Carole Gray (UK), Heather Delday (UK)
Carole Gray and Heather Delday are independent artists, researchers and higher education consultants, Scotland, UK

Possible futures for ‘artistic’ practice-led doctoral research

We offer critical perspectives on the rapid development of practice-led doctoral research in the art and design higher education sector, with the intention of helping to inform the pedagogic decisions in initiating and implementing new doctoral programmes.

We begin by raising some cautions and irritations on terminology. ‘Art as research’ can be seen as a contentious, confusing term, generating more heat than light; ‘PhD in studio art’ is misleading, suggesting research might be a closed off, disconnected activity; the term ‘artistic inquiry’, on the other hand, is a helpful clarification of an approach to research (as in ‘scientific research’). The paper then welcomes a certain clarity on definitions of practice-led research that emerged from UK research funding and quality assurance bodies, helping frame artistic inquiry within the academy, at higher degree and post-doctoral levels.

We then identify invaluable, recent thinking on ‘artistic research’ from international perspectives; for example Carter’s compelling concept of ‘material thinking’, and Barrett’s crucial epistemological question asking - what might be known through creative practice that could not be known by any other means? To illustrate the exciting new opportunities and value of creative practice-led research, we outline some examples of doctoral projects, giving emphasis to the methodologies and methods.

Finally, drawing on this thinking and practice, some considerations are offered to help inform principles of new practice-led doctoral programmes, such as that of the New Media Art initiative at Liepaja University, Latvia – Such principles may shape a pioneering approach to pedagogy - that of poiesis.

“ ... creative knowledge cannot be abstracted from the loom that produced it. Inseparable from its process, it resembles the art of sending the woof-thread through the warp. A pattern made of holes, its clarity is like air through a basket. Opportunistic, it opens roads.”

Paul Carter, Material Thinking. The Theory and Practice of Creative Research, 2005