Oxford Artistic and Practice-Based Research Platform (OAR)

4 May 2016 0

For digital objects to be sustained and available, the people who make them need to be aware of the need for active management over time, as discussed in my last post.  This is as true in the visual arts as anywhere else.

I’ve recently become involved with an initiative here at Oxford which may help get this message out to the research community and specifically those working in practice-based research including the creative arts.

Supported by the Oxford IT Innovation Fund, the Oxford Artistic and Practice-Based Research Platform (OAR) offers an intervention in the current publishing model (something that is, in my opinion, urgently needed).  It’s for those carrying out research in any discipline who use different media as part of research practice, such as film, photography, other forms of visualisations or performance; who are involved in research about creative or dynamic artistic or practice based methodologies; or who wish to explore different ways of understanding or undertaking research beyond the written word.

OAR will deliver two issues per year of a downloadable publication which will be openly licensed.  These downloadable documents will – it is hoped –  present a wide range of digital objects as contributions including text, audio, video, livestreams, software, data objects and anything else that the platform software can accommodate.

Each issue of this web-based journal will correspond to a particular theme as follows. I have added my own interpretations of each theme in brackets but these are my ideas only – there will be more/others and none are compulsory.

  • Issue 0: ‘Response’ (what does it mean to respond?, the relationship between an action and a counteraction, the value of responses in experimentation and the creation of knowledge, how to accredit responses in scholarly research, are artists responsible for responses to creative work?)
  • Issue 1: ‘Sites of Research’ (situations in which research takes place, field sites, context, where research outputs are situated)
  • Issue 2: ‘Validity’ (research validity, validity of methods, validity of practices, who/what is valid in research and making practices)
  • Issue 3: ‘That’s all there is’ (ending, completion, whether / how we know research is finished, can we ever finish the creative process? Reminded me of this article http://www.artnews.com/2014/02/24/when-is-an-artwork-finished/)
  • Issue 4: ‘Collaboration’ (differences in disciplinary norms towards collaborative work, accreditation, tension and power in collaborative relationships, can artwork be crowdsourced?)

As you can see, these are rich and thought-provoking themes which offer potential for some compelling contributions and – in some cases – interrelated with each other.  The practice-based nature of the research implies particular potential for innovative contributions through lots of different types of digital media.  In addition, the platform will encourage and make available scholarly responses and reactions to the original contributions, on a rolling basis.

This project obviously has its own value and potential, but particularly compelling to me are the considerations it poses around the role, value and management of digital objects in art making and practice-based research, and the different ways in which we carry out and evidence our research practices.  There is a considerable amount of work in the area of the witnessing of scientific research. Think of the lab sciences: what, after all, are experiments in that environment but a set of actions performed in a particular place and time, which are subsequently claimed to mean something?  What OAR brings is a focus on a particular set of epistemological strategies which are presented in a way that makes sense to those working in the creative arts, humanities and social sciences as well as the bench sciences.

The OAR team consists of a group of Ruskin postgraduate students who, whilst situated primarily in the fine art and history of art domains (including art theory and philosophy), are committed to stimulating the production, publication and exchange of interdisciplinary research methods, practices and outputs.  You can find out more about the journal platform at http://blogs.it.ox.ac.uk/innovation-challenges/oar/.  The team can be engaged with on Twitter at @OAR_Platform and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/1698611737090148/.  I can’t wait to see what comes out of this!