May I introduce to you: MY ART, MY ARTISTIC RESEARCH

Ninel Çam van Chapull

Aalto University – ELO Film School




Temporal – Eternal – FREE

Every time when I hear someone claiming in a very serious way that something certain is 'actually' temporal, I feel a slight smile caressing my face. It is an expression as someone is sharing an insight which is against the opinion that dominates our current understandings. During the last months I had to read or hear couple times that something certain is 'actually' temporal, so that the following words of Nietzsche past each time through my mind: “God is dead”.


Probably, maybe, the god is finally dead. Or one more time. Maybe we need to get aware of again and again that he is dead. But when was he born? And why? Apparently the anchored concept of eternality in our being needs to die again and again. Needs to be killed. Be honest, is there anything possible in our dasein, which is not temporal? So far God is dead, and so-with all the concepts with a life behind this life, is there anything left which is not temporal? We, human beings, in our three dimensional, material, temporal lives, with our flesh and blood, we know nothing which is not temporal. Except that there is the very need we have for any concept which inhabits eternality, because of the very difficulty we have with accepting the ends, the death, inherent to everything possible around us, the temporality, including ourselves.


It is so hard to go along with the fact that we are just temporal beings and that the death is not at all far from us. Our ways of understanding the life, our psychologies, are just faking us that there might be somethings which are not temporal. At least the one thing which is not temporal, but eternal, has to exist, so that we do not loose hope. Maybe it is the culture we are born into, which was arisen by the very need for an eternal concept, which jails us to the ideas of eternality. In certain moments of insights we might get rid of our captivity, when the awareness of the non-eternality of somethings make us feel free. It seems though that we need to work hard to wrest ourselves free from this jail. Then we say that something is 'actually' temporal, and someone else feels a slight smile caressing his face. We wrest ourselves free, to get aware to a later point, that we are caught again in this concept. We need to wrest ourselves again and again and again... FREE.



Nothing is eternal. Everything is temporal. The only point is how the time pulses. It is all about rhythm. How things alter, transform, flux. How things move and change. How things connect, get into relation, release or disconnected. Also for us artists this is hard to take, but it is the same for art. Art was not that what it is today for 200 years, neither for 500 or 5000 years. And it will not be the same in 100 or 500 years. Art is constantly taking somethings new into its being over the time, constantly letting something fall away and continuous striding, depending on the new needs of human being. We have to admit though, that 'The Arts' is such a generous and open place where very different ideas of art can find its place to be, a home to stay.


Since we live in an era where the changes happen more dense as the times before, the ideas and concepts for which 'The Art' turns to be the home gets more and more. The variety of ideas which home together under the notion of 'The Art' are getting incredibly different from each other. Recently something new popped up in the art history: artistic research. Some artists were playing or struggling during the last decades with this new concept. To establish it, to understand it, to make use of it, to enable with the help of it that some new intellectual spaces occur for humanity to enter, to empower the human intellect for new ways of understanding and knowing. A hope of sustainability is in the air.


I am an artist researcher. I make my researches in arts. One of my artistic research is my doctoral work in the intersection field of dance creation and adult education, affiliated and supported by Aalto University Helsinki. So, my days are as much occupied with art making, as with artistic research. But damn, what is 'art' and what is 'artistic research' !?Just the answer of this sentence with an exclamation-question mark is what this article is about. Let's put the exclamation mark away, than even though the artists quite passionately discuss about this subject, these questions are not at all sensational. They are immanent. These questions are the immediate reactions one is opposed to by entering the spaces of arts, questions to be answered consciously or 'unconsciously' by any contemporary artist, artis researcher and any apparatus who deals with the culture. To be answered again and again in their uniqueness, without the demand of developing some recipes: What is art? What is artistic research?


