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The Royal Institute of Art conducts practice-based research using artistic methods as a starting point. Artistic research is done through artistic-making, and projects can address either artistic issues or those of wider concern to society. This process often draws upon contact with other fields of knowledge and expertise. Our freestanding courses use research methodology and develop various research practices.

The Social Infant

Emanuel Almborg

Can group life develop in infancy? What does it look and sound like? Can artistic research produce a new understanding of infancy through a sensory, observational image?

The research project The Social Infant will address such questions, re-evaluating film’s observational mode to produce a new image of early childhood. This three-year research project is based on a longitudinal film study of a group of six infants. The research method will draw on and complicate methods from an international field of infant research. But where existing work prioritises the mother-child relation, I will create a child peer group to illuminate a less researched subject: infant group relations. The project is done at the University of East London, Baby Development Lab, and in collaboration with LUX, London.

The Postdoctoral project is financed by the Swedish Research Council (2023-2026)

Looking for Jeanne

Petra Bauer

In autumn 2017, as the #MeToo movement spread through societies, women demanded that society should take their negative experiences and exploitation seriously. The events can be compared to the 1970s when artists made films and artwork to visualize, question and change the role and position of women in society. For example, Chantal Akerman made the film Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Brussels (1975) which was very important for initiating a feminist debate about women’s work, resistance and their roles in society. The film Jeanne Dielman also revealed the need for a film that was based on feminist theory and practice.

Petra Bauer’s research project Looking for Jeanne is rooted in and reflects on the film Jeanne Dielman and asks the questions: Who is a contemporary Jeanne Dielman? How can the film – through its aesthetics – investigate, question and change unequal conditions and exploitative arrangements regarding women’s work and their role in today’s global society? The research project, in close collaboration with feminist organizations and networks, will produce three films about contemporary forms of feminized work today: sex work, maternity and house work. The three year project follows the theme of the film Jeanne Dielman, accompanied by an annual symposium about social reproduction in our contemporary society, based on theoretical and artistic perspectives in collaboration with reference groups.

The Artistic Research is funded by the Swedish Research Council. (2019–2021)

The crying pine tree: writing an autoimmune fictional narrative

Simon Goldin and Jakob Senneby

It starts with a tree. We have identified an “autoimmune tree” at a biotechnology lab in Florida; a pine with genetically increased resin production (the pine’s main immune defense) to the point of drowning in its own resin. We call it a “crying pine tree”. Crying Pine Tree will result in a novel, and it’s the process of producing this novel that constitutes the research. The novel begins with one of the crying pines from the laboratory in Florida moving into the home of New York based fiction writer Katie Kitamura and her family. Over the next three years, the process evolves in an interplay between genetic modification of plants (like said pine tree), bodily experiences of an autoimmune disease, and the writing of a fictional narrative.

The research asks how the figure of the autoimmune can structure the unfolding narrative. That process will be made public through living sculptures and installations, bio-hacking workshops and public readings. Crying Pine Tree enters the emerging field of “synthetic biology”, in which all forms of life become programmable and therefore possible to reprogram – rewrite on the level of genetics. In contrast to the dominant fantasy of enhancing forms of life – improving longevity, efficiency and immunity – we want to explore “autoimmune writing” as a form of over-enhancement, an inscription so effective that it turns on itself. Thus, the research draws on bodily experiences of disease in order to rewrite biological imaginaries of our time. (2019–2022)

Collective Agency in an era of Authoritarian Automation

Anna Ådahl & Stefan Jonsson

Will democracy survive the 21st century? Through artistic practice and theoretical dialogue this project explores how collective protests, migration and authoritarian populism shape today’s politics while also being modelled by digital regimes and automated systems that apparently forecloses the political agency of collectives as well as individuals.

Our aims:

  • To understand the impact on today’s democracy of collective protest, authoritarianism, migration and computational modeling.
  • To investigate the ways in which collective behaviour generated by digital technologies align crowd behaviour with political programmes and market strategies that defy democratic values.
  • To investigate how embodied subjective agency and collective assembly interrupts such processes of collective automation.
  • To show how artworks can spark conceptual development, innovative methodologies and theoretical insights into the relation of aesthetic expression and democracy.

Speculating over future scenarios – including the deployment of digital tools and quantum computing – we seek to make abstract processes concrete. The project is articulated through installation, performance, sculpture, drawing, film, and writing; it will organize workshops, performances and theoretical debates, gradually shaping a theoretical investigation and artistic montage of the 21st-century crowd and its algorithmic modelling.

