Why is art easier than science


Academy, artistic research, expression, image, form of representation, data, interpretation, knowledge, research, art college, manifest, methods, process, transdisciplinarity, knowledge

Florian Dombois / 2006

The following text is from 2006. A lot has happened since then. A claim to think the comparison between art and research has become a reality that is called artistic research. That doesn't calm me down. On the contrary - even if certain advantages cannot be denied.1 But the tension from an antinomy seems to have been removed and an energy difference leveled. The cheek to rethink art in a new and different way was merely padded by the fashionable wave. And the last Documenta d13, which was explicitly under the motto Artistic Research, contributed rather less than more to the sharpening. In this respect, the following text is already a historical one, a manifesto that has been overwhelmed by its implementation. We are reprinting it here in its original form2to counter it with the present.

For scientists, dawn and dusk are one and the same phenomenon ...

(Claude Lévi-Strauss)

Before use
Research and science are usually used synonymously. We imagine the researcher as a scientist and his organization of knowledge as decisive. But what happens when other disciplines that are explicitly non-scientific also suddenly come under the research claim? What does it mean when you claim alternative forms of knowledge as the results of your research? With the present text I want to try to think this case for the arts. The plural “arts” stands for all artistic disciplines, and I will intentionally use the term “art” in its blurred form. So when in the following “art” is mentioned without an adjective such as “performing” or “visual”, then I use it to refer to the artistic disciplines in general and, at the same time, only to that special case of artists in each discipline who are subject to the postulate of Want to do research.
The question arises: Why did you want to or should research as an artist? In recent years the idea of ​​research has been brought to the arts in different ways. B. the critical writings of Bruno Latour, who destroys the generation of knowledge in the sciences in an expert manner and who is currently presenting his criticism not only in a scientific but also in an artistic context as exhibitions at the ZKM Karlsruhe. Then, in connection with the simulation and visualization or sonification of data, there is a lively discussion about the creative freedom of scientific images and sounds. B. in the field of nanosciences. At the same time, art scholars such as Horst Bredekamp, ​​Gottfried Böhm and William J. T. Mitchell are investigating the extent to which images can be viewed as alternative forms of knowledge. Philosophers such as Ernst Cassirer, Nelson Goodman or Georg Picht have argued in this direction, who have examined other symbolic forms as a store of knowledge in addition to language. Furthermore, the term research has recently appeared more and more in the arts themselves. B. is about the description of artistic processuality and provisionality.
And finally, in many art schools, the idea of ​​“art as research” is being discussed against different backgrounds: In Great Britain and Finland, it is above all artistic doctorates that raise the question of artistic research.3 In Austria or Germany it is the transfer of the art colleges to university status, which goes hand in hand with questions of research by artists. And in Switzerland, the federal government gave the art colleges a research contract a few years ago as part of the new higher education laws and set up a funding vessel within the Swiss National Science Foundation (DoRe) that is exclusively dedicated to research in health, social work and the arts. Since then, this has resulted in a number of artistic research projects, many of which test different methods and forms of cooperation in artistic research with several actors from the arts and sciences.
The different contexts of this research stir up different expectations without, however, explicitly defining them. In other words, most of it is still unclear: What kind of art would that be that is also research? What would this research of the arts do? How should the generated knowledge be understood? Who would this research of the arts benefit? Isn't scientific research enough? One could respond to these questions with philosophical texts and thus try to sound out the epistemological problem area linguistically. Interestingly, most of the arts are non-linguistic, and their research would naturally be located outside of language. So you would first have to verbalize everything. And if one assumes that this research in the arts is intended to complement scientific research, that is, it cannot be replaced by it - otherwise the whole effort would be superfluous - then the lack of language would be particularly interesting. If you trust in the epistemological drafts z. B. by Cassirer, Goodman or Picht, the other forms of representation open up a new cosmos of knowledge that cannot be experienced a priori through scientific research. Different media of expression - word, image, sound - stand together on an equal footing in the mimesis and poiesis of the world.
However, this more expression does not necessarily make things any easier: The meta-position of scientific language and its monopoly in the production of knowledge are thus called into question. Other media attract other organizations, and this has a particular effect on the constitution of an “art as research”: The traditional strategies for the scientific definition of a discipline are probably useless if the definition no longer bears any resemblance to what has been defined. Or to put it another way: If the various media of expression stand side by side on an equal footing without being able to be converted into one another, a linguistic description of non-linguistic research is already an appropriation process that transforms what has been described from the original into a new horizon.
I therefore want to take a different path here. Instead of making further theoretical speculations about the nature of research, I would rather sketch out the boundary conditions for its appearance. What must be given so that, in my opinion, an “art as research” can work meaningfully and develop? How do we want to set up research, what conditions do we want to subject it to?4 What follows is a series of demands that now come to mind and which seem to make sense. They are a first attempt in this direction; they can be corrected and, above all, supplemented.5

