(Original text by Camilla Groth and Anna Kholina)
The fifth Art of Research Conference was held at the Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture, Arabia campus over two days in November. The 112 participants consisted of a very international crowd, from 20 countries travelling to Helsinki from as far as New Zealand.
The Conference aimed at sharing an understanding about the ontological, epistemological and methodological issues of practice-led research, and to offer an academic framework for discussing the special themes of this year, experience, materiality and articulation.
Based on the call for papers, 21 double blind peer reviewed papers were selected to be presented at the conference. Some of the key questions that were discussed in these papers revolved around the issues of:
- How is experience articulated through artifacts and their making?
- How does material agency and affordance affect the making of an artifact?
- What stories lie behind artifacts and how do narratives support creative activities?
- What is the role of the body in research through practice?
- How does an exploratory approach to creative processes and materials contribute to the production of new knowledge?
- Articulating artistic processes in academia, through writing.
Keynotes for the conference were Welby Ings, Professor in Design at AUT University, New Zealand, Juhani Pallasmaa, architect and professor Emeritus of Aalto University and Kerstin Abraham, Professor of Fine Arts and Ceramics in Muthesius Academy of Fine Arts and Design, Germany.
The themes discussed by the keynotes included drawing as a form of cognitive activity: Juhani Pallasmaa highlighted the connection between the hand and the brain, while Welby Ings introduced the method of immersive drawing to create a film’s story and treatment. Kerstin Abraham’s presentation was focused on the conference’s special theme — ceramics.
As always the core of this conference is to highlight also the artifacts as a contribution to knowledge making. Therefore the presenters of the conference proceedings were again encouraged to bring their artifacts to the conference exhibition that was built in the main presentation venue.
The conference was preceded with a one-day pre-conference workshop, organized by two members of the editorial boards of the Journal of Artistic Research (JAR) and Ruukku. The workshop consisted of a crash course in the use of the Research Catalogue and the very experimental publication platform that these Journals make available for researchers.
This year the conference also included the special interest group of ceramics and related research. Therefore the conference was combined with several satellite exhibitions with ceramic as the main focus. Within the Arabia campus three related exhibitions were arranged, called Material Matters including a student exhibition, a teacher and staff exhibition and a research exhibition.
The satellite exhibitions also included two large public galleries. In the nearby Arabia gallery an artist association called the Fat Clay Group exhibited their work and in the Helsinki Design museum the works of 42 ceramic artists are shown as the main exhibition during the autumn 2014.
The special theme of ceramics encouraged also practitioners in the field to join the research conference. In addition a special course for master and doctoral students was arranged called “Introduction to practice-led research”, which enabled also the students to enjoy the conference.
This years collaborators were with the University’s Department of Film, Television and Scenography, the Handling Mind research project and the Finnish Association of Designers (ORNAMO) together with the Association of Finnish Sculptors).