art as knowledge production?

thinking practices seminar 1 fall08: mapping out instances of art as knowledge production and performative embodiment in our practice

The thinking practices module kicks off the fall 08 semester with a debate on the models of art as knowledge production, and its place in the academic context of the MA in art and media practice.

These are the questions we used as a point of departure:
1- Art as a form of knowledge production: what does it mean for an artist to develop a practice directed towards knowledge production?
2- What separates art as a form of knowledge production from visual art production where theory and critical reflection don’t play a major role?
3- How do knowledge-based practices relate to the studio-based paradigm?
4- Is there really a need for artists to become academics and develop specific skills/ competencies as academic researchers?

Liliana Garcia-Urmeneta

Art follows different procedures in the way it connects us with reality and the content is something that should be addressed …I wrote a play being Lilith the first mythological woman before Eve. The intention is to impact on our perception as human beings and conceive us in wider shape. It also comes down to the use of technology, being a piece of digital production
Is it knowledge? It is challenging, as it is a work with different media, I want it to be a montage, in terms of media and get as close as possible to hologram so in that sense it is knowledge because it is trying to work w/ new language and in terms of concept it also is knowledge because it brings back something hidden and talks about what has remained enclosed. So in both senses it involves knowledge production.

Cinzia Cremona

Because my practice takes two forms, one could be described as studio-based and the other one could be described as collaborative and knowledge as public space, than on the surface it seems like one part is knowledge production and the other isn’t.
I think that in both forms of practice, I engage with producing a way of thinking, whilst knowledge sounds more like content of thought, information, almost quantifiable,
The part of practice that is more personal and studio based I try to produce same things but through objects and images and in a smaller context, so its performance to camera they are very intimate and I use my self literally. But I don’t want to be there all the time; I don’t want it to be too much like real life
Doing performance for the camera is a way of sending out something else

And the collaborative practice is more about the larger picture, things I cannot achieve on my own and it’s more about the world. But the concerns are the same and they are ethical and political, but they want to be more thought provoking than knowledge producing.

Paula Roush

These are the questions I hear from you and I want to leave open for now: is art a form of knowledge production? and if not what else is being produced in our practice-based research? In the module guide, you will see that there are certain expectations in relation to what an Ma in Art is and in particular this MA prepares you for. That is why it is important to start by understanding what defines your artistic practice. Are you creating objects? Or are you engaged in creating writing? Is, in that case, writing part of your artwork? And, are you displaying your writing as artwork? Finally, how are you going to create this body of knowledge that is expected from you in the MA, that is not only object based but that will need to happen as theoretical writing as well?
It is really up to the artist to define the way in which art produces knowledge, and each artist will provide a different example as to the way of s/he articulates this form of working. Most artists don’t work with objects only, and there is always thinking, reusing and recycling of ideas and theories… and this represents a new paradigm, removed from the studio-based paradigm, with artists working in the computer, online, in the street, in books and publications…However, the studio still appears in the public perception as the mainstream paradigm of the visual artist – separate from the real (another word that need to be unpacked), the sacred place where the artist focus deep into practice.

As to my practice, I don’t work in studios, I work in different sites. When a gallery commissions me I go there and think site-specifically. But also if I’m invited to work as a curator, I develop the concept in response to the site, both the physical and discursive location. And the same when I’m working as an educator, I try to respond to the education, to the institutional site. Doing site-specific is a wide term that that responds to varied concepts of sites. This way of working- that is shared by many artists- is quite different from retiring into the studio to develop work, instead it works by moving into the context.
And when I’m doing it, I produce writing that is theoretical, I produce objects mostly but not only digital media, I develop presentations…So it is a practice that come across in different methods of production and there is knowledge that is being produced, but its more than knowledge, as it is also performative and embodied in my relationships, in my day to day, but it escapes what is considered normalised knowledge…not everything is theoretical and intellectual, some things are  affective,  ephemeral, and not accountable.

So how we you define knowledge? This is the large question: what is the knowledge that artists are producing? For people like you working on a MA or PhD this is the question. What is it that you are expected to produce? Is knowledge the right word? We may have to find another word because ‘knowledge’ and ‘research’ are associated with scientific model and institutional practice. The word ‘knowledge’ implies that you can assess it, evaluate it, and compare it with a norm, so it lives side by side with institutional power
It also has scientific implications: a scientist does research, comes up with something that is objective and quantifiable. Artists don’t necessarily work like this all the time; sometimes they produce knowledge, new thinking, advancing their practice or theory; but other times they also produce things that cause disruption, that question and are not completely rational, they play with other aspects of the self and relationship with others and the world.
So the word knowledge may not be the right word, that’s why I want to keep it open and I want us to ask ourselves if what artists are producing can be called ‘knowledge’ or if we should call it something else…like ‘embodiment’…which is another word that has been suggested.

Reading list

another MA edited periodical publication, the MaHKUzine – journal of artistic research- is a biannual series published by the Utrecht Graduate School of Visual Art and Design with articles and research reports by lecturers and students. MaHKUzine 5 – A Certain MA ness- explores these issues in the wider european debate of the the Bologna Treatise and the MAs in Fine Art and Design.


About paula roush

I am a Lisbon-born artist based in London, UK. I am the founder of msdm, a platform for art practices that are mobile-strategies-[of]-display-[and]- mediation. It is a platform for both individual and collaborative work, shown in the context of exhibitions, publications, conferences and teaching/seminars. I work with photography, archives, found material and performance through editing strategies that investigate notions of authorship, authenticity, history and memory. I am interested in publishing as artists’ practice and as platform to explore the intersections between the roles of artist, editor and curator. My current projects look at ideas of (re) production in the work of art, resulting in publications in several formats that encompass the hand-made, the print on demand and the ebook.
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3 Responses to art as knowledge production?

  1. cinzia1 says:

    It sounds like a good start.
    This the link to Critical Practice, the collaborative side of my practice:
    I have a feeling that ‘knowledge’ and ‘research’ can have a much wider meaning than that given to them in academia. I am also wondering if being artists AND researchers in an academic context, we might be able to stretch what academia might include, or accept.

  2. paula roush says:

    yes cinzia, it’s been a good start. its great to have the critical practice wiki as online neighbour. just browsing through its pages, one can find, for example, in a live experiment in stretching the limits of the academia. It could work as an example of good practice, in its mode of collaborative theoretical enquiry. but in what concerns the academic institution, it always comes down to the issue of assessment. was the project being marked? and in that case, who decided on the criteria?

  3. cinzia1 says:

    Marsha Bradfield and Jem Mackay are both working on PhD projects, respectively at Chelsea and Camberwell, so the projects are not being marked. You could get in touch with Marsha if you wanted to know more. It would probably be a very interesting dialogue.

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