A Journal of Ideas, Contexts and Methods

Volume 2. No. 2. Spring 2009
ISSN 1752-6388

Fine Science and Social Arts – on common grounds and necessary boundaries of two ways to produce meaning

Erik Andersson1


Fine arts education currently finds itself in an intensely formative phase. Around Europe art and design schools are struggling with their new postgraduate education, and teachers and students work with an unrewarding task: The task of finding principles for unification of the two (within modernism diametrically opposed) ways to produce meaning, namely research and art. The task is unrewarding for three reasons.

First, the institutional art concept means that everything within an artistic context becomes art, and consequently art can be anything that artists decide it to be. Which in turn breeds uncertainty over what art is and what art’s role is inside as well as outside the artistic community.

Second, the two fields have a fairly shallow knowledge of each other. When artists establish a relationship to science it becomes anything between an allusion to Feyerabend’s anti-positivism2, to consumption for representation of scientific results.3 Significant amounts of the discussion in the theory of science seem to have passed the arts world by.4 In a similar way the social and natural sciences are comparatively naïve in their relation to the developments in the arts world. The humanities have been at the forefront in the postmodern and social constructivist discussion about art, but this is of limited relevance now that research shall be performed within arts. This reciprocal ignorance is understandable in the light of how hard and time consuming it is to be cutting edge in arts and in science, but it has nonetheless led to a situation in which scientists are criticized for being too analytical, elitist and objectivistic5, and artists are ascribed subjectivity, irrationality and sublime rapture as primary driving forces in their work (thereby discrediting them as researchers, alternatively launching them as champions of “another” knowledge). Neither of the stereotypes is representative of science or art as these are performed today.

Third, the discussions about artistic research, research in art, practice-based research (or whatever you’d like to call it) is conducted in a theoretically disorderly fashion. Ontological questions (what science and art are) get meshed with questions of method (what the practice should be, or is, within the respective field) and/or epistemological questions (how is meaning/knowledge formed within the fields).6 These levels certainly influence each other, but an argument from one level is not necessarily logical on another level. In this theoretical jumble it becomes an ungrateful and insecure endeavour to write a PhD thesis or supervise PhD students, since it becomes difficult to put theory and practice in a productive relation to one another. You could handle this problem as Borgdorff and others do, by claiming that ”…no fundamental separation exist between theory and practice in the arts”. This is the case, however, in most other kinds of research too, and simply taking note of it doesn’t necessarily help. The vital question is not whether there is a fundamental separation between theory and practice (for there isn’t)7, but rather what kind of relation there is between theory and practice, and how this relation gets constructed and handled in the specific individual research process.

In an attempt to break out of the dead-lock dynamic around these theoretically and philosophically contagious issues, the research project that I am involved in focuses on the actual research processes as such.8 By studying what happens between idea and final artwork, we aim to lay bare differences, similarities and overlaps between the meaning-producing processes of social scientists and artists.9 What we find in this empirical comparison, we hope shall be of practical and theoretical relevance for how artistic research can be theorized and performed. As part of this project we were invited to make an exhibition at Skellefteå Konsthall in the far north of Sweden. The next section is an account of the preliminary experiences of this exhibition. In the following sections I discuss what these experiences would mean in wider scientific and artistic contexts.

[Fig. 1]

Two modes of meaning production

We designed the exhibition in such a way that we would tell about our working processes in text, exemplifying with one oeuvre each [Fig. 1-3]. To get full concentration on the processes we excluded the actual result of the processes, and neither the scientific (PhD) theses nor the resulting works of art were showed in the room. Since we all work with producing meaning in different ways, and the purpose of the exhibition was to clarify and discuss how this is done, we named the show Productions of Meaning (Skellefteå Konsthall, 21 April – 27 May 2007).10 A common denominator was that each participant’s practice demonstrated a commitment to social change. Another common denominator was that all, in some sense, adhered to a social constructivist/constructionist11 perspective towards society, in their work and roles as artists and/or scientists. We took for granted that all participants had started their processes with some form of engagement-based intention regarding some issue, that all had worked with material containing cognitive meaning, and that all had finished their process by processing this material into something that addressed the original issue. By juxtaposing written accounts of the productive processes of the participants, and holding seminars12 on the topic of differences and similarities between the two production modes the exhibition became a generator of data/material. The following account is structured according to the line of the production processes13, from initial intentions to final results.

