This issue of Studio Research has emerged from papers and drawings presented at the inaugural Drawing International Brisbane (DIB) Symposium, held at Griffith University (GU) in 2015. An initiative of Drawing International Griffith (DIG) and the Griffith Centre for Creative Arts Research, the Symposium brought together over one hundred international drawing researchers.
In March 2015, the Australian Council of Deans and Directors of Creative Arts (DDCA) conducted a three-day symposium in Melbourne entitled “The Outstanding Field: Artistic Research Emerging from the Academy”.1 This symposium, organised and chaired by Barbara Bolt, the Associate Director of Research and Research Training at the Victorian College of Art and Melbourne Conservatorium of Music and a Studio Research Board Member, presented a showcase of twenty-six exemplary Australian and New Zealand practice-led PhD projects from the past decade. A full spectrum of creative arts research was included in the selection: visual art, film, design, dance, and music. The aim of the symposium to showcase quality through the breadth of the sample naturally emphasised individual excellence, and, unsurprisingly, no single methodology or approach emerged as dominant. Nevertheless, it was interesting to see that the number of research projects engaged with science and technology equalled those affiliated with, or critically connected to, philosophy, cultural studies, or the humanities more generally.
This issue of Studio Research similarly eschews thematic or methodological coherence by including five very different papers.
If this is a representative sample of contemporary studio-based research practice in academe, as I implied above, then there is a clear and refreshing tendency among them. This is not their multidisciplinary approach, since this has been the standard, and perhaps a necessary strategy for artists to survive in academe, for two decades. What is new here is the departure from a humanities-based rationale for their investigation, usually in the form of social science or, more typically, post-structuralist philosophy. Instead, this issue presents artists who are drawing conceptual frameworks for their investigations from environmental science, quantum physics, neocybernetics, biochemistry, and radiography. The emphasis on material transformation through process is no doubt what links the artist’s studio to the science lab, as it always has, but it may be premature to claim that contemporary art is coming home to its origins with science.
The graduates from academe in the creative fields are more likely to enter vocations as curators, arts administrators, educators, and arts writers than they are to enter a private studio. Given the increasing power of academe within the Artworld, it is fitting to reflect on Kuhn’s observation about science—that “there are no other professional communities in which individual creative work is so exclusively addressed to and evaluated by other members of the profession”. To what degree we emulate or challenge this approach of our sovereign sister discipline in academe is a moot point but there is no question that those in the creative arts must continue to develop critical engagement with their peers, especially in promoting protocols to measure quality and rigour.
Studio Research will continue to engage these debates while remaining focussed on its primary aim to contribute to the enlargement and refinement of practice-based research through disseminating the critical thinking inherent in creative work.
The rapid expansion of studio research has created a vacuum into which many of our young and not-so-young Doctoral graduates find themselves. There are few grants available to them; post-doctorate scholarships are almost non-existent in the creative areas; and, above all, there are few journals in which they can publish the results of their research. Studio Research aims to make a modest contribution in filling that role within Australia.