2 Some Salient Issues

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 [Note to readers: this WordPress site doesn’t preserve footnotes, so they are missing here.]

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 It’s an important fact about the studio-art PhD degree that no single person has knowledge of the ways it is taught around the world. Given that there are over two hundred institutions that grant the degree, it is likely that no one has visited even half of the total number of institutions. (See the listing in the next chapter.) The literature on the studio-art PhD degree has been growing rapidly. I think that 2011 was the last year any one person could read all of the literature. In my experience, people have stopped trying. (I made an effort for this book, but I know at least eight full-length books I haven’t read, and any number of essays.) This is significant because it means that no one person can be sure of not rehearsing ideas that have been proposed elsewhere, and no one can speak as an authority on the field.

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 1 Putting aside for the moment the scattered administrative literature on the degree produced in the UK and Japan since the early 1970s, the current explosion of literature can be traced to the twenty-first century. The first books were, in order:

(1) An Irish publication I edited called Printed Project (2004) from which this book grew. This was the first book-length publication on this subject.

(2) A collection called Artistic Research (2004), edited by Annette Balkema and Henk Slager.

(3) Graeme Sullivan’s Art Practice as Research (2005).

(4) Thinking Through Art (2006), another edited volume.

(5) A collection of essays on PhDs in Finland (2006).

(6) Henk Borgdorff’s The Debate on Research in the Arts.

(7) An e-book called Thinking Through Practice: Art as Research in the Academy (2007).

(8) The first edition of this book (2009).

12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 0 In the five years between the first edition of this book and now (spring 2013), the literature has become inaccessibly vast. Henk Slager’s journal MaHKUzine, Journal of Artistic Research (2006– ) continued to appear; it is the first journal that consistently addresses research and the doctorate. The year 2010 saw the appearance of Kunst und künstlerische Forschung / Art and Artistic Research; the Routledge Companion to Research in the Arts; and e-flux’s A Prior magazine on “Art as Research,” with essays by Victor Burgin and others.

13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 0 The Journal of Artistic Research (2011– ) is an online journal edited by Michael Schwab, which represents much of the Anglophone European scene. The year 2011 also saw the publication of Martin Tröndle and Julia Warmers’s Kunstforschung als ästhetische Wissenschaft: Beiträge zur transdisziplinären Hybridisierung von Wissenschaft und Kunst; and Henk Slager’s Pleasure of Research; a special issue of Texte zur Kunst on “Artistic Research.” The next year Florian Dombois, Ute Meta Bauer, Claudia Mareis, Michael Schwab published their Intellectual Birdhouse: Artistic Practice as Research.

14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 0 It is also no longer clear what literature belongs to this subject. Art School (Propositions for the 21st Century), edited by Steven Henry Madoff, contains mainly contributions by artists, and seems unaware of the administrative and art education literature even in the United States. But the positions taken by Dennis Adams, Thierry de Duve, Shirin Neshat, Hans Haacke, Boris Groys, Liam Gillick, Saskia Bos, Steven Henry Madoff, Ernesto Pujol, Ute Meta Bauer, Paul Ramirez Jonas, Jeffrey Schnapp, Anton Vidokle, Matthew Higgs, Charles Renfro, Dana Schutz, and Brian Sholis can hardly be irrelevant to the development of the PhD. My own book Art Critiques: A Guide (2011) was an attempt to cover critiques at the BFA, MFA, and PhD levels, but it became apparent that different kinds of conversations count as critiques in the PhD, and those conversations have only a tenuous connection to what art students know as “crits.” The second edition of that book (2012) sequesters the PhD as a separate topic, making a distinction that I think is crucial but problematic. Liora Bresler’s International Handbook of Research in Arts Education (2007) contains some material pertinent to the visual arts degree. So does Elke Bippus’s Kunst des Forschens: Praxis eines ästhetischen Denkens (2009); Estelle Barrett and Barbara Bolt’s Practice as Research: Approaches to Creative Arts Enquiry (2006); J. Knowles and Ardra Cole’s Handbook of the Arts in Qualitative Research (2007); and Practice-Led Research, Research-Led Practice in the Creative Arts, edited by Hazel Smith and Roger Dean (2009). Once the net is widened to include the world of the doctorate in design, the literature is effectively endless. (Good starting points are Ilpo Koskinen’s Design Research Through Practice: From the Lab, Field, and Showroom, and the long-running design listserv PhD-design.)

