Research Art

Continuing to nose around the artistic research scene in Amsterdam, I went to an exhibition at the Nieuw Dakota Gallery, based at the NDSM area, in the north side of the city. It was Saturday (22 June 2019) and I had another great day experiencing art and theory.

The exhibition titled Please Fold Here – Do Not Tear was curated by Suzanne Sanders, inspired by the Deleuzian concept of the fold. It featured the conclusive outcomes of the students of the RMA Artistic Research offered by the UvA. The programme is coordinated by Professor Jeroen Boomgaard and Dr Paula Albuquerque.

As with my visit to the Critical Studies Public Programme at the Sandberg Instituut the previous week [Immersive Criticism], I was suspicious and not sure what to expect. Sometimes, the outcomes of artistic research are quite dry and difficult to grasp. The artistic content can be disappointing. Not in this case! The works on display in this graduation show stood their ground and claimed a position as art in their own right. The curator managed to fine-tune nine independent voices in one coherent environment. In a Deleuzian sense, the works resonated across the room, highlighting several lines of flight, creating multiplicities among themselves and beyond the physical constraints of the gallery.

Photography, video, sculpture, sound and even a colouring-in work marked their presence in the space, providing the viewers with an engaging phenomenological experience that goes well beyond the simple appreciation of art, usually associated with liking-disliking opinions. Exhibitions such as this are difficult to convey. Artworks have a material presence in the world and language, combined with a random selection of snapshots, does not suffice. One needs to make the effort and be present. I settled for sharing some detail shots here, instead of a wide general view of the show. If you have not seen it, sorry, you missed out 😉

My brain was tickled, and I decided to take part in the discussions of the day: The Cold Gaze: Material Diagrammatics as (Artistic) Research Practice by Sara-Lot van Uum and Visual Art as Knowledge Production by Christine van Royen.

In her talk, Sara-Lot introduced us to an approach known as media archaeology, something that I am not very familiar with. I first came across it in a conversation with an artist in Amsterdam some time ago, the central approach of his artistic research. Having studied history, I was aware of the concept of archaeology of knowledge developed by Michel Foucault in the 1960s, but not necessarily its connection with media studies. I guess I was not totally alien to that idea, as it turned out media archaeology is in part centred on Foucault’s historiographical treatise, which is still a very relevant methodological approach in the Humanities.

Sara-Lot’s presentation drew attention to the materiality of computer hardware and how one might break things down in a quite literal way to understand processes that might contribute to novel insights into the digital and beyond. For her, technology is an extension of nature and what is hidden within a computer case can reveal enfolded narratives of power and control. In her installation work, by rematerializing digital processes, she evidenced how deeply-ingrained formal and cultural patterns repeat themselves transhistorically, bridging several domains of practice.

Christine’s exposition focussed on how artistic research generates new knowledge. We were all invited to contribute to the discussion and I did not refrain from adding things here and there. What kind of knowledge is produced by art then? It is knowledge that is not quantifiable or repeatable as scientific knowledge. It is experiential and more fluid. Art offers a way of making knowledge claims that makes sense tacitly, in the first instance. Talking or writing about art is a different matter altogether and academic artistic research usually negotiates two different paradigmatic approaches to knowledge production and dissemination. The conclusive outcomes usually include a written component. How can we prepare artists and students to understand ways of evaluating and validating artistic knowledge? Well, it is not a straight-forward answer, discussions are aplenty.

Research degrees such as the RMA Artistic Research reflect a bigger shift taking place in society at large, as mentioned in my previous blog post:

Cognition is increasingly informed by digital processes that have reactivated tactility, haptic and somatic responses to the lived environment, where art has a central role to play, not science alone. It is a paradigmatic shift based on knowledge production that is more encompassing and multi-sensorial (or phenomenological), not simply based on the isolation of the visual sense to the detriment of the others (de Melo, 2019).

(UvA RMA Artistic Research Graduates 2019: Jesse Brinkerhof, Ester Eva Damen, Anouk Hoogendoorn, Sabrina Huth, Andrea Knezović, António M. Cartaxo, Christine van Royen, Hanna Steenbergen-Cockerton and Sara-Lot van Uum).


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University of Amsterdam | Artistic Research | Media Archaeology | Gilles DeleuzeMichel Foucault | Nieuw Dakota

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