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<nettime-ann> nameless science (curated by henk slager)
Geert Lovink on Sat, 22 Nov 2008 19:42:07 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime-ann> nameless science (curated by henk slager)


curated by Henk Slager
apexart, dec 10 2008 to jan 31 2009

with projects by:

Ricardo Basbaum
Jan Kaila
Irene Kopelman
Matts Leiderstam
Ronan McCrea
Sarah Pierce
Morten Torgersrud

291 church street  new york, ny 10013
t: 212.431.5270 f: 646.827.2487
info {AT} apexart.org www.apexart.org

Concerning the significance of artistic research for art education

December 12, 10am to 5pm at Cooper Union, Wollman Auditorium
The symposium involves a presentation of the Nameless Scienceresearch  
projects by the artists, followed by a discussion with critical  
referents from EARN (European Artistic Research Network) members Mick  
Wilson (Dublin GradCAM), Gertrud Sandqvist (Malmö School of Art),  
Felicitas Thun (Vienna School of Art), Tamar Zinguer (Cooper Union  
School of Architecture), and John Rajchman (Columbia  
University).  ]Also keynote statements by Sarat Maharaj (Malmö School  
of Art), Grant Kester (University of California) and George Smith  
(IDSVA, Portland).


The debate on artistic research emerging worldwide in the field of  
visual art for some five years now tends to focus on what artistic  
research could be or should be. As a consequence of that debate,  
artistic research as a yet undefined sanctuary for creative experiment  
and knowledge production is prone to the danger of being absorbed by  
an intellectually crippling academic discourse on how the specificity  
of research-based art as a novel modus operandi could be defined and  
framed. That tendency is comparable to what happened in the 1990s with  
the initially so radically formulated anti-disciplinary cultural  
studies. Such academic debate that ultimately seems to be focused  
particularly on institutional and managerial results–and is, moreover,  
connected in Europe time and again with the so-called Bologna rules,  
i.e. the introduction of a bachelor, master, and PhD structure in art  
education–provides very little insight in the specific qualities of  
the artistic research process as such. Therefore, it is more than  
urgent to approach research practices from the perspective of the  
artistic profession implying entirely different and also more  
intrinsic views.

In that context, the project Nameless Scienceaims at expanding the  
artistic research debate while showing the concrete outcome of seven  
best artistic research practices in PhD projects. These actual  
projects will demonstrate that the form of research taking place  
through the practice of visual art is, in fact, much more dynamic than  
is common with- in the traditional academic bastions still  
characterized by distinct and clear fields and disciplines. Visual art  
knows a different form of research strikingly described during one of  
the first European conferences on artistic research by Sarat Maharaj  
as “spasmic, interdisciplinary probes, haphazard cognitive  
investigations, dissipating interaction, and imaginary archiving.”1

A mode of research not focused purposefully on generating “expert  
knowledge,” but specifically on expressing experience-based knowledge.  
Such knowledge cannot be channeled through rigid academic-scientific  
guidelines of generalization, repetition and quantification, but  
requires full attention for the unique, the qualitative, the  
particular, and the local. In short, a form of nominalist production  
of knowledge unable to serve a retinal, one-dimensional worldview  
characterized by transparent singularity, but rather creating– and if  
necessary demanding–room for the undefined, the heterogeneous, the  
plural, the contingent, and the relative. Such knowledge production  
can only be the sole outcome of a researching practice characterized  
at all times by an absolute open, non-disciplinary attitude and an  
insertion of multiple models of interpretation. That mode of research  
has been strikingly described in the 1970s by the philosopher of  
science Feyerabend in a then utopian fashion as “anarchist  
methodology” and “Dadaist epistemology.”

In spite of much academic skepticism, there is indeed today a visual  
practice satisfying the essential components of widely accepted  
research. Research conducted by artists –similar to research in the  
traditional sciences such as humanities, social sciences and natural  
sciences–is as well guided by the, since time immemorial, most  
important maxim of any scientific activity: the awareness of the  
necessity of a transparent communication. The artist as researcher  
needs to explain clearly why the domain of visual art necessitates the  
research questions and, the other way around, why those questions  
should necessarily be articulated in the visual domain. In addition,  
the researcher should be able to justify both the process and the  
chosen operational methodology and trajectory. In that context, one  
characteristic turns out to be specifically remarkable.

A striking methodology in the topical practice of artistic research  
appears to be the formulation of a certain problem from a specific  
situation-based artistic process and furthermore to interconnect that  
problem in an open constellation with various knowledge systems and  
disciplines. Those artistic research projects seem to thwart the well- 
defined disciplines: They know the hermeneutic questions of the  
humanities (the alpha-sciences); they are engaged in empirically  
scientific methods (the beta-sciences); and they are aware of  
commitment (the gamma-sciences). Because of that capacity and  
willingness to continuously engage in novel, unexpected  
epistemological relations in a methodological Jan Kaila, What-Where- 
When, 1999-2008 process of interconnectivity, artistic research could  
best be described as a delta-discipline: a way of research not a  
priori determined by any established scientific paradigm or model of  
representation; an undefined discipline as “nameless science,”3  
directed towards generating novel connections, flexible constructions,  
multiplicities, and new reflexive zones.

That undefined non-paradigmatic discipline as nameless science is  
indeed the curatorial departing point in the exhibition Nameless  
Science. All seven presented artistic research projects deal with an  
artistic reinterpretation of representation(al) models, existing  
disciplines, comprehension strategies, and academic classification  
systems. Consequently, these research projects do not only produce  
fluent forms of interconnectivity and methodology accompanied by  
different forms of knowledge production, they also lead to novel  
artistic strategies and intensities of perception.

