Artistic Research & a.pass : a critical practice
by Elke Van Campenhout (2015)
a.pass is an artistic and educational research environment that welcomes research practitioners in an international collaborative and trans-disciplinary program. a.pass includes two complementary structures that operate in parallel and in dialogue: the Postgraduate Program and the Research Center.
Artistic Research platform
a.pass is a platform for professionals in the fields of art and theory who wish to engage in a self assigned research trajectory. It provides a place and infrastructure to meet other researchers, to collaborate, to get feedback, to develop one’s methodology and to widen one’s theoretical and practical scope through input, critique, mentoring and feedback.
a.pass activates the practice of artistic research by accumulating its processes and critique. Embracing the fact that artistic research is becoming a category of production in the cultural field, a.pass does not claim to delineate its borders but affirms this apparent lack of definition as a opportunity for its development. Operating without a predefined notion of what „artistic research“ is, a.pass brings together a pluralistic encounter of the existing notions of this practice.
An affirmative inquiry of „what is artistic research?“ has therefore become one of a.pass’ defining methodologies: a.pass strives to host a multitude of practices in the arts which self-define themselves as research. Their definitions (or refusals thereof) of what a research praxis in the arts context could be are at times complementing and at times contradicting each other. This dis/agreement creates a poli-vocal platform of definitions and is a statement towards a different conception of institutions: away from essentialist claims and towards a more politicised platform of engagement with a certain discipline.
The Postgraduate Program
The a.pass Postgraduate Program offers a one-year artistic research program for artists / researchers from all professional backgrounds based on the principles of self-organization, collaboration and transdisciplinarity.
As an educational environment, a.pass opens a space for speculative and experimental modes of practice and critical thinking. The content and the practical apparatus of the program are shaped by the proposals of the a.pass curators, the artistic coordinator and the a.pass researchers.
a.pass researchers develop an independent artistic research trajectory in a shared and collectively created research environment. They engage in presentations and feedback, collective workshops, individual and group mentoring and modular interactions with the curators and other researchers.
The Research Center
The a.pass Research Center is a platform for advanced research practices in the arts. It invites five to six Associate Researchers for a one-year cycle. They follow a part of their research trajectory in an environment of mutual criticality and institutional support. The Research Center welcomes radical and inventive research methodologies in order to contribute them to the larger a.pass environment. The Research Center interacts with the a.pass Post-Graduate Program and functions as a resource for methodologies of collaborative research. The Research Center supports and facilitates forms of performative publishing (publications, presentations, exhibitions, etc), experimental research set ups, workshops and collaborations.
The Research Center welcomes researchers with non-academic and academic research affiliations and support structures. Associate Researchers with an existing academic research trajectory (for example PhD in the Arts) have the opportunity to develop the practice-based part of their research within the educational environment of a.pass.
Artistic Research at a.pass
a.pass has been conceived as a meta-research on community, self-education and institutional permeability. An important part of this conceptual framework is a commitment to an open definition of artistic research and to exploring the paradoxical task of shaping an open space. a.pass sees itself as a accumulative platform where different and sometimes conflicting self-conceptions of artistic research can meet and engage in a productive exchange with each other. By embracing these negotiations as its core practice, a.pass welcomes diverse trajectories of research. The accumulating positions of artistic research unfold a complex and changing discourse on the practices of knowledge production within the arts.
An open view on Artistic Research urges a.pass to continue a rigorous questioning of what makes Artistic Research distinct from other practices and disciplines. The discursive attempt to establish a fragile understanding of Artistic Research is the shared methodology of the institution. Although the ultimate definition cannot and should not be found(ed), the critical process of negotiating this question is ingrained within a.pass’ politics and drives the discourse within the institution. For a.pass “open” means “open-ended”.
Artistic research is not oriented towards the production of single solution or an artwork, but towards generating a setting for engagement with a particular topic or challenge. The artistic research process aims at adding complexity to instead of simplifying a question, and brings conflicting viewpoints, theories and ontologies in proximity to one another. Expanding the project nature of artistic work towards a production of generative sets incorporates process and knowledge across multiple disciplines. Artistic research is nourished by speculation and suspension of disbelief and its results are often transitory rather than conclusive.
For a.pass the temporality and aims of an artistic research trajectory differs from the temporality of an art project. The development of a sustainable research trajectory is the primary focus of work. Artistic projects and other modes of experimental practice are seen as performative publishing of transitory results. Their validity is not determined by the question if they are in themselves “successful” art works, but primarily by asking what they contribute to the expanding research process.
Collaborative research at a.pass is centered around a variety of practices of methodology transfer. A practice enters a multitude of critical relationships with other practices, transforming them, and being transformed through this exposure. The aim is not necessarily collaborative co-authorship, but development of artistic and research practices through proximity and exposure to different methodologies and contexts.
a.pass is building its curriculum by bringing together practitioners in the arts within a curated framework of workshops, ateliers, collective practices and scores. This collective exploration is the space where experimental research formats are proposed and developed. The process of learning, development and critique engages all parts of the institute.
a.pass sees itself as an ongoing research into the formation and politics of educational institutions. By collecting innovative methodologies of research, facilitating educational experimentation and by maintaining an institutional openness, a.pass affirms and continues to be an experimental institution, a place of engaged research of what education in the arts can be today.
a.pass continuously develops and supports different and specific modes of presentation which are emerging from the research practiced at the institution. A large part of the program is based on modes of making-public of research within the program and towards the larger public. These moments are organized systematically within the program and reach a larger audience with the End-Presentations, Research Center publications, seminars, website publications and the archive. The aim of this work is to allow for performative publishing to present research as a work in the making and to develop modes of presentation that shift from the product paradigm towards a modality of witnessing a process in its unfinished and searching vulnerability.
a.pass develops publications which don’t treat knowledge, art making, aesthetics, context and politics as separate channels of communication. a.pass works on research publications under the hybrid term of „performative publishing“: a concept coined to contain the multiplicity of transdisciplinary publishing practices. It sharpens the question of the publications’ purpose: what does the publication do? What are its aims within a specific context? Performative publishing is a witnessed process of simultaneous artistic creation, contextualization and doubt. It is a turn away from book- and article based formats of publishing artistic research towards cross-disciplinary formats. “Performative” shifts the attention to the necessity of a certain publicness of process in a collaborative environment: a contribution to a collective discourse. It also frames publishing as part of a research methodology: what experimental presentation does for the research trajectory, how can the moment of publishing perform a change on the research itself?