15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 0 The disarray of the bibliography is easily demonstrated by the lack of overlap in bibliographies and invited authors. Groups and disciplinary interests are emerging, which is natural in any expanding subject: in this case it is possible to distinguish North American art education from European art education; theorists of “research” in the studio context from theorists of “research” in other university contexts; art historians from artists; administrators from philosophers. Those overlapping disciplinary allegiances aren’t surprising: what concerns me is that the subject is divided principally because the literature is too large for anyone to assess what groups, positions, and interests might be out there to be invited.

16 Leave a comment on paragraph 16 0 One of the common concerns in this literature is the nature of “research” as it pertains to visual art; many writers are also concerned with what counts as “knowledge” in visual art, and with ongoing critical issues such as the relation of political (non-aesthetic or anti-aesthetic) practices with aesthetic practices. I take up those more philosophic or analytic issues in Chapter [   ].

17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 0 In the remainder of this chapter I want to point instead to more mundane issues, that have to do with the structuring and implementation of existing PhD programs. The five years since the first edition of this book have not seen the appearance of books that can tell us how programs are structured, how requirements differ, or how assessments are conducted. Day-to-day things like that are crucial, I think, if we are going to understand the worldwide dissemination of the studio-art PhD. It’s necessary to be able to compare programs at this level in order to judge the more conceptual issues such as “research through knowledge,” just because research, work, practice, teaching, and learning all take place in classrooms, studios, and seminars, which are parts of institutional structures that give expressions like “research through art” meaning.

18 Leave a comment on paragraph 18 0  

19 Leave a comment on paragraph 19 0 1. Length of the programs.

20 Leave a comment on paragraph 20 0 PhD programs vary widely in the number of years required for completion. Most programs ask for 3 years, but a number also require 4, and some have only 2. The University of Lisbon is among those that require 2 years. (Some of their curriculum is reproduced below.) Goldsmiths requires “3-4 years full-time or 4-6 years part-time.” San Diego and Newcastle require 4 years. At York University the dissertation required by the 14th semester (which occurs in the 5th year).

21 Leave a comment on paragraph 21 0 These variations have consequences in the EU, where the Bologna Accords calls for a standard 3 year third-level education. In the US, doctoral programs in general require 2 years of residency (taught classes) and no more than 5 years to completion. There is no necessity to create international conformity, but it would be interesting if PhD programs justified their individual choices.

22 Leave a comment on paragraph 22 0  

23 Leave a comment on paragraph 23 0 2. Supervisors.

24 Leave a comment on paragraph 24 0 Usually studio-art PhD students have two supervisors or advisors, who the student works with throughout their PhD. Typically one is a studio art instructor, and the other is a scholar=usually an art historian, critic, cultural theorist, or philosopher, and sometimes a sociologist, anthropologist, or historian; rarely a scientist, engineer, or lawyer.  Often, however, studio art faculty supervise both the art practice and the research; and in some cases, the principal supervisor helps with both the practice and the art practice. I call the configuration where a non-art practitioner (usually a scholar) collaborates with a studio art instructor heterogeneous, and the configuration where both supervisors are art instructors, homogeneous. The former is interdisciplinary, and can draw on the contrast between scholarship and practice; the latter is susceptible to a kind of collapse in which a student’s video supervisors, for example, might also be the one assisting the student in researching the history of video art. This is not to say studio art instructors might not be competent researchers, historians, or critics: it’s to say that there is great potential in the dialectic exchange between disciplines.

25 Leave a comment on paragraph 25 0 These configuration call for systematic study. It would be significant if it turned out that most studio-art PhD candidates have studio art instructors serving as research supervisors as well as their practice supervisors.

26 Leave a comment on paragraph 26 0 In some universities it is the practice to have three readers or supervisors; often one works outside the institution. In smaller countries, the third or outside reader or supervisor is typically from a neighboring country; that is a marked difference from larger first-world countries, where the third reader is more likely to be from a more culturally or geographically distant country. This is another subject that needs to be studied in studio-art PhD programs, especially in smaller institutions and countries.

