Knowing in Performing

Artistic Research as a Distinct Practice and Discourse in the Field of Performing Arts

Knowing in PerformingPhoto: ©Xavier Sivecas

4 April 2018, 9.30 am – 6.00 pm
mdw – University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna
Fanny Hensel Hall
Anton-von-Webern-Platz 1
1030 Vienna

Artistic research as it has emerged and evolved over the last three decades is related to an increasing interest in epistemological questions as well as an interrogation of how artistic practices constitutively support and instigate processes of knowledge creation. Art is thus being looked at both as an object and a medium of research, becoming part of a general discourse on knowledge regimes and research models.

The symposium will investigate this dynamic, ever-renewing field of interrelations with a special focus on the performing arts. Highlighting the issue of various implementation models in curricula and study programmes in higher arts education, it will critically analyse international institutional policies and facilitate an open debate on how to integrate current practices and discourses into future teaching and research structures.


For requests and further information, please contact:

Therese Kaufmann
Tel.: +43 1 71155-6100

Bojana Tesan
Tel.: +43 1 71155-7410

Preliminary programme

9.30 am – 9.40 am

Rector Ulrike Sych
Therese Kaufmann, mdw

9.40 am – 10.40 am

Artistic Research, Music Research, and Inter/Transdisciplinarity: Strengths, Limitations, and Institutional Conditions
Georgina Born, University of Oxford
Moderation: Tasos Zembylas, mdw

10.40 am – 11.25 am

Performative contribution
Martin Kaltenbrunner, University of Art and Design, Linz
Moderation: Peter Plessas, mdw

11.25 am – 11.45 am


11.45 am – 12.45 pm

Composers and self-analysis: from anti-theoretical stance to artistic research method
Nicolas Donin, IRCAM, Paris
Moderation: Annegret Huber, mdw

12.45 pm – 1.30 pm

Quiet is beautiful
Mieko Kanno, UniArts, Helsinki
Moderation: Gesine Schröder, mdw

1.30 pm – 2.30 pm

Lunch Break

2.30 pm – 2.50 pm

Presentation of successful PEEK-projects at the mdw:
Creative (mis)understandings. Methodologies of Inspiration
Johannes Kretz, Wei-ya Lin
Rotting sounds. Embracing the temporal deterioration of digital audio
Thomas Grill

2.50 pm – 3.40 pm

Risking One's Own Sovereignty: Transdisciplinary Research, Context-Oriented Performances and the work of Theater der Versammlung (Theater of Assemblage)
Jörg Holkenbrink, Center for Performance Studies, University of Bremen
Moderation: Doris Ingrisch, mdw

3.40 pm – 4.00 pm


4.00 pm – 5.45 pm

Helen Hideko Aihara Parkes: Jabberwocky of Kodi

Panel Discussion
Institutional Policies and Current Practices
Cathleen Coessens, Orpheus Institute, Ghent
Mieko Kanno, UniArts, Helsinki
Anton Rey, Zurich University of the Arts/PEEK
Moderation: Therese Kaufmann, Johannes Kretz, mdw

5.45 pm – 6.00 pm

Informal Get-together

Abstracts and Biographies

Artistic Research, Music Research, and Inter/Transdisciplinarity: Strengths, Limitations, and Institutional Conditions – Georgina Born

Artistic Research, Music Research, and Inter/Transdisciplinarity:
Strengths, Limitations, and Institutional Conditions

On the presumption that we have reached a critical watershed in the institutionalisation of a particular paradigm of artistic and music research, in this presentation I address comparatively the nature of artistic and music research.

Through case studies I probe the forms of inter- and/or transdisciplinarity that both fields of practice claim to embody, and I address the institutional conditions that have favoured their emergence and their current hegemony. Across this material I ask a series of questions, identifying certain strengths and limitations and probing the losses as well as gains manifest in this new paradigm.

They include:
Are the claims made for the potential epistemic status of art in artistic research (eg Borgdorff 2012, citing Rheinberger) convincing, and can they also be applied to music research?

Music research has taken very particular historical forms, so is the way ‘research’ is understood consistent or should it in fact be differentiated when addressing music and art?

Should the term therefore be understood historically and in relation to specific path-dependent historical developments in music and in the specific performance and plastic arts, rather than a-historically, as is often the case?

