What is art and research?

The Bologna Process in the French Debate.

Art and research is not only a matter of free collaboration between artists and researchers. Since 2008, it’s a political, educational, bureaucratic issue in Europe. On this matter, French debate is extensive. Is it because of the history of art education in this country. Indeed, the separation that occur between Fine Art Schools and University Programs at the end of the 60s leads to two conceptions of art education. Two ways of studying and making art. One where a Ph. D. thesis conclude height years of study, the other that end in the fifth year by an artistic project. In them, how art is relate to theory is a central disparity.

License-Master-Doctorate reform, the so call Bologna Process, all over Europe leads to an harmonization of art education. It forces Fine Art Schools to rethink what is research in art; to get closer to the university model. It require from students to accompany the presentation of their art work by a one or two hundred pages thesis. In this end, Fine Art Schools need to rethink their curricula and increase theoretical formation. French art sociologist Jérémie Vandenbunder[1]– who did his fieldwork at the height of the reform – shows the great impact of it on the definition of what an artist is. What is the expertise his required to build? Does he need a formation at all? Who is qualify to judge is work?

Is this reform worse losing the specificity of research in art? Are Universities a better model than Fine Arts Schools? It’s what French intellectuals are asking. The exciting edition of Critique journal [2]offer an overview on this debate. Coordinate by Élie During and Laurent Jeanpierre, the issue comes back on the articulation between art and theory. Notably, they observe that while artists are more than ever train to theory, they are mush less prone to write manifesto or critics, unlike their peers of the 60s. In that case, what all this theory is about? What is it offering to the art? And is it a one way relation of influence or does art impact the making of social sciences?

Bologna process leads to the development of collaboration between Fine Art Schools and research laboratories. The researcher Yves Winkin, professor in communication sciences, comes back on his experience; highlighting that it's not all the time a happy one, that negotiations are needed.[3]Indeed, artists and researchers are part of two distinct professions, where times, norms, issue, out comes are all but similar. Finding a way to work together is not always an easy task. Not because it is the craze, or because institution ask for it, but because we actually think it will increase our perceptions of the world, our knowledges. Because it makes our art and our research better.

Dr Annabelle Boissier, April 2017


[1]Vandenbunder, Jérémie. « Peut-on enseigner l’art ? Les écoles supérieures d’art, entre forme scolaire et liberté artistique ». Revue française de pédagogie, no192 (19 août 2016): 121‑34.

[2]Élie During, Laurent Jeanpierre, « En pensant par l'art », Critique 2010/8 (n°

759-760), p. 643-646.

[3]Winkin, Yves. « Les sciences humaines aiment-elles l’art contemporain ? » Tracés. Revue de Sciences humaines, no#11 (1 décembre 2011): 79‑87. doi:10.4000/traces.5271.