I was saying, that 'The Arts' as a home is such an open, inclusive, generous place, that everyone who wants to work as an artist just needs to step into. And that's it. Even more: Everyone is welcome to enter and leave this house freely just as a part of their lives, without the need to call themselves artists. Without reasoning why they enter and why they leave. Everyone is welcome to be there, breath there, see the world from there, work there with the own desires and splits, and get closer to the others who reside there. To the other artists and to them who are there for short whiles for experience their parts of artist being.



On the other side, the world of art is financially not at all generous, except for the ones who arrived to profit from the art industries. Let's say from systems which knows to change art to capital, or systems which are well-established or are at right geographies so that they can make some capital flow into some art institutions. If we arrive not to be screened by the concepts of arts which art industries produce, we will find ourselves in a huge diversity of ideas, concepts and experiences in The House of Arts. I have to think about Coral Reefs as a metaphor for The House of Arts, which are called to be one of the richest ecosystems. I do believe, even that there are some smart strategies to bring monetary ideas and art together in a clean way, and that some sympathetic efforts to achieve a positive handling with money, so that it does not cause a damage in The House of Arts; that any deal with money in this ecosystem is a spot for potential degeneration. This is not much different as it is in 'Love'. As love and money can hardly be in the same sphere, except some phantasies or artistic interests which has the will to bring things together, which are potentially the killers of each other, art and money can hardly exist pure in the same sphere. At least this is my conviction with which I enter The House of Arts.


Even The House of Arts is so generous and open to everyone, I am convinced that every artist needs to be aware of his own way of understanding art while entering the spheres and the House of the Arts. Why he needs to make art, what art makes with him, what he contributes with art to life and how life happens in his being to make him create his art. Without looking sincerely for the answers of these questions one can hardly appreciate The House of the Arts as the deer home. Without this appreciation one can hardly condone the schizophrenic existence of being committed to the arts, and living finally in a world which is governed by capitalism.


To my part, I need to ask for my artist dasein these questions again and again and this not at all just once. I need to ask myself these questions in every phase of my artist life, and not to fix an answer for my life time. My answers in flow of time alter and change constantly. The reason for that might be my way of being, my personality, but it might also be the epoch in which we are living, where changes happen quite quick one after an other. I would like to share with you two moments in my life, which I consider as the miles stones of my artist dasein, which are the answers to the question what art is to me:


First moment: WATER, LIGHT and the FINGERS

I was at the elite boarding high school for sciences in Ankara (AFL), Turkey. We were in the laboratory for the biology class. All curtains were closed and the teacher was showing something on the overhead projector. Even my interests were rather for Mathematics and Physics, I was doing well with Biology. So it was not the disinterest which caused me to enter this certain moment about which I would like to speak to you. As everyone, also I had a sink as a part of my labor desk. The black curtain behind me was not fully closed and a light beam was falling onto the water which was still flowing by the water tap since I had used it before, during the experiment which we made. The water tap was a bit broken and it was difficult to turn it fully off. While I was listening to the teacher, I was somehow attracted by the water and put my hand under the tap. I began to play with with the water on which the light was beaming. The water was sparkling and glinting while falling a part into hundreds of drops into different directions. In the contrast of the dark room, the water and the light was turning to a fluid diamond with the movement of my fingers. This was such a seducing moment to me. Maybe I should prefer to call this moment 'fulfilling' instead of 'seducing'. Or the fulfilling quality was that which is such seducing.


After a while I was not at all able to listen to the teacher. I had turned on slowly the tap a bit more. Just a bit, so that the class is still not disturbed, but my fluid diamond gets splendiferous. I was hoping that no one will recognize that I am mentally not there where I should be. My fingers were dancing with the water and the light. With the forms which happen, with movement, with the rhythm and the sensation I was experiencing. My body, of which this hand is a part, was enchanted by an indescribable joy, with the help of the movement of my fingers. I was immersed into the dance of the hand, the water and the light. It is obvious that the time I was immersed into this state cannot be longer than the duration of this biology class, but the felt time was something different. It was not really definable, neither countable. It was a secluded sphere, a way of being beyond the concepts of time in which we normally are functioning. Not being different from other human begins, who have problems with the end, with death, with the concepts of temporality and who have a longing for any concept of eternality, I had experienced a sphere where the time had dissolved for a while. That what I had experienced to that day turned to be one of the most important bases on what my art is built, with which I entered The House of Arts and called myself Artist.



