Artistic Research before
“Dealing with the suspense, excitement and body of an organic silence […] the plastic fullness of nothing […].”
— Rauschenberg, letter to Betty Parsons,
October 18, 1951
“I am here and there is nothing to say. If among you are those who wish to get somewhere, let them leave at any moment. What we require is silence; but what silence requires is that I go on talking. Give any one thought a push: it falls down easily but the pusher and the pushed produce that entertainment called a discussion. Shall we have one later? Or we could simply decide not to have a discussion.”
— John Cage, “Lecture On Nothing”, performed at Artists’ Club, Nova Iorque, 1949
Being held out into the nothing — as Dasein is — on the ground of concealed anxiety makes the human being a lieutenant of the nothing. […] So abissally does the process of finitude entrench itself in Dasein that our most proper and deepest finitude refuses to yield to our freedom.
— Heidegger, What is metaphysics, Lecture from 1929
RIACT’s 2nd edition aims to explore the inexhaustible strength of the concept of Nothingness, scrutinizing the interstices between artistic research and artistic creation — that is, discovering in their tense and mutual assimilation —, evidence of their power to reconfigure reality through creative processes. Taking this underlying theme as a point of departure, we invited artists and art researchers to present articles and practical projects relating the notion of Nothing and Artistic Research. The proposals stemmed from the fields of the visual and performing arts, as well as from the space of intermediality between them. Besides the artistic reflection on Nothing, related notions such as that of abyss, emptiness, silence, among others, were also explored.
This issue of RIACT also revives one of the Journal’s foundational concerns, which may be described as an intensified reflection on the different meanings of artistic research, namely the creative inquiry into the subtleties that may either create a convergence or a divergence between creative gestures and investigative acts. As suggested in the previous editorial, in certain contexts, the total interdependence between artistic creation and artistic research is ultimately accepted, making it extremely difficult to discern where one begins and the other ends. Certain situations of artistic research are so enmeshed in artistic creation that there is no separation point from which to split their joint emergence. Moreover, some instances do not allow analytical moves that could dismember what was embryonically formed as indiscernible. In sum, there are situations in which the contact points between creation and research are multiple and resist the violence of formal distinctions, much less of the artificially academic kind. However, making the public defense of this excessive proximity between the production of works and their corresponding body of reflection, requires both a very fine and adequate explanation as well as a deontological commitment.
Take a radical example of a possible limit for artistic research: In our view, anyone who is authentically involved in artistic creation, that is, who does it with passion, time, and a project-oriented purposiveness, is also doing research. That is, even though the essential motivation is creation, driven by the expectation of publicly displaying the work at the end of an artistic process with the aim of sharing an artistic experience — even in these situations — research is being carried out. Consider the inquiry that preceded the production of a painting like Le Radeau de la Méduse, by Géricault, or the entire production that involved Picasso’s Guernica project. However, the researching attitudes of these authors happens to be subordinated to their creative gestures (artistic rituals over investigative rituals) and do not have the judicious choice of all the data seen, heard, read and interpreted as their foremost concern, nor do they intend to present all experimentation, observation and decisions taken within the scope of the adopted creative process — shareable and explicit. However, if we now turn to current creators, we find that when they are touched by a researching need (whether arising from a genuine interest, from a professional and “career” interest, academic interest, or any other kind of discernible interest), everything is transformed, insofar as the two genres of “rituals” stand on a level of equal preponderance, demanding a specialized and skilled method of mediating both “rituals”.
Thus we have this edition’s two fundamental lines of inquiry: (1) A Creative exploration of the subtleties connecting, separating and reconnecting creation and research, a theme permeating and underpinning all of RIACT’s editions, thus defining its editorial nature. (2) Examining (or rather, revisiting) the notion of Nothingness in artistic production and research, developing creative and robust proposals (as equally asserted in scientific research) that can “reveal” or show evidence of forms that emanate from that Nothing, as well as forms that wither there, building a body with the density of proto-images; Or conversely, signs of how that Nothingness sustains and closely follows the images or artistic gestures materialized in our daily lives.
Experimentation, temporality and
That art practitioners can be sceptical about
theory — even to the point of developing a misplaced aversion to it — is perhaps not just because some theories seem far afield from the actual practice of art, but also because the performative power of theory competes with the performative
power of art.”
— Henk Borgdorff, The Conflict of the Faculties.
Perspectives on Artistic Research and Academia
“Traditionally, artists have achieved matter-of-factness through ‘complete familiarity’ with the style, as Igor Stravinsky […] demands of the performer, or, more recently, through what has been called ‘deskilling’ […], a process of unlearning artistic habits, which may, indeed, imply a ‘reskilling’ […] precisely in support of artworks as matters of fact.”
— Michael Schwab, Experimental Systems.
Future Knowledge in Artistic Research
The rooting in an artistic practice is strong, and art-based research often draws on the artists’ experience, professional expertise and creative ability. The research usually proceeds in combinations of systematic, exploratory, creative, experimental, action-oriented and speculative working methods through artistic creation and analysis, staging, simulation and modelling, critical innovation and reflection, and theory formation.
