NiTRO Creative Matters

Perspectives on creative arts in higher education

Editorial | Creative Arts Research: “Are we there yet?”

By Jenny Wilson — This edition of NiTRO was prompted by responses to a survey conducted last year, which asked readers what they would like to see more about in NiTRO. It is also timely, given the recent announcement of results of the ERA exercise and research engagement and impact assessments. We have devoted two editions to an exploration of the state of play for creative arts research.

While our June edition will concentrate particularly upon evaluation systems for academic research, this edition sets the scene by asking the broader question “Are we there yet?” posed by Jen Webb in NiTRO way back in July last year. As one of our contributors in this edition points out, the answer to this question depends upon the context in which it is asked. In this edition of NiTRO a wide range of contexts are presented:

Ross Woodrow (Griffith) in a detailed analysis of creative arts research in ERA and provides an update on a new report by the Deans of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (DASSH) into the assessment of non traditional research outputs;

Craig Batty (UTS) points out some of the injustices that flow from the application of ‘underdeveloped’ research management practices;

Jeri Kroll (Flinders and CQU) turns to the question of postgraduate supervision and suggests that team supervision may be a way to address current challenges;

James Oliver (Monash) approaches the question “Are we there yet?” from the perspective of relationality and the changes brought about in academia by what has been referred to as the neoliberal agenda, while UK artist and academic Carole Gray considers the question through the use of artefacts in doctoral research;

Dennis Del Favero (UNSW) presents the changes that can push creative arts towards a genuinely equal interdisciplinary future; and Linda Candy (Co-Director, Artworks R Active) discusses the lessons for artists and universities that can be learned from collaboration between creative arts and other disciplines;

Vanessa Tomlinson and Charulatha Mani (Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith) share student and supervisor perspectives in their discussion of the research experience in music;

Susan Kerrigan (Newcastle) explains the challenges of ‘author’ visiblity in filmmaking research; and Bernadette Cochrane (UQ) brings to life the practicalities of practice and research as she describes the recent creative fellowship by international dramaturg, researcher and theatre maker, Katalin Trencsényi.

More from this issue

More from this issue

By Professor Ross Woodrow — More than ten years of ERA (Excellence of Research in Australia) data gives a clear picture of the trajectory of creative arts research in academe.
By Professor Jeri Kroll — There is no denying that creative arts in the university have been successful over recent decades. Yet Jen Webb still asks, in a July 2018 NiTRO piece, “Are we there yet?” - the ‘we’ being the collective staff and students of the creative and performing arts disciplines.
By Professor Craig Batty — It was heartening to read QUT Vice-Chancellor, Margaret Sheil, write in support of the arts and humanities in the last edition of NiTRO.
By Professor Vanessa Tomlinson and Charulatha Mani — Drawing on Draper and Harrison’s earlier reflections in NiTRO on doctoral projects at Queensland Conservatorium (QCGU), I met with Charulatha Mani, an artist-researcher who has recently submitted her PhD on intersections between early opera and Karnatik music.
By Professor Carole Gray — In relation to the progress of creative arts research within higher education institutions, Jen Webb asks the important question “Are we there yet?” In this article I would like to partially address this question by focusing on a key component of a practice-led submission for PhD - namely the inclusion and presentation of artefacts as part of the overall argument, about which there has been a long debate. Their status can be ambiguous and the concept of ‘exhibition’ is - I would argue - problematic in this context.

Successful filmmaking requires the filmmakers to be invisible. Any trace of the maker in the film is usually scorned at, particularly in commercial films, that is unless the film requires the filmmaker to be in the film.

“Are we there yet?” is a searching but also ambiguous question posed about creative practice research and the academy. In fact, yes, we are now deeply ensconced in the academic sector and its intersections with ways of governing knowledge and research. Of course, systems need to be developed and conformed to if we are to be able to ‘play the game’ … but ultimately this is also a highly differentiated and differentiating sector … segmented and divided by New Public Management discourse and practices.

I have been deeply involved in creative art and design research since the mid 1990s but have never worked in an art and design faculty. Instead, I found a home in IT and computer science where from the outset, there was a remarkable openness to having artists amongst the mix of people from different disciplines. My very first research grant for studying collaboration between artists and technologists … funded a series of artist residencies over four years.

In step with profound changes in the form and function of universities, creative arts research has been undergoing a process of transformation. While the past decade has been spent consolidating the creative arts into the evolving academy … the landscape we now face promises ongoing dramatic changes.

The UQ Drama Creative Fellowship, piloted in 2014, brings a playwright of national standing to UQ’s School of Communication and Arts each year to provide workshops, masterclasses and lectures. These activities have focussed both on the craft of playwriting and on the dramaturgy, or attributes, of the playtext. In 2019, UQ Drama took a different approach to the Fellowship.