Recent years have seen the mdw develop its institutional stance on artistic research with the participation of numerous dedicated colleagues in a remarkable, dynamic process that has by no means been devoid of critical voices. This has culminated in a number of very promising outcomes.
Starting from the realisation that artistic research (along with, in this context, the artistic doctorate) has grown considerably more significant at arts universities over the past few decades, in the process giving rise to its own theories, fields of activity, and grant programmes, the priority at first was to arrive at an initial attitude and stance on the part of the mdw toward these developments and, on that basis, begin developing our own initiatives.
The fact that two project proposals by members of the mdw community were accepted by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) programme PEEK (Programme for Arts-Based Research) in 2017, making available a total of EUR 800,000 in third-party funding, definitely helped to strengthen the dynamic in terms of artistic research at the mdw. These projects—Rotting Sounds, headed by Thomas Grill, and Johannes Kretz and Wei-Ya Lin’s project Creative (Mis)Understandings—are currently in progress and have already served as models for others, as has the BASE residency of Arno Böhler and Susanne Granzer in southern India1.
By now, the theme of artistic research has been subjected to intense reflection and evaluation at the mdw on a wide variety of levels and taking into account various concepts (Artistic Research, Arts-Based Research, and Research-Based Art). A working group on the topic of an artistic doctoral programme (“Recherche künstlerisches Doktorat”) was set up by the mdw Senate. And the symposium Knowing in Performing2 brought together a large number of international contributions in order to provide a diverse and nuanced impression of the various types of artistic research that exist. This symposium, in turn, gave rise to a synonymous lecture series that has met with great interest on the part of students and teaching staff and is now entering its second season3. A publication (print and online) based on the symposium is currently being prepared. Finally and not unimportantly, the mdw’s development plan for the 2019–24 period contains a chapter that takes a well-founded look at artistic research and also sets up a clear framework for how the development of this area at the mdw is to proceed.4
In parallel with this process, interested colleagues from a variety of disciplines came together to form a miniature think tank of sorts at the Department of Composition, Electroacoustics, and Tonmeister Education for the purpose of engaging in closer conceptual study of the phenomenon of artistic research in a concentrated and clear manner. In the first round of “Artistic Researcd, on “Aridge between the Disciplines”, the idea was to gain an understanding of the phenomenon in the first place and carefully develop a more general way of looking at artistic research by brainstorming various characteristics rather than being guided by restrictive definitions or boundaries. This group’s second meeting dealt with the “Social Relevance of Artistic Research”, and it met a third time to discuss “Possibilities of Implementation”.5
An mdw-internal pilot call for projects looking to apply for seed funding in order to possibly develop into PEEK proposals later on is a further important initiative. This has already produced promising initial results, showing just how important the involvement of the mdw’s Office of Research Promotion is in this regard.
All of the initiatives launched so far have contributed to substantive visions and concrete projects. For one thing, the curriculum of the mdw’s future artistic doctorate is nearing its finalisation. This doctoral programme will centre on innovative artistic work that leads to the production of new knowledge and can make independent contributions to the advancement and appreciation of the arts. Here, a diversity of both forms of knowledge and forms of understanding is assumed, and the programme is to generate new findings on specific problems in the arts, contextualise the associated artistic research, and adequately document as well as communicate the resulting gains in knowledge. In this, the development of as well as both critical and systematic reflection on artistic practices along with transdisciplinarity, collaborativity, plurimediality, the diversity of forms of knowledge, and the awareness of questions pertaining to societal and/or social relevance will play important roles in various project-specific weightings.
In combination with the establishment of the artistic doctorate, the plan is also to set up an Artistic Research Center (ARC) for its implementation. And here, “ARC” can indeed also be understood programmatically in the sense of an “arc” between the arts and the sciences—and thus also as an expansion of that open realm in which art and science can cross-pollinate.
All of these founding initiatives will, by the way, be accompanied by yet another important event: from 7 to 9 April 2021, the mdw will be hosting the annual conference of the Society of Artistic Research (SAR) in cooperation with the University of Applied Arts Vienna and the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. And the mere fact that Vienna’s three arts universities are now collaborating with SAR, the “world organisation” for artistic research, shows with just what standing and consistent dedication the mdw has now assumed an actively formative role in both the international artistic research community and the discourse on artistic research as such.