Research Inquiries / Research Perspectives / Research Through Practice, all MA/MFA programs, Konstfack College of Arts, Crafts and Design, 2007, 2008, 2009 2010 and 2013, 7.5 credits

The course 'Research through Practice' was initiated in 2007 to equip students with terms and methodologies from theory, history and practice-based research. It consolidated three previously separate courses – Research and Practice, Critical Terms, and the Master’s Colloquium – within a comprehensive approach and interdisciplinary faculty. The course explores experimental and scholarly methodologies in art, craft and design work, introduces students to key concepts in Western art, craft and design history and theory, and includes a project component in which these are explored and discussed in practice. The course is significant in how it interweaves these components, such that theory and practice are not presented sequentially or hierarchically. Rather, these are woven together within overlapping and parallel series of lectures, small seminars, individual and group work, studio work, reading days, and critique formats.

The shape and duration of the course changed over the years as research has developed within the school, in Sweden and elsewhere. The course has been a site for experiments with and controversies over definitions of artistic/design research in the school, different approaches to theory and practice, and direction from a dedicated faculty versusdepartment-directed activities. The name of the course also changed, from 'Research through Practice' to ‘Research Perspectives’ and, then, to 'Research Inquiry'.

It has been a 5-7 week course required for all incoming master’s students in art, craft and design at Konstfack (60-90 students each year). It is the first course in their first year of study, and it is significant in connecting across departments. Upon successful completion of the course, students should be able to: identify and analyze the relationship between their artistic or design practice and the bodies of knowledge relevant to research in their chosen field; be familiar with a range of perspectives and methodologies relevant to the field of practice-based research, identify the appropriate methodologies for their own practice; identify, analyze and discuss both established and contested concepts and terms within art, craft and design theory from a point of view informed by the history of ideas; recognize their information need, find the required information, critically evaluate documents, apply information and its sources; demonstrate the ability to independently and creatively formulate new questions and contribute to knowledge development, and; to critically reflect upon their own and others´ artistic and theoretical approaches to issues discussed in the course.

Image (above)
Photo from a presentation/installation in Event, Energy, Adapt

My role
The course was led by Rolf Hughes, and I was a core faculty member in launching the course. This has included participation in conceptualizing, planning and evaluating the course, as well as varied teaching responsibilities over the years:

– In 2013, I gave a lecture on 'Research through Practice' and tutored MFA Industrial Design students.
– In 2010, I gave a keynote lecture on ‘Experimental and Critical Practice’.
– In 2009, I gave a keynote lecture on ‘Material and Critical Practice’.
– In 2008, I gave a keynote lectures on ‘Research through Practice’ and ‘Material Practice’.
– In 2007, I contributed to the course introduction, gave a keynote lecture on ‘Research through Practice’, a seminar on ‘Critical Practice’, and I co-taught 'Event, Energy, Adapt'

I also contributed to panel discussions, tutorials and critiques within the course over the years. As examples of my teaching, two contributions are outlined below.

2009 'Material and Critical Practice' lecture
This lecture was a discussion of research in art, crafts and design in terms of 'material' and 'critical' aspects particular to this area of knowledge, theory and practice. The introduction was about issues of 'practice' within art, craft and design schools, disciplines, and professions, drawing on related arguments from Christopher Frayling, Jane Rendell, Stan Allan and others. In terms of material practice, I discussed arts and crafts history, activity and communities of practice in relation to embodied/embedded knowledge, introducing basic concepts illustrated with examples. In terms of critical practice, I argued for critical thinking from within practice, based in a history of criticality in related fields such as architecture. In industrial, graphic, interaction and experience design, I discussed examples of criticality as opposition and reinvention of modes of production/consumption, with examples in Dexter Sinister, Dunne&Raby and KVA. My work in the Interactive Institute's Switch! project was presented as an example of 'material thesis', in which critical objects situated a material performative and participatory discourse among critical subjects.

2007 'Event, Energy, Adapt' project co-taught with R. Hughes
This was a 2-week project component within the overall course for about a quarter of the students. It included three lectures, a workshop based on material experimentation, a ‘field study’ based on public interventions/performances and studio work, mostly conducted as group-based activities. In the project, we took ‘event’ as a basis for deconstructing and redesigning everyday interactions that involve the use of energy. The project brief was to explore material and performative processes, in which forms of energy were conceptualized and crafted within everyday public spaces. The process involved analysis and recomposition of everyday encounters with energy (services, objects, communications) as events. This involved methods from crafts processes as well as Situationist-inspired interventions. Outcomes ranged from critical designs, hybridised performances, experience prototypes, to projective utopias. The overall goal was to consider, discuss and exemplify issues of criticality, nature/culture and intervention.