of The Hamburg School of Artistic Research in Music and Theatre

aka. ‘ArtSearch’

compiled and moderated by Dr. Samuel Penderbayne

based on input from doctoral students, lecturers and professors of the HfMT Hamburg and participants of the public ArtSearch Symposiums and Lecture Seriesas curated in addition by Prof. Georg Hajdu, Benjamin Helmer and Dr. Konstantina Orlandatou

A living document, current as to: 07.04.2020

0. Artistic research is pluralistic; our artistic research is singular.

Because artistic research is married to art practice, it is inherently pluralistic and diverse, even anarchic. Yet, as with in the arts scene, there is a need for gatekeepers at certain institutions, even if the institutional landscape as a whole is pluralistic. This is a new form of institutional academic consensus: singularity amongst plurality – as opposed to homogenous, timeless and non-wavering standards of practice that are prevalent in other established sciences.

Gatekeepers should ensure quality control and strategic vision, so that the institution in question can serve as a magnet to attract likeminded artistic researchers who would benefit from and appreciate the clarity of program that comes through definition and positioning. This manifesto serves as a filter for the specific, singular position of the current artistic research program at the HfMT Hamburg (aka Art Search) amongst the pluralistic international scene of artistic research. 

Our definition of artistic research is one where all points of this manifesto are fulfilled.

1. Artistic research is a paradigm shift.

The current research landscape is highly diverse and forms a broad spectrum of what is considered research. What’s more, over the last few centuries, one can observe that research academies, universities and institutes have progressively adopted new and epistemologically diverse forms of research into their programs. Our suggestion is that artistic research is the latest development in this process of progressive adoption, and one which so drastically challenges the notions of A) distance between subject and object and B) cognitive and logical decision-making, as opposed to intuitive decision-making, that it can be considered a ‘paradigm shift’.

As an exercise, one can imagine a spectrum of ‘research impartiality’, with intrinsically-logical decision making via mathematical models and its objective handling of mathematical facts on one end, and interactive field anthropology, such as that of Robert Redfield or Simha Arom, with its subject-object interaction and interpretative, grounded-theory based methodologies, on the other. At this point we note that there are significant studies as to how intuitive thinking – e.g. traditional practices, inherited values and prejudices etc. – plays a formative role in the development of mathematical models. In this way, mathematical experiments built on processes of logical thinking alone form a sort of ‘lighthouse’ at the extreme end of the spectrum, whereby they are not perfectly impartial but considered a sort of ‘current best’ on these terms.

It is our conjecture that artistic research is the ‘lighthouse’ on the other side of the spectrum: an extreme point of partiality in research, since it deals with an experience – the artistic experience – which focusses on the stimulation of the senses, which we understand to be the manifestation of the  ‘intuitive’ (as with the concept of a ‘sixth sense’). Furthermore, we see it even as a logical extreme point on the aforementioned spectrum, since it is the point where the creation of stimulating the senses via creating art (and thereby also stimulating the intuition) is married to cognition and cognitive process. This radical joining of intuition and cognition into one research field represents a paradigm shift in research practice.

Indeed, artistic research has an implicit mandate to be innovative in its epistemological, ontological and methodological characteristics. Were it not to define itself as singular, necessary and irreplaceable on the existing spectrum of research, it would be superfluous and have no prospect of sustainability. We have therefore placed a premium on stressing the innovative and singular aspects of artistic research. 

However, we see artistic research to enjoy a complementary and non-exclusive relationship to the established sciences. This means that we are not antagonistic to the established sciences. Our reality is quite the opposite: artistic research is complementary to them. It is certainly not an ideological threat or defier and can indeed be operated using methodologies, concepts and principles of the established sciences, even if it does not follow them comprehensively and/or exclusively. We see this as mutually beneficial, where innovations can flow freely between established and emerging forms of research. 

In an attempt to show this complementary but non-exclusive relationship to musicology, we use the term ‘research’ instead of the term ‘science’. This emphasises the nature of artistic research as something which (re-)searches, analyses and is curious inside music-making itself (including music-theatre), rather than something with seeks an objective distance in order to exclusively uncover scientific truth. In other words: although artistic research may use many scientific elements it its methodology, and scientific artefacts may be present in its research artefacts, it separates its approach as opposed to historical and systematic musicology, as seen by the award of the Dr. Sc. Mus. title rather than PhD. 

2. Artistic research must contain a research ‘in’, ‘for’ and ‘on’ art, in a positive feedback loop. 

Research ‘in’ art is the artistic knowledge contained in any given artistic artefact. Such artefacts in the musical sphere include (but are not limited to) scores, performances, curations or dramaturgical processes and improvisations. It is up to the artistic researcher to explain where the music-making occurred and which elements of it are being researched and the product of research, and where they all form a symbiotic ‘feedback loop’: a process of constructive co-evolution and cross-fertilisation. As said in the first point of the manifesto: artistic research is something which researches inside music-making itself. As such, artistic research in music must contain music-making, which we even consider the central driver of artistic research.

