Dialogues Between Artistic Research and Science and Technology Studies
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Dialogues Between Artistic Research and Science and Technology Studies

Henk Borgdorff, Peter Peters, Trevor Pinch, Henk Borgdorff, Peter Peters, Trevor Pinch

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eBook - ePub

Dialogues Between Artistic Research and Science and Technology Studies

Henk Borgdorff, Peter Peters, Trevor Pinch, Henk Borgdorff, Peter Peters, Trevor Pinch

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This edited volume maps dialogues between science and technology studies research on the arts and the emerging field of artistic research. The main themes in the book are an advanced understanding of discursivity and reasoning in arts-based research, the methodological relevance of material practices and things, and innovative ways of connecting, staging, and publishing research in art and academia. This book touches on topics including studies of artistic practices; reflexive practitioners at the boundaries between the arts, science, and technology; non-propositional forms of reasoning; unconventional (arts-based) research methods and enhanced modes of presentation and publication.

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1 Dialogues between Artistic Research and Science and Technology Studies

An Introduction

Henk Borgdorff, Peter Peters, and Trevor Pinch
The past two decades have witnessed a new convergence between artistic and scientific ways of knowing and making. Artists not only increasingly draw upon developments in science and technology, but artistic practices are also seen now as the locus of research, presented to and evaluated in art worlds and academia. Scientists are interested in how the arts can contribute to generating new forms of knowledge, methodologies, and engagements. In this book, we aim to explore this convergence from the perspective of two interdisciplinary fields, artistic research and science and technology studies (STS). Artistic research, or research in and through art and design, has gained currency since the 1990s in and beyond higher arts education. Artist-scholars in this field focus on the knowledge, understanding, and experiences enacted in creative processes and embodied in artistic products such as artworks, compositions, and performances. The field of STS has been growing since the 1960s when it was first established by scientists and engineers who were critical of new techniques and developments emerging from science such as genetic engineering, the growing environmental crisis, and the spread and impact of large-scale technological systems such as nuclear power. It now provides a deep understanding of how science and technology work internally, as institutions, and as a body of practices that permeate almost all areas of modern life. In this Introduction, we argue that a dialogue between the two fields can contribute to a reflection on their epistemologies, methodologies, and the ways in which their research outcomes can become public.
STS scholars have studied the arts in relation to questions about science and its history, exploring the role of artists in creating the visual apparatus used by scientists (Jones & Galison, 2014) or the transport of musical notation conventions to the study of sounds and acoustics (Bruyninckx, 2018), to give two examples. Recently, work in STS has focused on the backstage, practical, and preparatory activities constituting works of art or people’s engagement with these works (Saaze, 2013). The interest in artistic practices can be linked to research agendas in STS such as subjectivity and the senses; technology and materiality; boundary work; and embodied, situated, and enacted forms of cognition (Benschop, 2009). STS emphasizes the constitutive role of material and social practices in the production of knowledge and technologies. This ‘practice turn’ is also manifest in the field of artistic research, positioned at the interface of art worlds and academic research. In artistic research, creating performances or artefacts becomes the vehicle in a methodological sense through which knowledge and understanding can be gained. Epistemologically these artefacts and performances embody the knowledge and understanding we gain.
The type of research that we are interested in in this book does not easily fit the conventional frameworks and values of actors and institutions in science and technology as well as in art worlds. One might even argue that the term ‘dialogues’ in the title is misleading because the convergence between artistic and scientific ways of knowing has been accompanied by controversies (Borgdorff, 2012), some of which will be discussed in this volume.1 These focus mainly on the demarcation of scientific and artistic practices, their institutions, and the criteria according to which their outcomes are to be valued. For some in the art world, artistic research undermines the modernist dichotomy of autonomy and instrumentalism, breaking away from the alleged ‘otherness’ of art as a societal domain that has clear boundaries and that can be separated from science (Nowotny, 2010, p. xx). In academia, taking art to be a form of doing research and presenting the works of art that result from that research as a form of knowledge is criticized as conflicting with standards of intersubjectivity, detachment, and justification.
The debate on art as research addresses fundamental philosophical questions of epistemology and methodology and issues of artistic agency and autonomy, as well as institutional and educational strategies. When does art practice count as research? What is the object of artistic research and in what ways is it different from the object of scientific research? How can scientific knowledge be distinguished from knowledge generated within artistic practice? Are scientific research methods radically different from artistic methods of research? In the debates on these questions, one encounters powerful dualisms: art and science, worlds and words, art practice and writing, embodied and discursive knowledge, original artworks and their representations. As a practice, art is often taken to be a paragon of unmethodological, autonomous, and intuitive work, while science appears as methodological, intersubjective, and articulate (Benschop, Peters, & Lemmens, 2014).
Dismantling dualisms and showing how the distinctions they articulate are constructed rather than given belongs to the core strategies of science and technology studies. Transferred to the demarcation debates around art as research, some scholars have followed this strategy by focusing on the sociomaterial practices that bring artworks into being, rather than on their construction as a singular work that can be (re)presented and categorized in a more or less unproblematic way (Latour & Lowe, 2011; Saaze, 2013). A similar genealogical approach that does not take the artwork ‘itself’ for granted is advocated by Howard Becker, providing insights into how these ‘objects and performances take their shape within the daily labour of artists and their collaborators’ (Becker, Faulkner, & Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, 2006, p. 13). Following this line of argument, in this book we aim to move beyond the common-knowledge and the self-understandings of science and the arts and instead study and analyze what artist-researchers actually do (Acord & DeNora, 2008; Becker, 2008).
From an STS perspective, it is interesting to explore how distinctions between aesthetic and epistemic outcomes and criteria are crafted by artistic researchers and the respective communities to which they present their work. In addition, artistic research may enrich the methodological repertoire in STS. Artistic researchers in turn, will find much in STS that allows them to reflect in novel ways on their own practices, as Nowotny has argued (2010, p. xxii). In this introductory chapter, we will set the stage for the various dialogues, practices, and experiments at the nexus between artistic research and science and technology studies that are presented in this volume. To do so, we will first focus on the practices, methods, and outcomes of artistic research as an emerging field. We will then ask how research in STS could investigate and inform the work done in artistic research, and how artistic research can inform and enrich STS. Finally, we will argue that STS can provide a meta-perspective on the new ‘knowing spaces’ (Law, 2017) evolving around the intersection of artistic research practices and science and technology studies.

