What do artists bring to research?


 It’s conference season as we speed toward the end of the year. The Australian Academy of the Humanities hosted their 51st Symposium At the Crossroad? Australia’s Cultural Future. The aim was to facilitate conversations about the transformations needed to secure Australia’s cultural and creative future. It brought researchers, practitioners, creators and policy makers together to consider how innovative cultural policy settings and creative practice could together underpin a path to recovery, for people and communities.

Photo of my screen as we began our webinar

It was such a buzz to be on a panel as part of a satellite session, hosted by The Australia Council for the Arts, exploring the intersections between creative practice, research, industry and government. With me were Pat Grant (UTS): writer, illustrator and author of two graphic novels; Gabriel Clark (UTS): designer, photographer and producer of multimedia storytelling events and Alon Ilsar: drummer, composer, instrument designer and researcher. Our brief was to reflect on the skills artists bring to a research project and to consider the ways in which artists’ predisposition to enquiry, creative thinking, and their ability to communicate ideas could be more intimately involved in research. The panel was beautifully organised and facilitated by Christen Cornell.

Christen asked us to consider questions including: What might be the outcomes of allowing artists to creatively analyse data? How might artists’ creative communication of findings open onto new audiences, such as those who are unlikely or unable to read traditional research reports?

These questions have relevance for access and inclusion, with alternative research outputs for example audio-based (see Alon’s work), or visual representation (Pat and Gabe’s work). They also raise further questions about opportunities for artists interested in working in cross-sectoral industry settings.