Artistic Research Methodology

Narrative, Power and the Public

by Mika Hannula (Author) Juha Suoranta (Author) Tere Vadén (Author)
©2014 Monographs XI, 173 Pages
Series: Critical Qualitative Research, Volume 15


Artistic Research Methodology argues for artistic research as a context-aware and historical process that works inside-in, beginning and ending with acts committed within an artistic practice. An artistic researcher has three intertwined tasks. First, she needs to develop and perfect her own artistic skills, vision and conceptual thinking. This happens by developing a vocabulary for not only making but also writing and speaking about art. Second, an artistic researcher has to contribute to academia and the «invisible colleges» around the world by proposing an argument in the form of a thesis, a narrative; and in so doing helping to build a community of artistic research and the bodies of knowledge these communities rely on. Third, she must communicate with practicing artists and the larger public, performing what one could call «audience education». There is no way of being an engaged and committed partner in a community without taking sides, without getting entangled in issues of power. Consequently, the methodology of artistic research has to be responsive both to the requirements of the practice and the traditions of science. Here the embedded nature of the knowledge produced through artistic research becomes evident. Artistic Research Methodology is essential reading for university courses in art, art education, media and social sciences.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Foreword by Juha Varto
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments
  • Part I - Fail Again, Fail Better
  • 1. Artistic Research Inside-In
  • 2. Basic Formula of Artistic Research
  • Artistic Process
  • Conceptual Work
  • 3. Back to the Future: Democracy of Experiences, Methodological Abundance and Verbalization
  • Verbalization
  • Part II - Narrative, Power and the Public
  • 4. Face-to-Face, One-to-One: Production of Knowledge in and through Narrative Interviews
  • Background
  • Reasons for Narrative Interviews
  • A Practical Case
  • 5. Methodology and Power: Commitment as a Method
  • What Is Unique in Artistic Research?
  • Scenes from a University (as Narrated by Tere)
  • The Guild and the Sciences: Methodology as Liberator
  • Why and How Do You Care?
  • Indigenous Research and Artistic Research
  • 6. Different Roles of an Artistic Researcher, the Public and the Uses of Sociological Imagination
  • Artistic Researcher’s Roles: A Typology
  • Artistic Researcher as Professional
  • Artistic Researcher as Policy Advisor
  • Artistic Researcher as Public Speaker
  • Artistic Researcher as Critic
  • C. Wright Mills and the Public
  • Sociological Imagination in the Hands of an Artistic Researcher
  • 7. What to Read, How and Why?
  • Possibility of Reading (Change of Perspective)
  • Personal Takes on Reading—Coincidentally and Randomly Chosen
  • Case I (by Mika)
  • Bernard MacLaverty: Cal (1983/1998)
  • Case II (by Mika)
  • Will Self: Umbrella (2012)
  • Case III (by Tere)
  • Alexandre Dumas, pére: The Three Musketeers (published in 1844)
  • . . . And Change of Self
  • Part III - Case Studies of Artistic Research Practices
  • 8. Per Magnus Johansson: What Do You Do When You Do What You Do?
  • 9. Wolfgang Krause: A Place for Imagination—Three Projects, One Discussion, Four Annexes
  • Nachtbogen [night arc]
  • Knochengeld
  • Schulschluss [school closure]
  • Annex I–IV (Wolfgang Krause)
  • Annex I—Art in City Space, Art in Public Space
  • Annex II—Project Practice I
  • Annex III—Project Practice II
  • Annex IV—Nausea
  • 10. Esa Kirkkopelto: “It Is a Matter of Collective Self-Education, Re-Education through Cooperation”
  • 11. Mikko Kanninen: Seer/Doer
  • 12. Leena Valkeapää: “Recognize the Unique and Stick with It”
  • Conclusion
  • References

| vii →


Recently, a colleague suggested to me that we should stop talking about the different types of knowing and admit, or even emphatically argue, that in art we are dealing with something that is “otherwise than knowing.” This remark shed light on an issue that was partly clouded and partly lit: why is it important to so many that art remain art, and why are so many interested in doing research that is based on artistic activity and that takes seriously art’s own way of operating, its manifestations and methods of conveying something to others, either through whispers, screams or discussions?

If we approach the issue from the point of view of the critique of knowledge, it is certain that the concentration on knowledge according to the programme of the Enlightenment has, to a certain extent, clarified, simplified and crystallised our view of how everything works. At the same time, it has removed from our vision a great number of phenomena, only because they cannot, for some reason, be introduced as objects of knowledge or as their part, as our view of knowledge is exclusive and restrictive. Exclusiveness and restrictiveness are what have given knowledge its special power: claims that cannot be either falsified or proven coherent with something that is certainly known do not qualify as knowledge.

We know from music that certain sounds are not in themselves discernible or meaningful, but their absence from among the other sounds would make these sounds dull. This image could be used to challenge the “practical razor” related to knowledge. The discussion maintained by Thomas Kuhn and Paul Feyerabend talked a lot about the beliefs according to which we tend to consider certain things to be necessary, even if we are not able to substantiate them or know about them in the critical sense. Feyerabend wanted to extend this idea to the “sine waves of knowledge”: some of the phenomena that are important to people cannot be turned into knowledge, but they also cannot be left out, because what is known is believed.

Otherwise than knowing would mean a more suspicious approach to the critique of knowledge: the crucial phenomena and characteristics may be those that do not fall directly into the focus of knowledge but remain forever on the periphery of knowledge. In the short history of knowledge, we have examples of how phenomena that are considered marginal reveal themselves to be strangely important in situations in which we cannot immediately decide what is important, such as with obvious paradigm shifts. Nothing like this has happened in the last 100 years, so it seems to us that it never has. Yet before ← vii | viii → the current rule of academic critique, people strove, each according to their needs, to reveal and conceal phenomena that were in themselves out in the open.