Artistic Research as Program and Practice

Artistic research gained currency in and beyond higher education and research in the last two decades, yet its genealogy can be traced back to the early modern period. At least in European history, the birth of modern science did not imply a departure from artistry and aesthetics. The inherited unity of truth, goodness, and beauty, however, was broken when the life spheres of science, morality, and art grew apart since the eighteenth century. Institutionally and theoretically, these spheres developed into the relatively autonomous realms and institutes of epistemology and science, ethics and law or religion, and aesthetics and art. But since the days of Leonardo da Vinci those demarcations have also always been accompanied by a feeling of discomfort and anxiety, and every now and then attempts were made to overcome the pain of the dissociations. A history of artistic research will have to uncover in detail what moments in the course of time attest of that desire to bridge the domains or to traverse their boundaries. In philosophical aesthetics important moments were when in eighteenth-century rationalism ‘sensuous knowledge’ was emancipated from its inferior position to an equal, albeit distinctive footing (cf. Kjørup, 2006) or when in German idealism it was proclaimed that ‘all art should become science and all science art; poetry and philosophy should be made one’ (Schlegel, 1991, p. 14).
In the twentieth century, the emergence of the artistic research program was anticipated by developments in both academia and the art world. The acknowledgment of know-how (Ryle, 1949) and implicit or tacit knowledge (Polanyi, 1958; 1966) as constitutive for the way we understand and act in the world corrected the focus in epistemology on propositional forms of knowing and understanding: a correction correlating to phenomenology, that would eventually also be taken up by contemporary non-reductive cognitive science (Gibson, 1979; Hutchins, 1995; Ingold, 2000; Newen, De Bruin, & Gallagher, 2018). In the art world, the artistic research program was prepared by a proliferation of art-science encounters and collaborations throughout the twentieth century (cf. Sormani, Carbone, & Gisler, 2018) and by the advance of conceptual art since the 1950s.
An important impetus for the advance of artistic research was the reorganization of higher education, especially the inclusion of art schools and academies in the university system of higher education and research. Starting in the English-speaking world (UK, Canada, Australia (see UK Council for Graduate Education, 1997; Strand, 1998), it reached the European continent in the early twenty-first century. The transformation from vocational training programs to university programs involved the introduction of research in the curricula of art departments, paired with the requirement for research output by faculty, mostly practicing artists, of those departments.2
The focus in artistic research is on concrete practices and things – creative processes in the studio, performances, compositions, artworks, installations, artistic interventions. These practices and things not only are the object of study, as in traditional humanities or social science research into the arts, rather their agency and performativity is acknowledged and foregrounded. Artworks and artistic practices do something in the sense that they contribute to our knowledge and understanding of the world. This is in line with what is called the practice turn and the material turn in the sciences and humanities (Schatzki, Knorr-Cetina, & Savigny, 2001). Our changed understanding of what practices and things are has renewed the interest in their ontology. Practices and things speak to us – or speak back to us (see Bal, 2002, p. 61). In an epistemological sense they embody knowledge and understanding, and they are methodologically constitutive in producing knowledge and understanding. These insights are also acknowledged in cultural studies, anthropology, heritage studies (Ingold, 2013), and what is called New Materialism, object oriented ontology, or speculative realism (Barad, 2007, cf. Dolphijn & Van der Tuin, 2013)).
