inventing methodologies2 was
the second in a series of experimental workshops designed to provide
a platform for the discussion of the novel and highly-contested
notion of practice-based research.
Practice-based researchers are faced with a dual challenge. The
first is the intrinsically bifurcated nature of a research project
composed of a written element in conjunction with a practical element.
The second is the interdisciplinarity inherent in writing art. These
structural complexities are also an enduring characteristic of the
What constitutes research in the context of practice-based
PhD? What is the relationship between research and art practice?
Is the written element also a practice requiring its own
set of competencies? Indeed, how many practices are involved in
Can the tension between theory and practice provide one way to
unravel methodological processes? Does the reflexive monitoring
of empathic or ‘obsessive’ research strategies in fact
generate the discourse and criticality of the project? Is it possible
to outstrip the criteria of legitimation by setting tailor-made
criteria for research objectives?
inventing methodologies2 provided the
opportunity to unravel these processes and the incentive to articulate
these personal avenues by encouraging discussions on the possibilities
of practice-based research.
Monday 12th February 2007, The
Cinema, Goldsmiths College
Tuesday 13th February 2007, The
Cinema, Goldsmiths College
#3 Current notions of practice-based research in Fine Art
Chaired by Janet Hand. Guest: Dave Reason.
#4 Plenary discussion chaired by Nick de Ville
#1. Artists and critical writing: current
practice in PhD thesis writing
Practice-based research foregrounds artists' writing in conjunction
with practice. The 20th century saw artists take up writing alongside
studio practice and in many cases privileging writing as an integral part of the practice. These precedents provide
a valuable resource of approaches to writing for artists. Nevertheless,
the PhD thesis context places considerable pressure on artists
by emphasising the aspects of rigour, validity and competence in
the practice of writing.
Is the formal language of the academy simply a matter of style
or are the terms of critical debate and philosophical argument,
which are firmly embedded in the rhetorics specific to each discipline,
an embodiment of the implicit ideologies of the institution? Does
the regard for demonstrative theoretical argument come into conflict
with and discredit artists’ strategies of contradiction and
Is the research context likely to affect art practice as a process?
What are the possibilities in the structure and narrativity of
PhD thesis writing that might serve the purposes of artists? What
is the effect of this “residency” in academic research
on the terms whereby artists think about their work? What will
be the long-term consequences to art education and art practice
of an established practice in artists' critical writing?
Panel #2. Interdisciplinarity and art in a research
Practice-based research is a valuable resource for current art
practices which are inherently promiscuous and consequently interdisciplinary
by definition. Nevertheless, criticisms of this research genre speculate
on the potentially unsatisfying combination of a rigorous theoretical
dissertation alongside a derivative body of work, or alternatively,
a written component lacking rigour attached to an exceptional body
Other voices caution against the dangers of the application or
illustration of theory. Theories imported into fine art research
from other disciplines may offer insights and starting points, but
are they entirely appropriate? Are the particular modalities of
practice entirely congruent with generic theories? Can we as researchers
generate theory in terms of these modalities?
The bifurcated practice-based research project plants the researcher
squarely in the middle of a practice/theory dichotomy by requiring
a resolution of the relationship between the two elements of the
project as an indispensable component of the research. The project
comes together between the competence of the practical component
(which is often an established art practice) and the consequential
theoretical component. A survey of the field reveals that practice-based
research tends to be highly individualised. May it therefore be
more appropriate to think of this research as practice-led?
There is currently a debate on the number of
possible categories the relationship between written and practical
elements in practice-based thesis may take. Can this classification
encompass the entire field? How will it illuminate the actual
methodologies and enhance our understanding of research?
Panel #3. Current notions of practice-based
research in Fine Art
In scientific disciplines research involves identifying a suitable
methodology for acquiring new knowledge. Research methodology is
required to be rigorous, accessible and transparent. It is also expected
to be useful in other contexts, i.e. transferable. Methodology is
hence crucial for the value of the research outcome.
Practice-based researchers challenge the notion of valid and
transferable research methodology by re-defining the notion of
methodology and foregrounding it as an emergent and evolutionary
process. Does practice-based research provide the means to re-define
research as a subversive process rather than a ritualised and self-analytical
undertaking with pre-determined or repeatable procedures?
Why is the academy attracting artists to research? What is the
research value of art for the academy? Can art advance theoretical
debates? Conversely, what is the value of institutional research
for artists? Why do we carry out this research? Does the academy
provide for artists a viable space of concentrated activity beyond
the confines of the art market and the funding institutions?