Research ‘for’ art is a process we liken to ‘toolmaking’, where one creates intellectual and/or material (including digital) appliances that aid in the production of innovative art. The nature of these tools is naturally dependent on the sort of art being produced and can range from the construction or alteration of physical and digital instruments to immaterial tools such as creative techniques, methods or ideas related ‘craftsmanship’, as long as the application of such ideas is  pragmatic. In its simplest form, research-for-art refers to the technical components of an artistic artefact, whatever these may be, and even if the artefact is a process (as is the case in improvisation or dramaturgy).

Research ‘on’ art is the contextualising of one’s work within a broader sociological discourse. This opens pathways to original knowledge production via ‘transfer’, a process whereby one adapts ideas from outside one’s discipline that are relevant to it, using original thoughts to fill in gaps and create hybridity, thereby creating new ideas. Inherent in performing research-on-art is analysis of the artistic artefact, be it musical analysis of a score, critical reflection on a performance or methodic analysis of a process. Whatever the artefact and process of analysis may be, the researcher should assess technical components and the broader discursive context of the artefact. What’s more, research-on-art contains a process of self-analysis, where one discovers one’s ‘hidden agendas’ and motivations for producing art. Through defining one’s interests and influences, one comes in contact with other research that can provide a mirror allowing insight into one’s artistic subconscious, which is in turn fruitful terrain for analysing one’s work and improving the accuracy, efficiency and potency of realising one’s ideas.  

These three research elements must be present and form a symbiotic relationship in artistic research. None can be lacking nor be done in isolation from the other: they should indeed form a positive feedback loop. Such a loop can serve as a form of intra-project validation, where ‘in’, ‘for’ and ‘on’ validate each other, and where standards for all are equally high. This occurs when the ‘for’ and ‘on’ elements give a window into the music-making, where the potential of the new technical elements (‘for’) is displayed in the new work and the keys to accessing discourses and aesthetic knowledge of the work are laid out in the discursive text (‘on’). The work (‘in’) is thereby not so much proven to be ‘scientifically true’, but rather, via artistic research, a deeper assessment of the music-making is made available (see point 5). It is therefore essential that next to the work of music-making, a critically-reflective discursive text be submitted, one which contains exposition of research ‘for’ and ‘on’ art.

3. Peer-validation in artistic research comes in its resonance with others.

When all artefacts (‘in’, ‘on’, ‘for’) of artistic research are adopted on a high-level in their respective scenes, peer-validation of the research has also occurred on a high level. Examples of this include: the music becoming reproduced via re-performance, invitation for further presentation, re-presentation and/or critical acclaim; the technical elements in their usage by other high-level artists to create high-level music; and the discourse around the research in its citation by others in high-level scenarios. We call this sort of adoption ‘resonance’. 

There are qualitative and quantitate ways of assessing such resonance: the more an artefact is adopted, the broader its resonance, and the larger the impact of the adoption, the deeper the resonance is. In validating artistic research, one creates arguments for the breadth and depth of resonance of artistic research in their respective contexts. As such, accessibility, distribution and promotion of artistic research artefacts within specialist circles becomes essential.

4. Artistic research must be kept in enduring media (i.e. ontology).

Artistic researchers have a moral obligation to disseminate their knowledge to present and future colleagues as unbound by geography, time or limited edition. We believe that the artistic research community should be free, open and democratic. This can only occur where information is infinitely accessible and therefore kept in enduring media. It is also the mandate of the artistic researcher to provide the keys with which others can decode their work and knowledge in cases where the language (or ‘code’) in which the artistic knowledge is kept, is not of a standard form (for example, a standard ‘code’ may be musical notation, a non-standard ‘code’ may include a highly associative mixed-media work or tacitly-developed, non-documented improvisation). 

This may be more obvious to some forms of music-making over others: the process of composition, for example, produces notations such as scores and algorithmic processes, which are inherently enduring and ‘decodable’. For more moment- or process-based music-making such as performance, improvisation and dramaturgy, the question of enduring media may be more difficult and require an innovative ontological approach. We venture to claim that even the most moment-based forms of music-making can be documented (for example via mixed-media and forms of testimony, as well as explanation(s) of the design of the moment) and are underpinned by non-momentary elements such as technical knowledge and/or skill and/or contextual discourses. An approach addressing both the innovative documentation of a moment as well as elements surrounding its production will not only capture the knowledge of an artistic research project but make it accessible in a fair, democratic and open manner.

5. The epistemology of artistic research is found in the synchronicity of experiencing the ‘in’, ‘for’ and ‘on’ of an artwork or set of artworks, in order to create further art. 

Epistemology in this context refers to the unique and irreplaceable nature of the experience of research in artistic research.