Collective Agency, funded by the Swedish Research Council, is a Linköping University/REMESO project run in collaboration with the Royal Institute of Art. (2022-2025)

Non-Knowledge, Laughter and the Moving Image

Annika Larsson

How can the Moving Image and the Laughing Body become agents for new thought, acts, and embodiment? The project will examine the Moving Image and the Laughing Body’s capacity for new and alternative modes of thinking, acting and being, and their potential to overturn our habitual course and change the order of things. Through a series of audio-visual montages and contexts, it will experiment with new modes of knowledge production, viewing and circulation, and examine the interconnection between Laughter, the Moving Image and Non-Knowledge.

Like the sudden invasion of laughter that for a moment sets us off course, this project will explore ways in which we communicate beyond instrumental language, subjectivity and reason, to experience what the moving image and our bodies can do and how they can teach us about the limits of our thinking.

The project is run in collaboration with the University of Fine Arts Hamburg (Hochschule für bildende Künste Hamburg – HFBK) where Annika Larsson has a Professorship. The Artistic Research is funded by the Swedish Research Council. (2018–2020)

The Stork from Paramaribo Flew Away Never to Return – Transformation as “the Other”

Filippa Arrias

In the artistic research project, The Stork from Paramaribo Flew Away Never to Return – Transformation as “the Other”, I will advance my inquiries into how a content/subject matter transforms by being translated in-between different artistic medias and materials. By reflecting on an inherited “hi-Story”, at the time fictional as well as real, I will use both painting, documentation and writing to express different aspects of that same story.

The intention is to relieve the polyphony of “the Story”, by stressing the coherence in-between the specificity of the media and its means of interpretation. The specific qualities that signify a certain media or material, thus decide its validity. I focus on the materialities of painting as the means of expression in my research. The artistic process activates as well as defuses the different materials in its strive to make sense to the content. The factual qualities of the materials as well as their symbolical connotations blend into an ongoing dialogue. In my research project painting and the palimpsestic qualities of the media represent the figuration of time, memory and imagination.

The Artistic Research is funded by the Swedish Research Council. (2018–2020)

Refuse to Kill – Stories of the Conscientious Objectors

Björn Larsson and Carl Johan Erikson

Refuse to Kill – Stories of the Conscientious Objectors, investigates a specific phase in Sweden’s recent history through one of the great existential narratives of the human condition: the concept of peace and reconciliation. In this artistic research project we utilise the potential of the large number of experiences and stories from the 35 000 young men who, between 1966 and 1992, made the choice to not enter traditional military service, but instead applied for, and were granted, unarmed civil service.

The conscientious objector movement’s existential issue surrounding the right to refuse to kill relates to both the individual’s freedom and artistic expression in relation to the law – then as well as now. Artists had an important role in the conscientious objector movement; many chose civil service, and artists were very active in the public discourse that led to legislative change. The research project wants to learn through the experiences of the conscientious objectors and reconnect to the artists’ role as agents in a contemporary political landscape.

The Artistic Research is funded by the Swedish Research Council. (2017–2020)

Link to external site

Work a work

Karin Hansson (project leader), Åsa Andersson Broms, Shiva Anoushirvani, Per Hasselberg, George Kentros, Nils Claesson

In the interdisciplinary art project, Work a work, a group of artists explore the concept of work from a philosophical, political, and critical perspective through an open and collaborative work process including researchers and union activists.

Changing global work relations and digital labour are transforming the way we perform our identities and understand our life worlds. Crowd-sourcing, micro-tasks, the sharing economy, and an expanding class of temporary and flexible workers strengthen commodification of relations and create extreme forms of alienation. The shift away from permanent employment to short term and independent contract work challenges the labour rights established during the last hundred years to keep class warfare at bay. However, at the same time, social media also strengthens community and enables labour activism on a global scale.

To develop an understanding of this ongoing transformation of what we know as “work”, we start with our own artistic practices and work relations, developing artistic research methodologies. Here we start with ideas about the reflective practitioner, researchers’ situatedness, and art as micro-publics or infrastructuring, to explore how the reflexive artistic work process can be enhanced and supported through collaboration, and how the idea of work can be developed through materialization and art performance. Work a work takes place in workshops, online, in public seminars, and foremost in artists’ practices, through artworks.

The Artistic Research is funded by the Swedish Research Council. (2017–2020)

Link to external project site

Loving Others, Othering Love: A Toolbox for Postcolonial and Feminist Artistic Practices

Mara Lee

The artistic research project intends to examine the role that love plays in the construction of Othered women. The result will be a feminist/postcolonial toolbox in the form of a hybridized reference book that uses literary and poetic forms, as well as theoretical expository writing.

The Artistic Research is funded by the Swedish Research Council. (2017–2020)