In practice-based research, or research in and through art/design, practical action (the making) and theoretical reflection (the thinking) go hand in hand. The one cannot exist without the other; in the same way that action and thought are inextricably linked in artistic practice.
This type of research does not have a predetermined methodology. It has an open character, which is determined by the desire to reflect one’s art or design practice, in collaboration with others. Research has always been an integral part of the artistic practice of visual artists and designers, but over the past decades, attention for the research aspect of art and design practice has increased. Contemporary artists and designers often position themselves as researchers in both the social and the artistic field. In some cases the research has become the artwork or design itself; matter and medium function as the instruments in the research or “thinking process”.
The artist/designer-as-researcher distinguishes themselves from other artists/designers by taking it upon themselves to make statements about their thinking process and the production of work. The researcher allows others to participate in this research process, entering into a discussion with others and opening themselves up to critique. The researcher seeks the discussion in the public domain. Without public discussion and the exchange with peers the research lacks its reason for existence. When this exchange takes place in an academic context, within the framework of research for a PhD as is the case with PhDArts, certain conditions apply. For example, the research needs to yield fresh insights, not merely into one’s personal work but into art or design in the broader sense as well. Supervision plays a crucial part in critically evaluating the contribution to the artistic domain.
Language, in whichever way, plays an important part in the research. Without language it is impossible to enter into a discourse. Inventing a language which enables the researcher to communicate with others and which enables the evaluation of the research is as important as devising a viable research methodology.