27 Leave a comment on paragraph 27 0 Most of the literature on the PhD is not concerned with these issues. What matters is rather the quality of the supervisors. Michael Biggs, Stephen Scrivener, and others host a useful website on PhD supervision, which lists a number of books and articles on the subject. (ualscopingphd.wordpress.com). There is a useful article by Stuart Powell and Howard Green, “Quality Matters in Doctoral Supervision: A Critique of Current Issues Within the UK in a Worldwide Context.” They compare standards in China, Denmark, India, and France; their note about Australian supervision is representative: “In Australia,” they write, “the principal supervisor should have: expertise in the field of study, hold a doctoral qualification or equivalent, be ‘research active’ in a relevant discipline or disciplines, have sufficient time and resources to provide a quality learning experience for the candidate, and have training and/or experience in the supervisory process.” Of these criteria, the two most contentious are the idea that the supervisor should “hold a doctoral qualification or equivalent,” and the requirement that the supervisor “have training and/or experience in the supervisory process.” In my experience, supervisors generally have “experience” but not “training.” The first point varies widely around the world. I have had letters from people in Malaysia, Poland, Uganda, and Kenya, reporting cases where instructors with MFAs were asked or required to take leaves of absence to get PhDs. That has not been an issue, I think, in the UK or western Europe, where the MFA is considered the de facto terminal or “professional” degree and therefore the functional equivalent of the PhD. But if my small sample of correspondence is significant, it indicates that the requirement that instructors have PhDs may be unevenly distributed worldwide=and that may well produce problems for academic exchange.

28 Leave a comment on paragraph 28 0 So far I have mentioned four issues to do with supervision: the practice of having studio-art practitioners supervise the research component of the doctorate, the varying numbers and roles of supervisors, the training or experience supervisors should have, and the requirement that supervisors themselves possess PhDs.

29 Leave a comment on paragraph 29 0 There is a fifth, deeper problem about the research supervisors that is not addressed in the literature: if the academic supervisor does not help the student produce a standard, professional-quality research dissertation, but instead tailors her advice to the student’s research interests and practice (as it is said, explicitly, in San Diego’s literature), then how does the supervisor know which sources are appropriate for the student artist? Or, to put it less abstractly: as an art historian, I can help a student write a dissertation on, say, the history of storm scenes for her painting practice. But in practice, it usually becomes clear that the student only needs certain storm scenes, so the bibliography ends up being tailored to her practice. The tricky point here is that nothing in art history trains art historians to be selective: that is a critical function, which is not part of the self-description of art history. As far as I know this issue has never been raised, largely because it seems to sort itself out. In my case, I could say I am qualified to make selections in the historical record that are apposite for a student’s practice because I have an MFA; but of course that degree doesn’t have anything in particular to do with the way I select from the historical record. In practice, people outside of art supervising artists seems to work well; in theory, it is entirely unanalyzed.

30 Leave a comment on paragraph 30 0  

31 Leave a comment on paragraph 31 0 3. Length of the dissertation. 

32 Leave a comment on paragraph 32 0 This varies. Here are some examples:

0 words   =    0 pp.    =  this was attempted at Plymouth University

15,000 words   =  60 pp.    =  minimum at Leeds (as of 2012)

20,000 words   =  80 pp.    =  the usual minimum (eg, Queensland University)

25,000 words   =  100 pp.  =  minimum at York University (given in pages)

30,000 words   =  120 pp.  =  Newcastle, U.K. (2012)

50,000 words   =  200 pp.  =  maximum at Leeds (2012)

60,000 words   =  240 pp.  =  the norm (for example, Slade)

80,000 words   =  320 pp.  =  length of a typical dissertation in the UK system

100,000 words =  400 pp.  =  the usual maximum

42 Leave a comment on paragraph 42 0 While there is no need to standardize lengths of studio-art PhD dissertations, it would be useful to have more comparative material because some programs require substantially less than others, resulting in a wide disparity in the scholarship. There are also outliers that are hard to calculate: Ruth Waller (whose work is represented in this book) informs me that ANU Canberra has dropped the written dissertation, but substituted a 28,000 word exegesis of the work.

