NiTRO + Creative Matters

Perspectives on creative arts in higher education

“Poetry of the Real: Conversations on Arts Research” Symposium Summary

By Dr Linda Ludwig — The Symposium at the FHNW Academy of Art and Design in Basel – introduced by Carla Delfos from the European League of the Institutes of the Arts – brought together methodological reflections on research in the arts with recent activities from researchers in the field. It was goal of the Symposium to discuss how art and design generates knowledge that is of relevance to society.


As a protagonist from the theoretical debate on art research, Corina Caduff (Zurich University of the Arts) discussed the development of art research in Europe and its characteristics. According to Caduff, the most important methodological aspect of artistic research is plurality. Often the collaborations chosen promote methods in a project, which can produce a major influence on all the participating parties. Corina Caduff cited examples of artistic research projects such as “Times of waste” (Flavia Caviezel, FHNW Academy of Art and Design: 2014-ongoing), where ethnographic methods are added to the artistic approach.

Caduff sees as one problem in the discourse in artistic research that such researchers barely quote each other’s projects. Also theorists make often no or little reference to examples of actual on-going projects in artistic research. Additionally, theoretical contributions are mostly given by theorists and not artistic researchers themselves. For Caduff, this is a challenge, as the theoretical debate should integrate those standpoints which have artistic work as their basis in order to discuss artistic research and its particularities adequately. In this context, the general possibility of a PhD in art and design would strengthen the capacities of researchers to fulfil their role in the discourse.

The artistic researcher Mikhail Karikis (Royal College of Art London/University of Brighton) presented his work in the field of non-verbal sounds – performing as an introduction the kinds of sounds this can include. From his point of view, those sounds are rebels against syntax: they represent anarchism. Karikis’ recent works all deal with those kinds of sounds, especially with their connection to specific communities. The topic of social changes – such as the disappearance of certain industries and their professions – plays an important role in his work. In Sounds from Beneath (2012), he brings together a choir of former coal miners who vocalise the sounds of the work in the mine. SeaWomen (2013) focuses on the sounds of elderly female sea workers on an island belonging to South Korea, a community which is about to vanish as well. Both works show that those non-verbal sounds are important elements of such communities and furthermore are arranged specifically in each community. In Sounds from Beneath, it is the memory of the sounds which are represented and find an artistic realisation in the film, while in SeaWomen, an aural subculture becomes particularly recognizable. In Children of Unquiet (2014), it is children who create the sounds of an area in Italy where a geothermal power plant is located. In the automatization of the power plant, the parents of those children left their village and the children’s aural portrait of the area brings together the past and the conditions it created from which the future arises.

Further contributions included Snezana Golubobic (Performance Artist Frankfurt), Bernd Scherer (Director Haus der Kulturen der Welt Berlin), Francesco Esparmer (Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures, Harvard University), Maxa Zoller (Film Curator Art Basel and Lecturer American University) and Susanna Hertrich (Media-based Researcher FHNW Academy of Art and Design).

In the final discussion of the Symposium, Kirsten Langkilde, director of the FHNW Academy of Art and Design, pointed out that in the beginning it was the demand for artistic contributions, which initiated artistic research. At this juncture, artistic research in Europe has completed its initial, identity finding phase. It is no longer necessary to justify art and design research as a distinct species of research, and the conditions are much more friendly now than they were in the beginning. Consequently, the debate can be more focused in depth and the developments in the field, with its projects, can continue.

The topics of “Poetry of the Real” will be explored further in the FHNW Academy of Art Design new research centre ECAM (European Centre of Art, Design and Media Based Research). It is the aim of the centre to enhance the significance of new art, design and media practices and the research in them, to bring them to the fore in the context of global knowledge society and to position them as relevant indicators of social change and development.

Dr Linda Ludwig finished her Ph.D. in 2012 at the Department of Philosophy at the LMU Munich, Germany. She continued with her work in Political Philosophy in Basel, Switzerland. Since 2016 she has been responsible for the Research Division of the FHNW Academy of Art and Design, where she coordinates and supports the research projects.

More from this issue

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