Thursday, 5 July 2018

Questions arising from 'Art as Research'

On 25th June, Alana Jelinek led a workshop on the theme of art practice as research, supported with an award from Skill Up! The University of Hertfordshire’s Researcher-Led Researcher Development scheme, hosted by the University’s Researcher Development Working Group. Here are a few questions that arose from the day…


What is the difference between impact and dissemination?Catherine Tackley noted that applications for AHRC funding often make the mistake of conflating impact with dissemination or public engagement. Researchers sometimes force artificial opportunities for dissemination or engagement under the false assumption that this will improve their impact. She recommends focusing on who will benefit from the proposed research, and how they will benefit directly from the research, rather than how the research findings might be disseminated.

Tackley suggested that it was useful to think about the negative impact of a failure to fund the project. What would be lost if the research could not take place? Who would lose out if the funding was not awarded?

How dangerous is “scope creep”?Alessio Malizia warned of the dangers of mission creep, and discussed some of ways in which research scope can be narrowed. He observed that researchers, particularly at doctoral level, often start with a research question that is too large for one person to answer (or that becomes too large after the research has started). What should we do, he asks, when a research problem exceeds our individual capacities?

While “scope creep” can be problematic, for all the many reasons that Malizia identified (too broad a field of practice, too much source material to handle, etc.), is it always problematic? Scope creep can sometimes be useful, even essential, as the direction of research does need to be informed by constant reflection and re-evaluation of the research questions. In particular, Malizia touched on problems that were too big for an individual researcher, but perhaps this may sometimes be resolved not by narrowing the scope, but rather, expanding the research team. There are different ways of finding a balance between rigor and ambition, and ambitions may not need to be compromised if we find ways of extending our capacity.

Must the value of art be authenticated by academic institutions?At the end of the day Stelarc joined us to present an overview of his part works and discuss some of the themes that have underpinned his practice. He suggested that “research is the way that institutions try to authenticate practice”, but that this is problematic. Art practice and research are “two different ways of elevating the world”, and perhaps they do not always need to be combined.