Thirty years ago Paul Feyerabend, philosopher of science, published the controversial treatise Farewell to Reason, in which he denounced ‘reason’ as embedded in his day in numerous institutions and academies. According to Feyerabend there was nothing wrong as such with ‘reason’ and its related rationalism. However, after a decade-long domination of thinking in terms of sheer rational knowledge production, Feyerabend argued that the time had come to critically put such a universally incorporated mind-set into another perspective.

Today we encounter a similar situation in the arts with regard to the concept of ‘research’. Now as well the danger lurks that ‘artistic research’ will be encapsulated by academic and institutional stereotypes which will seriously impede creativity and artistic reflection. Therefore, a critical evaluation of – the dominance of – the concept of research and its related trends of thought in the art world seems to be necessary.

The curatorial proposal Farewell to Research for the 9th Bucharest Biennale intends to provide a clear and constructive contribution to such re-thinking and re-evaluating. It departs from the assumption that the current ontological impasse – the continued repetition of the academic question “what is artistic research?” – could be overcome by portraying artistic research as a transpositional framework of transformative activities: a non-disciplined space where an assemblage of three research ecologies – creative practices, artistic thinking processes, and curatorial strategies – continually produce new sets of relationships contributing, in an idiosyncratic way, to the articulation of urgent issues.

Put differently, artistic research should be characterized by the uninterrupted interaction and articulation of three inseparable and intrinsically intercon-nected lines: the line of creative practice, the line of artistic thinking, and the line of curatorial strategies. By using such a characterization the project clearly takes a distance from a series of misconceptions that have accumulated around the concept of artistic research over the past decade. Through preformed, static categories, these misconceptions seem to reduce research in the arts to a noun, whereas the above-described dynamics and the related provisional quality rather ask for the dynamics of a verb. But above all, these misconceptions result from the absolutization of one of the three – intrinsically and inseparably connected – lines.
In the project Farewell to Research these three research ecologies will be further situated departing from the perspective of the assemblage outlined earlier. A critical view on the rhetorical impact that an over-emphasis on creativity, artistic thinking, or curatorial strategies has on how we misun-derstand the concept of research today will be a significant part of the project.

Image Credit: Anur Hadžiomerspahić, “Human Condition”, series of posters, 49th Venice Biennale, 2001.

For BB9, curator Henk Slager is interested in evaluating—the dominance of—the concept of research and its related trends of thought in the contemporary art world. To this end he will—in collaboration with a number of decisive research centers—develop a constructive contribution to the re-thinking of the current artistic research discourse. Moreover, consideration will be given to finding a suitable, topical form of presentation. Related to this, attention will be paid to the role and significance of biennials as platforms for the production and circulation of ideas.

Image Credit: Claudia Brăileanu, “Seamless Affinities”, screenshot, installation & project realized in VR, work-in-progress, 2020