The Academy of Creative and Performing Arts (ACPA) recently appointed a new Professor. The institute is bidding farewell to Professor Janneke Wesseling and welcomes Anke Haarmann, who is not only a new Professor but will also take over Wesseling's responsibilities as Director of PhDArts. In this interview, we look back and ahead with them.
JANNEKE, YOU HAVE NOW RETIRED. WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF FROM THE PAST YEARS?
‘When I started, there was no PhD track for the Arts. So, with the help of Frans de Ruiter (founder of ACPA, the Academy of Creative and Performing Arts at Leiden University), I set up PhDArts, where artists can do a PhD. That was quite an adventure because we had to create the context in which these PhD tracks could take place. We had to decide, for example, how artists would meet the academic standards. That makes it not only interesting but also important, especially because not all the artists were very familiar with academic practices or criteria.
Things have changed since then. We now have fourteen good examples of completed PhD tracks at PhDArts that help us set a standard. At the same time, the possibility to do a PhD in the Arts sends a very important message to the field of arts and culture and to policymakers. The arts do not just belong in art institutions such as museums and galleries. Artists can and should take part in academic debates on societal and political issues.'
ANKE, YOU ARE TAKING OVER FROM JANNEKE BOTH AS PROFESSOR AND AS DIRECTOR. WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE COMING PERIOD?
‘I agree with what Janneke just said: one of the most important aspects of the institutionalization of artistic research is that this research gains a position within the academic and the artistic world. Abstract things like knowledge somehow have to be materialized to become real. I think the PhDArts programme can become even more visible in the field of the Arts and within society. That is an issue I would like to focus on and one that is also in line with my research.
My research takes place on two different levels: the first is a more philosophical or epistemological study, where artistic research is given a place in the field of science and the humanities. The second is more practical. It is really important that we research and develop formats for publishing artistic research because at the moment we do not have such a tradition. Of course, we have to use existing platforms, but we also need to develop our own publishing methods.’
WHAT ARE YOU MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO IN THE COMING PERIOD?
Anke: ‘I am looking forward to working with the PhD candidates. Of course, it is important that we develop the policies that are needed, and I am keen to collaborate with the Royal Academy of Art, but working with PhD candidates is what is at the heart of artistic research. It gives you the chance to deal not only with different issues but also with different artistic methods. I also think that what PhD candidates do and their results are what will shape the identity of ACPA and the PhDArts programme. That makes it not only fun but also important.’
Janneke: ‘Actually, not much has changed since I retired. I still have seven PhD students and I lead an NWO-funded project that will run until July, and I am putting the finishing touches on a book that will be launched in June. I will also carry on with my committee and advisory work. But at the same time, I am looking forward to a slightly less 'jam-packed' agenda so I can spend a little more time on my farm and its huge garden in the east of the country.’