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April 16, 2014

From teaching skill to performing art

Is it possible to move away from a highly specialized and skill driven methodology to a more indeterminate and elusive approach without loosing the craft? In music we know that a number of hours practicing is necessary in order to become a skilled performer. Is teaching music merely to supervise that practicing? Of course not. So why are we talking about teaching music so much in terms of technique and so little in terms of art?

Some of the newer expressions in music of the last 70 years lack this strong relation to skill. Not the least music technology has become an area where performance skill has been nullified, partly because music-technology instruments gets constant updates making any skill developed obsolete.

But in music in general, is there an order to which knowledge has to be developed? Is skill naturally a condition for an informed discussion on aesthetics? My feeling is that we need to focus on aesthetics in music teaching and supervision of music students. We need to think more about the possibilities of our art rather than the our possibilities in practicing our art.

Posted by henrikfr at 11:36 PM | Comments (0)

April 15, 2014

What within the academy is artistic research?

The discussion of how to establish an artistic research environment is often mistaken for the discussion on how to create a vibrant research education which is often mistaken for the discussion on how to attract great artists to do their PhDs. But that, I believe, is an error. A research environment may have a research education as one of its components but it will have to be somewhat broader in scope than that. As part of it comes the question of what kind of activities within the academy that should count as research. This is where it gets very complicated...

On the surface of things we may accept that anything artistic produced and documented by the professors of the academy is part of the artistic research activity similar to how everything scientific produced and documented by the professors of the scientific institution is part of the research activity. However, in artistic research we tend to differentiate between artistic products and artistic research. The former can be a part of the latter but will not automatically become it. Why? One reason is political and produces a logical error: We want to introduce artistic research as a new research discipline but if art is artistic research there is no need for a new order. Art is research is artistic research. Hence, we wish to claim that art is not artistic research which we introduce as a container for art that expands what art is. Personally I am not so concerned with the politics of it, but I do believe that artistic research as an expanded scene for art production is very interesting. In particular in music where the scene for experimental and investigative explorations is very limited.

The key to expanding the production of artistic research within the academy is to allow for more artistic activities by the professors and finding a way in which these activities can be researched. If we can find the equivalent of the scientific research paper that adds value both for the institution and the researcher in art we have come a long way. What we want to achieve is to play what appears to be equal to the academic merit game but to do it on our own terms.

This may seem simple enough. Unfortunately, in music academies in Sweden we do not even have the first part of the equation ready. Professors are not artistically active, they are pedagogically active. Music academies are to a large degree focused on teaching craft rather than art and there is no natural transition for the teacher to go from teaching skill to performing art (I am playing with these words very consciously). But this also gives us the advantage of establishing this new area without having to focus too much on the form of the concert. We have the option of developing new forms of communicating senior artistic research.

Posted by henrikfr at 04:16 PM | Comments (0)

April 13, 2014

What is art?

What is art? Why is it we do not know that for sure? The problem with not knowing what art is or what its boundaries are is that we will have difficulties trying to understand what the quality of art is.

The Swedish artist Lars Wilks answers the question simply by saying that "art is what the artist says is art". This is often seen as a typically vague statement with provocation as its prime purpose. It is, however, not very provocative at all. What it does is that it moves the focus back on the practice rather than merely looking at the product. It is through the process that the artist can discern if a given activity is art or something else. Not seeing the process, but only the product, for the 'reader' it can be very difficult to see the 'art' factor in an an work. This is all part of common knowledge and part of what we call process oriented art.

In music the product is often so specifically musical that the art factor is identified by the music factor. Our listening strategies are so accustomed to the process of listening to music that it gets to be difficult to listen to the art in music.

Posted by henrikfr at 12:26 AM | Comments (0)