knudsen and cactus

Erik Knudsen is a Professor of Visual Culture at Bournemouth University. In 2016 he gave a presentation at “Practices and Processes of Practice-Research: Interdisciplinary and Methodological Critique” at the Centre for Practice Based Research in the Arts, Canterbury Christ Church University.

It’s a great presentation and you can watch it here:

At one point, though, Erik says that “research is research, knowledge is knowledge, but there are many different ways of generating that knowledge” (4:43min).

I appreciate Erik’s desire to put an end to some of the anxieties of artist-scholars grappling with epistemic questions, but I think he’s wrong about knowledge being knowledge. I think he’s wrong because this desire for parity has been the key ideological project of practice-as-research: to get art “on the books as research” [1] by bending it into the dominant epistemological systems of the academy. There are of course good reasons for wanting to do these kinds of gymnastics: status, legitimacy, resources.

I suspect that the desire for equivalent status is actually a distraction from the profound epistemological possibilities of artistic research, and by doing those gymnastics (or making those compromises) we are in effect devaluing and denaturing the epistemic and political work of artistic research.

Knudsen’s talk reminded me also of this by Rocco, Biggs and Büchler:

[Research] is a response to a set of basic questions about the world and our knowledge of it. The first is an ontological question: what kind of things can we know? The second is epistemological: what is our relationship to that knowledge? The third is methodological: how does one go about finding this knowledge? [2]

And lastly, I was watching the Knudsen video with the closed captions on and instead of practice we got cactus:

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  1. Magee, Paul. 2012. “Introduction. Part 1: Beyond Accountability?.” Text. October.  ↩
  2. Rocco, R, M Biggs, and D Buchler. 2009. “Design Practice and Research: Interconnections and the Criterion-Based Approach.” Aberdeen., p.376  ↩



methodological pluralism

The distinctiveness of artistic research, nevertheless, derives from the paramount place that artistic practice occupies as the subject, context, method, and outcome of the research. Methodological pluralism – the view that various approaches deriving from the humanities, social sciences, or science and technology may play a part in artistic research – should be regarded as complementary to the principle that the research takes place in and through the creation of art.

– Borgdorff, Henk. 2012. The Conflict of the Faculties : Perspectives on Artistic Research and Academia. Leiden: Leiden University Press : Amsterdam., p.147