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01 JULY 2014

The art object does not embody a form of knowledge

"In this paper, I start from the position that the proper goal of visual arts research is visual art. An alternative position is that the art making process yields knowledge that is independent of the actual art objects produced. However, this relegates the art object to that of a by–product of the knowledge acquisition process, and, in my view, places visual art making in the service of some other discipline. Notwithstanding the fact that valuable knowledge may be acquired in this way, from my standpoint it would be undesirable for this to become the dominant mode of arts research. Therefore, from my position the most interesting proposition to explore is the claim that the art object is a form of knowledge since it locates the art object as a central and fundamental component of the knowledge acquisition process.

Nevertheless, as you will see, in this paper I argue against this proposition. I will not claim that the visual art object cannot communicate knowledge–it can. Instead, I will argue that this knowledge is typically of a superficial nature and cannot account for the deep insights that art is usually thought to endow into emotions, human nature and relationships, and our place in the World, etc. In short, I aim to demonstrate that visual art is not, nor has it ever been, primarily a form of knowledge communication; nor is it a servant of the knowledge acquisition enterprise."

(Stephen Scrivener, 2002)

Scrivener, Stephen (2002) "The art object does not embody a form of knowledge". Working Papers in Art & Design – Vol 2.



Liam Birtles
22 FEBRUARY 2012

Towards a critical discourse of practice as research

"A problem confronting many artistic researchers is related to the need for the artist to write about his or her own work in the research report or exegesis, The outcomes of such research are not easily quantifiable and it can be difficult to articulate objectively, methods processes, and conclusions that emerge from an alternative logic of practice and the intrinsically subjective dimension of artistic production. Moreover, conventional approaches and models of writing about art generally fall within the domain of criticism, a discourse that tends to focus on connoisieurial evaluation of the finished product. How then, might the artist as researcher avoid on one hand, what has been referred to as 'auto–connoisseurship', the undertaking of a thinly veiled labour of valorising what has been achieved in the creative work, or alternatively producing a research report that is mere description (Nelson 2004)?

In this paper, I suggest that a way of overcoming such a dilemma is for creative arts researchers to shift the critical focus away from the notion of the work as product, to an understanding of both studio enquiry and its outcomes as process. I will draw on Michel Foucault's essay 'What is An Author ' (Rabinow, 1991) to explore how we might move away from art criticism to the notion of a critical discourse of practice–led enquiry that involves viewing the artist as a researcher, and the artist/critic as a scholar who examines the value of artistic process as the production of knowledge. As I will demonstrate, in adopting such an approach, practitioner researchers need not ignore or negate the specificities and particularities of practice – including its subjective and emergent methodologies which I have argued elsewhere, constitute the generative strength that distinguishes artistic research from more traditional approaches Barrett, 2005). In elaborating the relationship between a these aspects and the more distanced focus made available through Foucault's elaboration of author function, I will draw on Donna Haraway's (1991, 1992) notion of 'situated knowledge' and her critique of social constructivism which reveals how the scientific method is implicated in social constructivist accounts of knowledge. It is this alignment, suggests Haraway,that results in the effacement of particularities of experience from which situated knowledges emerge. In order to ground and illustrate the arguments and ideas presented in this paper, I will also refer to Pablo Picasso's, Demioselles d''Avignon and a selection of critical commentaries on this work by Leo Steinberg (1988), William Rubin (1994) and Lisa Florman (2003)."

