Composer Fran MM Cabeza de Vaca recently posted a video of an audiovisual composition that focuses on the spatial metamorphosis in the moment just before the music begins, which I conceptualized in my PhD research as a the metamorphosis from a concrete sounding space into a ‘music of Somewhere’. I was grateful and positively surprised to discover artistic work that explicitly refers to the output of my research. Making an abstraction of this specific case, it set me thinking about the way we evaluate impact in the field of artistic research (even if this term doesn’t fit my own PhD research very well). In academia, measuring impact is almost synonymous to counting citations in peer-reviewed journals. Many artists today have also become familiar with doing research in academic formats. They write and publish papers about their experiments, creative process, sources of inspiration and artistic engagement. When artistic research is cited or mentioned as a source of inspiration, it is usually done by those colleagues who, as researcher-artists, substantiate their research with the research of peers. The danger of a self-affirming artistic research bubble, of artist-researchers responding to research by means of research, is something I have warned against elsewhere. However, artistic research that is mentioned as a source of inspiration for artistic work as such remains a rarity – and perhaps for more than one reason.
Do we pay enough attention to uses or influences of artistic research in artistic work without a ‘research label’? Can the conceptual, technical or poetic choice in an artistic work, insofar as it embodies an artistic response to artistic research by others, be considered as an artistic substitute to the academic citation? And what responsibility does this entail for those who make use of the knowledge, insights or sensitivities brought to light by artistic research? It is of course a cliché to claim that every artistic work is always already a response to a multitude of other and prior works. Before the advent of copyright, citation in music was long an honourable practice, without the need to cite sources. However, there are also the research cultures in niches such as early music or computer music where it is quite common to be explicit about how artistic choices are supported by the research of others – even if we can debate whether in many of these cases the nature of the research in question should be seen as ‘artistic’, or rather as historical, analytical or music-theoretical.
From the perspective of artistic research, it is worth reflecting on the need for a more visible exchange between artist-researchers and practitioners. Creative artists could contribute to the field by being more explicit about their using, transforming or challenging insights and sensibilities uncovered by others’ artistic research. This does not require an academisation of artistic practice, but perhaps more openness and transparency about sources and creative processes than is common in artistic creation. Not so much as a matter of paying respect to the work of artist-researchers, but most of all because the field of artistic research would greatly benefit from observing the intersubjective impact of research in artistic practice, in works or performances by others and outside the context of research.