Dec 21, 2008

On Artistic Research

I'll admit, James Ryerson's obit of David Foster Wallace influenced me here...

Recently I have been researching "artistic research." I wanted to understand the motivations behind artistic research, as well as the difference between artistic research, art and research.

So far, I've identified three main reasons why an academic institution might be interested in artistic research. They are:

1. To prove artart0, where art is the set of all things that could be described under the label "art", and art0 is the set of art worth consideration in an academic context (not to be confused with W, i.e. Worthy art, or "W").

2. As a way of maximizing $$ = $a + $r, where $$ is the total amount of funds raised by an academic institution, $a is the amount raised for "art" activities, and $r is the amount raised for "research", given that C$a < C$r , for all known countries C. In this equation, confusion over the new factor $ar ("artistic research") between $a and $r is expected to improve $$.

3. As a way of optimizing s + T^s where s is the total number of students, T is the total number of teachers, and T^s expresses the condition that the Teachers be more qualified than the students.

From an artist's perspective, I initially modeled the desire for artistic research as a complex nonlinear formula involving Egg (a Freudian identifier), Cds (desire to spend time alone in a studio listening to music, aka the cave-dwellers coefficient), Pfame (the probability of achieving fame), and Pimportant (the probably of actually doing something important). However, after consideration, I realized in nearly all cases the much simpler factor Nmfa/Nphd dominates, where Nmfa is the number of artists with MFAs, now nearing infinity, and Nphd, the number of artists with PhDs, much closer to zero.

What is curious is that most research papers on art research ignore these compelling pragmatic arguments. Instead they focus on higher level merit claims which, when analyzed closely, reduce to claim art = art research. I have yet to identify any paper which shows how "artistic research" is significantly different from "art", excluding the pragmatics listed above. In other words, in all cases, good art is directly correlated with good artistic research.

On the other hand, there are examples of a worrying alternative: good artistic research can sometimes lead to poor art. In creating the compound formulation Art+Research, it seems some students may become distracted by R, and forget that the goal is to prove the equation A=A+R. This is a topic worth further investigation.

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