Society recognises Art, recognises Research, whilst leaving Artist Researchers (and their work) invisible. There is no recognisable or obvoius platform to celebrate, disseminate the new questions or ways to use the new knowledge that these researchers uncover. Can society really be fully functional while side lining art practice researchers? Dont we need all the intellectual and practical knowledge available to society in these difficult times in order to develop a balanced humanistic society in which all its members are valued and heard.
Art Research infuses all aspects of existence including the personal, political, social and scientific. Within the scientific world an individual science researcher is able to state they belong to a particular field such as cancer research, and will be one of a large number of scientists researching in that area. Within the art world an individual researcher, while able to say they are researching in a particular area, will not find a larger number of colleagues in that same area. The historic norm for research is within science and is quantitative, Art Research is qualitative, that is it responds to discoveries and develops the question as it moves along, it demands rigour but flexibility and if it crosses boundaries of different fileds it will proceed to so do. Art Researchers cross boundaries they exist in two places at one time, sort of quantam in their methodology and maybe a closer model to nature that is the qualatitive approach. While being robust in their work they are not aligned to a labelled subject field, they are artists, who research, through their art practice.
For this reason classifying and grouping Art Researchers into subject areas is difficult. I am a founder member of PIRG (Phenomenology and Imagination Research Group) a small group of Art Researchers consisting of Doctors, PhD Candidates and Masters Degree holders, who came together to explore their common ground and to contue their own development and education Their grouping comes not from subject areas but from the commonality of practice and of process. The group is culturally diverse and is area expertise diverse. We ask, can there exist such a forum where inter relationship of subject areas is possible, and is this a natural hub or a forced one? We believe PIRG is a sound forum that could help a wider and deeper layer of society.
Through our starting point and anchor, where Gaston Bachelard’s writings were chosen, in particular The Poetics of Space (Bachelard, 1994). we quickly discovered and developed a both fundamental common interest and questions, and an unexpected new sense of communication. A commonly experienced sense of true sharing, of listening and of being heunderstand was the basis of the original notion of university.ard. A methodology of conversation, no winners, no loosers, so superiority nor inferiority. What we have is a safe place to voice ideas, questions, doubts all without ridcule. The experience of the group is one of authentic inquiry which is what I understand was the original practice of a University. The methodology of the group is conversation and for each member their own practice, with an atmosphere of chosen non-competitiveness, one of engagement, rigour but non judgemental. In other words an environment where members from mixed culture and background have the space to discover, discuss and disseminate knowledge, surely the original intention of a University.
In their research, artists reference many sources, Philosophers, Scientists, Sociologists across the board depending on the path of the work. They co join data with their own experience and insight to question it, unpick it, and where possible make the invisible visible. They put this new knowledge forward to enrich mankind; such gems of knowledge lay gathering dust in their University’s Repository, PIRG aims to open the doors for Art Research to become visible.
A commonality for the Art Researchers in the group showed itself to be a fundamental desire to understand and expose the human condition of today, approached from every different subject expertise within the group. It was a revelation that there is a fundamental meeting of minds, not withstanding a lively dearly held differences of opinion. There is a real desire to see the world today from as wide a view as is possible in order to be aware, to understand, to collapse barriers of misunderstanding and fear; an arena of respect and acceptance for different views.
As the group has progressed, each found a way to bring to the group their individual specialty area, in led sessions, using straight speak, and where their area required art speak or philosophy speak it was made accessible to those who were out of their comfort zone using patience, listening, trying again, hearing the questions and working to put across the point. Without hierarchy and with trust, it is a powerful method to share knowledge by means of questions openly put, a tool to clarification or change of direction and a pool of new information.
There is a need for a platform such as PIRG for Artist Researchers to be presented and be visible. Although there are some PhD artist researchers seen on the gallery circuit and some within academia, there is no recognisable venue to publicly present the work undertaken by these artists who are researching questions of interest and importance to us all.
Within PIRG there are areas of exploration and research from a wide variety of subject expertise.
Questioning our relationship as living humans of today with notions of the posthuman
Investigating ways human beings perceive their surroundings (Noriko Suzuki-Bosco).
Questions of how maternal visual language inform and affect processes of reconcilliation
Questioning the extent to which we can open out to external influences in order to
disrupt ’habitual ways of being’ without loosing our sense of ‘home’ in ourselves.
Merging the immateriality of projection with the materiality of physical object, with
questions of how we make distinctions between what is real and what is illusion and the
point at which our perception slips (Jane Bennett).
Questioning her sense of loss of the person viewed when connecting with them on a
computer screen, the virtual has led to research the ‘real’, (meant as a feeling or sensation
especially the sense of another person. (Cheng-Chu Weng)
Questioning the cultural identity of female figuring in the lens traced back to a century ago
and its aesthetic value in the beauty representation in social context when woman is a t
thing rather a being. (Simiao Wang).
Such welcomed diversity makes it difficult to form the work into one cohesive subject area to show work that the public can read and access. Curators we have spoken in the past have been unable to imgaine a theme in order to put us together in a show! In this time when curators are crowned as more powerful that the artist, in that they make the decisions on how funding is spent and on who it is spent, in order to bring their chosen artists to the public, there is a responsibility to bring the diversity of work by artists who are researchers into the public realm. There are many curatorial couses, MA courses, they are falling short by excluding traning with regards the relevence and power of art research practice and presentaion.
We achieved this for ourselves in our inagural show "In Dialogue: Material Imagination" held at the LINK Gallery, Winchester, through connections to Phenomenology and Imagination we developed our own work through our practices to come together in one show, using visual elements to connect works and idea. This and the insightfullness Trish Kernan made our presentaion of work possiblen despite the predudice of the Arts Council refusing funding. The refusal of the Arts Council to recognise us, and the organisers of the Humanity Festival stating our work does not fall into the humanities, becoming visible is indeed difficult. The show created new interest and new contacts.
The fact of the work output being primarily physical art piecesl makes it difficult to give access to the public other than in a presenting space such as galleries. That the work is most often offered with texts supporting and offering access, a key and a word-way to discuss the research, means that in presenting to society there needs to be a shift in expectations of the platform supporting the offer, enabling the acceptance of the visual in partnership with texts. While the works speak for themselves they are tips of icebergs, Visual Artist Researchers need to be given the opportunity to offer a key to view that which lies beneath; those control the funding and the spaces need to open their eyes and see that a platform for artist researchers will enrich society.
PIRG aims to be a platform for Artist Researchers.
In Dialogue: Material Imagination was our inaugural Exhibition, Link Gallery, Winchester University November 13 – December 18th, 2015.