culture of research

Long time between posts …

I went to Becky Hilton’s workshop at Independent Dance back in December. It was a rich and playful weekend.

At one stage we were each given a certain amount of time to ask something or do something (I forget now). The group was quite mixed – artists, people just starting out on PhDs, others working in academia – and I asked them a question:

What is this culture of research doing (or has done) to art, performance and dance?

Someone said that it had given them time and space to work (perhaps this was referring to doing a PhD?), another felt that it had made the climate more competitive (perhaps this was about academia?). My sense is that the academic climate has become more competitive in general (after all, competition and neoliberalism are old pals:, and that it would be hard to say that a culture of reseach has done this to the arts.

Another person mentioned that the Arts Council still thinks of research in terms of research and development. That research is the thing you do before you get to make the piece.

Becky described her sense of the “continuity of community” that the research culture has made possible. Reading between the lines I’d imagine that this – at least in part – has to do with the responsibility of engaging with communities of practice that is vital to research processes and practices.

And another person mentioned that they felt that research in the arts had become an antidote to R&D and projects. I like this, that research enables us to rethink the ways in which we pursue our curiosity and imaginations.

research and truth

Last month I linked to Tim Ingold’s talk at the Centre for Contemporary Art in Glasgow. If you haven’t had a chance to listen to it it’s well worth it. Some things that Tim said stood out for me:

Research is the pursuit of truth.
Truth is aspirational.
It is absolutely not objective fact.

Truth is the unison of imagination and experience in a world to which we are alive and that is alive to us.
Truth requires that we take ourselves into the world. We can’t remain outside of it.
There is danger in conflating truth and objectivity.
It is the search for truth that underpins research.
Search and search again. Research is continually conducted in the dark.

Most of this bit happens at about 45min into the talk.

Listening to the talk made me want to own my search for truth; and because truth is a word that seems to have been spurned in the academy (and certainly in the arts and humanities), that now seems an ideal time to welcome its pursuit. That there things at stake in the claims we make as artist-scholars.


if then statement

If research = “thinking, reading, writing”[1], then practice-as-research = thinking, reading, writing, making.

  1. Berg, Maggie, and Barbara Karolina Seeber. 2016. The Slow Professor. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, p.64  ↩

A definition

About three years ago I attempted to write a definition of practice-as-research. Here it is below. In future posts I’ll attempt to critique it a bit. 

Practice as research is a hybrid research method that artists (who are often — but not necessarily — working in Universities) use to develop understanding of the role and significance of their artistic practices. It places artistic work at the centre of research, during which artists examine their practice in relation to the work of other practitioners and philosophical and critical thinking. This balance — between deep internal reflection and engaging ‘outwardly’ with the world as artists and humans — is vital. Practice as research generates projects that challenge our assumptions about the nature of artistic processes and work. Its outcomes are often multi-modal including moving and still images, web-based formats, and alternative forms of writing.

Image of Ellie Sikorski and Jenny Hill by Eulanda Shead (2011)