Artistic research in the performing arts
Artistic research in the performing arts at the Academy of Music and Drama spans a wide artistic area that includes several different arts: theatre, opera, musicals, performance art and other movement-based, participatory or cross-disciplinary forms of performing arts. Artistic practice is the focus of research within the field of performing arts. This field involves the study and development of forms and conditions for the performing arts with the help of relevant methods, in interplay with the artistic field and society in general.
The research methods are often performative, action-oriented, and experience-based, and are oriented towards both highlighting and analysing the artistic process, as well as experimenting with and staging new experimental situations. The forms and methods of the performing arts are central to the design of the research, but also take place in dialogue with scholarly fields such as philosophy, sociology, medicine and theatre and performance theory.
Proximity within the Performing Arts Unit at the Academy of Music and Drama reduces the distance between the different levels of education; doctoral students, undergraduates, researchers and other teachers regularly meet in various forums. During the current period (2019–2020), the entire performing arts area is focused on dramaturgy in particular as a common theme, which permeates the joint in-depth study days and research activities in the unit. The focus here is on new dramaturgical and narrative methods within the art forms.
Expanded area description and strategies
Artistic research in the performing arts is still a relatively young research area in Sweden. The Academy of Music and Drama has pursued senior research and offered a third-cycle subject area in this field since the mid-2000s. For many years, the Academy of Music and Drama has also hosted artistic development projects by teachers. Research at the Academy of Music and Drama spans a wide artistic field that includes several different art forms: theatre, opera, musicals, performance art and other movement-based, participatory or cross-disciplinary forms of performing arts. Artistic practice is the focus of research within the field of performing arts. It involves the study and development of forms and conditions for the performing arts with the help of relevant methods, in interplay with the artistic field and society in general. The research can focus on questions relevant to a given practice or artistic field; this may involve methodology, design, dramaturgical structures, production terms or audience interaction. It may also involve questions that are relevant in another field or to society at large and which pertain to political, social or aesthetic aspects.
Performing arts is a small unit, which brings different levels of education and artistic specialisations closer. Doctoral students, undergraduates, researchers and other teachers meet here regularly in various forums and there is interdisciplinary dialogue. The research environment is simultaneously bigger, as it also includes the entire Academy of Music and Drama, with its shared seminars, courses and units for doctoral students and researchers. In addition to this, there is a common graduate school and numerous research activities at the faculty level.
Specialisations and methods
Research in the performing arts has largely evolved through individual projects and interests, which coincides with the pluralistic and inclusive approach within our faculty since research began, but also with how research has coalesced nationally.
During the first few years, significant focus was placed on how to articulate the work of performing artists – and artistic research. A need has existed to articulate and document experiences, processes and work methods and to develop a voice for performing artists (actors, singers, etc.) within research who traditionally have not been the ones articulating themselves regarding work in the theatre. This focus characterises early research-oriented projects in the unit. It has often involved documenting educational methods, analysing specific artistic practices and processes, usually in relation to a given theme, and formulating possible paths for artistic research.
From a national perspective as well, artistic research in theatre has largely come to focus on actors’ work, with a basis in professional skill, practical knowledge and professional research with the help of critical reflection on the actors’ work methods. In recent years, this perspective has expanded to include more professional functions, more cross-disciplinary artistic expressions, and also other ways of viewing the traditional professions. This trend is clear within performing arts research at the Academy of Music and Drama, which in recent years has taken interest in the position of the director in collaborative post-dramatic processes, in artistic forms in theatre and opera that are movement-based, site-specific, and participatory, and in gender-aware and intersectional perspectives. Research in opera and musical theatre is pursued nationally by singers, composers and directors. The field clearly borders musical research, including composition and interpretation, and the lines between them are often fluid. The Academy of Music and Drama is engaged in research and development based in particular on the singer’s perspective, often strongly connected to issues related to gender, interactivity and new artistic forms. Research in musical theatre and musicals is lacking today both nationally and internationally to a significant extent, and is an important area for future development.
Research methods in the performing arts are often performative, action-oriented, and experience-based, and focus on both highlighting and analysing the artistic process and on experimenting with and staging new experimental situations. The forms and methods of the performing arts are central to how the research is designed, but also take place in clear dialogue with scholarly fields such as philosophy, sociology, medicine and theatre and performance theory. Artistic research in the performing arts is developing and constantly testing new forms of writing and documentation in dialogue with other fields and with artistic research overall. For example, it is home to the development of auto-ethnographic and performative writing, graphic scores, different forms of physical and site-specific surveys, experiments with artistic formats such as libretto or play scripts, podcasts or film. It is striking that artistic forms and meta-reflections are often intertwined and stimulate one another. Performing arts formats such as performance lecture, research performance and essay theatre are being explored.
The collective and multidisciplinary nature of the performing arts keenly allows cross-disciplinary questions. There is a connection to common areas of interest within many fields, such as psychology, medicine and urban studies. One example of such a partnership is a collaborative doctoral project between the Academy of Music and Drama and GPCC (Sahlgrenska), which is studying how to use the work methods of actors and directors to develop methods and perspectives in person-centred care. Another example is the previous collaboration with an archive project in Critical Heritage Studies at GU, in a project on performing arts in urban and public spaces. It is essential to further develop the meeting points and longer-term collaborations between performance practices and other research areas.
For a three-year period beginning in 2018, the performing arts area will focus on working with a common theme: dramaturgy. This pertains to research and development but also to the various education levels. In research and development, the focus is on new narratives and dramaturgical methods.
Changes to the performing arts landscape in recent years have made experimental forms of practices within such areas as performance art, live art and physical theatre more visible and present. When movement-based, post-dramatic and cross-artistic expressions shape performing arts, it has implications for the dramaturgical and narrative structures generated in performances and theatrical events. An international research discourse is now in development that asks questions about new forms of dramaturgy, often connected to societal questions. The purpose of this performing arts focus is to connect this type of research to questions about artistic and educational perspectives and which can highlight interesting challenges for tomorrow’s performing artists. In autumn 2018, a new doctoral student with a specialisation on movement-based performing arts and new dramaturgy was accepted. In January 2019, the Academy of Music and Drama hosted the annual International Platform for Performer Training conference, this time with a focus on dramaturgical matters.
Researchers and doctoral students in the performing arts belong to many research networks. The most significant include the Colloquium for Artistic Research in Performing Arts (CARPA), International Platform for Performer Training (IPPT), International Federation of Theatre Research (FIRT), Nordic Summer University (NSU) and the Society of Artistic Research (SAR). To this list we can add the faculty’s own platform, PARSE, or national networks such as the National Network for Performing Arts Research and the Swedish Biennial for Performing Arts. The international Gothenburg Dance and Theatre Festival, which has been an important collaborative partner over the years, can also be included.
Research also involves many partnerships with theatres, independent groups and institutions primarily in western Sweden, through individual artistic research projects or public research seminars. They include Folkteatern, Atalante, Konstepidemin, Operation Opera, Smålands Musik och Teater or Akademi Trappan. Collaborations are also underway with other units in the university, such as Theatre Studies, Valand Academy, the Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Research, GPCC and Critical Heritage Studies, as well as the International Science Festival.
A specially focused partnership is planned with Shota Rustaveli Theater and Film, Georgia State University in Tbilisi, in the third- and second-cycle levels in 2018–2021.