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Frank Hesse / Projects / Art of Research. Techniques of knowledge-building and structuring in artistic-scientific practice. (2005 – ...)

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Art and science converge at the point of image-making as a production of knowledge. The culture-theoretical debate concerning the so-called Pictorial or Iconic Turn, has led to a change in research objects and perspectives. Under the semiological structuralistic-maxim that held favour up until the 1980s, the cultures of symbols and text were central. Since then, an awakening of interest in pictorial and visual culture can be determined in research projects and publications.

The “visual” has assumed a constructive role in the history of thought and in our knowledge methodology. Meanwhile, it is commonly accepted that the sensory assimilation of concealed processes and theoretical objects produces knowledge. However, the anti-visual rhetoric at the end of the 18th Century has encouraged the perception that enlightenment is established by the use of words as part of a continuous text and not by pictures. Moreover, the text should be comprised of individual facts capable of isolation.

This, in principle, picture-hostile perspective appears to be changing. The constitutive function of pictorial representation for instance, is subject to scientific discussion in the context of imgaging technologies precipitating the establishment of knowledge. Science historians emphasize the autonomous executive function of images/pictures and the problematic of their representative power. Scientific images are the result of complex transformation processes in which technically produced events - such as measuring data or recordings of signals and electromagnetic waves - are translated into symbolic representation. A scientific image is a model that is not definitively determined by the object it apparently represents. It rather points to internal references and to other representations – tables, pictures, curves etc. The represented object is not a factual entity, but rather the sum of the interpretations of its internal references. Models serve to conceptualise the object, thus facilitating its being. Representation models constitute that which can be known, and as such, are culture forming - as are all research processes.

Research is determined by uncertainty, search methods and contingence - which is not to say that it is non-methodical. The investigation “Art of Research” focuses on the structural characteristics of pictures/images and visual presentations, as well as methods and techniques of artistic production juxtaposed with the coherence and legitimation principles prevailing in the art world. The “Art of Research” project attempts to unite artistic processes and scientific methods productively, thus establishing a self-reflexive form of cultural practice. Central to the project are - iconic representation techniques that are analysed in terms of knowledge-production and structuring processes, questions of visualisation, and finally - the relationship between experience and comprehension for knowledge-production and its proliferation. The project also deals with the limits of knowledge. The aim of the project is to establish an artistic-scientific investigation in which experimental processes and iconic models are effective and discussed in its epistemic and rhetorical function. Our interest in pictorial-art processes is based on two points: On the one hand, aspects that consolidate forms of practice – in opposition to the traditionally adopted explicitly text oriented forms of knowledge – including historical, cultural and gender determined contexts, contingencies, space, contemporary historical events and the subject. And, on the other hand, the promotion of knowledge as an active thought process. Both these central themes are concerned with the activation of a knowledge culture, in which knowledge can be experienced in a more active and process oriented mode, thus affecting a departure from the hierarchical differentiation inherent, for instance, in the theory-practice dichotomy. The effect of art is not exclusively unidirectional, but takes place in process categories, which incorporate the potential for participation and exchange. The numerous possibilities of categorisation and interpretation schemata, as well as the departure from outdated orders of visual perception contribute to these effects. Moreover, an artistic-scientific investigation promises to initiate a critical iconic model that is, in itself, capable of exposing iconic significance.

Translation: Philip Jacobs

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