Artistic researchers use a diverse range of methods and tools. This methodological pluralism (Borgdorff, 2012; Hannula, Suoranta, & Vadén, 2014) is widely accepted in the field. Depending on the research topic and the aim of the research, one might use methods and techniques that have their provenance in the humanities or in the social sciences or in technology or in a combination, a triangulation of various methods and tools. That being said, one could distinguish between three aspects that are almost always present when conducting an artistic research project. The first is experimentation (Schwab, 2016). The research takes place through and unfolds in artistic practice, in and through making and performing. That is why it is sometimes referred to as studio-based research. The objective of the artistic experiment is not so much to test something – as in a science or engineering laboratory – but to tell something, to convey content. Testing is all about commensuration and standardization (Pinch, forthcoming), but in telling no appeal needs to be made to commensuration. A second characteristic of artistic research is the involvement and engagement of the person or persons who perform the research. Artistic research is participatory research, and as such it shows kinship with ethnography, where the subject–object divide or the fact–value dichotomy are relativized (Atkinson, Coffey, Delamont, Lofland, & Lofland, 2007; Pink, Hubbard, O’Neill, & Radley, 2010). A third feature of artistic research is that the research findings need a form of analysis or interpretation. Here, ‘theory’ might help to contextualize the research and to show how it relates to other research and how it is embedded in academic, cultural, social, or political spheres and discourses. Artistic research thus appropriates a wide variety of research methods and techniques from other research fields, and it is distinctive in the combination of experimentation, participation, and interpretation.
To demarcate artistic research from other types of research it is generally agreed in the field that artworks, varying from concrete, material artefacts to ephemeral performances or artist interventions, should be part of the outcome of the investigation. The material outcome of the research, however, is not the research itself. Even the documentation of the research outcome, varying from audio or video registrations of performances to exhibition catalogues and so-called ‘artist-books,’ does not suffice as an account of the research. Additional work has to be done to articulate and communicate the research, to show that it involves ‘a process of investigation leading to new insights, effectively shared’ (Research Excellence Framework, 2011, p. 48).
In the debate on artistic research, many have taken the position that this additional work is to be seen as the reflective, discursive, or written part of the research or of the submission of a PhD thesis. Hence, there is a sharp distinction between the artwork and the reflection on it.3 But that position misses the point of the intertwinement of theory and practice in artistic research. If we acknowledge the agency of material practices and things, and if we stress the importance of studio-based, practice-based methods, and if we furthermore acknowledge that cognition is embodied, embedded, and enacted in material practices, then we should not hesitate to conclude that the reasoning is also located in those material practices. One should at least take the agency: that is, the epistemic and methodological force of the artefacts and artistic practices into account, something that is also acknowledged in STS.
How to articulate this style of reasoning? How to articulate the epistemic and methodological force of art? Here we want to underline the role of rich-media articulation, documentation, publication, and dissemination. This is a form of articulation – of writing, one could say – in which artistic material and its documentation is interwoven with text-based material. One of the tasks now is to rethink what ‘discursivity’ means, what it is to make a claim in and through art, what reasoning is, once we have accepted that material practices and things in this field of inquiry are not only constitutive in a methodological sense but that they also count as valid expressions of resear...

Indice dei contenuti

  1. Cover
  2. Half Title
  3. Series Page
  4. Title Page
  5. Copyright Page
  6. Table of Contents
  7. Notes on Contributors
  8. 1 Dialogues between Artistic Research and Science and Technology Studies: An Introduction
  9. Part I Dialogues
  10. Part II Practices
  11. Part III Experiments
  12. Index