Science, Art, Litt, Science based Art & Science Communication
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, sfsthetik.com 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.