What Is Research in the Visual Arts?: Obsession, Archive, Encounter

Friday, April 27, 2007 - April 28, 2007

This conference, convened by Michael Ann Holly, Mark Ledbury and Marquard Smith, explored fundamental questions, both philosophical and practical, for those who work with visual art. Participants asked, What is research, why and how do we do it, and what place does it have in art making and the understanding of art today? Speakers considered the pleasures, passions, and dangers of research and its attendant obsessions and encounters with incoherence, chaos, and wonder. Art history and visual studies, as well as curatorial activities and fine art practices, engage in many strategies for doing research and working with archives. How does the process of inquiry engender meaning? In what complex ways is research bound up with writing, teaching, curating, and making? Why are we obsessed with the idea of research?

Participants included:
Mieke Bal, University of Amsterdam; Marc Gotlieb, University of Toronto; Serge Guilbaut, University of British Columbia; Michael Ann Holly, The Clark; Chrissie Iles, Whitney Museum of American Art; Akira Lippit, University of Southern California; W. J. T. Mitchell, University of Chicago; Joanne Morra, University of the Arts, London; Sina Najafi, Cabinet magazine; Alex Nemerov, Yale University; Celeste Olalquiaga, independent scholar; Alex Potts, University of Michigan; Marquard Smith, Kingston University, London; Ernst Van Alphen, Leiden University; Reva Wolf, State University of New York, New Paltz

In order of discussion

What’s a Discipline to Do? Research in/as Art History

Conference Introduction
Marquard Smith

What Is Research in Art History Anyway?
Michael Ann Holly

Our Monstrous Double
Marc Gotlieb

The Turn of the Screw and Art History
Alex Nemerov

What Is Research? Old Practices, New Practices

Factory of Facts: Research As Obsession with the Scent of History
Serge Guilbaut

Obsessive Archives and Archival Obsessions
Ernst Van Alphen

Order! Taxonomy and Anxiety
Chrissie Iles

The Art Work, the Archive, and the Living Moment
Alex Potts

Who or What Is the Researcher? Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

The Researcher as Collector
Celeste Olalquiaga

Remembering, Repeating, and Working---through Research
Joanne Morra

The Scholar and the Fan
Reva Wolf

Toward a Culture of Curiosity?
Sina Najafi

Looking Elsewhere

Image and Archive: The Case of Abu Ghraib
W. J. T. Mitchell

The World Archive and Universal Research
Akira Lippit

Mieke Bal