Principles Of Artistic Research In Performance Doctorates. Guest Speaker Annette Arlander

Online Seminar Series

Artist, researcher and pedagogue Annette Arlander, University of the Arts Helsinki, will discuss potential guiding principles of artistic research in performance within the context of the artistic doctorate. Arlander will share her experiences of the so called Nordic model of artistic doctorates and its variations.

This event took place on Thursday 9th July 11am – 12pm.

Recording of the seminar

presentation by Annette Arlander

In Summary…

Annette Arlander introduces the seminar by speaking of tensions related to current and historical principles in Artistic Research in performance. What does the term performance mean and what does it refer to? What about the term doctorate? Tensions around pedagogy are discussed next – artists doing PhDs are training to become researchers who may supervise and teach. What about the purpose of the degree itself: is doctoral research in the arts centred around a contribution to knowledge, or around the development of an art form? 

Arlander goes on to map out many other tensions in Artistic Research: the notion of artistic research as interdisciplinary – for example, in between art and academia, or art and other disciplines such as education. This particular point stayed with me; some of the best examples of artistic research doctoral projects I know are indeed interdisciplinary projects, where the contribution to knowledge becomes apparent in the exploration of ways in which different areas of practice meet one another. Arlander finishes her journey through tensions by addressing the issue of theory & practice: what should the balance between artistic outputs and written text be? What is the role of the written component, and shall it deconstruct the failures or celebrate the innovations? Or putting this another way: are institutional requirements to be followed or are the arts meant to destabilize and re-do them? 

Next, Arlander maps out the tensions in Artistic Research in Performing Arts. She discusses four interconnected arenas: a product-orientated approach where the main goal is to make work; a practice-led focus where the practice itself is more important than the outcome; versus, on the other side, a developmental approach to create something new; and a reflective approach to critically unpack the body of work created. Most Artistic Research projects in performing arts fall in one way or another in this spectrum and include all four arenas. Other tensions were raised but there were two which felt particular crucial to performance making: research in performing arts is usually a collaborative affair rather than an individual practice, and often involves the role of the audience as a co-creator.  

As Arlander argues at the end of her presentation, some of these polarities are indeed necessary: she sees Artistic Research as a space where different approaches can co-exist. She is in clear agreement with Dr Yvon Bonenfant, who outlined in the Introduction Seminar that one of the main challenges for Artistic Research is to keep this emerging field alive, rather than adopting a fossilised approach to this arena of practice. Arlander raised and discussed many other tensions. I invite you to watch her presentation and the Q&A that followed, and perhaps, if you wish, to map out where you position yourself in the landscape of tensions that Arlander has so clearly outlined. 

About Annette Arlander

Annette Arlander is an artist, researcher and a pedagogue, one of the pioneers of Finnish performance art and a trailblazer of artistic research. She is educated as theatre director, Master of Arts (philosophy) and Doctor of Art (theatre and drama). Arlander was the first to be awarded a doctorate from the Theatre Academy, Helsinki (in 1999). In 2001 she was invited as professor of performance art and theory to instigate the MA degree program in performance art and theory (or Live Art and performance studies, as it is called today) a position she held until 2013. In 2007-2009 she was also head of the research department or Performing Arts Research Centre (Tutke) at the Theatre Academy. In 2015-2016 she was professor of artistic research at the University of the Arts Helsinki Theatre Academy and (temporary) vice dean for research there, as well as visiting professor at Stockholm University of the Arts. In 2016 she was professor of artistic research at Academy of Fine Arts University of the Arts Helsinki and is since 2017 a visiting researcher there. In 2017 Arlander was a postdoctoral fellow in the arts at Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies. Find out more here.

Links shared in Annette’s Presentation

Link to a previous talk:

Arlander, Annette. 2019. ”What do we mean by artistic research? Some Nordic perspectives on artistic doctorates” (recorded lecture)  

Some publications where Annette discusses some of these tensions:

— “Finding your way through the woods – experiences in artistic research” Nordic Theatre Studies Vol. 20. 2008, pp. 28-41.

— “Artistic Research – from Apartness to Umbrella Concept at the Theatre Academy, Finland” in Shannon Rose Riley & Lynette Hunter (eds.) Mapping Landscapes for Performance as Research – Scholarly Acts and Creative Cartographies. Palgrave Macmillan 2009, pp. 77-83.

— “Characteristics of Visual and Performing Arts” in Michael Biggs & Henrik Karlsson (eds.) The Routledge Companion to Research in the Arts. Routledge 2011, pp. 315-332.

— “Artistic Research in a Nordic Context” in Robin Nelson (ed.) Practice as Research in the Arts – Principles, Protocols, Pedagogies, Resistances. Palgrave Macmillan 2013, pp. 152-162.

— “Artistic Research and/as Interdisciplinarity – Investigação em Arte e/como Interdisciplinaridade”. In artistic research does #1. Edited by Catarina Almeida & Andre Alves. NEA/12ADS Research Group in Arts Education/ Research Institute in Art, Design, Society; FBAUP Faculty of Fine Arts University of Porto. 2016, pp. 1-27. Available here:

— “Artistic Research as a Speculative Practice”, JAR (Journal for Artistic Research) network 2017.

— “Practising art – as a habit? / Att utöva konst – som en vana?” In Ruukku  Journal issue 7 edited by Anu Vehviläinen and Markus Kuikka. June 2017.

— “Artistic Research as Situated Practice – Performing with Lichen”. In José Quaresma (ed.) Investigação em Artes – A necessidade das ideias artísticas / Research in the Arts – The need for artistic ideas, Faculdade de Letras da Universidade de Lisboa 2018, pp 27-42.

— “Introduction to Future Concerns. Multiple Futures of Performance as Research.” In Annette Arlander, Bruce Barton, Melanie Dreyer-Lude, Ben Spatz (eds.) Performance as Research: Knowledge, Methods, Impact. London And New York: Routledge 2018, pp. 333-349.

A recent publication with a good overview on performance:

Laura Cull: “Artistic Research and Performance” in De Assis & D’Errico (eds.) Artistic Research – Charting a Field in Expansion. Rowman and Littlefield International 2019, p 146-174.

Examples: Nordic National schools of performing arts

Stockholm University of the Arts – research education (in Performative and mediated Practices):

University of the Arts Helsinki Theatre Academy – Doctoral Programme of Artistic Research in Performing Arts:

Oslo National Academy of the Arts – PhD in Artistic Research:

The Danish National School of Performing Arts – Artistic Research:

Iceland University of the Arts – Research:

This series of seminars is part of the research project Visioning the Future: Artistic Doctorates in Ireland. Presentations and discussions will be video and audio recorded. This documentation will be available on the project website and may contribute to the development of Open Educational Resources. 

By participating in this seminar you are giving your approval for audio-visual recording of the sessions, consenting to participate in this research project (anonymously or by providing your name if asking a question), and agreeing to the possibility of quotation/publication of extracts of your participation.