(Estelle Barrett, 2006)

Barrett, E. (2006) "Foucault's 'What is an Author': towards a critical discourse of practice as research". Working Papers in Art and Design Vol 4 Retrieved from URL ISSN 1466–4917



2006academic writingart criticismartist • artist as researcher • artist as scholar • artistic processartistic research • auto-connoisseurship • connoisseur • connoisseurshipcontribution to knowledge • creative arts researchers • creative problem solvingcreative work • critic as scholar • design processDonna Haraway • emergent methodologies • established research strategiesEstelle Barrettexegesis • finished product • Leo Steinberg • Lisa Florman • Michel FoucaultPablo Picassopractitioner researcherproblem solving researchproduction of knowledge • research report • scientific methodsituated knowledgessocial constructivismstudio enquiry • subjective methodologies • traditional research • What is An Author • William Rubin • Working Papers in Art and Design • writing about creative work


Simon Perkins

Social Sciences Arts and Humanities Research Institute: research into practice

"Art and Design, History of Art, Architecture and Design, Drama, Dance and Performing Arts, Communication, Cultural and Media Studies, Music"

(University of Hertfordshire, School of Creative Arts)



applied researchart and designartistic practicearts and humanitiescreative practicecritical theory • fine art practices • Hertfordshirejournalmakers of thingspractice as research • practice-as • practice-basedpractice-ledpractitionerproduction of knowledge • propositional knowledge • research • research cluster • research groups • research into practice • role of the university • scholarshipSchool of Creative Artssocial sciences • SSAHRI • studio-based • studio-led • theory building • UH journals • University of Hertfordshirevisual artsWorking Papers in Art and Design • Working Papers on Design


Simon Perkins
15 FEBRUARY 2011

19th century design education funding central to the establishment of the UK creative industries

"The Industrial Revolution had established the United Kingdom as a world leader in manufacturing technology which had allowed British products to gain sizeable markets both at home and abroad. The early nineteenth century was to see those markets starting to be threatened by the establishment of free trade agreements between the UK and mainland Europe which allowed tariff concessions on the exchange of goods. European products began to compete alongside British products with increasing success which was attributed to their superiority in 'design' a feature it was felt that British products lacked.

The age of the 'foreign competitor' had arrived and British manufacturers seeing their livelihoods threatened became a powerful political lobby with the matter soon receiving Parliamentary attention. In 1835 Parliament called for a Select Committee to, 'Enquire into the best means of extending a knowledge of the Arts and the principles of Design among the people, especially the manufacturing population of the country.'(1835–6 Select Committee title)

The Committee investigated the situation taking evidence over a two year period 1835–6 with witnesses representing Art, Design, Industry and Education from both the UK and abroad. In 1836 it was to conclude that the successful continental countries were funding Design Education for their manufacturing industries while the UK was not. The Committee were to recommend that Parliament vote £10,000 to establish a Government School of Design in London with further annual funding to establish a network of provincial Schools in the major industrial centres of the country. It was hoped that as the Schools of Design as they became established would encourage the Applied Arts and Design and improve the aesthetic quality of British products thus influencing trade."

(Edward Bird, 2000)

Bird, E. (2000). "Research in Art and Design: the first decade", Working Papers in Art and Design Vol 1 Retrieved 15/02/2011 from ISSN 1466–4917

Fig.1 Roberts' Self–Acting Mule: sixty years later, the machine achieves the triumph of the factory system.



1835 • 1836 • 19th century • aesthetic quality • applied artsart and designcommoditycreative economycreative industriesdesigndesign educationdesign schoolseducation • Edward Bird • enterpriseEuropefactory • foreign competitor • free trade • Government School of Designindustrial centresindustrial educationindustrial revolutionindustrialisationindustryinnovationLondonmanufacturingmanufacturing industriesmanufacturing technologymass productionmechanisationpioneering • provincial schools • Select Committee • tradeUKWorking Papers in Art and Design


Simon Perkins
08 NOVEMBER 2009

Art as action or art as object? the embodiment of knowledge in practice as research

