Including media and, more generally, non-propositional content in a journal article undoubtedly increases its complexity allowing more demanding things to be communicated. The labour involved in understanding media-rich, multimodal, and often non-linear articles can be either rewarding or frustrating depending on how, on reflection, we evaluate this encounter. As a reviewer recently commented: ‘I really enjoyed working on this article and want to thank you for the opportunity. It is only in this close reading that I became aware of how effectively your format works.’ It may be that reading JAR’s expositions of practice as research must always be ‘close’; it may also be that expositions invite closeness in ways that more conventional journal articles cannot or do not want to afford.
In trying to parse how and why JAR invites this closeness, the analogy of knowledge as a map in Jorge Luis Borges’s ‘On Exactitude in Science’ comes to mind. It offers the image of a map that constantly grows in size until finally it becomes an exact representation of the world, as big as the world itself. Both the smaller initial map and the gigantic last map ultimately fail. The former misses the rich details of the world; the latter becomes utterly unmanageable and both conceptually and physically cracks. The media rich expositions in JAR strike a balance: potentially they are small maps that can be stretched in places of interest – like a rubber membrane – to deal in the complexity of the local while accepting that, to do so, the map is actually deformed and no coherent representation of ‘the world’ is given.
One issue that comes with this layered complexity is, of course, accessibility; another one is quality. In the publishing business quality seems to fold back on accessibility, as if really great publications must also be universally accessible, putting pressure on authors to reduce the depth of images they create. In JAR, if we hold off the ideal that complexity, accessibility, and quality must converge neatly at the top end of the spectrum, as part of the submission we may need to choose a balance between the three with trade-offs on all sides. Ultimately, this means that articulation in JAR expositions can appear at first opaque, and that the ideal of transparent communication of the kind that can be summarised in a traditional abstract is resisted for the sake of the practice at hand and the research as it is exposed.
Nevertheless, in the context of JAR we don’t ontologise this resistance to simplification as negativity, sublimity, or concealment, all of which have been associated with notions of art; the word ‘artistic’ in JAR’s name highlights artistic forms of sensitivity when it comes to what can be said and how. This acknowledges the problem of the complexity of knowledge objects on all levels, including that of articulation. Furthermore – although strictly speaking outside the remit of JAR – we would like to suggest that this sensitivity, which is drenched in discursivity rather than avoiding it, happens at all stages of a research process, and not just during a final ‘writing up’ phase. To give an example from the beginning of such a process, when in a project proposal a researcher in the creative fields is asked to identify research questions, methods, or contexts, often what will be written down is more projection than reality. While there is certainly a skill involved in writing good proposals, structurally speaking, the expected means of articulation affect what can be said as well as the perceived relevance of a research project, in particular when it is part of a funding application. For appropriate understanding and sensible decision-making, we need a fuller image – that is, sufficiently complex articulations, which can bring into play a map of encounters with materially concrete and often unique things. When these encounters make artistic sense, the need for stable representations vanishes.
The expositions included in JAR 11, in their diverse subject matter and investigative approaches, are each in their own way examples of fuller images, stretching the particular fabrics of the worlds they investigate.
In trees: Pinus sylvestris, Marcus Maeder presents an artistic research project concerned with the meaningful representation and integration of ecophysiological and climatic processes in and around plants. Looking at a tree in the Swiss Alps – a Pinus sylvestris – the exposition demonstrates how art installations can create modes of observation for realities outside our normal range of perception.
In Rembrandt’s famous painting Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp (1632), Jean-Marie Clarke discovers an ‘R’ forming the navel of the corpse that is dissected. The Rembrant Search Party gives an account of how the development of Rembrandt’s artistic identity can be traced in his signatures as example of how attention to detail matters in an artist’s practice.
How does the physical experience of dance and decisions of choreography influence the performance of Bach’s cello suites? In Zum Spielen und zum Tantzen, Tormod Dalen opens up additional possibilities to performers of classical dance music through a much wider but also embodied view of the concrete historical setting of such music.
Nandita Dinesh’s contribution, Information for foreigners: chronicles from Kashmir,highlights the importance of ‘balance’ – and in particular the balance of time – when engaging artistically with regions of conflict. The research uses techniques from site-sensitive, promenade, and immersive theatre to engage productively with the political deadlock that results from simplistic representations of peoples.
In JAR, the resistance to limited forms of communication is an affirmation of our capacity ‘to get close to’ and ‘to get involved in’ the articulation of (novel) things and contexts. There may not be one single map that can contain those affirmations. While failing to provide a system of knowledge, on the ground those affirmations can connect to a fabric of mutual recognition of articulations of practice as research that intelligently refuses to trade the complexity of respective practice.