In discussing the initial phase of the process certain similarities between artists and social scientists stood out.14 First, the line from engagement or interest – to actually starting a defined process of production of meaning – had a similar nature in that all described it as messy, intuitive, emotional and insecure. This stage of the processes which preceded the focused productive stages, was similar in that both artists and scientists sought some point (of some kind) on the basis of which we could order our productive intentions. Both fields reasoned, sought, looked, travelled, thought, tested, confronted their way to something that captures and make intelligible the intentions, and at the same time makes up a point of departure that gives the meaning production process some sort of direction.

Even if the work of seizing on the project was performed in a similar way, here emerged the first difference. In academic language and protocol this first stage has a logical goal in the “research question”, the “hypothesis” or the “research problem”, which shall clarify the scientific aim and scope for the reader/critic/colleague. There is no similar convention in that artists should clarify (for themselves or anybody else) what the artistic aim and endeavour with a certain project is.  When artists now are starting to do research in art, it would be logical that this convention from science (where it is almost universal) is brought into artistic practice to help formulate and elucidate the end point of this first stage of the research process. What form this end point might take is an open question, and its form will most likely not be limited to a question or a hypothesis.

Another difference is that artists in this first stage need to think through what representational format the end product of the process should have. There is a strong link between how the initial, intention-centring point is formulated, and the representational format of the end product of the process. The academic text/writing is a logical and given form for meaning produced in social science, and the room for creative experiments with this text and format is small. The question of final format, hence, is one extra variable to weigh into the process for artistic researchers as compared to scientific researchers.

It is also noteworthy that the degree of theoretical complication in this first stage of the process was quite similar, and both fields (at least their representatives at the exhibition) worked with comparatively complicated concepts and theories.15 One important difference also surfaced here: the social scientists in their tradition had to make explicit, and actively position themselves in, the theoretical landscape of relevance for their research processes, while the artists did not have to do the same within purely artistic work. Theory served more as a source of artistic inspiration and zest, than as an analytical tool.

In the discussions about the second stage in the process – the empirical work of assembling material and knowledge, or “data collection” – we found that what people did was strikingly similar. Everybody interviewed people, studied texts, examined statistics, etc. to get close to and understand dynamics and those involved in the issue in focus for the processes. At the same time two important differences also emerged. The first one consisted in the scientists working with methods (more or less) accounted for, while the artists worked “amethodologically”. Or perhaps one could say that while everyone worked methodically in this stage, only the scientists were methodologically transparent. That is, the scientists gave some kind of account and motivation for the choice and application of methods, while the artists picked and used empirical methods in an instrumental way. This was not a standpoint or deliberate choice that the artists hade made, but rather a natural attitude within artistic tradition. A more methodological relation to empirical work in this stage of the process did not seem to run counter to attitudes or practices of the artists involved.

The second difference we found concerned the use of references, where artistic references differ from scientific ones in several ways.16 References selected by artists tend to demonstrate what s/he has been inspired by in terms of art, knowledge, social forces, etc. rather than making explicit an active and clear adherence to or dissociation from something, someone or some theory, which is the purpose of academic references. These artistic references of course also mean that the artist positions his/her self and becomes associated with artistic traditions and political and/or academic agendas, paradigms and theories; but this happens without expectations that the artist him-/herself shall clarify wherein differences, similarities and developments consist. These clarifications have (hitherto) been the job of critics, researchers and the arts literate audience to do while relating to the piece of art in question. A logical consequence of this is that artistic references do not hold the same kinds of obligation as academic ones. When a scientist refers to theories and/or previous research and researchers, this comes with an obligation to have understood the theory and empirical material in question enough to treat them fairly and use them in a way that doesn’t thwart their meaning. Artists do not have the same obligation. Strictly speaking, it is an artist’s prerogative to lie and misrepresent17 anything, if that is what is needed to make the final work of art effective.

