[ISEA2017] Panel: Andrew Newman — Fake Organum: The Uneasy Institutionalisation of Art as Research

Panel Statement

Panel: Institutions in Crisis

Keywords: Artistic Research, Research Methods, University-Based Art, Methodologies, Scientism, Francis Bacon.

Artistic research is still in its infancy and continues to pander to dominant institutional discourses of what research is. In particular artists too often ‘borrow’ methodologies from the sciences to justify their practice as research. There is a need for a Novum Organum Artium that will form the foundation of an artistic method, just as Francis Bacon’s Novum Organum Scientarium did for the scientific method.

In Novum Organum (1620), Francis Bacon introduced his inductive method of experimentation that was foundational for the development of the modern scientific method. Novum Organum, translated as ‘new instrument’, argued for an alternative system of logic to the syllogism described in Aristotle’s Organum. Bacon’s method advocated that only after careful cataloguing and classification of all instances in which a characteristic under observation is present (or absent), could a theory on the observed characteristic be formulated inductively. Despite the problem of induction outlined by both Hume and Popper, inductivism continues to feature in scientific practice and has historically demonstrated considerable success. Most contemporary research utilising Big Data could certainly be described with Bacon’s method of induction. A method in which “the scientist would question nature without biases or hypotheses and move to generalities in an algorithmic fashion, as if (in Bacon’s words) by machinery” (Conrad & Serlin, 2011). Indeed, the relentless and exhaustive collection of data required by Bacon before any general theory can be posited is perhaps only possible if undertaken by a machine.

  • Andrew Newman is an artist and researcher based between Sydney, Australia and Vienna, Austria. His research focuses on epistemic cultures in arts and technology, while his performative art practice stabs in the dark. Newman currently leads the Open Publishing Lab at the Research Institute for Arts and Technology (RIAT, Vienna, Austria) and he is co-editor of the Journal for Research Cultures.

Full text (PDF) p. 645-647