This is an example of a research project where scientists did not wait to receive input coming from the outside, but sent out a missile with a clear target to do research somewhere else. It is a research project with general learning objectives and a very unpredictable outcome, but with a well-defined landing place and a clear method to make it happen.
Of course, a comparison with AR is hard to make, since very often there are no clear targets in AR, only discovery-led processes. However, what we can learn from such projects is that the definition of place and context for research is crucial for attracting attention, generating enthusiasm and creating shared involvement. The question of where to land seems to be left out of consideration in too many artistic research proposals.
Where can impact happen?
The easiest claim is that AR changes or transforms the practice of the artist-researchers themselves. There is a lot of opposition from other fields of research to this type of outcome. The biggest critique is that AR results are sometimes no more than diaries of practices with a personal conclusion. Very interesting for the individual artist, but not what can be expected from third cycle studies.
A more substantial form of impact is becoming visible today. There is a growing community of artist researchers who share newly gained knowledge and understanding. Step by step, AR can rely on a growing body of research output, but also on a community that can cross-fertilize research and afford peer review. However, caution is necessary here. For as long as the exchange within the AR community does not lead to real transformations of practice beyond that community, there is a real danger of a closed circuit of AR coming into being, without having real relevance for global culture.
A problem related to that issue is that most of the people who have completed AR today already had a professional career as an artist when they started doing research. They were connected to ensembles or concert houses. They could rely on their personal, professional network to experiment and disseminate their research. Their network in its turn could defend engagement with the research as an investment in innovation.
Unfortunately, public support for many of these networks is decreasing rapidly. There are very few places left where you can still present innovative work that is not primarily made with the judgment of the public in mind. AR can function here as a kind of shelter, a place where innovation and specialization is still possible. On the other hand, if we claim that AR is rooted in practice, and if that practice does not really exists beyond AR, then we may have a credibility problem. What if the most talented students at the conservatory, after finishing their masters, see no other solution than immediately to embark on a third cycle? The danger of a disconnection with global culture is no empty threat.
Therefore, in terms of valorisation, it may be interesting to focus research output partly on those conservatory students who do not have research ambitions themselves. From their perspective, many of the current AR topics are far from daily musical practice. They may contain useful elements for music education, creation or concert practice, but the mere selection of what is immediately useful or not needs considerable time and energy.
Can we imagine a research context where valorisation and translation efforts are taken into account from the beginning? I will give an example of a recent project by Musica, Impulse Centre for Music that may provide an answer to how this could happen.
Musica, Impulse Centre for Music