The Entanglement of Arts and Sciences. On the Transaction Costs of Transdisciplinary Research Settings (2011)

Martin Tröndle

About this exposition

Using the research project eMotion – mapping museum experience as a working example, the exposition examines the advantages and risks, challenges and hurdles, methods and management of projects based on transdisciplinary art research. On the one hand, analysis shows that the participating researchers’ embedded character, in their respective disciplines, requires a specific management in order to increase the formation of group identity and to get used to collective authorship. On the other, it underlines that transdisciplinary research does more than simply shed light on the investigated object from several perspectives. Rather, the integration of the arts can lead to a new epistemology via different forms of data displays such as sonification and image-producing processes, which in turn create a new aesthetic dimension.
typeresearch exposition
published inJournal for Artistic Research

comments: 4 (last entry by Andreas Gedin - 28/11/2011 at 12:41)
anonymous 21/11/2011 at 17:03

The exposition has an interest for the debate on the practice of artistic research, and more in particular for the question on the way scientific research and artistic research can be combined to gain exceptional results. The example given is the research project into the reactions of visitors to a museum under the title eMotion. The results of this project are not presented, as the exposition mostly focuses on the transdisciplinary method and its advantages and costs. Because of this the exposition remains rather abstract, stating advantages and results, but not showing them in detail.


The role of the artist, always a difficult and much debated point in this kind of project, is not elaborated enough here, although the research project seems to have gathered enough material to offer more reflection on this.


It is not completely clear in what way exactly the efforts of the artists, if not in the form of artworks, contributed to the success or failure of the research project. Stating towards the end of the exposition that the advantage of this transdisciplinary way of working is to be found in the openness the art practice offers for ’taking into account the ambiguity of complex objects of study’ is simply too general.

Michael Biggs 21/11/2011 at 23:03

I confess that I disagree with what seems to be the basic position of the authors on artistic research. I do not think that the originality of artistic research consists in creating a hybrid of either artistic science, or scientific art. In my view the strength of artistic research is in finding new methods and new insights that would not have existed without it. The authors seem to me to have adopted both hybrid positions (artistic science and scientific art), but I find that each lacks significance in terms of adding to the concept or production of artistic research. Adopting an alternative approach would resolve the authors’ claim that ‘Enduring this ambivalence can be a challenge for artists in research contexts.’


The main strength / interest in the article is the discussion of what constitutes trans-disciplinarity and how it can be achieved. The conclusion should be how trans-disciplinarity can be achieved, not that it should be a goal.


There is an undeveloped implication in the text that aesthetic representations can lead to experiences (rather than interpretations) of the data that might give [non-linear] insights into the original phenomena. What do sonic media offer that visual ones don’t, etc.? This would be a real claim for artistic research.


I find a fundamental confusion in the objectives of the project: whether what is produced is a representation of the data which has an indexical relationship to the data, or whether we have some kind of automated drawing activity which has a symbolic relationship to the viewer museum-experience.


If communities develop values and languages that separate them from one another, then the potential for cross science-art cooperation must be limited. I understand the authors’ position to be that trans-disciplinarity will be achieved through open-mindedness, whereas I think it will only be achieved by reconciling alternative worldviews (i.e. by the production of a third worldview which is neither science nor art).

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.

Andreas Gedin 28/11/2011 at 12:41

Transdisciplinary research seems to be an important area for artistic research in the future. In this case it is valuable to learn about the experiences from the collaborations. The writers try to pin point both the problems and what was gained from the project, while also giving some further advice for the future. Also the idea to write together in a group seems relevant.


The question of practise as research is as a whole a crucial and complicated one. Therefore it is difficult to judge. The main task for the artists in this project is to illustrate empirical data. Artistic means are used. But it is difficult to say to what extend it is artistic research in the meaning research through practice. Maybe it is more relevant to talk about collaborative research through the means of art.


In the research process it becomes evident for the researchers that translation or interpretation have influence on the understanding of data through images, sound etc. This is of course very important, but not new knowledge if you go to artistic practise, hermeneutics, semiotics, sociology, psychology etc. But what is important is that this was pointed out in this specific project. In this sense is a valuable example or experiment.


Some conventions or ”truisms” are taken for granted. Examples: ‘While artistic images enable the most ambiguous interpretations possible’, I wouldn’t take this for granted. ‘Transdisciplinary research projects are also risky – due to the fact that the process is highly unpredictable and that they thus can fail.’ This goes for all, or most research projects.


I do think that it is an interesting essay pointing out the importance of the artistic presentation of an empirical research project. It is more of a study of good and bad aspects of transdisciplinary collaboration. The artists did also have impact on ‘the physiological tracking and mapping as a pioneering research practise’ It would be interesting to learn more about the ‘psychogeographical effect of the museum and its objects on the museum visitors’ experience’.


I do miss important references to other art projects and to the whole genre of interactive electronic art.


In general I find the parts of the essay relating to actual experiences the most interesting. For example the passage ‘Materiality’ and also the ideas of how to organize this kind of collaborations in the future are valuable. As a whole this is actually more of a study of collaboration than research through the practise of art. And the experiences from this are useful, for example the idea of a scientific curator something seems to be very valuable and should be developed further!

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