Science, Art, Litt, Science based Art & Science Communication

The Evolving Fields of Artistic Research, Creative Inquiry and Humanites Based Research

While efforts in this regard certainly made large impact at the beginning of the last century, in the middle of the century, and again in the 80′s, say, the postmodern era, we see that this evolution is not completely new. But today we are seeing renewed and evolved thinking about using the arts and other creative-based disciplines as a means of research. Art as research you say? Just another nut job from California you say? Perhaps, but I think not.

I have spent the last 20 years making this a personal field of study, in part because the apparent duality of the paradigm matches both my persona and my professional work.

Science. All those tubes and wires.Double-blind, peer-reviewed, journal certified scientific research. Documented, proven test results. I’m all for that really, and do not write here to propose that scientific research is “bad,” or should be changed. Just that there are important alternatives. And it seems I have a lot of company.

Having stated the above it might be natural to assume that what I’m doing is some sort of narcissistic folly.. wanting to believe there is more meaning in my own artwork and other creative endeavors, and that of so many others that I regards as heroes, geniuses, everyday people who changed the world by their thoughts and their creations. Believing that there is something new, quantifiable, tangible and very worth researching. Again, I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that.

I was fortunate enough to be at New College in San Francisco as a graduate student  in the 00′s when Humanities faculty, including Dr. Judy Grahn Anne Bluthenthal and Neeli Cherkovski, among others, founded the Creative Inquiry program there. I remember seeing a media snippet or social media comment from people laughing or thumbing their noses at such a far flung attempt at epistemological classification. An attempt to reify something so non-verbal, so ethereal, so emotional. Well, having studied in that program I can tell you it was one of the best academic programs I’ve had the pleasure of studying in.

(Note: updated 1/14/12:) I neglected to mention that the Creative Inquiry MFA Program is now thriving at CIIS in San Francisco, the California Institute For Integral Studies. A one of a kind program worthy of a closer look.)

Part of this and other related blog posts is an attempt to aggregate material for a book, since this is a subject that really must be approached in real form. But if you come across this, or  social media links, I’d be interested in hearing from you if you are involved in creative inquiry or a related field, and hear about how you approach these subjects.

One would think that the deconstructions that are part of postmodernism would have resulted in much larger efforts to to make the arts a primary form of inquiry. It is partially from that perspective that I regard Grahn, Cherkovski and others who have made progress in these fields of study as part of that group of heroes, in the vanguard of research of human thought and expression. I can’t speak for them, but as an observer I can say that one trait common to these folks was the strength of their convictions; the belief, the knowledge that these are very legitimate forms of academic pursuit and do not need to be “further legitimized by another group’s values and criteria.” 1

I think since the study of postmodernism began we have seen a convergence of disciplinary thinking from what might previously have been considered widely different and not necessarily considered to be an appropriate merging of thought. Again, this is not completely new. An example might be Kant, or how Arthur C. Danto restructured the concept of aesthetics to  more fully include the concepts used in art today. Consider how Buddhism or other Eastern spiritualities, or how physics suggests that how a phenomenon is observed affects how the phenomenon behaves.2

Continued discussion will include the work of Walter Benjamin and others, whose philosophies laid the groundwork for changing the discourse about the means of production of art, mechanical reproduction, and later computers, and all that implies for how work of many artists has changed and the art world along with it.

 (originally written for one of my websites, at:

1. McNiff, Shaun. (1998). Art-Based Research. London and Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

2. McNiff, Shaun. (1998). Art-Based Research. London and Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

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Comment by Dr. Krishna Kumari Challa on January 24, 2012 at 11:23am

Articles such as yours need not go through the process of approval. However, some members are posting materials that are going against Ning- the platform on which this network was created- rules. So I am approving everything here. It is a question of survival.

It takes a longer time for us - non-English-speaking people- to write in English. Our vocabulary in the language is very limited. Moreover, I am an extremely busy person. I don't know when I will be able to complete by books.

Academic credentials have little  importance in writing books. You can always do research, study and become a master yourself. I am not a qualified artist ( I did my Ph.D. in Microbiology) but can speak about art as good as any artist and can create art without any difficulty - although I am a holiday artist like you! It all depends on your enthusiasm and interest. So I encourage you to go ahead and write on the subject. I have great respect for journalists.

Comment by mark.e.gould on January 24, 2012 at 9:47am

Dr., of course I am brand new to your community, so thank you for making me aware of these issues. On one level I assumed this to be the essential nature, or one of a wide variety pertaining to these subjects. In the future should I submit articles or posts such as this for review before posting? I look forward both to your books being published and the groups being opened. Although perhaps I may lack the academic credentials, if time permits I also envision writing at least one book on these subjects. My original entry point for studying some of the philosophical points was media studies and media theory since my early career was in journalism and communications. But I find that many of the thinkers I admire seem to agree on some level there is at least some overlap, and as a "Sunday painter" it's of great personal interest to me as well.  Regards, Mark

Comment by Dr. Krishna Kumari Challa on January 24, 2012 at 6:48am

Thank you for sharing this article with us. I support your endeavour. I would like to add more material to my comment especially on quantum mechanics as you mentioned it. Will do it soon. There are articles posted here on various groups on the effects of science and technology in the evolution of art. I am writing books now and therefore have closed some of the groups where articles on the subject were posted. As soon as the books are published, we will open them to the public.

Best wishes


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