"Philosophical hermeneutics suggests a possible basis for an alternative philosophical view. Hans–Georg Gadamer's (1989) discussion of the epistemological basis of the humanities, includes a discussion of art which emphasises its profound import and value in developing understanding. His concern is to reassert the distinctiveness of humanistic and artistic insight, via a forceful argument that 'art is knowledge and experiencing an artwork means sharing in that knowledge' (97). A key element in Gadamer's argument is the early chapters' painstaking archaeology of post–Enlightenment thought. This aims to show how deep–rooted concepts in the history of ideas in the modern West, such as the idea of a sensus communis, have become forgotten or distorted, thereby undermining the basis of the humanities' claim to truth. In the case of art, Gadamer argues that post–Kantian philosophical treatments have subjectivised the domain, to the point where artworks became mere objects of aesthetic experience or vehicles of communication for the artist as genius – their particular mode of being and its cognitive import dissolving in their reconfiguration as aspects of the individual subject's experience or activity. One consequence has been art's relegation to the status of an epistemologically suspect domain, a soft relation of 'hard' scientific enquiry. Within this tradition of thought, art's contribution to knowledge (along with that of other humanities disciplines) can increasingly only be characterised in negative or derivative terms

What is especially interesting about Gadamer's writings from the point of view of the argument here, is the way he links the cognitive value of art practice to an ontology of the artwork which highlights the latter's autonomy. For Gadamer, art is essentially play: but, even though it has implications for the nature of the spectator's engagement, 5 this characterisation is meant to emphasise 'neither the orientation nor even the state of mind of the creator or of those enjoying the work of art, nor the freedom of a subjectivity engaged in play, but the mode of being of the work of art itself' (1987, 101). The process of art making effects what Gadamer terms a 'transformation into structure' (ibid., 110) which detaches the work from the activity of the creative artist, to foreground the meaningfulness of the content that the artwork conveys. 6 That content consists essentially in the work's re–presentation of aspects of the world and of experience. In recognising the import of a work, the agents involved do not simply register its reference to something familiar; in understanding art, '[t]he joy of recognition is rather the joy of knowing more than is already familiar' (ibid., 114). From Gadamer's perspective, then, an artwork itself embodies new insight. That insight may be variously applied and integrated into the experiential horizons of different viewers and audiences, but this variability in interpretation is tempered by a common sense of the work's transformative power. As autonomous structures, artworks move us beyond a subjective reflection on themes by artist and viewer, and towards a common participation in the work's play–structure, which in itself has the potential to reconfigure perception and the world.

This cursory overview of Gadamer's account of art scarcely does justice to the depth and scope of his analysis, and probably raises more questions about the epistemological status of PAR [practice as research] than it resolves. For example, how can one distinguish PAR from art not governed by research–imperatives if all art has the kind of cognitive import that Gadamer suggests? The hermeneutic view would also need much more detailed elaboration to clarify its implications for the conduct, presentation and assessment of PAR. In particular, perhaps, the question looms of how an artwork might be judged to fail to embody knowledge, given that Gadamer's philosophy seems to indicate that it should by definition make new insight available. And yet without being able to question critically, or even deny, the epistemological value of some works, it is unclear whether one can positively identify the claim to knowledge of any. 7 Gadamer's work may suggest that an artwork stands or falls on its transformative power within the audience's experience, but how exactly can one tell whether a work has this power? The responses of individual viewers–including those responsible for assessing PAR projects–might give us some indication: but, as Gadamer himself points out, the subjectivisation of aesthetics has weakened our trust in the commonality of artistic experience to the extent that we doubt the wider resonance of individual response. The philosophical argument for the intersubjectivity of art experience would thus need fleshing out in much more detail to counter the weight of tradition and of the received views attendant upon it."

(Anna Pakes, 2004. Roehampton University of Surrey, England)

Pakes, A. (2004). "Art as action or art as object? the embodiment of knowledge in practice as research", Working Papers in Art and Design Vol 3 Retrieved from URL ISSN 1466–4917


2004 • Anna Pakes • artist • artistic insight • artworkembodiment of knowledgeepistemologyEuropean EnlightenmentHans-Georg Gadamerhermeneuticshistory of ideas • humanistic insight • humanitiesImmanuel KantknowledgeobjectPARpractice as research • scientific enquiry • sensus communis • UKWorking Papers in Art and Design


Simon Perkins

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