Second moment: MY SKIN

I was at a party. Was alone. Many people were hanging around, chatting with each other, dancing, drinking, eating... etc. I was observing and I was feeling. I was feeling so much, so many different things, influenced by everyone and everything which was around me. My skin was so thin. Every time when I moved to an other room, I recognized that my skin was vibrating in a different manner. When I was walking around the people, getting closer or getting away, the music I was hearing, what my skin was producing, was changing. I was like a construction, coated with a thin membrane. My body was like a musical instrument which sounds by the energies around. The music which I was able to listen to, while I was moving in different spaces, in different spheres, was quite appealing. Like a seismography I was able to sense even the very subtle vibrations.


To that moment I understood, why I had often problems with the life in my younger ages, even I can consider myself as someone who has a privileged life. I understood, why life could hurt me such easily, as soon as I do not wear on my coat of strategies by encountering the life. I was probably sensing and feeling too much, and did not know how to deal with all that what happens on my body. My way of being which had caused me so much pain, was now able to make me experience a magnificent joy.


During this party-night I got aware of that this ability, this certain way of being of mine, is where wonderful music can happen. Just being there and listening to all what is happening around can allow me to hear and know so many different and such subtle things. I felt myself empowered though not until the following insight: Depending on where I move to and how I move, I had the control on the way how my skin was vibrating. Stretching my skin, changing its thickness, letting it more or less slack. I got aware that I can let different parts of my body vibrate in different manners simultaneously. I had influence on the music which my body instrument was producing. My body was an instrument! A wonderful, joyful, interesting instrument. The only problem had been till to that time, that no one knew this, so no one helped me to understand what I am and what I can do. The life, my functions and duties were asking me to be a spoon, to be a table, to be a door, to be a tissue, to be a calculator, to be a computer... But no one asked me to observe and to be a musical instrument on which the life plays its music. No one asked me for the music which I am able to hear with my body. No one asked me to create the music of my body and make my sensations accessible. Finally I had found it out on my own. I had found out that the scratchy noises of my skin which were turning me almost crazy, were the moments, when my being was used for totally unsuited functions. Sometimes it even happened that my skin was torn apart with causing me big pain. Imagine a cello used as a spoon, a flute as a screwdriver, a guitar as a saw. My way of being had been as strange to me, as a technological device in the hands of stone age people. Or is it more like a very flower in a robotic system, of which the system could not determine the function. With this experience I got aware of the sophisticated device which my body is and the responsibility to understand it and to treat it as it has to be treated. I had to enter The House of the Arts.


When I make art, it is about arriving a state of working in this certain timeless, secluded sphere. There, where my body turns to experience a certain kind of joy. What I do is just to follow this joy which is arisen by fulfillment. Like an animal I just follow the odor, the energies which cause my skin vibrate and produce sounds. I am the co-creator of this music. The music which makes me know if that what I am doing is the right thing or not. Many things happen in this sphere instinctively, without the urge of knowing why and how I do things. Intentions and coincidences are dancing with each other in this sphere, as the will and yield, commitment and emancipation, composition and deconstruction... and many other qualities who love to find forces which can oppose them for enabling themselves to dance. That is what happens in the spheres of my art.




Probably I would be totally satisfied with living just in my spheres of making art, searching for moments which make my skin sound good, fulfill me or invites my curiosity to a journey of researching and creating. I would compose my art in these spheres with the help of my skin and share it with the world. I might have been satisfied if I would not have an other kind of researcher-me in my being, who needs a kind of researching than that which is innate to the arts: An act of researching which is mainly prescribed to sciences.


