The past twenty years have seen a growing demand for more research-oriented Finnish artist education. Also, students‘ interest in theoretical reflection in their field, as well as in doctoral degrees based on artistic research has increased. At the same time, it has been aptly asked what kind of academic skills would be meaningful to teach to practice-oriented artists, and whether it is possible or necessary at all. The model offered by scientific universities often fails to provide answers to questions arising from artistic processes, and theses of art universities cannot be assessed with indicators borrowed from other fields. Within artistic research, there has, however, been no interest in creating its own canonised methodology or a uniform theoretical framework. So how can an art student or a professional artist interested in research even get started?

The purpose of this learning material is to provide the reader with possible models and methods of artistic research, as well as to address its core questions and trends. It is compiled primarily to meet the needs of Master’s studies at the Theatre Academy of Uniarts Helsinki in the 2020s, but hopefully it also provides help in applying for doctoral studies, and more generally serve a wider public interest in the subject. The aim with the texts has been to make them as easily accessible as possible, and reading them does not require prior knowledge of the topic. Above all, it is hoped that the learning material will inspire both artists in the field and art students to find new perspectives on their artistic work, and independently deepen their understanding of their own field.

The learning material consists of two parts. Laura Gröndahl has prepared an introductory section, based on her teaching and supervising for many years at various levels, at several art universities. Its aim is to provide an overview of the current starting points, principles and practices of artistic research. In-depth articles written by artist-researchers representing expertise in different fields explore in more detail current topics, most commonly used approaches, background theories and critical perspectives in artistic research. In addition, they present the recent history of the field in Finland as well as individual artistic research theses.

In her article “Diversifying Artistic Research”, the pioneer of artistic research Annette Arlander outlines the development of doctoral education from the 1990s onwards, both from a personal perspective and with regard to university degree reforms. The classification of artistic research theses described at the end shows the diversity of approaches, with a speculative or experimental practice standing out as a linking factor.

In her second article “Artistic Research beyond Doctoral Studies – Plants, Trees and Recording the Process”, Arlander presents her recent research projects, in which she has sought to establish cooperation with plants and trees, critically examining our relationship to the environment, and habits related to it.

Mikko Bredenberg’s article “Acting as a Medium for Artistic Research” discusses the scenic imagination method developed by him in his doctoral research. In addition, he outlines the basics of his phenomenological philosophy, and uses an example to demonstrate how these can be applied to understanding scenic images.

Hanna Järvinen highlights the current requirement for reassessing established conceptions of art in her article The Decolonisation of Artistic Research, or Why Think about Art in Non-Eurocentric Ways?” She critically demonstrates blind spots in the art debate, expanding the article to include the history and present of colonialism in a more general sense.

Seppo Kumpulainen’s article “Pragmatist Philosophy in Support of Artistic Research” presents a naturalist philosophy based on actions and practices that sees humans and culture as part of nature without distinguishing art from physical and evolutionary bases. Kumpulainen applies pragmatism especially to actor’s art and, at the end, interprets Stanislavski’s acting method briefly on this basis.

Pilvi Porkola’s article “Subjectivity in Artistic Research” discusses autobiography, autoethnography and autofiction as research and artistic methods. Taking the researcher’s personal experiences into consideration does not mean a narrow, self-centred approach, but rather includes the narrator in the broader experiences of groups of people in a certain time and environment.

In her second piece, “Feminism and Artistic Research”, Porkola focuses on philosophies that explore gender and sexual orientation and promote equality. Feminisms combine artistic research with, for example, an understanding of situated knowledge, emphasising experience and corporeality, and dismantling the subject-object dichotomy in research.

Finally, Leena Rouhiainen provides an in-depth examination of the concepts and foundations of phenomenological philosophy in her article “On Phenomenology and Artistic Research in Performing Arts”. It complements and expands upon Bredenberg’s article by presenting recent trends in phenomenology responding to current discussions on the relationship between art and ecological and technological issues. Finally, she describes the site-specific phenomenological co-writing method that she developed together with Kirsi Heimonen.

In addition to the authors, I would like to extend my sincerest thanks to Dr. Isto Turpeinen for his valuable contribution in coming up with ideas for this learning material, Sari Koskinen and Outi Mansikkamäki for their beautiful graphic design, Professor Leena Rouhiainen for fact checking the learning material, and Study Services Specialist Michaela Bränn for so seamlessly smoothing out of all the practical matters. The Performing Arts Research Centre Tutke has provided support for writing and editing the publication by allocating working hours and resources to it, something for which we are also exceedingly grateful.


Laura Gröndahl

Laura Gröndahl has worked as set designer, researcher and teacher. She defended her doctoral dissertation at the University of Industrial Arts in 2004, worked as Professor of Stage Design from 2006 to 2013, held teaching positions in several universities, and holds the title of Docent in Theatre Research at the University of Helsinki. At present, she works as University Lecturer at the Performing Arts Research Centre at the Theatre Academy of Uniarts Helsinki, with special interests in practices within the arts and theatre, scenography, and documentary theatre.