§ 1 “Art as research” presupposes an interest in knowledge!
Research is something like a systematization of curiosity. Anyone who researches wants to know, wants to understand. This should also apply as a necessary criterion for artistic research. It takes something to struggle for. Hans-Jörg Rheinberger called this something an "epistemic thing".6 The term “epistemic thing” is seductive because it describes research in such a tangible and material way, but unfortunately it also has some ontological implications. I want to use it anyway, as a term of the je-ne-sais-quoi that one tries to understand through research. The arts as well as the sciences should therefore deal with their “epistemic things” in the process of research. Or if you don't want to know, you shouldn't do research. That is perhaps the central criterion for differentiating between the arts in general and an “art as research”, which, as I postulated at the beginning, is only intended to represent a special case in the field of the arts for the time being.

§ 2 The interest in knowledge is disclosed!
If there is to be an interest in knowledge that triggers and guides the artistic work, it is probably logical to demand its disclosure. “Art as research” should therefore not mystify the object of research to the observer, reader or listener or deliberately mislead him. Rather, the context should be named in order to set the reference and yardstick against which the research is to be measured. This claim to honesty does not imply any exhaustive linguistic explanation or interpretation by the artists, on the contrary, that would probably only be a sign of inferior quality. The mystery itself is not excluded in “art as research”. If z. For example, if research on the topic of the future implies a form of puzzle, the work can still be formally laid out as a puzzle and at the same time the research question “How do I describe the future?”

§ 3 The knowledge is formulated in the respective artistic forms of representation!
A knowledge only becomes part of the research if it can be communicated. Therefore, in addition to continuous discussion in research, the best possible formulation is required time and again. This moment of representation can be understood as a moment that produces knowledge, or, according to Georg Picht, knowledge only arises through the representation.7 Here, too, one must again take into account the (predominantly) non-linguistic nature of the arts and demand that “art as research” should find expression in those forms of representation that are theirs. This means that in an “art as research” it is not scientific articles but images, compositions, plays or films, etc. that rank as research results and carriers of knowledge.
As already indicated in the foreword, one can expect from this media opening a broadening of the recognizable; In addition to the linguistically comprehensible, other forms of representation appear, and the medium itself becomes the bearer of meaning. The open system of knowledge of the occidental sciences receives nothing less than a new dimension through “art as research”. In order to develop this new dimension, however, artistic research must not be just a translation or repetition of (scientific) knowledge in images, sound or text. That would be an illustration. Rather, it must be about a genuine formulation of what is not adequately comprehensible in the other disciplines. Only if this is achieved does “art as research” have its justification alongside scientific research.

§ 4 The grouping according to topics occurs across the organization according to the forms of presentation!
The arts have so far been organized according to their forms of expression: forming, performing, making music, etc. With the disclosure of knowledge interests, on the other hand, overlaps become visible. If researchers from different disciplines are concerned with the same topics - be it self-portraits, volcanism or felt, to name just a few random examples - they can be networked, which could also incorporate the relevant sciences. Say, it could be a "mathesis singularis"8 Establish, as Roland Barthes calls it, or a transdisciplinary team, as one could also call it, whose members work on understanding a common area of ​​questions. Crossing the logic of the method, origin or discipline, a further order structure according to the logic of the matter would be required.
These cross-structures lead to new research communities and thus to an additional evaluation of the research results: A piece of work may apply more or perhaps less in the field of one's own artistic discipline, but suddenly the contribution to the understanding of the chosen “epistemic thing” also counts. This double order should make it possible to give adequate criticism to those artists who work in the intermediate areas, e.g. B. from science and art work. If scientific content is presented in an art context, then in addition to the disciplinary and artistic assessment, a technical assessment within this topic-specific research community should be urged.

§ 5 Research is one of many undertakings!
Research is a social enterprise. Many are working on it so that many can work on it. “Art as research” cannot be a hermetic work by loners, but is an exchange between questioners and seekers. As in science, it is a community of “professionals who do not know” who repeatedly penetrate the unknown, who describe the objects of their curiosity. The discussion about research is part of the same. Only the discussion of many participants about methods, forms, contents of the works and the discipline as a whole turns “art as research” into a real movement.
The networking of the researchers with each other can lead to the establishment of artist groups. Perhaps it will make sense to think about group formation in artistic contexts where there is no tradition for it yet.9 However, that does not mean that the production logic of the arts, in which in most cases only one person makes the final artistic decision, must necessarily be undermined. First of all, I would just like to state that what is important is the context of the discussion as one between many who share a common interest in knowledge.

