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Saturday 09/06

Whose Terms? A Glossary for Social Practice: RESEARCH

by Hakan Topal, tagged with Whose Terms?, Hakan Topal, Research, social practice, glossary
Cover Image:

Hakan Topal, ROBOSKI: STATE, TRAGEDY, CONDOLENCE, 2012–14 (forthcoming) (screen capture). Research project, interactive book

Hakan Topal contributes to our collective glossary-building with an entry on RESEARCH, the fourth of seven successive posts on terms associated with social practice, initiated via an open call.

A reference to research often implies a variation of scientific methodology or a combination of tools and techniques that are employed to identify patterns in natural or social worlds. The terms “artistic” and “research” used in conjunction don’t seem entirely compatible: They bring together a systematic approach to testing, analysis, and evaluation with personal expressions, utterances, and gestures. In contrast to any scientific model that aims to either “explain” or “interpret” phenomena, artistic research might best be measured by its capacity to engage with and create relations between matters, things, and concepts. An artwork creates its own space of engagement and therefore its own set of rules. Art can be considered as a hybrid modality for knowing the perceivable world and expanding its limits. The artistic research is manifested through intellectual production and initiates new forms of intelligible affects, emotions, and sentiments beyond didactic explanations or interpretations.

What is an artistic (research) method? When an artist enters into a social realm to conduct a research project, her or his intuition provides the ground for the in-situ production of knowledge. Intuition can be considered as a practical method, a fundamental aspect of artistic knowledge production implemented “here and now,” and always geared toward an action. In artistic research, perhaps more so than other disciplines, intuition is utilized as a method to identify a wide range of new and unexpected productive modalities. As explained by Henri Bergson1—and later expanded by Gilles Deleuze2—intuition differs from material knowledge (something already known), but it is never the transcendental (absolute) idea. Intuition as a tool counters the assumed split between the material reality (realism) and the conceptual realm (idealism). The idea of divine inspiration is no longer required to explain the moment when the artistic idea occurs. Instead “eruption of intuition” occurs within the very material site of the mind, projected to the membrane of the brain. Intuition provides artists the basis for the systematic exploration of aggregated content and its combined affects. We need to note that practitioners of other fields turn to intuition to further expand their field yet, at the same time, they are bound by strict disciplinary procedures. For art, however, a sensible and highly flexible engagement with the social realm shapes artistic output.

Accumulations of documents, images, and recordings serve as an artist’s personal archive. Later on, these materials can be used to realize works. For projects that take artistic research as their core, the formal outcome may appear as a second thought. And yet documents have very specific formal qualities—determined, for instance, by the film or paper type, color selections, graphical representations, typography, timbre of sound, the grain of an image—which in turn evidence certain institutional practices or a specific time period. In other words, while artistic research brings our attention to the importance of the site and a moment of personal engagement, the form its presentation takes cannot be taken for granted, since the material itself is also a repository of meaning.


Hakan Topal, ROBOSKI: STATE, TRAGEDY, CONDOLENCE, 2012–14 (forthcoming). Research project, interactive book

Hakan Topal is an artist and Assistant Professor of New Media and Art+Design at Purchase College, SUNY, living and working in New York City. He is currently working on a book and project about the idea of collateral damage and condolence payments in globalized wars.



1 Henri Bergson, The Creative Mind: An Introduction to Metaphysics, trans. Mabelle L. Andison (Mineola: Dover Publications, 2010)..


2 Gilles Deleuze, Bergsonism, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam (New York: Zone Books, 1991).

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