ISSUE #10 – The controversial institutionalisation of artistic research

Comments on the Vienna Declaration

In June 2020, European umbrella organisations for higher-art education came together to produce a document called the Vienna Declaration on Artistic Research. The aim was to provide a framework for artistic research, in terms of both objectives and outcomes. The declaration recalls and continues the work begun by the 1999 Bologna Declaration, which led to the harmonisation of academic education in Europe through the LMD reform (Licence/Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctorate).

While it hasn’t yet been much talked of, the Vienna Declaration does contain some controversial proposals. Nienke Terpsma and Florian Cramer, two art researchers who claim non-academic status, wrote a text in January 2021 entitled, “What is Wrong with the Vienna Declaration on Artistic Research?”. We are publishing it along with a translation in French, as we feel it necessary to open a debate on these issues. Indeed, the Vienna Declaration, which Terpsma and Cramer judge reductive and neo-liberal, was developed without consulting the people who would be affected by it, namely the artists.

This feature culminates in an interview with Anthony Masure (Head of Research at the HEAD – Genève) and a statement by Doreen Mende (Art Researcher and Head of the CCC Visual Arts Master’s), both of which reflect the position of the HEAD – Genève, notably in its defence of research-creation. Lastly, we publish another charter by a collective of art practitioners which offers an alternative and resistant vision to the Vienna Declaration’s attempt to control artistic research. At the crossroads of multiple issues and ideologies, this field oscillates between the need for funding and legitimation on the one hand, and the art-specific demand for freedom in its formats and methodologies on the other.

Sylvain Menétrey

Cover image: Denise Bertschi, Oasis of Peace. Neutral Only On The Outside. Exhibition view, Centre Culturel Suisse Paris, 2021, photo: Tristan Savoy. Denise Bertschi is currently working on a PhD in art at HEAD – Genève.

What’s Wrong with the Vienna Declaration?

A Charter for Advanced Practices

Principles for an open-ended artistic research