[Fig. 2]

Regarding the ethical responsibility for the encounters that artists and researchers arrange as part of their production processes, e.g. interviews, consensus was that it is the one who arranges the encounter that also is responsible for its moral dimensions. This means that artists and researchers are bound by the same ethical standards for protecting the informants and other people we involve, so that the situation becomes respectful and meaningful for all involved. Special cases, of importance for relational aesthetics18, are those who get involved as participants/audience in the final representation of the art piece. Those are people who are not involved for empirical data collecting purposes, but as necessary performative components of the art project’s final stage, which is something else and more than, say, interviewees in social science projects. What this “else and more” consists in depends on the individual art project, and there seemed to be no logical reason for applying different ethical standards to this kind of involvement than to other kinds.

In the third and last stage of the process was made evident a pivotal difference between social science and art. When juxtaposing and comparing production processes of the two fields, we saw that the analytical and concluding stage in social science corresponds to the representation-constructive stage in artistic production. Although the actual intellectual work being done here may sometimes be similar, the end results of the processes differ. While the scientists write accounts of (how they reached) new knowledge and meaning, artists presented the results of their processes as concrete oeuvres representing and materialising meaning. Even though the new knowledge of the scientists is communicated in writing on paper or screens, it is the new immaterial knowledge that is the important and (more or less) valid result of their productive process. This stands in stark contrast to the result of the artists production processes that must have (material or social) concrete representational presence19, which is not bound in format by institutions and conventions to the same degree as are the texts of the social scientists.20 

Having established these (preliminary but yet) differences and similarities, what can we say about the possibilities for artistic research? Can we see a way forward to a set of routines, practices and conventions which would lend artistic research the same validity and reliability as that of constructivist social sciences? In order to deal with these questions we need first to give a brief account of how validity and reliability is achieved within current research in these social sciences, and after that it will become possible to say something about the possibilities for artistic research and (to some extent) constructivist social science.

Constructivist reliability and validity
Social science has come a long way from the positivistic behaviourism of the 1950s. Along the way from Kuhn’s paradigm critique and Gunnar Myrdal’s value qualifications, via Feyerabend’s radical pluralism to Foucault’s and Laclau and Mouffe’s post-structuralism and Derrida’s and Lyotard’s postmodernism, the shackles of universalism, value-free objectivity and authoritarian epistemology has been shaken off. And yet the constructivist social science of today thrives at universities all over the world. The central conventions and institutional arrangements that make this research activity scientific are:21

  1. Openness/methodological transparency, primarily as regards scientific methods but also regarding personal values and beliefs that might influence the research process. To be open in this way is both a way to ensure the possibility for assessment and critique from other scientists (to assert the reliability of the process), and a way of describing how the scientist relates to society and the people/subjects/objects/issues in focus in the research process.
  2. Theoretical positioning, i.e. elucidating and explaining what knowledge one uses for understanding the world/object, one self and the research process, is necessary to make one’s research intellectually valid. In doing this today, the researcher often must build a theoretical foundation for each project, which is starkly different from previous paradigms where authoritarian epistemology expected you to refer to your masters and continue their work. A constructivist can rebuild and adapt one’s masters for every project, and what makes this continuous reform legitimate is the theoretical positioning that makes clear how and why it is reasonable and necessary.
  3. Seeking critical assessment at seminars, conferences, in journals and general debate about one’s procedures and findings, is done to test and ensure the validity and reliability of research. A reliable project (and its result) is one which clearly account for its methods in a way that is deemed empirically and analytically reasonable; it is intellectually valid if the knowledge it relates to is developed by the result, and societally valid if the objects/subjects/issues in focus can be dealt with in a new/more informed/better/different way as a result of the project.
  4. Self-assessment of one’s procedures and results must be done at the end of the project to determine if the original intention was fulfilled, if the methods and theories used were appropriate, if the theoretical positioning was reasonable, etc. In reports, articles and essays this can often be found under “further research needed” or “some prospective remarks” and such headings. The function of this convention is to make scientists assess their own results in relation to the field, and discuss the value of their own work, what new knowledge it offers and what questions and issues it evokes. 