— Catharina Dyrssen, Artistic Research.
A Subject Overview
RIACT — Revista de Investigação Artística, Criação, e Tecnologia (Journal of Artistic Research, Creation and Technology) — is a publication dedicated to Artistic Research edited by FBAUL (Lisbon University School of Fine Arts). RIACT inaugurates a new stage of the Research in the Arts project, which completed ten editions, counting throughout ten years with the collaboration of many artists and authors from this specific area of production and reflexion. Based on the experience of the debates and communication flux developed between 2010 and 2020 with many experts in this field, I found this to be the right moment to provoke an inflection in the activities developed so far, emphasizing the confrontation between the notions of artistic research and artistic creation, thus providing both the means for a lively altercation on the questions of technology and creation, and the diversity of their meanings.
As a Journal of Artistic Research, RIACT follows a thematic framework, launching bi-annual “calls for papers” on specific themes, structured to integrate several practical and theoretical research-related manifestations across different artistic expressions. In its internal structure, RIACT presents two distinct but complementary sections. The first part consists in the publication of texts and artistic projects submitted to a Scientific Committee for a double-blind “peer review”. The second part of the Journal is reserved for other modalities of artistic research, artistic creation and technological thinking, in the form of interviews, dialogues, information and other questions considered relevant to this field.
By partly changing the nature the preceding project, some characteristics of its format, “functions” and dissemination were redefined. This new publication will be exclusively digital, operating in open access, connecting with existing platforms for this purpose. As a result of the aforementioned intense international cooperation, a group of thirty four experts from multiple European and extra-European institutions integrate the Scientific Committee, whose very different perspectives on this domain of artistic and academic work will greatly contribute to the desired controversy and plurality. Relying on this vast team to carry out a systematic peer review, RIACT is multilingual, insofar as it welcomes texts and projects in Portuguese, English, French, and Spanish, notwithstanding the requirement of paper abstracts in a second language, as well as an English version for sections of the Journal such as the “Editorial”, the “Introduction”, the “Meta-paper”, the “Conditions for submission of papers”, and the “Call for papers”.
Similarly to the activities developed over the last decade within the scope of the project Research in the Arts, all the editions of RIACT will be complemented with international lectures dedicated to the proposed working themes, inviting a significant number of essayists to present their contributions to Artistic Research and specifically to the themes under discussion in each edition. I believe that operating in this way will enrich the artistic research developed by the various proponents, generating a more in-depth discussion around the peculiarities of their motivations and the projection of the arguments embedded in the submitted publication proposals.
RIACT’s Key Guidelines
Considering the inaugural character of the present editorial to RIACT’s first issue, allow me to present its key guidelines. The journal intends to present research projects that oscillate between a fruitful artistic practice and the complementary production of notions derived from the involvement in artistic and material processes, as well as from the intersubjective activity required in the public presentation of artistic situations or art pieces. Thus, RIACT aims at artistic research and not research on the arts. Therefore, it is not oriented toward art philosophy, art history, aesthetics, or art anthropology, among other similar disciplines, and albeit intertwined with all these areas of research and contemplating projects with these parallel orientations, it does so always in the perspective of a confrontation and differentiation in relation to them, that is, in a relationship of vivid reciprocity. RIACT is thus not to be confused with the contribution of disciplines that tend to fly over plasticity, authenticity and the strength of artistic production.
Conversely, it must not be interchangeable with artistic creation. Namely, it requires the following tasks:
- significant and growing clarification of artistic notions proposed by the researcher / creator in the experienced artistic processes;
- decisive contribution to an understanding of these notions by the viewers involved in the presented artistic situations or pieces of art;
- commitment to the creation of moments and the production of documents that provide vivid and peculiar altercation, in which the participants acknowledge each other’s abilities to intertwine two essential aspects of Artistic Research as it is understood by this Journal.
Such a constant interlacing effort also assumes the possibility to intensively explore the interstices between the two fields in point, searching unexpected connections between reciprocal and adverse terms, oscillating between two or more sets of conditions discovered in the interregnum between two different expressions, in the sense referred, for instance, by Gunhild Borgreen & Runa Gade in Performing archives. Archives of Performance: “Within the theme of Interregnum we encouraged presentations, performances, and other projects that would address the issue of ‘in between states’ — asking questions about how changes and transitions are shaped, and what constitutes the brief moment of instability between two sets of conditions.”
… scrutiny and oscillation between what is most intersubjective in approaching artistic situations and pieces of art, through a communicational delivery and an argumentative work (written, spoken, or both), requiring a certain technical formalization, either in the consistency of notions or in the density of discourse.
… but on the other hand, perhaps being possessed, experiencing a certain state of mania, swayed by an incessant and pendular rhythm that makes us return to the pre-predictiveness of our sensibility, always there to renew the silence and to disturb us with states of discursive impotence, thus reshuffling everything we seek to utter about our access into artistic phenomena.