Blog for the JISC-funded Kultivate project

What is Art and Design Research?

On Wednesday 26th January, thanks to John Murtagh, UAL Research Online Repository Manager, who posted information about this event to the list, a few members of the Kultur II Group were able to attend the ‘What is Art and Design Research?’ seminar at Chelsea College of Art. Students of the MRes Arts Practice degree were disseminating their findings, and there was a keynote speech by Professor Michael Biggs (

Some of the key points made by the students:

  • Most of the artists interviewed did not recognise that their work was research.
  • There was discussion about whether ‘arts research’ had become, or was becoming, a new field of arts production e.g. the act of writing with the same intention as the act of painting.
  • The relationship between funding and research i.e. tailoring an application for a research grant in order to receive funding, but not necessarily viewing this as the same as art, the idea of ‘research’ as being separate.
  • The research process traditionally involves making outputs publically available, but this may not be the point or aim of the artist. Art doesn’t have to be well-received to be valid.

Professor Biggs keynote raised the following points:

  • The question ‘What is Art and Design Research?’ was agreed to be an improvement on the old condescending approach ‘Can Artists Do Research?’.
  • Professor Biggs approached this question from three different points of view: ontologically, epistemologically, and sociologically. He presented a diagram explaining the relationships between research, artists, and the community. Essentially he argued that it is the responsibility of the Universities to define ‘an art and design researcher’ and that after 20 years (1992-2012) there should be definitions available.
  • Some of the discussion afterwards included views about whether arts research can offer something to other disciplines, or whether it even needs to contribute to other fields. Finding connections may let you take steps, but labels often get in the way; there are benefits and hazards in a word-free environment.
  • Victoria Walsh mentioned the Tate’s Creative Scholar conferences and added that ‘sometimes the connections are obvious, it is the dis-connections that are important’, i.e. identifying where the conflicts are.
  • This is a book on my wishlist now:

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