The RITCS has a lively research mentality. Whether it is about artistic or practice-oriented research, the RITCS stimulates an inquiring attitude among its students, alumni and teachers. We are convinced that artistic research and artistic practice go hand in hand. Each research starts from the personality of the individual researcher, the artist, or from the uniqueness of an artistic collaboration.
The research at the RITCS produces results in the form of works of art (objects and performances), new media and content for new media - physical, material, analogue, digital - in addition to publications. We organize and facilitate presentations in the form of festivals, exhibitions, conferences, concerts and research days in which the departments are involved in content and logistics as much as possible.
The RITCS has three layers in the research. There is research that RITCS teachers carry out in addition to their teaching assignment, in project form, preferably in an investigative collective. These projects run for two years and can be extended once - which usually also happens. In addition, there are individual research projects for doctoral students in the arts, which we organize in collaboration with the Arts Platform Brussels (VUB/RITCS/KCB). In principle, these four-year programmes provide a doctorate. Every year, in June, vacancies can be announced for this, depending on the available financial means. Finally, there are the laboratories. These are structural research places - material or virtual - where researchers, students, artists, working at the RITCS or not, work together in areas that we consider to be of structural importance for the present and future of the RITCS as an art school.
Origins Artistic Research
The fact that research has gained such an interest at RITCS - and at other art schools - is the result of the political decision in the early 2000s to 'academize' higher art education. 'Academization' means that research is done within a broad school context that contributes to the development of the programmes. To make this very general intention concrete and to refine it, the RITCS has put forward a number of focal points to which all proposals for research are tested. These focal points or outlines have been translated into useful criteria for assessing plans and ambitions of RITCS lecturers, outsiders and, indirectly, students. The assessment is done by the RITCS Commission of Research, which advises the Board of the RITCS on concrete research practice.
An overall concern in the research policy of the RITCS could be: "Comment vivre ensemble?" or “How to live together?”, as Roland Barthes once put it. Barthes gave this title to the first series of lectures he gave at the Collège de France in 1977, where he speaks about the possibility of testing the difficulties of current forms of society with a 'romanesque' imagination. He demands the right to base research on 'liveability' on phantasms. Indirectly, he also wanted to reply to Michel Foucault’s research, his predecessor at the Collège de France. In Foucault's research, much attention is paid to metaphorical (and literal) violence, to the problematic legitimization of structures and institutions in society that want to give an answer to that violence, and to the persistent idea that a community, when it wants to show sufficient coherence, entails that some social and cultural groups cannot find a connection with such a community. The 'romanesque' imagination - or broader: the artistic imagination - could express answers (or refined questions) to this dilemma, to this paradox. For the sake of clarity, and to avoid misunderstandings: the RITCS research is not intended to be included in the paradigm that is expressed through this discussion between Barthes and Foucault. It is a concern, not a way of thinking.
Types of research
The substantive focal points for research are outlines that should enable research to fit in well with the concrete needs of as many courses as possible. At the same time they open up perspectives for collaboration with the field of art and media. These encompassing, substantive outlines can be summarized in the keywords digitization, glocalization and inter-disciplinarity. Within these themes there is room for two types of research: research on 'art & craft', which focuses on artisanal aspects of an art discipline or medium, and research on 'art & society', in which theory and practice explore the changes in art, media and the world. So, in both types of research, the content outlines will play a role. These outlines are explained, as follows:
By Art & Crafts we mean the research that starts from basic and concrete needs from the different departments: voice discipline, specific narrativity, access to the profession, physical activity, new technologies, acting styles with and without a camera, etc.
Under the heading of Art & Society is the research that considers the arts and the media in which the RITCS is active - but with points of contact outside - as knowledge domains and as places of discussion and dialogue. Research that focuses actively on the changes, radical or not, that occur in society, changes that challenge knowledge of both the medium and the world and that trigger fundamental debates. This can take place in 'research episodes' in which a tension is gradually built up between art itself and the political, social context. This (provoked) discussion can contribute to a 'different knowledge': not necessarily in the form of productions or artefacts, but certainly as visible results in a (kind of) atelier, as process reports, so to speak.
The boundaries between the three substantive outlines and both types of research are not fixed, are not stable, rather porous. We do not want to create boxes, but rather break down walls, always with the development and the commitment of and in the courses in mind. Research is aimed at a positive 'undermining' of the certainties in education, because the world in which the students live no longer can or wants to offer these certainties.
'Digitization' means that a specific technological development - the transition from analogue, 'imitative' (re)production to digital, binary translation of the 'original' - had and still has consequences, far exceeding pure technology. 'Digitization' creates changes in 'image literacy', creates (im)possibilities for social emancipation, influences and determines essential shifts in sources of knowledge about itself and society, ensures changes in (self-)adjustment - feedback - of narrative structures with author and reader/viewer, it makes it possible to constantly increase the rhythm of the information. The social influence of 'digitization' ranges from technical questions such as miniaturization of screens, virtual reality and robotization, to almost politico-philosophical questions about the meaning of the copy and the blurring of the boundaries between private and collective property.
'Glocalization' is a term that attempts to capture two (seemingly) opposing social movements. On the one hand, a growing need for local anchoring is established (in economy, in culture, with political outgrowth). On the other hand, the reality that economics and culture are increasingly being made, spread and considered on a global scale - through digitization among other things - is as compelling. This means that research is preferably embedded in an environment that takes into account both the local - the urban, in particular the Brussels context, the biotope of the RITCS, but also more private environments - and at the same time the global aspects of its issues and of its medium, such as super-diversity, multilingualism and the, whether imaginary or not, clash of civilizations.
‘Inter-disciplinarity' here means that the research fundamentally questions the boundaries between the media and art disciplines. Laws and certainties of technological, narrative and referential (where does what content refers to, and how?) nature are no longer stable in art and media. For example: a documentary uses re-enactment and at the same time refers to fiction, to performance and to a certain conception of history. Audiovisual and dramatic norms require theoretical reflection, in such an example, and certainly thought and imagination, which exceeds the functional division of the departments and perhaps even ignores it. Furthermore, this inter-disciplinarity is not limited to the available (practical) knowledge at the RITCS or at the Erasmus University College Brussels.