Truly avant-garde

March 28, 2013

I was disappointed with the reader responses to “Lines of investigation” and “Opus versus output”, your articles about artistic practice as research (7 March). Of the two professors emeritus numbered among your three correspondents, John Radford expresses something closest to what I had in mind: but his commitment to a disciplinarity pursued “at the highest level” fails to acknowledge the difficulties with that notion when it comes to art practice (“Artistic assessment”, Letters, 14 March).

In his editorial on 7 March, John Gill refers to a myth - that of creation or creativity - by adding to that myth himself: “There was a time…when art was art and research was research.” In “Lines of investigation”, Malcolm Quinn, associate dean of research at the University of the Arts London, suggests that for the kind of research at stake, the “British system offers an opportunity to think through what it means to be an artist in the university”. I suspect this niche opportunism sits ill with Radford’s call to expand both the conception of research and what universities are charged with in promoting it.

On the other hand, as someone with a background in university lecturing in the art and design sector, I would firmly reject the path towards increasing professionalism, including the professional doctorate as the criterion of choice (advocated by Andrew McGettigan in his letter).

There is a kind of art practice that is far more radical than the sphincter-related celebrity of Daniel Ploeger or the shape-shifting of Roberta Mock. It is implicit in Nicholas Till’s assertion in “Opus versus output” that higher education institutions need “proficient and experienced practitioners”. It is a practice that challenges the official apparatus of research and its agenda at root. It is teaching.

Michael Marshall

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