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Art and Academia: do they go together?

The PhD students at the Academy for Creative and Performing Arts of Leiden University include a composer, an artist and a baroque flautist. Henk Borgdorff, who studied the phenomenon of PhDs in the Arts, says, ‘Artistic research in all disciplines of the Arts is a booming business worldwide.’

New field of research

Borgdorff’s dissertation maps out a new field of research that combines different forms of knowledge: knowledge that is acquired and explored through regular study and knowledge that is acquired and explored through art. For the second form of knowledge few standards have yet been developed to allow assessment of it. Borgdorff has published articles throughout Europe. He wants to come to grips with artistic research and its relationship with research in, for example, the Humanities, Social Sciences and Natural Sciences. His focus is the criteria for assessing artistic research.

How do we evaluate quality?

Art is by its very nature open. Knowledge about art is therefore not pre-defined but remains ‘open’. There is never an unambiguous conclusion. Artistic research can, however, be assessed, and this is on the basis of the following criteria:
1. establishing the intention of the academic process
2. originality
3. contributing to knowledge and understanding
4. defining the problem
5. the context of the research
6. the research method used in terms of, for example, verifiability and ‘ intersubjectivity
7. the documentation and dissemination of the findings

Each assessment criterion can differ per project and per artwork. However, these factors together are important and they make the assessment of art in the form of research possible.

Interface of academia and art

Peer reviews contribute to the assessment of the quality of research. Borgdorff concludes his research with a case study from the Journal for Artistic Research (JAR). This peer-reviewed online journal is open access and provides space for any artists who wish to publish their work as research. Its target groups are academia and the art world. ‘An exhibition by an artist of artistic research in JAR is of academic importance,’ says Borgdorff, ‘because the artist contributes with a multimedia collage to our knowledge and understanding of the world in which we live.’ Borgdorff talks about an enhanced publication, in which text is just as important as images and video and sound fragments.

Borgdorff has worked on the creation of PhD programmes at the Academy for Creative and Performing Arts at Leiden University. He has been lector in Research in the Arts at the University of the Arts in The Hague and has been appointed Visiting Professor in Aesthetics at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.

PhD defence Henk Borgdorff
Tuesday 24 April 2012
‘The Conflict of the Faculties. Perspectives on Artistic Research and Academia’
Supervisors: Prof. Kitty Zijlmans, Prof. Frans de Ruiter

An English commercial edition is available via Leiden University Press (LUP)

Theorem in Henk Borgdorff’s dissertation

As artistic research can be linked to research in the Humanities, the Social and Behavioural Sciences and Technology, the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (Nederlandse  Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek; NWO) should follow the example of the Swedish Research Board and set up its own field, institute or regulatory body for research in the Arts.

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