Artistic research has been a highly debated topic during the last twenty years and is subject of numerous publications, expositions and conferences. Many art academies and universities have formed programs and research units in recent years and an increasing number of artists complete PhDs. In today’s knowledge economy artistic forms of knowledge production as a potential source of creative and innovative research get increasing attention in guidelines of the creative industries as well as in scientific communities fostering transdisciplinary research (Biggs/Karlsson 2011; Joly/Warmers 2012).
On the other hand, the subjugation of artistic research to funding policies or scientific quality standards and criteria cause concerns on the artistic side that the arts are subordinated to heteronomous demands in the course of an ‘academization’ of art (Steyerl 2010; Lesage 2016). The discussion about quality criteria and standards of art as research is hardly contested and implies struggles over funding and the power to legitimize and define research and knowledge. Like hardly any other example, the institutionalization of artistic research demonstrates battles about the demarcation between artistic/cultural and academic field, but also tendencies of hybridization of both spheres.
The paper aims to critically analyze the institutionalization of artistic research from a sociological point of view, integrating concepts of the sociology of science and the sociology of art. It examines artistic research primarily as a social phenomenon and focusses on its actors and interests, but also on power relations and legitimation strategies behind the formation of a new discipline. Furthermore, empirical results of a qualitative study that focusses on the institutionalization of artistic research in the German speaking Countries will be presented: Six different case studies of artistic research programs were analyzed with regard to their strategic positioning in the discourse on artistic research and the forms the research projects take. By presenting examples the paper aims to examine the critical potentials of artistic research practices to call into question traditional modes of knowledge production and open up new possibilities of research in performative settings.