The 2021 EARN/NWO Smart Culture Conference took place January 26 – 30, 2021. It was organized in collaboration with HKU University of the Arts Utrecht, NWO (Dutch Research Council), and BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht.
For the Value round table workshop (co-organized by Luca School of Arts Brussels) I was asked to prepare a 5 minute presentation on the theme of Recognition. The workshop was moderated by Rolf Hughes and Rachel Armstrong (Faculty of Architecture, KU Leuven).
I wrote short a text that argues for ‘imagination’ to be added to the parameters that are used for evaluating artistic research, and presented it as a video.
Value & recognition
I’m going to apologize in advance. I may have written an offensive text, burdened by another deadline. Here it is anyway.
We have to be realistic about our field. We’re not essential workers, what we do is not a necessity for our species to survive. We’re equally powerless against systems propagating inequality, devastation of the planet, or whatever hangs over our heads, as anyone.
Maybe we’re artists because we feel we at least have some sort of control while we’re at work in our studios.
Artistic research is an artificial sphere within a field that’s notoriously difficult to evaluate to begin with: starting with how to define artistic quality. All these decades of publishing books, conferences, round table talks, discussions have contributed nothing towards anything close to a consensus on parameters.
Sure, trends and fashions in the art market may have some influence, or the individual tastes of curators who work their way up to become prolific figures that no-one dares to challenge, can play a part.
And now, within this fog, we’re trying to find a way to evaluate artistic research.
The world may be bound to the rational parameters of physics, but we, the people, are not behaving in any sense rational at all. There’s no rationality in most of the decisions we make. A particle physicist probably didn’t make a rational decision to become one. Maybe they just liked the idea about working with miniature black holes. Or they’re a science fiction fan, like me.
Even computational sciences have their irrationalities: people are ‘mining’ for bitcoins – this is a mythical approach towards data, for instance. Artificial intelligence or machine learning has barely anything to do with ratio. Social sciences attempt to box our irrational behaviours into rational categories.
Art making is a speciality within human behaviour. Human behaviour is defined by irrationality. The ‘gut feeling’ fills up all of social media and the news section comments.
To evaluate artistic research is to evaluate art. There’s only one reasonable parameter for valuing the recognition of art: it’s, after 200.000 years of human evolution, still here.
For eras, the art that was found had to do with myth. It’s the realm of fiction. It’s where imagination thrives. Imagination is – as far as I know – not a much-researched irrational extension of our mind, but imagination is where, according to me, the parameters to value artistic research can be found.
We are, I assume, not neurological scientists, so let’s throw that ball into the science court: define imagination first, divide it into scales, and we’ll get closer to setting the parameters on the value of artistic research.
By the way: Steven Mithen in ‘The Prehistory of the Mind’ has given an interesting take on what imagination might be in an evolutionary context.
Imagination is a parameter. It’s amorph, but no one will ever question the value of imagination. Imagination is a recognized human skill.
Someone, 15.000 years ago, looked at the ceiling of a chamber in what we now call the Lascaux cave and imagined a stampede of wild animals on it. When I tell you to look down and imagine a miniature bridge across a river on your desk: it’s there. The quality and recognition of artistic research needs to add imagination to its parameters.
Thank you for listening.
About the conference:
After an omnipresent “Research Decade,” the concept of artistic research currently seems to be in need of a recharge. Pressing questions are: Should we talk about a postresearch situation or a postresearch condition? Could this be compared with how poststructuralism relates to structuralism as its philosophical comprehension and the elaboration of its consequences? And how could a postresearch condition address contemporary art practices?
To answer these questions, it is important to start from the three conceptual spaces that fundamentally determine what we mean by research: creative practice (experimentality, art making, potential of the sensible); artistic thinking (open-ended, speculative, associative, non-linear, haunting, thinking differently); and curatorial strategies (topical modes of political imagination, transformational spaces for encounters, reflection and dissemination) – and to comprehend these spaces in their mutual, dynamic coherence as a series of indirect triangular relationships.
From whatever conceptual space one departs, an artistic research practice could signify a transversal constellation – as a creative proposition for thought in action. Yet, that mode of research could never be reduced to a method of one of the three constituents. Thus, artistic research cannot be equated with creative innovation, disciplinary knowledge production, or political activism. It seems urgent now – and this is the starting point of this conference – to profoundly challenge and question the issue of how to articulate and present the condition of the intersection between the three conceptual spaces. For this purpose, an intensive program of workshops, presentations, propositions, screenings, and publications has been developed.
Workshop 5: Value
(co-organized by Luca School of Arts Brussels)Art and research create new forms of insight, experience, communities of learning, non-disciplinary forms of knowledge and action. Their recognition and appropriate application require different forms of attention, valuing, and articulating what we value. Outlining the roles of trust (in creating supportive, risk-taking research environments), recognition (in noticing an aspect and acknowledging its contribution to the knowledge shared by communities of practice(s), and expressing preferences (in lieu of expecting boundary-crossing work to fit existing measurement systems), this session asks fundamental questions around what we value, at a time when the prosperity of life—including our own—on this planet, is questioned daily.
Presenters: Rolf Hughes and Rachel Armstrong. Format: table discussion (world café) and closing panel discussion.
- 12.00 – 12.30: Keynote Dialogue: Rolf Hughes and Rachel Armstrong (Faculty of Architecture, KU Leuven)
- 12.30 – 13.30: Round Tables
- Trust (moderated by Peter Peters, Maastricht University)
- Recognition (moderated by Rolf Hughes, KU Leuven)
- Preferences (moderated by Peter De Graeve, LUCA School of Arts)
- 13.30 – 14.00: Panel Discussion
This workshop is developed in collaboration with the Faculty of Architecture KU Leuven and MCICM Maastricht University.