art as research / serge stauffer / 1976
1 no single concept of “art” is shared by society as a whole.
2 today, “free art” ought to transform itself into “free creativity,” “which is produced by everyone, not only by one particular kind of individual” (lautréamont’s postulate of 1870).
3 “everyone” must be encouraged to be freely creative.
4 today, “art” should become a specialised profession that serves research on society; art should be an extended anthrophology, a study of human beings, concerned with the whole human being.
5 i call the results of this research “art research.”
6 art research requires specialised studies, which not everyone is willing to take upon themselves and which take several years; it is elitist, that is, not accessible to everyone, like all scientific research within this system; it must beware of serving those in power.
7 creativity is merely what benefits everyone.
8 art-research requires a methodology of its own; while it cannot adopt natural-science methodology, it can certainly be inspired by it.
9 this methodology needs to be developed in the coming decades.
10 analogous to studying psychology, studying art-research presupposes a period of self-experience; this must be paralleled by a process of critical social experience.
11 during this period, the contradictions between the individual and society must be recognised and expressed; a critical understanding of these contradictions must be developed.
12 the process of self-experience is the basis for building self-confidence as a researcher, a personal trait that must be permanently practised through ongoing learning; group experience is necessary in this process, psychotherapy perhaps recommendable.
13 self-experience occurs only in a climate of freedom; it relates to anti-fear and playfulness, not ritual.
14 every school intending to pursue art research in the future must create such a climate; the f+f seeks to satisfy such fundamental requirements mentioned previously.
15 should the f+f not manage to pursue art-research in the proper meaning of the word, then because of lacking experience and the current resistance in society to such research.
16 the struggle for recognition of the social usefulness of art-research may last for a long time; this struggle can be compared to the one waged by psychology about a hundred years ago in its endeavour to gain recognition as a science.
Serge Stauffer presented his 16 theses in the autumn of 1976, in a brochure accompanying an exhibition of the former F+F Schule für experimentelle Gestaltung Zürich (now the F+F Schule für Kunst und Mediendesign) at the Kunsthaus Zürich. The theses have been extracted from that brochure. Subsequently, in 1976–77, Stauffer wrote 31 leaflets about “art as research” for F+F classes. Until late 1977, he added various passages to the text, which he published in 1981 in Genie gibt’s – Die siebziger Jahre an der F&F Schule für experimentelle Gestaltung (eds. Gerhard Johann Lischka and Hansjörg Mattmüller, Frankfurt am Main, 1981, pp. 61–93). In the introduction to this text, he wrote:
these “theses” […] may serve as a basis for a detailed study on “art as research,” which seeks to establish to what extent such “research” has already existed for decades without, however, being heralded explicitly as such. This initial study may therefore contain errors. It marks a preliminary step toward more detailed studies, which must be undertaken to free “art” from the ghetto of the obsession with novelty, from the addiction to copyright, from a narcissistic, self-expressing mindset and from serving society only with a percent-for-art program. These future studies are necessary to liberate society from the notion of “art-as-ability,” so as to encourage creativity among everyone, irrespective of whether it is “art” or not (p. 61).
This essay was re-published together with other texts by Stauffer in Serge Stauffer: Kunst als Forschung – Essays, Gespräche, Übersetzungen, Studien (ed. Helmhaus Zürich, 2013). Translation by Mark Kyburz, Zurich.
Michael Hiltbrunner, email@example.com
IFCAR Institute for Contemporary Art Research, Zurich University of the Arts ZHdK