- practice-led research
- practice-based research
- artistic research
- practice on the arts
- creative research
- artistic practice creative research in the arts
There’s no surer sign of a field with an inferiority complex than having a bunch of different names for processes and approaches that essentially describe the same thing.
In 2004 Sarah Rubidge tried to clarify the differences between the terms practice-led and practice-based, and recently a PhD student I am working with – Carol Breen – showed me some writing by Linda Candy in which Candy describes essentially the same processes but with the names switched.
Last month Caitlin Shepherd (a PhD candidate at the University of West England) wrote a thoughtful and detailed blog post about practice-as-research.
In it, Shepherd writes:
There are nuanced distinctions between the terms Practice led Research, Practice on the Arts and Practice as Research. It is important to tease out the different meanings, as it helps us better understand the difference between terms, and exercise a more critical examination into practice based research.
I’m not sure I agree with Shepherd’s concerns about the terms.
My worry is that the distinctions are often more about researchers staking claims than they are about the messy, flawed, complex, uncertain, and nuanced experiences of artist-researchers working in the Academy (at all levels, whether students or faculty). These are experiences that are all versions – or iterations – of principles of practice-as-research, rather than experiences that can easily be aligned to terms that are described in oppositional (and colliding) ways.
Furthermore, the differences between the terms are often based on geographic differences more than nuanced differences in approaches. For example, the difference between practice-led research and practice-as-research has more to do with the former happening in Australasia and the latter in the UK then any distinction between the methods (whereas Artistic Research happens in continental Europe). That is, geographical differences > methodological differences.
Is there a way we can just drop the anxiety about what to call it so that we can just get on with developing approaches based on principles that are appropriate to our research concerns? My sense is that the far more important concern is how we might recognise which practice-as-research trajectories or strategies are most appropriate. This is a problem that has to do with the nature of our practices, their histories and contexts, and their potential epistemological value.
- OK, OK, so I made this one up. ↩
- I’m sure she wasn’t the first but here’s that conference paper: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/279191606_Artists_in_the_Academy ↩
- https://www.creativityandcognition.com/resources/PBR%20Guide–1.1–2006.pdf ↩
- I’m probably falling into the same trap. ↩
- I only use the term practice-as-research out of time and familiarity, not because I think it’s the most apt. ↩