Beneath each of these four points are abysses of philosophic, epistemological, methodological and technical positions and controversies, but by and large this is how the (reinterpreted but still) scientific principles of validity and reliability are upheld within constructivism22. As you can see, here the scientific position is not a question of achieving a universally valid philosophical position for your knowledge.23 I.e. you don’t become a scientist by producing scientistic and everlasting truth. Science is rather achieved through adhering to the above principles while producing knowledge within the institutional confines of the academy. Even though universal truths may have fallen off the map of constructivist social science, its reinterpretation of the principles of validity and reliability nonetheless make up a bulwark against lies, cheating, copying and carelessness.

If we look at modern art and relational aesthetics, we see that artists have used lying, cheating and copying as techniques in their representational work to make their art pieces effective.24 Would this disqualify artists from doing research within the academy? Would the same principles as those which give constructivist social science research scientific status be applicable to artistic research? Even if the artist lies? My preliminary answers to these questions are No, Yes and Yes. Motivations follow.

Valid and reliable artistic research
In this section I discuss the conventions and institutional arrangements listed above, and how artistic research could relate to them.

There is no logical reason why artistic research could not be performed while adhering to the principle of transparency and openness as regards methods and values. A PhD student at an art school can account for his/her methodological choices just as well as any other student. These choices may be of a slightly different kind, among methods different from those of other research, but showing for a reader/critic/etc. why and how you have made the informed choice of one method among many other possible ones can be easily done. This holds even for artistic work performed within the modernist romantic tradition/definition of art (of, say, Jackson Pollock), and the only difference would be that this account would be for hermeneutic or psychological methods25 rather than analytical methods such as regression or discourse analysis. Relational aesthetics, which stems from a more analytical tradition of art, would find it easy to pick and choose among social science methods to give account of such methodologically informed choices. Even if the final product/art piece contains a flagrant lie, an open and reasonable motivation why this lie was methodologically needed to make the piece effective, methodological transparency itself would be a first step on the road to research quality of arts production, or artistic research.

Theoretical positioning will take some institutional upheaval to achieve, but it is equally possible and logical as part of artistic research. I write “upheaval” for two reasons. Firstly, theoretical positioning by artists as part of research means that the artist have to do this themselves, i.e. critics and academics will lose their monopoly of positioning artworks and artists post hoc, at exhibitions, shows and in papers/magazines/journals. Instead the artist will do this work as part of the production process and the final work of art will arrive with the artist’s own account of its and his/her explicit relation to tradition and theory; i.e. a large part of the interpretative work will be produced during the research process, and influence interpretation and positioning done of the final product. Whether this will be perceived as a threat or an interesting opportunity and development by critics and others remains to be seen, and it is neither self evident that all artists will see this as liberating, productive or increasing their autonomy. The second reason I call theoretical positioning an upheaval is that artists will have to rethink how they refer to art/artists and theory/theorists. References in research, as noted above, should be given to clarify how lines of influence and of conflicts and disassociations advance, and how these lines influence the research process in question. Does the researcher agree? Does s/he use the artistic or scientific material and influence in a logical and legitimate way? If not, why not? How shall one understand the relation between the referred artist or scientist and the researcher in question? Questions like these should be possible to answer on the basis of a researcher’s references, but in the art world references have hitherto not been given and handled in a way that makes this possible, primarily because nobody has demanded or expected it as part of the artistic practices. This will have to change with the development of artistic research. I can see no fundamental quality of arts in the way for this change, and once it happens artistic research will find itself much more at home in academic quarters.