Are the elements portrayed as specific to artistic or music research – for example, an ‘originality’ criterion, by which is meant ‘innovation in content, form, or technique’ assessed with reference to context (Borgdorff) – actually very different from the criteria applied to scientific or technical knowledge, or indeed humanities or social scientific research?

Is the ascendance of the university and of the PhD as instruments for the cultivation of artistic and music research to be welcomed, or, paradoxically, does this enact a reduction in the diversity of institutional forms and knowledge formats through which art and music were previously supported and disseminated?

And perhaps most controversially, is there a fundamental – if perhaps disguised – instrumentality embedded in the ascendance of the paradigm of artistic research?

Georgina Born is Professor of Music and Anthropology at Oxford University. Earlier in her life she worked as a musician on cello and bass guitar, performing with the groups Henry Cow, the Art Bears, the Mike Westbrook Orckestra, the Michael Nyman Band and other ensembles, as well as playing improvised music in Derek Bailey’s Company and as a member of the London Musicians’ Collective.

She studied Anthropology at University College London at BSc and PhD levels, being awarded her PhD in 1989 for an ethnography of IRCAM, the computer music institute in Paris. Born’s work combines ethnographic and theoretical writings on music, media and cultural production. Her ethnographies often focus on major institutions – television production at the BBC, computer music at IRCAM, interdisciplinary art-science and new media art at the University of California, Irvine.

Georgina Born has held a number of distinguished international visiting professorships. In 2014 she was elected a Fellow of the British Academy, where she Chairs the Culture, Media and Performance section; and in 2015 she was elected to Academia Europaea.

Her books are: Rationalizing Culture: IRCAM, Boulez, and the Institutionalization of the Musical Avant-Garde (California 1995), Western Music and Its Others (edited with David Hesmondhalgh, California 2000), Uncertain Vision: Birt, Dyke and the Reinvention of the BBC (Vintage 2005), Music, Sound and Space (edited, Cambridge 2013), Interdisciplinarity (edited with Andrew Barry, Routledge 2013), and Improvisation and Social Aesthetics (co-edited with Eric Lewis and Will Straw, Duke 2017). From 2010 to 2015 Born directed the research programme ‘Music, Digitisation, Mediation: Towards Interdisciplinary Music Studies’, funded by the European Research Council.

Quiet is beautiful – Mieko Kanno

Quiet is beautiful

This presentation explores soft sound and soft playing in the practice of music-making today with reference to 20th and 21st century music in particular. Softness offers a particular poetics and politics of listening by means of new sonic sensibility. This is demonstrated by observing two kinds of historical development that have led to the present practice of musical softness.

The first is creative in an imaginative sense: in the 1970s and '80s a number of avant-garde composers proposed new aesthetics of soft sound. The second is also creative but in a more practical sense: the rapid development in music technology rendered varied manipulations of sound possible, and changed fundamentally our relation to soft sound.

Examples are presented to facilitate articulation of different kinds of softness. The new poetics of quiet sound has brought with it new sonic sensibility. It repositions the role of performance within musical discourse and offers new challenges.

Violinist Mieko Kanno first came to international attention in the 1980s when she won prizes in international competitions such as the Carl Flesch, Queen Elisabeth of Belgium, and Hannover. Later she developed an interest in performing contemporary music and won the Kranichsteiner Musikpreis at the Darmstadt New Music Institute in 1994.

Today she is known as a prime exponent of new music for violin throughout Europe and gives many first performances as soloist as well as in ensembles. She has a parallel career as musician and academic, and is dedicated in both capacities to the development of new performance practices in music.

Her pioneering work spans from subjects such as complex notation and microtonality, performing on the electric violin with electronics and commissioning works for it, to a long-term project on John Cage’s Freeman Etudes.

She also plays the Baroque violin: engaging with a wide range of repertoire remains an important principle for her. She has worked at Durham University (2001-12, UK) and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (2013-16), and is currently Professor at the Sibelius Academy, the University of the Arts Helsinki. She plays a Giovanni Grancino dating from 1685.

Composers and self-analysis: from anti-theoretical stance to artistic research method – Nicolas Donin

Composers and self-analysis: from anti-theoretical stance to artistic research method

In the academy, artistic research manifests itself through a diversity of outputs, from public workshop or performance to software release. But the writing of a PhD thesis is still, and rightly so, the heart of the process, and it is the thesis that is the main object of evaluation as well as the main resource for future scholars interested in the project.

