Graeme Sullivan


Graeme Sullivan is Director of the School of Visual Arts, Professor of Art Education, Pennsylvania State University. His scholarly interest involves exploring the critical-reflexive thinking and forming processes of inquiry used in visual arts so as to enhance the importance of studio-based research in universities and art schools. He described his ideas in his groundbreaking book, Art Practice as Research: Inquiry in Visual Arts (2005), which underwent a major update and revision in a new edition published in 2010 ( His record of professional service includes editor positions with Studies in Art Education and Australian Art Education, and as editorial board member and consultant to the International Journal of Art & Design Education (UK), International Journal of Education and the Arts, and Studies in Material Thinking. Graeme maintains an active art practice and his Streetworks ( have been installed in several international cities and sites over the past fifteen years.


Exposition: The Entanglement of Arts and Sciences. On the Transaction Costs of Transdisciplinary Research Settings (01/01/2011) by Martin Tröndle
Graeme Sullivan 25/11/2011 at 13:16

The focus of the study and questions raised cover topical content that addresses ongoing debates about artistic research and relationships with more traditional research methodologies. The article is described as a case study that features an ‘in-depth analysis’ of issues that arise from a multi-year research project that investigated the experiences and behaviours of museum visitors. But the article is not so much a research article that presents findings of a study, but more of a report of themes and issues that emerged as a consequence of the study. It may be that a detailed research report was published earlier and this is a follow up. However, in several cases reference is given to particular aspects of the study (e.g. hypotheses) without regard to the need to provide data-based examples or instances and this leaves some of the discussion without a conceptual anchor.


As a result, the ‘in-depth analysis’ is not as effective as it should be, because the empirical frames of reference are not presented. In a similar way, in this kind of ‘commentary’ articles the other frame of reference used to ground analyses is the literature and the use of these resources is somewhat limited. There is no real effort to use literature that does not support the interpretations presented and hence the stance taken is mostly descriptive rather than analytical. So, it’s important to read this article as an extended discussion of a series of issues that brings questions about different research theories and practices (scientific research and artistic research). This is the strength of the article. When read in relation to the ‘big question’ that frames the article — which is the question about the capacity of art, when used as a form of research, to generate knowledge that goes beyond the expected parameters, the issues resonate and open up a thoughtful array of further questions and explanations.


The conceptual problem this reviewer has with the overall analysis is that the intent is loosely framed around the idea of establishing measures of equivalence that bring the methods of art and science into the same picture. And although there are instances where the ‘surplus of knowledge’ that one hopes will be revealed from intensive studies of this kind, the outcomes are mostly measures against criteria that are scientific rather than artistic. However, as a summary of issues that arise from collaborative, transdisciplinary research, the article covers key issues in a thorough and clear-sighted manner. There is acknowledgement that a discipline based (social science) approach offers a limited perspective and the authors see potential for more adventurous methodological approaches, that are arts-based, to be incorporated into the repertoire of the transdisciplinary researcher.

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