Critical assessment and self-assessment are integral parts of artistic production today, not least within the community that works within the relational aesthetics tradition. Seminars, studio talks, etc. have become almost obligatory integral parts of art fairs, exhibitions and the like. Bringing methodological transparency and serious theoretical as well as aesthetic/artistic positioning into this already existing interaction would not be a problem since artists, curators and others are already driving the process themselves. Adjusting this intellectual activity so as to become more in line with other research assessing activities would also benefit researching artists’ interaction with the traditional academic community as it looks today.26

There is a widespread enthusiasm within the academic community towards the development of artistic research, although the limited knowledge of how art looks today (as indicated in the beginning) makes it hard for many to see how academic principles for good research could be applied also to artistic research. At the same time there is a fear among some artists that performing artistic production according to principles of good research will kill things like inspiration, creativity and idiosyncrasy.27 If positivism still was mainstream this fear would have been more easily understood. But positivism today is rather a reference point for scientists of most quarters, against which one positions one self to make clear what you are NOT doing. E.g. constructivist social scientists do not perform reproducible experiments (but use methods transparently), they do not talk with a universal scientific language (but position themselves theoretically) and the results of their research are not everlasting truths (but new knowledge, the value and role of which is determined through collective and individual assessment and critique). So no science is “fine” in the sense that the logical positivists would have it, but strives to produce valid and good knowledge on the basis of constellations of theories, methods and material specific for each project and/or community. There is no logical reason why art could not be produced in the same way. It would mean, however, that this art would be produced socially inscribed within explicit theoretical and artistic landscapes, within artistic research communities, and the value of the product would be determined in discussions and assessments of a larger and more informed group (than that of today). Artistic research would hence mean yet another blow to the auteur-ideal.

The fundamental difference, though, remains. Artists produce works of art, and scientists produce knowledge. As indicated in the first section, this affects the research process from beginning to end. And although the principles for good, constructivist research can be applied also to the artistic research process, the actual products of the two modes of meaning production cannot stand on the same footing or be critiqued and assessed according to the same criteria.28 The products work with and relate to their audiences in completely different ways, and (as noted) art pieces must sometimes lie to work effectively and new scientific knowledge can never lie if it shall work effectively. As long as this difference persists it is futile to try and reconcile art and science ontologically as two forms of equally valid knowledge.29

Neither expanding the concept of science to include art (or vice versa), nor the equalizing of art and science on the basis of interpretation being central for both seems to solve the problem of the fundamental difference between the products of art and of science. My suggestion is to accept this difference, and build artistic research not on an a priori ontological merging of the two forms of meaning and knowledge, but on an epistemological and methodological adherence to similar principles of research practice. There are social and institutional platforms within the arts world that can easily be developed into (nodes on which to build) an institutional order for the maintaining of good artistic research. Neither in art, nor in science (as of today) are there any elements that fundamentally contradict these common principles for good research. Not even the difference of the research products. It is in the mode of production that artistic research becomes possible as research AND in which constructivist social science attains its basis for valid scientific knowledge and truth-claims.  Making this mode of production methodologically transparent, theoretically positioned and assessable can be done in relation to a work of art, as well as in relation to an academic paper. The art piece and the academic paper will be ontologically different, but can be as epistemologically and methodologically (even technically) identical as one wishes and chooses.

[Fig. 3]

Some remarks and remaining issues
This conclusion is very blunt, almost stating the obvious, and yet this is what I arrive at along this line of reasoning. No mystery, just good research practice. Since the art world gets its alluring qualities to a large degree from the mysteriousness of the auteur and his/her fantastic life and surroundings, performing artistic research in this demystified way may be threatening both to artists’ self-conception as well as to the art market. There is no easy way around this; even though many artists work analytically and borrow extensively from different academic disciplines, a deep romantic modernist (self-)conception of the art world as fundamentally different from academia persists. But if the principles for good artistic research are not different from those of good social science research, then part of this mystery evaporates, and the effects for fine arts remain to be assessed. 

A second remaining issue is that of formal and informal structures of power, norms and institutions. In this paper I have not discussed how these structures influence the two modes of production of meaning. Comparing art fairs and academic conventions, or exhibitions and publications, would probably elucidate many interesting similarities and differences as regards power and norms. How do market forces and actors, for instance, influence the two fields and production processes? How can science and fine art influence power, norms and institutions? Both fields and traditions have intimate relations to political and capitalist power, and (the future of) these relations will be important for the development of artistic research.30

A third and interesting issue is the tension between copyright (important for artists) and the free sharing of research data and results (important for scientific transparency). If artistic research shall develop and get respected within the academy (which seem to be what PhDs in art are about) artists’ relations to their data and research findings cannot be of the same copyright nature as the one they have to individual artworks, but need to approach the freeware culture within scientific research (where, for example, getting referred to and built on brings status). Thus a researching artist becomes a different economic and social creature than an art producing artist.