Since the thesis usually consists of a detailed report on the creative process and the thoughts that emerged, the artist as well as the reader have to challenge conventional wisdom on basic epistemology: the artist is both the object and the subject of study; the reader must assess the validity of an artist's very personal claims, grounded in a very personal experience. In order to navigate these issues successfully, one needs to consider seriously, and critically, the power of self-analysis.

Self-analysis is a crucial component of the current rebuilding of musical thinking after decades of domination of theory. The concept of self-analysis points toward a series of methods for tracking the aesthetical and psychological stakes of the creative process. For practicing musicians, it represents an opportunity to extract knowledge from the intense experience of creating music, and also to feed a dynamic of creativity and transformation. For scientists, it is one of the most promising prospects for documenting and analysing the creative process in unprecedented ways, leading to a better understanding of creativity and human cognition, as well as musical style and methods of composition/performance/improvisation.

But there is still a lot to invent and to experiment with, before we can rely upon truthful methods and fix all epistemological flaws and challenges. First of all we must gather evidence from the past, and evaluate their usefulness. It's what composer Jonathan Harvey did as soon as 1966 in his PhD thesis, later published under the title Music and Inspiration. More recently I discussed 20th-century first-person-based accounts of compositional processes from Janacek to our time. Based on these sources as well as my own research projects embedding composers, I'd like to reflect on the variety of formats, styles, and scientific paradigms that are at stake in self-analytical artistic research.

Nicolas Donin is head of the Analysis of Musical Practices research group at the Institut de Recherche et de Coordination Acoustique/Musique, Paris. He has published extensively on the history of music and musicology in the twentieth century, including Théories de la composition musicale au XXe siècle co-edited with Laurent Feneyrou (Lyons: Symétrie, 2013, 2 vols., 1840 p.).

His recent work focuses on contemporary composition and performance, using methodologies from musicology, social sciences and cognitive studies.

Kathleen Coessens

Kathleen Coessens is philosopher and artist, exploring the crossings of science and art, human creativity and cultural representations, tacit, embodied and sensorial knowledge. She graduated in piano and chamber music in Paris and Brussels and in philosophy (PhD), sociology and psychology at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel.

As a forerunner of artistic research, seen from within the arts, she publishes philosophical and artistic research, of which "The Artistic Turn” in 2009 with D. Crispin and A. Douglas, and recently "Experimentation in and beyond Music" (2017). She supervises many PhD students in the arts at the conservatoires of Brussels and Antwerp and at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel.

At the Royal Antwerp Conservatoire she launched the artistic research group CORPoREAL (Collaborative Research in Performance - Reflective Embodied Art Laboratory, 2014). At the Conservatoire of Brussels she steers the research line KLAP (Knowing and Learning in Artistic Practices).

She participates in diverse artistic projects (Champ d'Action, Antwerp; Grays School of art, Aberdeen; Orpheus Instituut, Ghent). She is currently leading the Koninklijk Conservatorium Brussels as director, where she teaches also artistic research practices.

Anton Rey

Anton Rey studied German Literature, Theatre and Philosophy at Zurich University and Free University Berlin.

Since 1983, he worked as Dramaturg and Assistant Director in Berlin (Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz, Berliner Ensemble), Munich (Münchner Kammerspiele and Bayerisches Staatsschauspiel), Vienna (Burgtheater), Edinburgh (Edinburgh International Festival) and Paris (Théâtre National de l’Odéon) with directors such as Peter Stein, Peter Zadek, Luc Bondy, Robert Wilson, Wim Wenders, Herbert Achternbusch and others. Rey then directed plays in Vienna (Theater Gruppe 80), Melbu (Festival) and Zurich (Winkelwiese), and films.

In 2002, he started to teach Dramaturgy and History of Theatre at the Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK). In 2007, he founded the research Institute for the Performing Arts and Film (IPF), which he is successfully heading since.

Currently Anton is working on Swiss National Science funded projects such as Actor & Avatar (2016-19); DisAbility on Stage, an exploration of the physical in performing arts practices, (2015-18) and Staging Space. The Architecture of Performance in the 21st Century, a publication with Huang and von Fischer, Park Books, 2018).

In 2015 he became member of PEEK Board of the Austrian Science Fund (FWF). He lives with his wife and three children in Winterthur.

