Mika Hannula (Hannula, Suoranta, and Vadén 2005) highlights the uncertainty surrounding artistic research: because its results are hard to evaluate, its contribution to scientific or academic knowledge remains questionable and problematic. This paper will draw on the work of Deleuze and Guattari to validate the notion of artistic research. It will deploy such concepts as “becoming,” “rhizomatics,” and “dramatisation” to show that artistic knowledge is by no means problematic but, on the contrary, can in certain cases call into question the legitimacy of academic and scientific knowledge itself.
Take Esther Shalev-Gerz’s research project Trust and the Unfolding Dialogue (2013) (see Bowman 2015). For the Lithuanian-French artist, a work of art is the ultimate expression of trust: by believing that an artwork speaks about itself and the world around us, the spectator opens up a space of trust that allows dialogue to unfold. Shalev-Gerz describes her research project as a kind of map in a Deleuzian and Guattarian sense, in that it depicts the space opening up between these two notions connected by the “and.” She further stresses that this field is far from stable and embodies a particular Deleuzian state of becoming—that is, as situated between heterogeneous terms and as eschewing any particular goal. Deleuzian concepts provide a theoretical justification and context for Shalev-Gerz’s project, which generates an interstitial form of knowledge—a kind of insight or intuitive understanding that constitutes the basis of knowledge yet is disregarded by traditional research.
Whereas Shalev-Gerz foregrounds the indeterminacy of her research, the work of Japanese artist Yutaka Makino engages with the Deleuzian concepts of heterogeneity and difference. In his sound installation/performance Atmosphere (2012), continuously modulating sounds delineate different sound environments in the gallery space. Exhibiting continual differentiation with respect to one another, these sound environments eschew all reference to an underlying system or score, thereby displaying real difference as opposed to adherence to a norm. In this and other works, Makino closes the gap between concepts and sensory experience pried open by traditional research: by using the technique of dramatisation, he enables the relations between sound and space to be felt as well as known.
Finally, Welsh artist Bethan Huws (2015) carries out in-depth research on Marcel Duchamp that she incorporates in her artworks and exhibitions. Lacking a conceptual framework or “official” points of reference, her work can be viewed in terms of rhizomatics, understood as a non-hierarchical system lacking organising principles. At the same time, however, her meticulous investigations and perspicacious analyses blur the boundaries between artistic and scholarly art-historical research.
Further examples will explore the concept of metamodelling, defined as a means of juxtaposing a variety of models without privileging any one of them. It too can be used to challenge accepted definitions of knowledge, and validate the purposive indeterminacy characterising artistic research.
Bowman, Jason E., ed. 2013. Esther Shalev-Gerz: The Contemporary Art of Trusting Uncertainties and Unfolding Dialogues. Stockholm: Art and Theory.
Hannula, Mika, Juha Suoranta, and Tere Vadén. 2005. Artistic Research: Theories, Methods and Practices. Helsinki: Academy of Fine Arts.
Huws, Betham. 2015. Reading Duchamp: Research Notes 2007–2014. Cologne: Walther König.
Makino, Yutaka. 2012. Athmosphere [performance-installation]. Accessed 15 October 2015. http://www.yutakamakino.com/html/atmosphere.html.