§ 6 The evaluation of research results is done by experts!
Not everyone is a researcher and not everyone can make appropriate judgments about research. If you look at how the sciences have stabilized their intersubjective discourse, then the experts play a significant role here. As peer reviewers, the colleagues closely monitor the quality of research in their field. Publications in a specialist journal and the granting of research funds are controlled by this. This disciplinary self-control already prevails in the arts when awarding prizes and grants and should accordingly be expanded to include “art as research”. Only those who work in the same area can correctly assess a job. They are familiar with the problem, they can appreciate the formulation offers. The arts, like the sciences, are not a matter of quantity or of everyone. It takes time to get into the depth of an area. Researchers (whether artists or scientists) are experts who, on behalf of everyone, deal with a problem on a permanent basis.

§ 7 The research results are made available to the general public through publication!
The exposure of the experts does not mean that artistic research should negotiate its results behind closed doors. On the contrary, there is also a mandate to publish in research. The publication of the artistic research results uses the well-known formats: exhibition, concert, performance, etc. Here the project results are presented and staged in order to make them available to experts as well as the general public on a larger scale.
Due to the requirement to link the form and content of the presentation, the publication is often not just a subsequent documentation of the research results in another location, but rather represents the actual result in form and content, i.e. it is part of artistic research. In these cases the publication itself becomes the carrier of knowledge.

§ 8 The negotiation of the research results goes hand in hand with a negotiation of the quality criteria!
The artistic work should therefore be recognized as the result of research and the publications as knowledge. But with the new non-linguistic form of representation, all kinds of problems arise: How can artistic research be assessed at all? Who decides whether a project is a success or failure, whether the result is right or wrong?
First things first: art cannot be falsified. There is no logical fallacy, no evidence of wrong arguments. At the same time, however, “correctness” and quality criteria are required. Research is always a competition for the best explanation, the best representation of knowledge. So what to do
An “art as research” must be accompanied by an additional discourse on its own quality criteria.Before the evaluation begins, there needs to be an understanding of the standards by which to judge. Is it the clarity, accuracy, ease, or adequacy of a presentation? The conciseness, the wealth of associations or the unambiguity that one pursues as an ideal? By disclosing the assessment criteria and the process of agreeing on their application, despite the lack of objectivity, one achieves at least more than subjective arbitrariness, namely intersubjectivity.
And for reassurance: Since the deconstruction of the sciences, people there have also become unsure about the concept of truth and have found that the quality criteria of scientific work depend more on a process of social unification than previously thought. In other words, here too the claim of objectivity had to give way to an intersubjective reality.

§ 9 Art as research takes into account the "state of the art"!
In research, nothing arises out of nothing. The researcher is not a natural event that draws from itself so that nature can formulate itself through it. Genetic rhetoric makes no sense among researchers. The right to research is acquired through one's own skills and knowledge of the preceding. Every picture, every sentence, every sound is related to the earlier ones. Research is embedded in a historical and social context. Research formulates new things; it cannot be about the exact repetition of the old. Anyone who unsuspectingly reclaims an insight has not done enough research. In the fragile balance of strengthening and weakening due to too much knowledge about the history of the arts, the “state of the art” in an “art as research” must nevertheless be assumed to be known. Only then can knowledge develop.
There is a suspicion of the ideology of progress - and rightly so. Research does not have to progress, but it tries to increase the level of differentiation and complexity. This is countered by the cliché that the arts are going through a style change without really gaining new insights. But have we not known more about vision since Malevich's Black Square? Our hearing has not developed into entirely new dimensions since Wagner's Tristan? Isn't every masterpiece of the arts a paradigm shift in our perception of the world?

§ 10 Art as research gives back its answers as questions to scientific research!
Scientific research is usually based on a research question that is formulated as a hypothesis and verified or falsified as part of a research project. This approach creates difficulties in the arts. The arts rarely give clear answers, and formulating the question as a hypothesis at the beginning of research is usually an insurmountable obstacle. Perhaps one should reverse the process and ask the arts to do the opposite: a project may begin with an answer, the outline of the Topic, and only formulate the best possible question at the end.
Because of their questionable nature, these results would harmonize with scientific research as the opposite pole. Instead of the usual IMRAD format (Introduction, Methods, Results and Discussion), art with a "DARMI format" could fruitfully promote scientific research: IMRAD - DARMI - IMRAD - DARMI - IMRAD ...

Why do we need an “art as research”? Because science can successfully but not completely explain the world. An alternative is needed that brings what it neglected back into focus, if only to prove that twilight and dawn are fundamentally different: “The dawn of day is a prelude, its end an overture, and the end , instead of being at the beginning as in the old operas. ”´10

The present text is a minimally revised version of the first print in the yearbook of the Bern University of the Arts, ed. from HKB / HEAB, Bern 2006, pp. 26–31. A first public discussion of the theses can be found in Florian Dombois, Philip Ursprung: “Art and Research. A catalog of criteria and a reply to it ”, in: Kunst-Bulletin 4, 2006, pp. 30–35.