His main research fields are

  • Theatre: Applied Dramaturgies – modes of dramatic structures in social behaviorisms (presence / acting self / authenticity of emotions) / States of Mind: The Reality of Fake Emotions
  • Film: Film as research (oral history on film / art film
  • Dance: Contemporary Dance (techniques / embodiment / systems of documentation)

Recent Publications

  • Badura, Jens, Selma Dubach, Anke Haarmann, Dieter Mersch, Anton Rey, Christoph Schenker, Germán Toro Pérez (ed.): Künstlerische Forschung. Ein Handbuch. diaphanes Verlag Berlin, Zürich 2015.
  • Rey, A., Germán Toro Pérez (ed.): Disembodied Voice. Ein Forschungsprojekt. With 1 DVD or Blu-ray Disc. Zürich 2015.
  • Maurer, Dieter: Acoustics of the Vowel – Preliminaries. subTexte 12, (ed. by A. Rey). Bern/Frankfurt 2015

Risking One's Own Sovereignty – Jörg Holkenbrink

Risking One's Own Sovereignty: Transdisciplinary Research, Context-Oriented Performances, and the Work of Theater der Versammlung (Theatre of Assemblage)

One possible future of the performing arts could reside in those involved in producing them increasingly venturing out of the theatres, or their usual domains of practice, to apply their performative strategies, productions and experiments in completely new contexts, where current themes and questions are played out in very different ways. Performers and their audience would then increasingly share responsibility for the quality of their encounters.

However, all those involved in this art of connection take a considerable risk, because this form of joint research requires that both sides apply a different approach to so-called "non-knowledge". Yet it is precisely in this realm of "not-knowing" and "not-understanding" that there is a great opportunity for mutual enrichment. In other words: anyone who engages with the productivity of the unfamiliar in dealing with objects and situations, with others and with themselves, must be sovereign enough to "gamble" with their own sovereignty.

(How) can artistic qualification projects and training courses help prepare people for such context-oriented staging and performance practice? Based on reports and examples from the Theater der Versammlung (Theatre of Assemblage), my presentation will explore various possibilities for consciously transgressing the boundaries between artistic research, scientific research and everyday knowledge.

Jörg Holkenbrink is the Director of the Center for Performance Studies at the University of Bremen and the Artistic Director of Theater of Assemblage (Theater der Versammlung). His work focuses on performative research and performance in research, cultures of knowledge in dialogue, productions on the interface between academia and art, and production-oriented methods for the handling of literary, documentary and theoretical texts (types of production, dramaturgy). He is also in charge of education and advanced training for Performance Studies at the University of Bremen.

The Bremen based Theater der Versammlung / Theater of Assemblage (TdV) brings together professional performance practitioners, students and scientists across all faculties to work on a range of themes and questions that arise within academic contexts, using the methods and means drawn from performance art and theater. This allows for intense collaboration with people whose expertise is in a wide range of different discourses. The productions that emerge from this interdisciplinary work process are presented and discussed throughout the German speaking world and beyond, and in a variety of professional contexts, including in businesses, schools, health institutions and cultural centers.

Jabberwocky of Kodi – Helen Hodeko Aihara Parkes

Jabberwocky of Kodi

"Jabberwocky of Kodi" is an experimental short film shot in the forests of Kodai Kanal, India during an Arts-Based-Philosophy artist residency. It was inspired by "Jabberwocky", a nonsense poem by Lewis Carrol (author of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass) that tells the story about the killing of a mystical creature.

When it came to post production, rather beginning with a picture lock as one normally would, combinations of sound design and images were created in a non-linear fashion, shot by shot in order to both mirror and honour the playful and nonsensical nature of the original poem.

Helen Hideko Aihara Parkes is an Independent filmmaker of Scottish and Japanese descent and was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii. Towards the end of her studies in English literature at UBC in Vancouver, Canada she already began working as a second camera assistant for independent films.

After receiving her Bachelor's degree in 2009, she continued to pursue work in film in various departments including camera, production, and directing, which also allowed her to travel to countries like France, New Zealand, and most recently India. Since she also began studying directing at the Vienna Film Academy in 2011, Austria has become her home, where she creates mostly short and sometimes experimental films with her best friend and sound designer collaborator, Bernhard Zorzi.