Approaching the material-discursive vortex

From the Proceedings of the 9th SAR – International Conference on Artistic Research
April 2018, University of Plymouth, UK



Against the backdrop of discussions around New Materialisms, art-based research can provide a rich expertise in linking the material and the discursive realm through a combined conceptual and practical approach. Its inventiveness in the field of methods suggests that it can be a good source for finding productive ways of confronting the „material-discursive vortex“ and immersing oneself in it. This paper presents specific methods, their open-ended development and their application from within the plastic arts. These methods were used to collectively explore and evolve multiple interwoven layers of understanding and working with „stuff“, especially focussing on material performances and activities. The mentionned layers span from intimate studio work to shared bodily experiences, collective contextualizations in contemporary discourses and further to the wider networks of materiality. The presented insights and examples are drawn from recent art-based research projects and theoretical-practical seminars.



About the conference topic

If artistic research eats itself, digests itself and then releases its own waste, does it stink and linger, fertilise new growth or invade new destinations on the bottom of someone’s shoe? If we are to constantly defend and define, are we in danger of having no art left, only the claims for its ability to embody knowledge? When we bite off our own heads do we grow new tails?
Critical perspectives on the discourse surrounding artistic research might be argued to already be too formulaic or self-defeating. Making a case for its own institutional legitimacy could unwittingly reinforce some of the very things artistic research aims to critique. Yet such onto-epistemological paradoxes can offer a rich territory for exploration along with generative practices that involve reflexivity, automorphogenesis, and recursive feedback loops. In recognising auto-cannibalism as an analogy for broader socio-political and environmental concerns, one of the challenges for artistic research is to respond imaginatively to the dynamic tensions between self-destruction and regeneration.