Combining Creative Practices with Research is a double-edged sword. To address this agruement I will reference to my own field of Creativity and my practice in the Visual Arts, specifically Painting.
Artists, in the Post-Modern world that we currently live in, face the existential crisis that it has in fact all been done before. Painters are left rubbing their heads as to what their role is, now that our world is literally saturated in aesthetically pleasing imagery, thanks to everyday technological devices with the ability to capture, edit and share the world that surrounds us.
Since cameras became accessible to the masses in the early 20th century, the role of the painter has been made seemingly redundant. This can be seen in the Art Movements that emerged thereafter; these movements display a ‘working out’ of the medium. They moved away from representation, which the camera could capture with more accuracy, opting for imagination, expression, ‘things’ from the unconscious and explored the materiality and tactility of the paint itself.
These movements included: Cubism- the visual deconstruction of a subject, Dada- the rejection of traditional standards and approach to visual practice, Surrealism- irrational scenes of the unconscious with photographic precision, Colour Field- large fields of flat, solid colour allowing pigment to become the subject
Today cameras are even more advanced and art-like mediums such as Photoshop and Instagram are saturating the visual field, and Art is left questioning its role. Contemporary Art sets itself apart from these pixel-based images with theory and research, which has created both opportunities and wicked problems (Crouch, 2012).
Research and theory approach to Art means that everything within an artistic context becomes art, and consequently art can be anything that artists decide it to be (Andersson, 2009). This liberates the traditional ideas as to what constitutes subject matter within art allowing more room for curiosity and exploration, however it breeds further uncertainty both inside and outside of the artistic community as to what art is and its role.
Another problem/opportunity in this methodology is that the two fields have a fairly shallow knowledge of each other (Andersson, 2009). This can create opportunities for expanding interest in Art from people who are primarily research based, and allow artist to approach their practice in a new academic or scientific ways. In saying that, this reciprocal ignorance creates artists that are ‘multi-disciplinary’ or ‘jack of all trades, masters of none.’
It is problematic that this approach to one’s practice privileges both hats, creativity and objective research, which tend to contradict each other. Ontological questions as to what Science and Art are, get meshed with questions of method, what the practice should be, or is, within the respective field, and epistemological questions, how is meaning and knowledge formed within the fields (Wilson, 1996).
Contemporary Artists should let research inform their practice where it can, but they need to be aware that it is their practice. Research has radically altered our culture and will continue to do so, as will Art. Artists should not act exactly like researchers. If they do, it’s unlikely that they would make any unique contribution in either field, but furthermore they will continue to distance Art from its own cultural importance.
Andersson, E. (2009). Fine Science and Social Arts – on common grounds and necessary boundaries of two ways to produce meaning. Art and Research: A journal of ideas, contexts and methods , 2 (2).
Crouch, C. &. (2012). Doing research in Design. Oxford: Berg.
Stephen Wilson. (1996). Cultural Importance of Scientific Research & Technology Development. San Francisco State University, Conceptual Design. San Francisco: San Francisco State University.