With artistic research, the June 2011 issue of Texte zur Kunst addresses a topic that has been increasingly discussed in the past two decades, particularly at the level of policies on higher education. In university and academic education, there are currently signs of a trend determining art as a field of “research” – artistic research is thus a highly controversial point of reference for initiatives related to educational and research policies, even though the historical and systematic preconditions of this type of “research” are still unclear. However, among practitioners – artists, university teachers, curators etc. – the debate on the obvious question of the century-old relationship between art and science has long been abandoned. References to the historical differentiation processes of the two disciplines and their rejection by modern avant-garde movements are not neglected, but now it is much more about and this is the primary focus of this issue elucidating the specificity of artistic research practice and the conditions of its possibility, rather than spelling out the dialectics (or synthesis) of “art” and “science”. Nevertheless, especially for the sake of this clarifying work, what has now become crucial is the genealogical examination of the critical claim to the status and function of research and a scientific approach. In the most various milieus of postwar art, one can find artistic articulations seeking to establish a relationship to research and scientific concepts, and that often regard artistic work itself as a research method. Against this historical background, Tom Holert’s contribution in this issue discusses the challenges of institutionally implementing artistic research as a self-reflective practice. This opens up other approaches to knowledge production that lie beyond positivistic standards and objective criteria of evidence. Parallel to the debates on the relationship between scientific and artistic knowledge, developments in art education aquisition, particularly in Great Britain and the Scandinavian countries, have led to the installation of artistic research as an academic proto-discipline in many art schools and academies in the last few decades (on the conditions, see the interview with James Elkins). These processes stand in relation to the restructuring of European universities and colleges in regard to the standardization of degrees and criteria catalogues along the lines of the Bologna process. The advantages of this development leading to the implementation of MA and PhD programs certainly include dismantling traditional hierarchies and dependencies based on the model of the so-called master class and re-evaluating of theoretical-critical approaches to artistic practice. But what opportunities and risks are connected to the institutionalization of artistic research in a neo-liberal system of output control and performance records? And how do the actors themselves view their practice, operating in the field of tension between artistic autonomy and institutional guidelines or expectations? Statements from research projects, networks and PhD programs describe current projects running under the title of “artistic research”. Which methods does artistic research follow, and where do ambivalent conditions between empowerment and instrumentalization in the name of research become particularly tangible? These questions are discussed in essays and writings by the artists Stephan Dillemuth, Thomas Locher, Angela Melitopoulos, Maja Schweizer, Simon Starling, and Amelie von Wulffen. Looking at the media and methods that are now automatically regarded as belonging to the canon of artistic research, painting, as opposed to the video essay or text-based formats, appears very marginal. This is surprising, because art theory has always associated painting with its own “knowledge production” – a connection to which the discourse of artistic research has more or less closed its mind (see the essays by Isabelle Graw). Philosophy assigns art the task of being different and deviant, something that runs contrary to the politics of academic disciplining. At the same time, both philosophy and art share the conviction that cognition requires a material form, a fact that Kathrin Busch draws attention to in her piece. The insight of how little objectivity (which the positivistic philosophy of science conjures up) science actually produces against which art would have to defend itself, could become the precondition for a coordinated oentry to “not-knowing“ or “non-knowledge“, as Elke Bippus states in her commentary. With these main focuses, Texte zur Kunst outlines a field of basic questions pertaining to aesthetics and cognition, politics and knowledge. One thing’s for certain: After reading this issue you’ll know more!
SVEN BECKSTETTE, TOM HOLERT, JENNI TISCHER
And here a note concerning Texte zur Kunst: Since 2006, Texte zur Kunst has been published in two languages. Until now the German and English texts were divided into separated sections, but starting with this issue both parts will now be more clearly linked to make the entirety of each issue more accessible for our English-language readers. The English and German versions of the texts will be directly juxtaposed, as you can already see from the preface’s new layout. The reviews are published in their original German or English.
(Translation: Karl Hofmann)