Based on my own experiences I prefer to speak about the different qualities of researching, instead of the main divisions of hard and soft sciences, art and artistic research. Being aware that certain kind of researching are mainly prescribed to one or an other discipline, I am interested for a sincere understanding of researching in its very different qualities. A certain way of researching which might be common in arts, can be a part of hard or soft sciences. Or vice versa. Some phases of scientific research can be quite similar to some phases of art making or artistic research. How to differentiate researching?


The one division is the perspective of the researcher. If one himself is a part of the event or if he is the one who observes. If the one is researching while doing, moving, trying and creating, or if he is the one who is observing, tracing, reading the traces and developing an understanding about the event from outside. If one is immersed in producing the event, or making an understanding how the event is produced. If we would imagine a painter who is searching and re-searching constantly for the right decisions and the ways of developing abilities to create and compose that what is a product of an event, which he is creating, the other researcher would be anyone who is following the event, or the one who is trying to make an understanding of the product of the event which the painter has created-experienced.


Both artists and scientist oscillate between these two perspectives all through their research. I would claim though, that the artists are researching more in the spheres of being the doer, the scientist in the sphere of the observer. What is it then what artist researcher are doing? He is the one who is an observer, interested in the arts, art making or the ways of researching in arts. He might be interested in these in relation to his own arts, or the arts of someone else. He might also be interested in the traces of arts in a quite un-artistic discipline. I would like to share with you three moments which might clarify my view for the different kinds of researching:


First moment: OBSERVING the won BIRTH

Last week during the foundation program of Theory U, a participant was telling that she had been saying to her mother when she was a child, that she would so much like to be there, when her mother gave her birth. As a child she was such intrigued by the idea that the moment when her mother gave her birth should be an extraordinary event. Actually she had been there, since she is the one who was given birth and she might have been quite involved. As a child though, she had the desire to observe how this event had happened. She could say, that it is a pity, that she does not remember, what she had experienced. Instead it was the perspective of the observer which she was longing for. The perspective which is mainly prescribed for scientific research. The shift in the perspective is where the difference of researching and of how understanding happens.


Second moment: THUMB-GIRL and ME

When I was a child, probably influenced by the narratives of my parents about me during the life spam which I already had forgotten, I had developed the phantasy that I have a small thumb-girl of myself in 3D. To that time I was not knowing what television is, since we were living in a mountain village in East Anatolia, and this technology had not arrived there yet. And certainly I had no idea about video cameras, or 3D productions. I had the very will though, to have access to the experiences of myself which was already in the past, so I had made up my own me as my best friend. Being in relation to the thumb-girl I had access to the her experiences which I was not remembering. I was shifting forth and back between Ninel and her thumb-girl, so that I experiences and ideas of both perspectives the both were intermingling. This image would be just that what I am doing as an artist researcher for my doctoral work. I was helping four different groups of dancers developing their choreographies. I was audio and video recording all through, with the aim to capture as much as possible of the experience of collective choreographing. That what I am doing now is looking to the videos, listening to the audio recordings and trying to make some new understandings in relation with the experiences and insights which I had during the creation of the events as a choreographer. The one who had been involved in creating choreographies and the one who looks onto the acts of creation from outside come together and think to make new understandings.



