For the love of it* is a day long conference that interrogates what it really means to work as an artist today unpicking the reality of an artists life from the professional, the romantic or the career development views of funders and government. It will be an opportunity for artists to focus their priorities, explore the realities of work, and reconsider the limits of professionalisation.
We’ll consider and question four key themes from the day in the run-up to the conference on 15 May: this week, Research.
Research is one of those things that most contemporary artistic practices have in common – it is a way to follow a line of interest, a material, a concept or theory, as a locus about which your work turns: it is sometimes indistinguishable from practice itself. Research can also provide a useful hook on which to hang audience-focussed press releases or explanatory texts, opening out your practice to viewers and providing a useful shorthand when talking about your work.
Having a ‘research-based practice’ usually denotes a critical engagement with your work, a rich, multi-layered body of intellectual interests that somehow gets distilled into a piece of visual work. Artists also take up opportunities to work with non-arts, public-facing (and funded) institutions to gain access to their collections and expertise, or make a new body of work. What are the strategies that artists and institutions adopt to ensure common goals are met, and audiences engaged? And how can the richness of a research-based practice be explored with an audience without risking oversimplification?
Many artists still earn a living through working at higher education institutions, despite recent job cuts and diminished visiting tutor opportunities. Research in an academic context takes on more subtle meanings – the new Research Excellence Framework could be a major potential source of income for art schools, as well as allowing artists to take time off from teaching to focus on their own practice, reinterpreted for funding purposes as academic research with impacts and outcomes. Practice-based PhD’s allow a translation of a long-term art practice into a qualification – some artists are now taking up more advanced post-doctoral research as a new level of academic attainment. What might be the impact on artistic practice of this sustained involvement with academic research – from the language used to talk about work, to the way it is supported and funded from the public purse? And what are the tensions between audience engagement and academic language used to describe art practices?
Other interesting conversations around research include:
International Art English
The internationalised art world relies on a unique language. Its purest articulation is found in the digital press release. This language has everything to do with English, but it is emphatically not English. It is largely an export of the Anglophone world and can thank the global dominance of English for its current reach. But what really matters for this language — what ultimately makes it a language — is the pointed distance from English that it has always cultivated.
Edmund Chow on the Research Excellence Framework (REF) evaluation
A useful overview on the risks to academic research that REF may present, particularly around measuring impacts, in the context of Drama teaching.