When an observer – be it audience member, analyst or otherwise – knows how the technical aspects of a particular music-making work, and is aware of its broader context, they experience the work on another level than if they didn’t. Being informed in a coherent way about the ‘for’ and ‘on’ elements of an art-piece before experiencing it sets the stage for the unique experience of artistic research.

To break this down, again from the point of the observer: experiencing art as a ‘tabula rasa’ is a purely artistic experience, analysing only technical or contextual components of music is a purely academic experience, and experiencing art with the knowledge of its ‘for’ and ‘on’ components is the experience we desire via artistic research.

We are talking here about outside observers of music-making (i.e. audience, analyst or critical commentator), yet we have defined artistic research as containing music-making as its central driver. As such, the complete artistic experience is to experience the work of others, including knowledge of their ‘for’ and ‘on’ elements, in order to create new art with the benefit of this perspective. This forms a sort of ‘literature review’, where one informs one’s research on that which has been done by others, in order to solidify and clarify the innovativeness of one’s own perspective. 

We can thereby draw an epistemological definition of artistic research as one of being experienced in how technical and contextual elements have shaped a work or set of works, in order to then create new art and artistic research flowing on from this body of knowledge. Although this lies in the nature of artistic production anyway, the philosophy and codification of artistic research allows for a formal, yet open and accessible interconnectivity that exceeds the chance- and moment-based nature of artistic scenes.

This can be understood through the concept of ‘code’ to describe how artistic research is encapsulated and accessed. Code, here can include artistic, scientific, technical and discursive-textual languages of all sorts. In bringing one’s knowledge into enduring media, one ‘encodes’. In researching and understanding the artistic research of others, be it textual, via the artistic experience or otherwise, one ‘decodes’, and when citing, paraphrasing, building upon and/or taking reference to previous work for the benefit of one’s own work, one ‘recodes’. 

As such, submitting artistic research must include a set of codes to express the artistic, technical and discourse-based elements of a given project in a way that can be decoded and recoded by others in their artistic research experiences. One example is the submission of a new artistic work and its enduring documentation alongside a written exposition of its key technical component(s) and broader contextualisation.

6. Knowledge production in (i.e. the methodology of) artistic research occurs through making the intuitive more cognitive. 

Every musician wishes to improve their music-making, or at least to change and develop it in new and exciting ways. This process can include learning or developing skills, turning one’s self into the Zeitgeist of a time and becoming inspired by new developments in artistic and wider societies, for example. It is, however, a fact that the vast majority of artists undergo this process in a largely or almost entirely intuitive, non-articulated manner. Perhaps they share a few momentary observations with a privileged few in their nearby circles, but the developments largely stay within and are at most only accessible by third parties through analysis of the art post-factum, aided by additional documents such as letters or interviews, as available: a process championed by musicology, and one which usually happens after quite some time. Even then, intuitive drivers of their artistic work, such as hidden agendas, sociological influences and even technical skills, must be guessed from considerable distance.

Our belief is that sophisticated and well-practiced artistic research can make this process of improvement significantly more open and accessible to others. On one hand, more first-source material will be created by the artist as a precursor for third-party musicologists to assess from an intellectual distance. This is, however, a minor point in comparison to the major goal of artistic research: to create artists with fundamentally higher capacities for cognition, self-reflection and ability to document their work in an accessible, open and enduring manner. Artists who are explicitly aware of the limits of cognition in their own work and have tested such limits in an intensive academic program such as a Dr. Sc. Mus. can create enduring knowledge artefacts with fundamentally-higher effectivity than those who have only informal and random training, as is the case in pre-academised artistic research. 

We do not claim that the statements from artists as to their own work will be inherently true – they will need to be validated through their resonance in others and symbiotic nature. We do claim, however, that statements from artists who have intensively trained their skills and awareness to make such statements will very likely be capable of more and deeper resonance than those that have only informally and randomly reflected upon how and why to do so. 

Such codifying and sharing of knowledge of how to improve and/or develop one’s art and/or artistic self is the process of creating knowledge (i.e. the methodology) that we seek in artistic research. Knowledge is therefore produced when the intuitive is made more cognitive.

7. Artistic research is not substitute cultural, technical or musicological activity

Artistic research projects should produce artistic works, technical development and discourse at the highest standards, not seeking to sacrifice the quality of any given element. For this reason, artistic researchers should require the lively and prominent support of independent artistic players, theoretical academics and even relevant industrial technical bodies. There should be no reduction in quality of art, toolmaking or discourse, at most only a reduction in quantity.

If and when artistic research receives prominent academic and financial support on a comparable level to other established disciplines, its survival would be dependent on these resources and trust being put to use on true artistic research projects (the definition of which we attempt in this document). Were funding for artistic research to be misused due to the fact that the recipient has goals better suited to the arts scene, established research circles or technical industry, it could lead to fatal generalisations about the validity of artistic research as a field.