Feedback to Cheng Chu Weng's PIRG session
The step-by-step ‘straight speak’ explanation of her practice process was refreshing and gave access to her research. The work was opened up for me at that point, offering both a haptic and theoretically experience, arising from this ‘key’ offered by Cheng-Chu. In turn this widened questions with regards to Art Research and what it is?
It seems the perspectives shift along a spectrum of definitions. The approach of SAR through their online journal of artistic research (JAR) is one of ‘exposition’. Here the work itself gives access and understanding to the underlying research, this form of research is encompassed by some academic universities, not by others. Most familiar (to me) is the requirement that the work be twinned with written words that both underpin the visual and unpick the visuals in order to prove rigour within the research and to establish through examination that the artist researcher has in fact generated new knowledge. This being the criteria for having a PhD bestowed.
The question was asked in the session, what is the difference between artists and art researchers? My response is that while maybe some artists can be accidental researchers, art researchers begin with a question and pursue it through art practice. Are art researchers artists, or merely using a visual means to illustrate a theoretical base? When a piece of art ‘touched’ the viewer it is the reverberation of the poetic image (Bachelard), that of itself moves within the viewer. Such a work may reveal to the viewer a new experience, or reawakening an inner knowledge, a sense of Being, in communion with the work and the artist who drew out the poetic moment. While others may theorise on the work, this creator and the viewer may not be so inclined, accepting instead the humanness embedded in the work. Such a work may well develop in the process of art research, and contradicting the above, there will in this case be a relating theoretical structure. Within Art Research the methodology is primarily visual art practice, Art Researchers are indeed artists first and foremost, it is the visual work that creates and develops the thinking-developing-questions, ideas, and theoretical positions, through curiosity; in my experience the work does however stand in its own right as an artwork. It will have formal visual structure, even when the rules are broken, it relates to the viewer through visual structures of form, shape, colour, line, direction, tensions, texture, scale and site. In research it is not enough for work and viewer to hold a silent experience, it has to be rooted within a theoretical framework. The methodology of this having developed out of science’s quantitative methodology, into a structure of qualitative methodology, which fits where it touches! This qualitative methodology requires to be expressed through the most common form of social engagement, that of the symbols that create words. Words can be formed either by the sounds that make up speech, or as here, in an academic environment, drawn (written) as the shapes of an alphabet.
So much was generated by the session, that there is only time and space to select an area, here, that of Art Research itself and to suggest that an Art Researcher does need to offer a key, whether a word or a thesis, to accessing the research, even when the work itself holds an experience for the viewer, it cannot be left as the work alone to meet the criteria of research. An artist offers the work of itself, a stand alone, as an experience.