As artistic research work in various disciplines and national contexts continues to develop, the diversity of approaches to the field becomes ever more apparent. This is to be welcomed, because it keeps alive ideas of plurality and complexity at a particular time in history when the gross oversimplifications and obfuscations of political discourses are compromising the nature of language itself, leading to what several commentators have already called ‘a post-truth’ world. In this brutal environment where ‘information’ is uncoupled from reality and validated only by how loudly and often it is voiced, the artist researcher has a responsibility that goes beyond the confines of our discipline to articulate the truth-content of his or her artistic practice. To do this, they must embrace daring and risk-taking, finding ways of communicating that flow against the current norms.
In artistic research, the empathic communication of information and experience – and not merely the ‘verbally empathic’ – is a sign of research transferability, a marker for research content. But this, in some circles, is still a heretical point of view. Research, in its more traditional manifestations mistrusts empathy and individually-incarnated human experience; the researcher, although a sentient being in the world, is expected to behave dispassionately in their professional discourse, and with a distrust for insights that come primarily from instinct. For the construction of empathic systems in which to study and research, our structures still need to change. So, we need to work toward a new world (one that is still not our idea), a world that is symptomatic of what we might like artistic research to be.
Risk is one of the elements that helps us to make the conceptual twist that turns subjective, reflexive experience into transpersonal, empathic communication and/or scientifically-viable modes of exchange. It gives us something to work with in engaging with debates because it means that something is at stake.
To propose a space where such risks may be taken, I shall revisit Gillian Rose’s metaphor of ‘the fold’ that I analysed in the first Symposium presented by the Arne Nordheim Centre for Artistic Research (NordART) at the Norwegian Academy of Music in November 2015. I shall deepen the exploration of the process of ‘unfolding’, elaborating on my belief in its appropriateness for artistic research work; I shall further suggest that Rose’s metaphor provides a way to bridge some of the gaps of understanding that have already developed between those undertaking artistic research and those working in the more established music disciplines.