Artistic researchers, let’s hear your ideas

In the past few years, the amount of Research Pitching Competition applicants from arts and humanities has gradually risen. And we want more! We asked two esteemed experts to reflect on why artistic research matters – and why you should pitch it at Slush.

Art research

What’s the significance of artistic research in today’s world?

“I don’t think it’s too much to say that the arts and humanities are vital to our survival as a species,” says Elizabeth Jochum, associate professor at the Department of Communication and Psychology of Aalborg University. Her research lies in the intersection of robotics and art.

As one of this year’s Research Pitching Competition jury members, she thinks solving pressing global issues, such as climate change with its myriad effects, requires much more than scientific and technological expertise alone.

“We need human-centered solutions, including transforming our behaviours and how we organise ourselves. This is where the arts and humanities are essential. Artistic research opens up new horizons and pathways of inquiry for understanding the world and meeting challenges creatively.”

Former Research Pitching Competition pre-jury member, dean of the Academy of Fine Arts Jan Kaila takes a similar approach to the value of artistic research. Having worked as an artist, photographer, and arts professor for years, Kaila has witnessed artistic research turning from an avant-garde field into a more mainstream one.

“Art never gives mechanical or measurable answers to questions. Instead, it helps process subjects and phenomena that might otherwise be difficult to take in. Artistic research gives us means to pay better attention to minor things, like unexpected details in our surroundings,” he explains.

How do you pitch artistic research?

Artistic research activates the general public in ways that traditional academic approaches do not, and there is tremendous value and potential in this approach, Jochum says. An essential thing to keep in mind in any research communication is to establish a meaningful connection, she continues.

“Pitching research is not just about communicating scientific principles, but starting conversations with the public and making audience members feel that they can participate rather than just receive a lecture.”

The connection between a researcher and their audience doesn’t only take place on a cognitive level, Jochum says.

“A pitch, or any research presentation, can also spark a visceral or sensorial reaction – whatever activates the listener’s senses, inquiry, or curiosity. Aesthetic experiences can also be intellectually profound.”

Research Pitching Competition by Slush and Skolar calls for and celebrates bold and innovative research ideas in all fields. Unestablished scientific insights and the no man’s lands of research deserve special attention, and that’s what artistic research does well.

“Art’s central merit is its freedom to explore the unexpected and offer new points of view,” Kaila says.

What’s Slush got to do with artistic research?

A lot, actually. A tech-oriented startup event provides an intriguing platform to both pitch artistic research and reflect on the relationship between art and technology.

“Art depends on technology to a great degree, and will increasingly do so in the future, whether it’s to utilize digital technologies to broaden artistic horizons or create new work,” Jan Kaila says.

According to Elizabeth Jochum, art and technology have different goals, but rather than being treated as an obstacle, this distinction can be embraced: we should think about building bridges between the disciplines, not necessarily try to merge them.

“The future is shaped by interdisciplinary discussions, such as those between art, science and society. For example, a city that’s designed only by engineers might be efficient. But the human experience isn’t only about maximizing efficiency. It’s incumbent on artists to contribute meaningfully to the dialogue and help shape our future,” she says.

Research Pitching Competition by Slush & Skolar grand finale at Slush 22nd November.