For a task during social presencing workshop we are more than twenty people. We all are sitting and observing the ones who is standing up, walking in front of us till to the middle of the defined stage, turning to us, looking at us and waiting that an idea of movement or gesture emerges, realizing this with their body, turning back to the previous direction and walking the second half of the way on the stage for terminating the performance. Then it is the turn of the next one in the group. More than the half of the group already had realized this walk, and I was observing immersed the very different ways of being, walking, looking, moving...etc. It was a simple task, but in its simplicity quite rich. As an observer one had time to recognize many details, while the participants were going through the same procedure. Than it was my turn. I stood up, began to walk. When I arrived the middle of the defined stage, I turned to the rest of the group. This was an amazing moment. The eyes of the observer, the way their are sitting and their concentration, the windows at the back of the group where a bright spheric light is fill the space, had a totally different quality as I had experiencing all the time through before while I was sitting and observing. An other participant had described this moment, as if she had been swimming on the surface of our group, as she was in a calm lake. I had to think about the very pleasure of swimming silently in flat waters so that one's eyes are just on the surface of the water like a crocodile. This was a moment of of a certain insight. Even I had experienced from the perspective of the one on the stage an amazing moment, which I simply did not imagine all through the time when I was watching the others on the stage, the more important insight was when I was on the stage and was not able to see myself in the way how I had seen all the others how they had been on the stage. I felt that something was lacking in my experience, which my way of being had an interest for. The motivation for working as an artist researcher, whose objects are the own arts base on this unique possibility for bringing two perspectives into communication. Two perspectives which both have their blind spots.



I tried to differentiate the act of researching based on the perspective the researcher has. This is not the one and only parameter with which research can be differentiated. Where the motivation for a research drives from is for example an other parameter. But also the cocktail of intentions which is accompanying any research is decisive. Also how tolerant a discipline is with the distances of ideas to each other while working on and composing thoughts. If a discipline allows or welcome some jumps in the chain of thoughts, or the very firm reasoning of the ideas from one to an other is required. It is a fact that some disciplines have their confirmed institutions, so that one can speak about the House of Arts, or the House of Sciences. That some ways of researching are prescribed mainly to some disciplines is also a fact. My will is though to experience acts of researching in a much differentiated way and versions. This paper has the interest to put it clear in which version of researching I am handling in my spheres of art and artistic research.


There is a split in my researcher being as the one who is researching while being in the midst of practices, and the researcher who is more an observer. The researcher who has an perspective from outside, needs an other kind of understanding about things what the artist is doing. When the artist-me is 'sleeping', it is the turn of the artist researcher-me to enter the sphere of the artist. To observe what all the artist has done, to follow her traces, try to reason what she did and why. It is interesting for the artist researcher-me to gain some understandings about the actions of the artist-me, who does not need to know everything about why she is doing what. The artist-me might even think that a sober or sharp thinking could hinder her in her freedom and creativity, or even block. The researcher-me is gentle and quite, respectful and full of appreciation in the spheres of the artist-me. This is not her sphere, she is there as a guest. She is aware that she is with an other mind set in the spheres of the arts, as the artist-me is. The researcher-me observes, reflects, looks for own insights and associations, comes up with ideas and concepts; she writes, makes images, collects sounds for carrying them to her own her space. How does the space of the researcher-me look like? The answer of this question will be an other paper. Wish you all joyful researches in your very own ways.


P.S.: The possessive pronoun 'my' in front of the words 'art' and 'artistic research' is put deliberately, to emphasize my understanding for art and artistic research as the spheres created by artist and artist researcher every time from the scratch in their very uniqueness.


P.P.S.: I used 'he' as the third singular pronoun, instead of 'she' or writing every time both. In my native language there is just one word for both, so if I would think that it makes sense, I would prefer to use the one word from my own mother tongue. Even writing both 'he' and 'she' seems to me a better version than using just a gender, it us quite unpractical. I decided to use the male form, even I have the tendency to be a female, with the hope though that every male researcher, thinker, writer prefers the personal pronoun 'she'.


P.P.P.S.: I spend almost half of my lifetime in countries where my mother tongue is not spoken. I spend almost 95% of my all day life in three different languages, none of which is my mother tongue. I am about to move to a new country where I will begin from null and learn a new language. So I decided to submit this paper without the 'essential' support of an native english speaker as a copyeditor. Nevertheless I hope that you find the access to my thoughts and even enjoy them.