Creative Research and Creative Practice: Bridging Histories

Danny Butt

During the last thirty years there has been extensive integration of art schools into the University sector in English-speaking countries. Some of the challenges this has brought to creative production and pedagogy have been documented. In particular, the possibility for supporting creative practice as a form of research has received extensive consideration both among creative academic practitioners and research policy-makers. This has been driven by a number of factors, primarily the organisational need to account for professional creative practice among an expanding academic staff whose career is based on creative practice rather than traditional research; and the growth in postgraduate programmes in the creative sector, bringing a need to find equivalents to the knowledge-transfer models that have traditionally structured postgraduate study in other fields.

In countries built on the British education model, the development of research assessment exercises (including the UK’s RAE, New Zealand’s PBRF, and Australia’s RQF) have enabled recognition of the homologies between creative practice and research and facilitated the entry of creative practitioners into a formal Research Science and Technology (RS&T) support system for policy purposes. These countries have also rapidly developed various forms of doctoral study, including the PhD, with substantial creative practice components.

In North America, no such policy framework exists and this has caused commentators such as James Elkins to suggest that the entire discussion about creative practice and research is a waste of time. However, collaborations between the art and science domains (and more specifically new media art) have raised interesting practitioner-led dialogues on the kinds of knowledge created and shared between and within these domains.

This paper considers the points of tension between these traditions and suggests a framework for cross-pollination of language and concepts that will support creative practitioners across a broader international academic environment.

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