An obvious and indisputable agent in these operations has been the Church, which has emphasized knowledge according to its doctrine and brutally eliminated the people and phenomena that have not complied with its brand of knowledge. The State is another indisputable agent that has just as brutally forbidden the emergence of phenomena and threatened those who have striven to reveal things. The scholars have created the concept of “culture,” which resembles those of the Church and the State and which, for them, does not mean the cultivation of spirit but an entity that exercises independent and autonomous power and within which all of us exist, in our entirety, and according to which we think, act and struggle. These can only be explained by the “culture” that produced them, which is suspiciously circular.

The important message of Thomas Kuhn, Michel Foucault and Paul Feyerabend has been that the representation of knowledge may be more decisive than its accuracy (“truth”). Research always requires a degree of reduction, generalisation, categorisation, naming and prioritisation of phenomena, which means that it is unwillingly doing violence to the richness and diversity of the reality out of which it is picking its phenomena. When the results of research are returned to the world, the way they are represented decides how this reading matches the potential richness and diversity of the reality to which they belong. This is particularly challenging in natural sciences, because it may happen that we do not even immediately realise how misguided the reading is, and, when we do, large-scale errors have already occurred, which is unforgivable.

In the human sciences, the disasters following representational misreadings are slowed down by the human reluctance to accept and apply knowledge. Yet it is possible that the conceptual shape of human life changes in a way that is not desirable in the long term, for example, through the practices of subordination, oppression and stigmatisation.

For these reasons, it is important that the democracy in research and knowledge becomes a reality. The Internet age has already, within knowledge, challenged learning things by heart, which was still valued 30 years ago: people dazzled others with their memory for names and their ability to spontaneously cite important sources in the middle of a conversation and to effortlessly quote the years of important events. After this ability lost its glory, many have wondered what took its place. It has been replaced with the ability to engage in a debate without constantly relating things to some previous debate, a kind of open and free forum in which the representation of things takes centre ← viii | ix → stage. Today’s dazzlers are those who have learned a particular form of representation that constantly leaves open the possibility to discuss any subject. The “serious debate” on knowledge has disappeared and we are going back to the atmosphere of ideation, creative activity and democratic insight.

The problem of the form of representation and the question of the nature of knowledge appear particularly significant. They reveal each other in a light that does not shine when the focus is on creating symbols designed to accurately capture the phenomena being studied. The illumination is not possible until the phenomena are dealt with in the real world. Regardless of the 2,500-year history of epistemology, little has been written about this double exposure and the two faces of knowledge, one of which looks into the world and the other into its reflection in the mirror, and the true nature of which we have never adequately understood, seeing it in a mirror of symbols.

Cultural studies of familiar and unfamiliar peoples, research in artistic practice, research in languages and research in beliefs and human education (or that of a dog or a canary) have shown the imaginary nature of the force that the resymbolisation of something symbolic can bring. Some meanings are usually lost in translation, and it is worth asking why move between symbolic systems, when there is always less and less of the real thing left the further we get. This is also familiar to us from psychoanalysis: when patients learn to think using the concepts of the analyst, they are both healthy and completely confused at the same time, because they now only recognise the phenomena for which they have concepts.

Otherwise than knowing never challenges the power that knowledge has established. It would be pointless to challenge the powers that be, because then you would have to justify your own motives by using the language of power. This sounds as fruitful as justifying civil rights by using concepts given by religious fanatics (sin, sacrilege, anathema, “god”) or explaining to a dictator why people should have rights (peace, war, heritage, people). God’s chosen ones, dictators, heads of police states and those who buy power have each created their own symbolic systems that cannot be used to represent anything that would be against them; if you choose to use this system of representation, everything turns into a defence for them.

In everyday life and its fringes, art and cultural rites, there are many practices that do not claim to be explanations but that still provide us with stories, narratives, ideas and images, which are studied quite differently in different times but that still retain some identifiably recurring features. In these, human life is often seen through myths, everyday life is realised in rites and the points of contact between man and nature are spoken of in many rich ways. ← ix | x →

The ideas in this book stem from the frenzied thinking and discussion going on in art universities around the world. Art is seen as the ability to change the world, not by money or force, but by orientation, by radically transforming the “sensible,” or sensory, reality of the eye, ear, taste, touch and smell, which unavoidably results in a change in ideas, understanding and insight. It may be about distancing, it may be about getting closer; sometimes it is irony or camp, sometimes it is a serious attempt to find illuminating concepts and their verbalisations and sometimes it is the need to create new myths or just tell stories.

Juha Varto

| xi →


XI, 173
ISBN (Hardcover)
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2014 (December)
practice vision conceptual thinking academia
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2014. 190 pp.

Biographical notes

Mika Hannula (Author) Juha Suoranta (Author) Tere Vadén (Author)

Mika Hannula (PhD, University of Turku, Finland) is a former rector of the Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki, Finland, and is Professor of Visual Arts at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. He curates contemporary art exhibitions across Europe and consults for a contemporary art gallery in Helsinki. Juha Suoranta (EdD, University of Tampere, Finland) is Professor of Adult Education at the University of Tampere. Recently he co-edited Havoc of Capitalism (2010) and authored Hidden in Plain Sight (2011). Tere Vadén (PhD, University of Tampere, Finland) is a philosopher teaching art education at the Aalto University in Helsinki. He is an editor of the philosophical journal niin & näin, has published articles on the philosophy of mind and language and co-authored the books Artistic Research (2005) and Wikiworld (2010).


Title: Artistic Research Methodology