Journal of Embodied Research is the first peer-reviewed, open access, academic journal to focus specifically on the innovation and dissemination of embodied knowledge through the medium of video.
It will be very interesting to see how the journal pans out, and in particular what conversations emerge out of how we might understand embodiment in relation to screen-based performance and work.
Henk Borgdorff’s open access book The Conflict of the Faculties: Perspectives on Artistic Research and Academia is comprehensive, thoughtful, and provocative.
In the chapter on The Production of Knowledge in Artistic Research he writes:
artistic research seeks not so much to make explicit the knowledge that art is said to produce, but rather to provide a specific articulation of the pre-reflective, non-conceptual content of art. It thereby invites ‘unfinished thinking’. Hence, it is not formal knowledge that is the subject matter of artistic research, but thinking in, through, and with art.
I particularly like the feeling of ‘unfinished thinking’: it seems to resonate with my experience of what practice-as-research does. At the same time, his tantalising suggestion of the thing that “art is said to produce” alludes to deep-seated scepticism about the epistemological limitations (and possibilities) of practice-as-research.
If research = “thinking, reading, writing”, then practice-as-research = thinking, reading, writing, making.
Collini reminds us that scholarship is “a human activity, and so is inseparable from the people who do it … the possibilities of extending our understanding depend not just on what we already understand, but also on what sorts of people we have become” (English Pasts 237). Scholarly “findings” depend on who is searching; and the searcher in turn is constituted by what she finds.
– Maggie Berg and Barbara Karolina Seeber. 2016. The Slow Professor. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, p.59
- 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.
Joanne Scott has had a book published called Intermedial Praxis and Practice as Research: ‘Doing-Thinking’ in Practice, which seems to be based on her practice-as-research doctoral research at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London. There is also a companion website at intermedialpraxisandpar.wordpress.com.
I still worry about how few examples of practice-as-research there are for current MA-level and PhD students so I’m delighted that Joanne has taken the time and care to make this happen.
The blurb on the publishing site says “Provides first hand observations of theory in action”. Is this what practice-as-research attempts to do?
Joanne’s personal site is at joanneemmascott.com
To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.
– George Orwell, Collected Essays, Vol. IV. In front of Your Nose
In his blog post The Unbearable Whiteness of Mesearch Victor Ray describes the situation where the work of scholars of colour is dismissed as being “me studies” or “mesearch”. He then says:
White scholars do mesearch all the time. In many disciplines, that is simply called the canon. Claiming that mesearch is a particular issue for scholars of color demonstrates a profound lack of self-awareness on the part of researchers in the social sciences and humanities.
I’d never heard the neologism mesearch before but it strikes me that practice-as-research lends itself to mesearch both elegantly and terribly. The elegant part is that practice requires commitment and (self-)absorption (particularly if the practice is a solo one); it demands profoundly critical reflection on what is happening; it is a constant struggle to see something that is so close.
The terrible part of mesearch – and I understand this to be a common problem in practice-as-research – is a failure to engage deeply with the community of artists and scholars within which one is working (either directly or indirectly). It is a failure to acknowledge that research – by definition – happens in relation to others. A key task for any practice-as-researcher is to readily acknowledge how their work is participating in these various communities of practice and scholarship.
Dani Abulhawa has some writing up on academia.edu that looks at questions of documentation in relation to her performance practice. The paper covers a lot of ground, but gives a useful précis of ideas to do with documentation in practice-as-research. She then discusses knowlege and documentation as they relate to issues (including authority, productivity, and discipline) emerging out of her practice.
Here’s the academia.edu link:
If you have any trouble accessing the document, let me know.
a critique of the ‘exhausting’ achievement-oriented and instrumentalised tendencies of the contemporary neoliberal institution, and a return to a ‘verticalist’ perspective that ‘makes space’ for attention and concentration; for experiment, novel questions and speculation; for reflexivity, new modes of imagination and historic profundity; for an open-ended form of differential thinking that values not-knowing, the singular, the affective, the transgressive, and the unforeseen.
Fine Art Studio
Nottingham Trent University
Thursday 3 November, 2pm to 5pm
Last Tuesday (25 October 2016) I went to an open conversation about practice-as-research at Middlesex University called Artistic Doctorates in Europe – Current issues and Practices. It was the first in a number of meetings as part of a project led by Vida Midgelow (Middlesex, UK), Jane Bacon (Chichester, UK), Leena Rouhiainen (University of the Arts, Helsinki, Finland) and Camilla Damkjaer (Stockholm University of the Arts, Sweden) in partnership with four professional arts organisations: Dance4 (United Kingdom), Kiasma Theatre – Museum of Contemporary Arts and Zodiak Centre for New Dance (Finland) and WELD (Sweden). The group has some Erasmus+ European funding to investigate issues related to practice-as-research doctorates, and in particular related to students working in and through somatic and dance practices.
Here’s a list of some things I felt were important as I listened:
- Documentation: sense of duty to both the artist-researcher and the field in considering the nature of practices of documentation. That is, how might the work persist through time?
- Epistemology: The vexed question of the epistemological value of practice-as-research seems to be (at least in my eyes) its least considered and understood aspect. There remains a great deal of work to be done that ensures we don’t fall into epistemological traps to do with knowledge generation.
- Resources: there remain no clear ways for PhD students to fund the development and production of their practices. This means that practice-as-research tends to produce small-scale and often solo practices. At the same time, it’s worth remembering practice-as-research PhDs provide that most precious of commodity for artists: time.
- Communication and policy: As practice-as-research is increasingly established in University systems (including at undergraduate and graduate levels), its senior practitioners have a duty of care to find ways to communicate the principles and values of practice-as-research beyond the field, and to look for ways to help develop policy that (at the very least) makes sense to alternative ways of knowing and understanding the world, and supports more open pedagogical values and systems (across higher education).
- Supervision: PhD students are increasingly entering highly regulated systems (they might be called sausage factories) in which they are on the receiving end of protocols that inhibit –rather than support – their development as scholars. Last night it was mentioned that we have forgotten that PhDs are a pedagogical and dialogic exchange between students and supervisors. Our systems need to reflect the openness (and scholarly vitality) of this exchange.
A lot more was discussed and presented, and I’ll post bits and pieces (including resources) over the coming weeks. I’ll also post the ADIE website when it’s live. Stay tuned.