1.) So today you can apply for research funding from the Swiss National Science Foundation, this is also possible in Austria, in Germany maybe soon. There is extensive literature on the theory of how art can be viewed as research, etc.

2.) First publication 2006 (see above). Reprinted in G. Bast and B. Felderer (eds.): ART and NOW. On the future of artistic productivity strategies, Vienna / New York 2010, pp. 79–89. And in French under the title: L‘art comme recherche. Esquisse d‘un mode d‘emploi à usage personnel, in E. During et al. (Ed.): In actu. De l‘experimental dans l‘art, Paris 2009, pp. 191–202.

3.) The introduction in Maarit Mäkelä, Sara Routarinne (Ed.): The Art of Research gives a good overview of the development of artistic doctorates. Research Practices in Art and Design, Helsinki 2006, esp. P. 12ff. See also the article by Christopher Frayling: “Research in Art and Design”. In: RCA Research Papers 1, 1993/94, pp. 1-5, the definition of which is often referred to.

4.) With this pragmatic approach, I would like to try to get the "system research" up and running, even if we have not yet penetrated the theoretical principles of how it works. I trust in the power of the form, to which the content can then be oriented (which is not unusual in the arts).

5.) Nota bene: I am arguing here from research experience mainly in Switzerland. Nevertheless, the following paragraphs were developed independently of the specific funding and application situation and should therefore also be discussed in the various countries.

6.) “[The epistemic thing] represents a physical structure, a chemical reaction, a biological function, around the 'elucidation' or 'representation' of which the research process revolves. What interests such a thing is precisely what has not yet been established. It shows itself in a characteristic, indiscernible vagueness, which is inevitable because, paradoxically, it embodies what one does not yet know. "Hans-Jörg Rheinberger: Experiment - Difference - Script: To the history of epistemic things, Marburg / Lahn 1992, p. 70.

7.) Cf. B: “Representation is a form of knowledge of truth that cannot be reduced to any of the other forms of our knowledge; it reveals connections of the real that neither theory nor practice get to face and about which our everyday experience knows nothing. ”Georg Picht: Kunst und Mythos, Stuttgart 31990, p. 141. A more detailed treatment of this question has appeared under the title Florian Dombois: “Knowing to hear”. In: Barbara Koenches, Peter Weibel (Ed.): Invisible. Algorithms as interfaces between art and science, Bern 2005, pp. 204–221.

8.) “In this ultimately conventional conflict between subjectivity and scientificity, the strange idea came to me: Why shouldn't something like a new science be possible, each one based on the individual object? A mathesis singularis (and no longer universalis)? ”Roland Barthes: The bright chamber, Frankfurt / M. 1989, p. 16.

9.) Cf. For example, the exhibition Collective Creativity in the Kunsthalle Fridericianum, Kassel, May 1 - July 17, 2005. I owe the following remark to my colleague Roman Brotbeck from the music department in Bern: “The development of polyphony in the Middle Ages, during which the essential basics of the western music and notation system were defined, would be an ideal example for the claim described here. The Florentine Camerata took a similar approach in Florence in the 16th century. And the literary dispute around 1800 in the Schlegel circle could probably also be viewed under the aspect of 'art as research'. Yes, I would actually like to polemically ask the question whether art without research is actually an invention of the 20th century, the afterbirth of the genius cult in the 19th century in the form of - profitable - intellectual property.

10.) Claude Lévi-Strauss: Sad tropics, Frankfurt / M. 1999, p. 56.

[This text can be found in Reader No. 1 on p. 181.]

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Florian Dombois

(* 1966 Berlin), artist, author and researcher, he deals with landforms, instabilities, seismics, scientific and technical fictions in different presentation and publication formats. In 2003 he was offered a position at the Bern University of the Arts, where he set up the Institute for Transdisciplinarity (Y). Since autumn 2011 he has headed the research focus transdisciplinarity at the Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK). Numerous solo and group exhibitions, among others at the Kunsthalle Bern, the Galerie Gelb MUSIK Berlin, the Akademie der Künste Berlin, the ZKM Karlsruhe and the CIC Cairo.


Academy, antiquity, artistic research, expression, autonomy, picture, representation, form of representation, data, Germany, interpretation, knowledge, ethics, Finland, research, freedom, global art, globalization, Great Britain, communication, art, art field, art college, manifest, Market, methods, Austria, Post Art, process, realism, Switzerland, transdisciplinarity, knowledge, ZKM

Barthes, Roland Böhm, Gottfried Bredekamp, ​​Horst Cassirer, Ernst Florian Dombois Goodman, Nelson Latour, Bruno Mitchell, William J. T. Picht, Georg Rheinberger, Hans-Jörg