The PhD Programme in Artistic Research

“Today’s designers and visual communicators’ have incredibly powerful tools at their disposal — tools that must be utilised with humility, caution, and respect.”

In February (2018) we received gratifying news from the Norwegian Ministry of Education: a doctorate degree(PhD) in Artistic research has now been established.This will be the highest attainable degree within the performing and creative arts, where the doctorate is based on Artistic research through practice. Last year,the University of Bergen and its seven faculties reviewed and revised their PhD programmes (six academic and one artistic).

The Faculty of Art, Music and Design (KMD) has formulated a new programme and guidelines for its PhD in Artistic research. Each of the faculties’ PhD programmes were approvedby the University’s Board of Directors in September.

The differences between the old system and the newPhD in Artistic research are not major. There have been some organisational changes to the program; for instance, fellows admitted to the programme in 2018 receive four years employment, of which three years are their project work and fourth year can be teaching or other sort of work.The fourth year can also be divided into 25% teaching each year. The PhD degree is internationally recognised. We believe that this new degree will also strengthen the institution and its commitment to Artistic research. All academic employees have their own research projects. Professors and Associate professors with full positions must devote 40 percent of their time to research, while others are required to do somewhat less. (The faculty of Fineart, Music and Design engages both artistic and scientific research. The majority of the research at the faculty is artistic, but KMD also conducts scientific research in the fields of music therapy, musicology and music pedagogy). Here is a historical summary: According to the University and Colleges Act of 1995, artistic work was equated with research. However, the Fellowship Programme for Artistic research was not established until 2003, and the project oriented Programme for Artistic development (PKU not until 2010). Until 2018, this programme distributed research funding to qualified projects and was responsible for the admission of research fellows. In the beginning of January, the PKU Programme for Artistic research was merged with the Centre for Internationalisation of Education(SIU) and the University of Norway, and is now under the auspices of the Directorate for Internationalisation and Higher Education Development (Diku). The faculties and departments that were previously associated with PKU have been given greater responsibility for their research fellows.

Throughout the spring of 2018, the Faculty of Art, Musicand Design worked on its strategy for the period 2018–2022. The foundation is the overarching strategy of the University of Bergen, which is focused on Sea, Life and Society.

The department of Design has invested considerable work into drawing up a common unified strategy laying great emphasis on the sustainability goals defined by the United Nations. Our department focuses on the following areas: Sustainable development and the study of global relations. People-friendly and environmentally-friendly structures and materials. Humanistic and ethical communications.

The University building
Photo by Hufton+Crow.

The staff’s research has had an impact on their teaching and what the students experience. For this reason, it is important that teachers are actively engaged in research.We believe it is vital to be at the cutting edge of our fields of study, because we are educating students who within three to five years will be commencing their professional life. It is of course difficult to predict the future, but we see trends, especially with regard to design and visual communication.This is one of the reasons why our strategy must be open and flexible, yet rooted in the global as well a sour local environment.We shall continue to have a strong focus on the people, ethics and materials with which we surround ourselves, because as designers we have unique opportunities to influence society.

The academic visual communication staff are engaged in interesting projects and collaboration that aim at diversity and are creating new contexts and platforms, such as this magazine. Dóra and Åse are the instigators as well as the editors of the first volume of the magazine Ymt. The magazine sprang from a course in editorial design for second-year bachelor students in Visual communication, and our times are dominated by concepts such as digitalisation, algorithms, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). This is where Torkell and Gustav’s interests lie. Torkell’s explorations are based on motion graphics, more specifically how technology might become a natural part of our sensory environment. How, for instance, should the tools of motion graphics change when we move from space to space? Torkell explores how different spaces can be created and experienced through technology as well as physical means. He and Gustav are collaborating on ‘new ways to new stories’. With his background in graphics, illustrationand animation, Gustav combines classical techniques such as drawing, graphics and painting with digital tools, in order to explore new arenas of communications such as VR and AR. Gustav and Torkell are developing collaborative projects in cooperation with people at Media City Bergen.

Today’s media are in the midst of rapid and profound technological development. Just in the last few years, there have been great changes to our media consumpion. The progress in digital media is opening up enormous new possibilities for visual communication. It is now easier than ever to reach out with our messages and information. At the same time, these technologies are enabling completely new ways of cooperation in the global arena; geographic boundaries have essentially been erased. Today’s designers and ‘visual communicators’ have incredibly powerful tools at their disposal—tools thatmust be utilised with humility, caution and respect.

Illustration can be a powerful tool! Hilde’s research project, This is a human being highlights the persecution of Jews during World War II, focusing on the children deported from Łódz, Poland. She is exploring what role illustration can play in a complex and visually chaotic society. Hilde is working with several partners in Poland, including an international interdisciplinary network in Łódz called 'Rethinking Memory Culture'.

Through illustration, Hilde aims to elicit a response of tolerance, as well as an ethical and humanistic dialogue withour environment, in order that today’s Europe may avoid repeating that war and its atrocities. Through interdisciplinary collaboration and knowledge sharing, new approaches canbe found with regards to the illustration and communication of ideas. Hilde is working closely with Geir, a partner in the field of visual communication, who is focusing on the same issue (the Jewish children who were persecuted in Łódz), but who approaches it through graphic design. Geir’s project, entitled This is not a ghetto, this is my home, investigates children’s empathic understanding of home and place. The project investigates how children relate to individuals including family members, friends and close neighbors. Geir will be based in the Bałuty quarter of the city of Łódz. After the invasion, the Third Reich transformed it into a Jewish ghetto. He will investigate how various design activities and co-design as a method can have an impact on, and perhaps expand, our insights into the concepts of home and place.

Kate’s universe and the botany of imagination is a project that aims to trigger our imagination. Her lively drawings reveal a technique that we recently experienced at her exhibition Drawing by Numbers in the gallery Room 61 this spring. She exhibited 200 pencil drawings on paper executed in 2016 and 2017. Her drawings come from her imagination rather than observation. In Kate’s project, every element is deemed important, from the art production itself, to its communication and presentation, as well as what is writtenabout the project.

The core of artistic development is what we are doing—and we are exploring through design. ‘We think with our hands’, but we must also reflect, ask critical questions and convey our ideas in an understandable manner. What have we discovered? Have we seen new links and contexts? Interdisciplinary collaboration and the sharing of knowledge and communication methods gives the designer a unique opportunity to be an important voice in society.

In the field of Visual communication, our research and research projects are based on our strategy for the various disciplines. Currently, based on these strategies, action plans are in development. This will be reflected in our teaching, research, communications, collaborative constellations and recruitment. All our work at the department of Design is to be based upon our focus on sustainable development and understanding of global relations, people-friendly and eco-friendly structures and materials and humanistic andethical communications.