Artistic research degrees are changing the lives and creative practices of the individuals who follow them, as well as making a significant difference to academia and the arts.
Yet, to date, there has been a lack of evidence as to nature and extent of these impacts. We have started to address this gap because understanding the impact of these degrees can provide important supporting evidence that can underpin:
- Advocacy – helping us to articulate the wider value of artistic research to universities, funders, programmers and governments
- Programme Design – helping to inform and shape future research degree programme design in ways that enhance their significance and impact
- Future candidates – helping people thinking of making the personal commitment to a research programme to understand the benefits to them as individuals and to society
Our findings are drawn from the ADiE Survey in 2017, interactions with stakeholders at ADiE events and Skype interviews with completed candidates. So far the data gathered is only partial and more work is needed. That said, it is clear that much of the change we see has been driven by the artistic researchers themselves as this has been a ‘bottom up’ movement.
We can see that Artistic Research Degrees have lead to significant impacts, including:
- The acceptance of new approaches to research in Universities, influencing and giving rise to new concepts, epistemologies and modes of enquiry.
- Changes to degree regulations, with the acceptance of creative practice leading to expanded options as to entry criteria, assessment processes, modalities of presentation and examination.
- Expanded notions of what it means to be ‘an academic’ and to be ‘an artist/practitioner’, such that there have been changes to who is considered to be ‘a researcher’ and who has the agency to make and voice practice.
- Personal transformations to researchers themselves
- Expanded career trajectories, including post-doctoral opportunties and leading to hybrid careers
- Changes to writing and publication practices – including new journal formates and hybrid arts/academic publications
- A movement towards different modes of developing, sharing, curating and presenting arts research practice reaching new publics and changing interactions with participants – including new festival/conference formates and research informed exchanges.
We were particularly interested to find more about the career paths that artist researchers have taken.
We undertook skype interviews with seven PhD holders that completed their degrees in different contexts and at different periods of time (between 1992-1919). These interviews were recorded on skype during August 2019 in small groups / pairs, bringing together individuals that have some type of connection in order to aid the discussion and potentially give rise otherwise unnoticed impacts.
The recordings are with: Joanne ‘Bob’ Whalley, Lee Miller and Steve Fossey (with Vida Midgelow); I Ying Wu and Bronwyn Preece (with Steffi Sachsenmaier) and Carol Brown and Jenny Roche (with Vida Midgelow). We thank them for their time and insights.
The interviews were framed by the following questions:
- Please tell me something about your doctorate; what you researched and what was important about it for you?
- How has doing this doctoral research affected you and your career? Do you think it made a difference or produced any changes in you, your outlook or path, and if so, in what ways?
- We are also interested in how the doctoral study you undertook has perhaps influenced others. Can you say something about how your work has made a difference other artists or other researchers? Or, how it may have made a difference to any specific people, communities or to organisations?
Skype Interview: Joanne ‘Bob’ Whalley, Lee Miller and Steve Fossey (with Vida Midgelow)
Joanne ‘Bob’ Whalley and Lee Miller are experienced academics having held senior posts at Universities of Falmouth, Plymouth, Roehampton and Northampton. They completed the first joint practice-as-research PhD to be undertaken within a UK arts discipline in 2004 at Manchester Met University, UK. Lee is a qualified yoga teacher, and Bob is a licensed acupuncturist. They have published widely in books including Kershaw and Nicholson Eds. Research Methods in Theatre and Performance (2011) and journals including Performance Research and Research in Drama Education.
Steve Fossey is an interdisciplinary artist and Senior Lecturer and Programme Leader in Fine Art. He has taught across FE and HE since 2004, working in a variety of universities and colleges including Brunel, Middlesex and Nottingham Trent as Course Leader, Lecturer and Associate Lecturer. In 2018 Steve was awarded a Practice-as-Research PhD titled ‘Site Specific Performance and the Mechanics of Becoming Social’ which was fully funded by Middlesex University, UK.
Skype Interview: I Ying Wu and Bronwyn Preece (with Steffi Sachsenmaier)
I-Ying Wu is an improvisation practitioner and researcher. She was awarded her MA from the National Taiwan University of the Arts in 2006 and a PhD in the performing arts from the University of Northampton, UK in 2014. She was a postdoctoral fellow at the Improvisation Studies Centre based in the Faculty of Media, Art and Performance, University of Regina during 2016-2017. Her doctoral thesis, Being Formless: A Daoist Movement Practice, employs practice-as-research methodology to explore the ambiguity of the unknown as characterised in Daoism, how Daoist perspectives on qi-energy are manifest through in-between states of being and the transformation of the self.
Bronwyn Preece is a site-specific, improvisational performer, community Applied Theatre practitioner, butoh dancer, author, walking and visual eARThist continuously engaging with notions of embodiment and reciprocity, artistically interrogating the dichotomies between culture and ‘nature,’self and ‘environment’. Melding art and activism, performance and politics, she completed her PhD through the University of Huddersfield, UK in 2019, using improvisation as her means to explore the metaphoric and material overlaps and meanings of ‘ecology’ and ‘disability’ within and for our current age/climatic crisis, from within the embodied experience of someone with Wilson’s Disease.
Skype interview: Carol Brown and Jenny Roche (with Vida Midgelow)
Carol Brown is a choreographer, performer, teacher, writer and artistic director whose work explores the cracks between art forms. In 1992 she received a New Zealand Vice-Chancellor’s Scholarship to complete a PhD in Choreography (practice-led) from the University of Surrey, UK. Her doctorate concluded with the full-length solo work, The Anatomy of Reason. Her choreographic work has included extended collaborations and toured internationally including three strands of work: digital environments; dance and architecture dialogues through site sensitive performance; and dance theatre embodied questioning of gender and archive. She is Professor and Head of Dance at VCA Melbourne.
Jenny Roche is Senior Lecturer and Course Director of the MA in Contemporary Dance Performance at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, University of Limerick. From 2013 to 2017 she was a Senior Lecturer in Dance at Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane. She has published widely on the creative practice of dancers, dance and somatics and arts practice research and has worked extensively as a dancer. Her book Multiplicity, Embodiment and the Contemporary Dancer: Moving Identities was published in 2015, this book was based on her PhD project which she completed at University of Roehampton, UK in 2009.