1 I am deeply indebted to Andreas Gedin, Fia-Stina Sandlund, Camilla Orjuela, Åsa Wettergren who participated in the exhibition project Meningsproduktioner (eng: Productions of meaning) in Skellefteå and Gothenburg, and also to my co-researcher professor Elin Wikström. I also want to express my gratitude to the staff at Skellefteå konsthall who made the project successful. Comments from participants in a panel at the International Studies Association’s Annual Convention in San Francisco 2008 were helpful. I thank the Swedish Research Council for financial support. The responsibility for this text, including its shortcomings, is completely mine.

2 Mika Hannula, Juha Suharanta and Tere Vadén, Artistic Research – theories, methods and practices (Gothenburg: Göteborgs universitet/Art Monitor, 2005 ) p. 32f.

3 Gunilla Bandolin, “ Michael Weinstock – en arkitekt med “ spunk ’” Metod & praktik Texter om forskning och utvecklingsarbete inom det konstnärliga området Serie: Konstnärligt FoU – Årsbok 2005 Stockholm: Vetenskapsrådet

4 There is an almost compulsory positioning of artistic research as ontologically different from the science of positivists , which of course may be done but doesn’t say anything about how a fruitful development of artistic research may happen, because of the anachronism of the comparison and the limited room that positivism has in today’s science (not least in constructivist social science). See, for example, Michael Biggs, “ Lära av erfarenhet: sätt att närma sig erfarenhetsdelen i praktikbaserad forskning.” Art Monitor 1: 2007 (original English title: ”Learning from Experience: Approaches to the experiential component of practice-based research.”).

5 Hannula et al. passim.

6 Henk Borgdorff, “The debate on research in the arts” (Mimeo, Amsterdam School of the Arts, 2005).

7 Borgdorff writes ( in his excellent paper) : ”After all, there are no art practices that are not saturated with experiences, histories and beliefs; and conversely there is no theoretical access to, or interpretation of, art practice that does not partially shape that practice into what it is.” (p. 7) Rather than signifying the character of art, this sentence describes the dialectical and overlapping relationship between theory and practice in all meaning-producing work. If we, for example, replace “art” with “science” in the sentence we land fairly close to Thomas Kuhn’s description of how paradigms direct meaning-production within the natural sciences, see his The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970).

8 The research project, called Methods of Engagement, is headed by Fine arts professor Elin Wikström, financed by the Swedish Research Council and ru ns from 2006 through 2008. Apart from exhibitions and articles, we are also writing a methods book for art schools.

10 In Swedish syntax this is the one word “ Meningsproduktioner”. The artists participating in the exhibition were Elin Wikström, Andreas Gedin and Fia-Stina Sandlund, the participating social scientists were Erik Andersson, Camilla Orjuela and Åsa Wettergren.

11 Marianne Winther Jörgensen och Louise Phillips, in Diskursanalys som teori och metod (Lund: Studentlitteratur 2000), list the following fundamental assumptions pivotal for social constructionism.

  1. There is no self evident knowledge, all knowledge is a product of how we shape ordering categories in our relations to the world.
  2. We, our knowledge, and our social relations are contingent; i.e. everything could have been different and will change over time. This view is anti-essentialist in the sense that humans aren’t viewed as embodying predetermined essences that determine our actions, our knowledge or society at large.
  3. Knowledge is a product of social interaction and power, and reflexively informs and influences interaction and power.
  4. Different views of the world hence leads to different social actions, and the social construction of knowledge and truth thereby have concrete social effects.

Another much cited account of constructivism is Martha Finnemore and Kathryn Sikkink’s “Taking stock: The Constructivist Research Program in International Relations and Comparative Politics” , Annual Review of Political Science 2001. 4: p. 391-416.

12 In Skellefteå two seminars with the participants, and a number of seminars with interested public were held. When the exhibition moved to Gothenburg, another three seminars were held with invited guests from the local art and science communities.

