9. mai 2022

Bilde av: Camille Norment

Av Camille Norment

Prorektor for forskning


Excerpts from Welcome speech, Artistic Research Week 2022

25 January 2022

As a practitioner myself, when I was in an early stage of exploring the relationship between theory and practice in my own work in the 1990s, I was very concerned with how to work through my interest in critical contexts without producing work that was merely an illustration of a concept.  The notion of embodiment in this context, became about work that had somehow absorbed these contexts and interest areas into its form and being, rather than simply pointing to them.

During this period, as with many artists at the time and even more today, I was drawn to the perceptions of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari.  In this welcome, I draw upon the text, “Thought beyond Research, A Deleuzian Critique of Artistic Research” by Kamini Vellodi from the publication Aberrant Nuptials, Deleuze and Artistic Research 2, 2019 (Leuven University Press). Many of you may be familiar with it, but I return to it here in support of art as embodied knowledge, as knowledge itself. It isalso as an example in which theory literally seeks a return to the artwork itself, so I would like to step through this discussion here.

Vellodi’s text affirms a discourse that eloquently supports our position at KHiO on the artistic core in research, and also identifies several ways in which artistic research can – and often has – strayed from the locus of artistic practice.

Embodiment is a notion that implies the taking of something into a body to the point of becoming that other.  In my own practice a connection is formed to my attraction to the sonic – not just sound heard through the ears but sound experienced by the entire body; creating works that facilitate the embodiment of sound and concept by one who experiences it, fostering, becoming one with the sound and its contextual and imaginary possibilities.

Artistic research holds artistic practice itself, at its core.  Implied within, is the notion of thought – thinking through artistic practice itselfArt is the embodiment of thought, art is thought itself.

Materially probing the imaginary is a type of investigation, which is a type of research. Research, in its various forms, has always accompanied art practice as one of many elements that contribute to the development of an artwork, but we know that art practice has not always been “artistic research”.  In her text, Vellodi reminds us that the emergence of artistic research was influenced by “the modernist and avant-garde agendas of self-critique, self-reflection, and self-theorisation»; as well as “the assimilation of theory into the art world” that began to take hold from the 1960s. (Vellodi p217)

One might argue that artistic research has become a discipline of its own with an ever growing and out-reaching structure, with many benefits, as well as short-comings.

According to Vellodi, “Artistic research risks upholding what Deleuze calls a dogmatic image of thought, an image of thought that is grounded in presumptions about what it is, should, or could be.” (Vellodi p228) meaning that rather than being led by the essential nature of art to forge the unknown, artistic research can be easily predetermined by assumptions and presumptions, goal-oriented directives, economics, policy, and conceptual projections.   

She continues to say that it is “the role of art in, for, and as thought itself that liberates artistic research from [this] potential dogma” (Vellodi p.228).  This, we cannot lose hold of.

The principal locus of thought should exist within the artwork itself and not outside of it. These secondary outcomes such as theorizing texts, socio-cultural initiatives, scientific inventions etc. cannot come to instrumentalize the work as goal-oriented to these means. Here is the question of knowledge as residing in the artwork itself or as an effect of the practice (Vellodi p.219). These are not mutually exclusive, but the distinction is important.

Artistic research must maintain artistic practice’s ability and necessity to challenge and transgress boundaries, rather than adopt methods of conformity. This is one of the most important developmental impetuses of art. This also constitutes the important challenge of artistic research, to avoid the perpetuation of practices, methods, and outcomes that are reproductive, rather than being productive.

In order for art to continue to test and challenge assumed realities (including that of artistic research itself), it must rely upon what makes it unique for, and as thought – “it’s affirmation of the sensible,” – this refers of course, to sensory experience (Vellodi p.224-5).  The sensible is the actual occasion for thought rather than functioning as a surrogate for it – it is the seeing, the hearing, the feeling, etc.  Hence the artistic result itself constitutes the space of knowledge.  In the words of Deleuze, art is “the very being of the sensible,” (Veolldi p225) bearing the potential for thought freed from presuppositions.  So as practitioners, we make some thing or some action, render it available to be experienced, and encounter the sensory experience as knowledge itself rather than thinking thought directly into being.

To clarify, and quell any romanticization of art that may arise I again quote Vellodi:

«The question is not to return to an idea of art as sensory and nonrepresentational, made in the name of values such as the ‘the aesthetic” or the “new”: a return that would contain aspects of regression in an age when the reality of art … has irrevocably changed.  The concept…is not an invitation to determine that content is something specific and nameable as “anti-institutional” or “critical” or “sensory.” Rather, it is to maintain an element of the outside in and for thinking – the nameless, imperceptible, unrecognisable element that through its imposition makes thought productive, and which retains the freedom of thought as infinite movement.” (Vellodi p228)

Vellodi continues to say, “Art thinks in sensations and…when we encounter art as a being of sensation, we are forced to think.” (Vellodi p.226)

Method can be an organic process developing alongside, and as necessitating, the work; developing through cycles of doing, then reflecting.

Each time the artistic researcher returns to the sensible, the core of the art practice itself, a new opportunity for thinking free from limiting presumptions arises.  The sensible arises as an embodiment of thought itself.

The notion of method in artistic research must take care not to produce predetermining and binding frameworks that hinder potential offspring, but rather attempt to respond to the acts of doing as a cyclical process that lead the way.  Achieving art’s space of the unknown – or the “unrecognized and unrecognizable terra incognita” is an experience that is determined by the processes of art themselves. (Vellodi p.226) Vellodi takes this notion even further to suggest that “such an experience cannot be decided in advance, and its advent cannot be planned. 

Does this suggest the eradication of the notion of artistic methodology?  Of course not.  It is a call for method and doing to have a tighter developmental relationship in which each is constantly informing the other in tight experiential and reflective loops.

Similarly, the practice of Reflection itself need not rely upon language but can also attempt to work through similar means as the artistic outcome itself. 

“’…thought does not necessarily mean cognitive or conceptual thought, and the notion of thinking art does not require a cognitive element or thinking through concepts. Thought involves sensibility, intuition, imagination, understanding, and can even involve paradox and stupidity” (Vellodi p.226)

Vellodi criticises artistic research for its ambiguity in the face of reflection as differentiated from analysis.  This is a specific point of focus for the notion of reflection at KHiO where reflection need not be considered a separate process and means of articulation, but may itself be as equal an experience of sensibility as the artistic outcome itself.

Psychological and socio-cultural embodiment is also aligned with ethical questioning. An example might be trying to think through imagining how a whale hears through the world, of course in acknowledgement of the impossibility of this as actual perceptual knowledge. The attempt can nonetheless inspire artwork which in turn, provokes thought, opens new perspectives, and critical knowledge through engagement with the other.

All of these words might rather be encapsulated in a single word – embodiment.

Now I turn from these words to some of the artworks themselves:


Vellodi, Kamini. “Thought Beyond Artistic Research,” In Aberrant Nuptials: Deleuze and Artistic Research, edited by Paulo de Assis and Paolo Giudici, 215 – 231. Leuven University Press, 2019.