2005 inventing methodologies?
2007 inventing methodologies2



inventing methodologies2

12-13 February 2007, The Cinema, Goldsmiths College
An interdisciplinary workshop on practice-based research

method a particular procedure for accomplishing or approaching something, from Gk methodos ‘pursuit of knowledge, Concise Oxford Dictionary


Research Unit for Contemporary Art Practice

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 practice/theory relationship.

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 practice-based research?

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

Panel #3 Current notions of practice-based research in Fine Art
Chaired by Janet Hand. Guest: Dave Reason.
Panel #4 Plenary discussion chaired by Nick de Ville

Panel #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 ambiguity?

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 context

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 of work.

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?


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