In his project Photographing the Barents Region(2008), Morten  
Torgersrud (Bergen School of Art) deconstructs a homogenizing  
geography from the paradigm of the nationstate and a territorializing  
form of atlas-thought by focusing on the complexity of a political,  
cultural, and economic interstitial domain: the Barents Region  
determined by the spheres of influence of both Norway and Russia.  
Torgersrud’s “essay installation” consists of a creative atlas mapping  
a series of significant locations not from a centric perspective or a  
coherent narrative, but from a passion for both the material history  
of the landscape and the politics of space. The installationis  
accompanied by a series of slide projections and textual reflections  
dealing with how the medium of photography contributes ideologically  
to the historical rise of the uniformizing concept of landscape.

Researchers Matts Leiderstam (Malmö School of Art) and Jan Kaila  
(Helsinki School of Art) engage in related research questions. In his  
project See and Seen(2006), Matts Leiderstam investigates the  
conventions for the ideal landscape developed as techniques of  
perception in 18th-century painting (e.g. Claude Lorrain). A research  
trajectory consisting of the investigation of historical reports and  
contexts and a production of various artistic strategies (copying,  
tourism) leads to the issue and implications of current spectatorship  
and how to address that subject in artistic work.

The project Photographicality(2008) by Jan Kaila focuses on the  
dominance of the photographic paradigm in current visual  
communication. Such photographic perception seems to manifest itself  
in an almost intermedial way as an artistic tenet and attitude. The  
use of different media aiming at creating pictures awakens  
perceptions, associations, and other meanings similar to the working  
of photographic pictures. In an installation consisting of  
photographic images mediated by video and text, Kaila explores whether  
the photographic process of communication might be related to a polar  
intertwining of a presentative, aesthetic dimension (“the here and  
now”), and the photographic, representative, and informational  
dimension (“the there and then”).

Also Ronan McCrea (University of Ulster) examines the photographic  
process of communication. In his School Play Series(2008) project, he  
creates a series of markings in a schoolyard suggesting an undefined  
game. Photographs appear to demonstrate that the game is spontaneously  
played. However, the photographs also force us to pose the ontological  
question whether playing a game –as an anthropologically ambiguous and  
in fact undefined phenomenon –could indeed be captured in a decisive  
moment. For example, a moment where the child finds out that the rules  
it developed for the game are similar to the rules of daily life; a  
life lived outside the safe environment of the school.

In Ricardo Basbaum’s (Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro)  
project NBP (New Bases for Personality), a hermeneutic link is created  
between game and artistic experience. The installation is a  
multifunctional metal structure, a set of instructions for the  
participants, video registrations of a series of games played, and a  
diagram with several layers depicting both the original project and  
the transformations submitted throughout history. That creates a  
series of rhythmic propositions, an awareness of potential forms of  
social relations, and ultimately a topology of a dynamic concept of  
identity surpassing the interpretative framework of social science.

Do natural sciences allow an artistic intervention and reverification  
of visual representation? That question is the starting point for  
Irene Kopelman’s (MaHKU, Utrecht) research project Space in-between  
Spaces(2008). Kopelman investigates how various Natural Science  
collections used to base their display system on 19th-century forms of  
categorization and logics of identity, a classifying logos excluding  
differences and singularities. In the form of a concentrated series of  
artistic interventions and deconstructions of device systems, Kopelman  
develops alternative forms of archiving and display for a number of  
Natural Science collections.

Examining the logic of display and exhibition is the subject of Sarah  
Pierce (Goldsmiths College, London) as well. Pierce’s project Test  
Pieces, Ambivalence and Authority (2006-ongoing ) focuses on the  
paradox of the curatorial characterizedby a point of order but also by  
a point of pause. In Eyes of the University, Derrida relates the  
concept of points of pause, the hesitations and decisions that mark  
one’s research. Pierce uses this insight to draw attention to the  
anticipatory status of student work and the college campus as a  
tentative, transitional site of speculation and deferral. Her  
apexartpresentation links moments of ambivalence to the authority of  
artistic research as it occurs in the academy and includes a video  
registration of the Nameless Sciencesymposium and contributions by  
students of various New York art academies.

1. Sarat Maharaj, Xeno-Epistemics, in: Annette W. Balkema and Henk  
Slager, Artistic Research, Amsterdam/New York, 2004, p. 50.
2. Paul Feyerabend, Against Method. Outline of an anarchistic theory  
of knowledge, 1975.
3. Cf. Giorgio Agamben’s Potentialities(1999). Here Aby Warburg’s  
research is sketched as “unnamed discipline”: a mode of being freed  
from a formalizing, academic disciplining. Matts Leiderstam, View  
(West Point), 2003-2006 (detail) Ricardo Basbaum, Would you like to  
participate in an artistic experience? (work in progress since 1994)  
Morten Torgersrud, details from 372 photographs from sites of  
political, economic and cultural value, 2008 (work in progress)

apexartis a 501(c)(3), not-for-profit, tax-deductible organization and  
does not engage in sales or sales related activities. apexart is a  
registered trademark. This exhibition is supported in part by Bergen  
Academy of Art; FRAME Finnish Fund for Art Exchange; Mondriaan  
Foundation, Amsterdam; the Research Institute Art and Design,  
University of Ulster, UK; Utrecht Consortium/Utrecht School of the  
Arts. The symposium is supported in part by Cooper Union, Dublin  
GradCAM, IDSVA, Malmö School of Art, Vienna School of Art.

apexart’s exhibitions and public programs are supported in part by the  
Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Edith C. Blum Foundation,  
Carnegie Corporation of New York, Mary Duke Biddle Foundation, and  
with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural  
Affairs and the New York State Council on the Arts.

ISBN-10: 1-933347-31-7
ISBN-13: 978-1-933347-31-8
Cover & back image: Ronan McCrea, School Play #10, 2008 (detail)
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