Theme “Affecting material and technique” – Trond Lossius, Editor of VIS Issue 4

Henk Borgdorff, referencing Christopher Frayling’s influential paper of 1993, distinguishes between research on, for and in the arts[1]. This trichotomy has proved useful in establishing artistic research as taking place through and within artistic practice. The distinction has also served to delineate what does not constitute artistic research. For example, even though research for the arts facilitates artistic practice, it is often considered secondary or external to artistic research itself.

However, the development of instruments and tools is an implicit part of the research within many other disciplines. Thomas Kuhn observes that, within a new paradigm, “scientists adopt new instruments and look in new places. Even more important, during revolutions scientists see new and different things when looking with familiar instruments in places they have looked before”[2].

In a not yet published paper, the composer and philosopher Rebecka Ahvenniemi quotes Theodor Adorno’s postulate that “each and every important work of art leaves traces behind in its material and technique”[3]. She regards art as a source for change and suggests that “the work may come to affect its own tools and materials, and the social space around it.”[4] Historically, there are many examples of how research in and research for the arts have overlapped. For example, the post-WWII history of electronic music mostly took place at experimental research centres, where artistic and technical experimentation and development happened in tandem, with a high degree of interaction and correspondence between the two.

VIS Issue 4 wants to re-examine the relationship between research in and research for the arts. We invite artistic research that enters into critical and transformative dialogue with its own tools, techniques and materials. This might be projects that involve the invention, construction, development, modification, improvement, hacking, exploitation or abuse of tools, techniques and materials. Contributors are invited to present the artistic research questions, context and outcomes in which such approaches emerge and to reflect upon how work on tools and materials relates to the artistic practice and research itself.

[1] Borgdorff, H. (2012). The conflict of the faculties: Perspectives on artistic research and academia. Amsterdam: Leiden University Press, pp. 37-39.

[1] Thomas S. Kuhn. (1996). The structure of scientific revolutions (3rd edition). Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, p. 111.

[1] Adorno, T. W. (1997). Aesthetic Theory. Minnesota: Regents of University of Minnesota, p. 44.

[1] Ahvenniemi, R. S. (2019). Musical Compositions and Fractures. Leaving Traces in Material, Technique, and Thought. Presented at the 2019 Biennial Conference of the RMA Music & Philosophy, King’s College. Paper yet unpublished. Quote confirmed by the author.