43 Leave a comment on paragraph 43 0 Dissertation length in East Asian countries is harder to calculate because of the writing systems involved. At the Central Academy of Fine Art (CAFA, in Beijing), the minimum dissertation length is 60,000 Chinese words, with a normal range of 80,000. That minimum is standard across all disciplines in China, so the three institutions in China that grant the PhD have not become involved in discussions about the appropriate length of a studio-art PhD. A 1,000 word English text is usually counted as equivalent to 1,300 to 1,800 Chinese characters. Average word length in Chinese is between one and two characters; therefore a Chinese dissertation of 60,000 words could be approximately 60,000 words in English.)

44 Leave a comment on paragraph 44 0 At Tokyo Geidai, the dissertations are printed at 750 characters per page. If we assume a printed dissertation in the US is 250 words per page, and Japanese character count is three times the equivalent English word count (this is a standard conversion, but there are others), then Tokyo Geidai dissertations could be counted this way: 200,000 characters = 66,000 words = 250 pages. But the conversion is full of approximations.

45 Leave a comment on paragraph 45 0  

46 Leave a comment on paragraph 46 0 4. Weighting

47 Leave a comment on paragraph 47 0 This is the term for the emphasis placed on the practice, relative to the written dissertation. Should the art practice count as the majority of the doctorate, because the students are primarily artists? Or should the dissertation be equal to the art, as a sign of the hybrid nature of the new degree?

48 Leave a comment on paragraph 48 0 Typically weighting is done in percentages. Thus the “2010 Postgraduate Research Student Handbook” of the Creative Industries Faculty, Queensland University states that “the weighting for the practice component shall be between 40% and 75% of the whole study.” Weighting percentages vary, but I have not collected them, because they all beg a crucial question: they make it appear as if the art practice can be quantized at all, simply by comparing it with an ostensibly quantifiable outcome (the dissertation). So far I haven’t found literature that makes sense of this.

49 Leave a comment on paragraph 49 0  

50 Leave a comment on paragraph 50 0 5. Should there be a research component at all?

51 Leave a comment on paragraph 51 1 I noted in entry 3 that Plymouth University experimented with dropping the written requirement. Their reasoning was interesting; the implicit claim was that no other subject in the university requires two bodies of work from its doctoral candidates. The problem, of course, is that without a written component it becomes even more necessary to say what a PhD-level art exhibition is, in contrast to a MA- or MFA-level exhibition. (It could also be argued, against the original rationale, that PhD candidates in the sciences also produce two bodies of work: their written dissertation and their experimental work.) This issue is discussed, inter alia, by several contributors to this book, so I will not expand on it here.

52 Leave a comment on paragraph 52 0  

53 Leave a comment on paragraph 53 0 6. Curricula vary.

54 Leave a comment on paragraph 54 0 The actual semester-by-semester or term-by-term sequence of modules, classes, studios, and seminars is largely a matter of each individual institution. So far there has been very little comparative work on the subject. Here, as an example of the reasons this might be of interest, is the curriculum for the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Lisbon, as of 2012. It is a two-year curriculum:

55 Leave a comment on paragraph 55 0 [The image will be reproduced in the book.]

56 Leave a comment on paragraph 56 0 This is the first semester of the first year. T = theory, P = practice, and OT = tutorial. Here is the second semester:

57 Leave a comment on paragraph 57 0 [The image will be reproduced in the book.]

58 Leave a comment on paragraph 58 0 It includes two seminars, with an additional “Oriented Research Seminar.” The second year (not reproduced here) is dedicated to seminars and the preparation of the dissertation. The next step in this kind of inquiry would be to assemble syllabi and reading lists. I hope that in future a conference, or an edited volume, might be devoted to this kind of basic fact gathering. Without it, the actual contents and structures of the PhD will remain largely unknown to people who do not work at the institutions.

59 Leave a comment on paragraph 59 0 This list is a miscellany, and many issues could be added to it. I have only tried to emphasize a low-level problem: in the rapid expansion of philosophic, sociological, and art-education literature it can seem as if philosophic problems to do with such things as “research through art” or the “production of knowledge” are the most important, and in the end they may be. But before we have a solid grasp on how the doctorate is actually taught around the world, we won’t have a framework to which such discussions can be attached.

Page 2