13 The actual, real life discussions were not structured like this (even if that was our initial intention), but often went meandering over many different topics.

14 One first similarity was that all participants felt strongly for the issues focused in the processes. Since this was one of the selection criteria this similarity was a given beforehand.

15 For example, r eference to concepts by t hinkers such as Judith Butler, Michel Foucault, Jacques Rancière, Gilles Deleuze, etc. were discussed unproblematically between each group.

16 This difference does not only concern the empirical stage of the process, but since it was in relation to empirical work that we discussed it, it seems natural to present the argument here.

17 I am indebted to Andreas Gedin for clarifying this artistic prerogative for me.

18 I use relational aesthetics as a conceptual umbrella term to refer to art traditions and formats working with social entities and interaction as their representational material, such as performance-based and situationist art. I use Nicolas Bourriaud’s term here because I have understood others to use it in this fashion, and not because I agree completely with the whole theoretical package of Bourriaud. See Nicolas Bourriaud Relational aesthetics (Dijon: Presses du reel, 2002).    

19 Whether this representational presence is easily “ understood” by its audience is an issue that doesn’t challenge this basic difference between the products of art and social science.

20 It is noteworthy that the scientists expressed a certain degree of dissatisfaction with their final products, which (they felt) did not express the full meaning of the knowledge one had acquired along the production process. The artists did not express any similar feelings with their products.

21 In Feyerabendian and hermeneutic language, Hannula et al presents six factors as “the basis for /artistic/ research”, which are structured along the same lines. While hermeneutics certainly may be a good method for many artistic research projects, there is no a priori reason that all artistic research must be hermeneutic just because artists interpret the world/object/subject. Strictly speaking all scientific activity means some or other form of interpretation, and although many disciplines have their interpretations structured by tight paradigms these paradigms are at the disposal of artistic research if needed. Hermeneutic research has made its interpretative procedures explicit as such, which may be why Hannula et al (and many others) give it such a central position for artistic research.

22 Mats Alvesson och Stanley Deetz, Kritisk samhällsvetenskaplig metod (Lund: Studentlitteratur, 2000).

23 Richard E. Lee, “Cultural studies, complexity studies and the transformations of the structures of knowledge” International Journal of Cultural Studies Vol. 10:1 2007.

24 The Yes Men, for instance, makes their culture jamming art works effective by parading as consultants on economic conferences, producing fake websites for global corporations and such. One can of course debate whether their pranks are “lies” in the everyday sense of the word. An alternative way to frame this would be the artistic prerogative to interpret the world subjectively, i .e. the resulting work of art might be incorrect by scientific standards, but valid representations of the artists’ interpretation.  

25 A motivation in line with such an art-is-romantic choice could maybe be structured as: “ I choose to undergo the mental state of X through listening to Y and paint/axe/weld Z simultaneously, with the aim to produce an object that embodies the qualities of theory/value/speech-act B” or such.

26 This is not to say that ALL arts seminars must be in line with academic conventions, but rather to say that there are arts seminars already that researching artists arrange and participate in, and it is not a big change or revolution to develop those in line with academic standards.

27 Judging by the general readability of PhD theses, it is of course a valid discussion whether artistic research is a good way to produce good art pieces. The logical way to avoid this risk would be for artists not apply for research training or PhD courses.

28 Maarit Mäkelä in “Knowing Through Making: The Role of the Artefact in Practice-led Research” Knowledge, Technology and Policy Vol. 20:3 2007, discusses how an interpretation of the artefact can resolve the meaning of the product, and this meaning/knowledge/information can subsequently be put in a theoretical context and related to other knowledge. I would say, based on my argument here, that Mäkelä ’s insertion of interpretation makes her proposition a way to relate research about art to other kinds of knowledge. If we focus on research within art, the products retain their ontologically different nature. 

29 Even Feyerabend didn’t launch his methodological democracy to make art and science equal, but rather to strengthen science through allowing all forms of methods into the academy, and the one that produced the best knowledge should be assessed the best one in its specific case of application.

30 Chantal Mouffe, “Artistic Activism and Agonistic Spaces” Art&Reasearch Vol.1 No.2 Summer 2007




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