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PhD programme

In cooperation with the University of Leiden:

PhDArts offers an international, high-level doctorate in art and design. The PhDArts research trajectory consists of two elements: individual research and participation in the doctoral study programme. An appropriate team of supervisors is sought for each doctoral student. The doctoral study programme, which consists of lectures, seminars, trainings, and workshops, is an essential part of the research environment in which the student undertakes his or her research.

In practice-based research, or research in and through art, 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 art work or design itself; matter and medium function as the instruments in the research or “thinking process”.

The artist/designer-as-researcher distinguishes himself from other artists by taking it upon himself to make statements about his 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 himself 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, 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.

Doctoral research

Research in and through art is an inseparable part of the artistic or design practice of the researcher. Consequently, research in art (as opposed to research about art, such as art history) does not have a set goal or expected result, nor are there predetermined general procedures. The outcome of the research is open. This openness is a condition for conducting research in art and design.

There is a unique relationship between the artist/designer, the research method and the outcome of the research. This research is only possible thanks to the artist’s artistry and, the other way round, the artist develops his artistry through the research. The outcome is therefore an artistic product, combined with a discursive product, the dissertation, which does justice to the artistic one.

This final result of this type of research, which is by its nature speculative, cannot be restricted to one particular form. The criteria for the form the research may take are therefore kept as open as possible. Also, there is no fixed ratio between dissertation and artistic production. The requirements that the research must satisfy and the researcher’s methodology derive in part from the assignment that the artist or designer has given himself.

Judith Westerveld

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Last updated: 2015-12-03

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