigs, (e) sirens, (f) fabulous, (g) stray dogs, (h) included in
the present classification, (i) frenzied, (j) innumerable, (k) drawn with a
very fine camelhair brush, (1) et cetera, (m) having just broken the water
pitcher, (n) that from a long way off look like flies’. In the wonderment
of this taxonomy, the thing we apprehend in one great leap, the thing
that, by means of the fable, is demonstrated as the exotic charm of another
system of thought, is the limitation of our own, the stark impossibility of
thinking that. ...

What has been removed, in short, is the
famous ‘operating table’; and rendering to Roussel1 a small part of what
is still his due, I use that word ‘table’ in two superimposed senses: the
nickel-plated, rubbery table swathed in white, glittering beneath a glass
sun devouring all shadow - the table where, for an instant, perhaps forever,
the umbrella encounters the sewing-machine; and also a table, a
tabula, that enables thought to operate upon the entities of our world, to
put them in order, to divide them into classes, to group them according
to names that designate their similarities and their differences - the table
upon which, since the beginning of time, language has intersected space.

And, on the basis of this common ground then, to arrive at a set of rules for artistic research. But it is my claim that even this table upon which the rules may be perceived and followed in artistic research need always to be established, and cannot be taken for granted in the way it can be done in most other disciplines. 

I'll only refer to two other sources, to be found on internets: 
A guide to sc "practice-based research" by Linda Candy of University of Technology of Sydney.
The functions of the written text in practice-based PhD submissions  by Katie MacLeod - who has also written a book on the subject.

Mostly I base my views on Esa Kirkkopelto's text, however: Kirkkopelto, Esa (2008) New Start: Artistic Research in Finnish Theatre Academy in Nordic Theatre Studies. The Artist as Researcher.

Kirkkopelto claims first of all, as a hypothesis, that "artistic research is carried out in an art Institute. I'm not sure if I agree in the literal sense. However, the arguments for this have a point to make:
- to make artistic research a community and a context is needed - as research is always reflexive. Not just a community of art and artists, but also of a scientific community.
- and a community of varied disciplines and approaches
- practical and intellectual resources
- and a pedagogical link - context

I think one could argue that the context and the community does not to be a recognized institution... of course, who then sets the rules - why do we need a "written part" for an artistic research to qualify as research etc...

The really intersting claim Kirkkopelto makes is to differentiate between artistic research and art research. Art research questions art, looks at art, from the perspective of other disciplines. Artistic research takes art for a given fact. "The starting point is the assumption that nature, the world, reality and society can be studied from the point of view or level of art, not only "artistically", but also in relation to the fact of art and its mode of existence, its practices and technique. ... Artistic research, by contrast, looks from art towards society and our idea of reality, questioning their existence, and sets them demands according to its own mode of existence. Consequently, artist research is, I venture to claim, ultimately more interested in reality than in art."

And furthermore on art as the technique of reality: "..it is obvious, that the skill or technique to be acquired by making art is to some degree different from the craftsmanship on which making of artefacts is based. it is the technique of representing, describing, observing and perceiving, and as such, is more fundamental than any manufacturing or production. Art externalizes and makes conscious processes on which meeting with reality in general and our conceptualization of reality take place. ...art is the technique of reality. it created shared reality as some commensurably sharable dimension and not only a collection of conceptions and conceptual systems. The "aesthetic" is a shared perception."

And still: "How to define artistic research is often less an epistemological question (What is knowledge? What is artistic knowledge?) as it is political: Whose knowledge or what knowledge should we value and consider meaningful? Whose voice or what voice should we listen to in society?"

"Artistic research is in this respect supported by a typical aspect of modernism in art: the desire to become reality and participate in reality."

As a conclusion Kirkkopelto suggests that artistic research could be seen to have three parts or approaches - not in any consecutive order, but intertwined:
a. Invention: something abstracted from one's own artistic activity
b. Theoretical part: theoretical dimensions of the practice
c. Artistic part: one artistic application of the invention

but he does say that the relation between art work and written part presents epistemological problems, indeed a double bind, where one oscillates between generalizing one's own experience and purposes, merely imitating theoretical discourse: theory becomes art; and reducing artistic activity to some particular interpretation, so that theorizing is reduced to the author's intentions: art is mercifully killed by becoming knowledge. To get out of this double bind one has need of the community and its critical reflection!

Assignment for next time, 15.2.:

So, take you topics - preferably use the same, to see how it changes with use of approach and method. This time, try to ideate an artistic research. Use as a base an artistic practice you feel yours. Discuss your ideas in the smaller teams, among other students. You can think of any genre you wish - performance, installation, painting, photography, movie... oh yes, try to think up the half page of text explaining your idea - but you can also bring a picture or something visual etc...

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