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What is Art & Research? The Bologna Process in the French debate

Annabelle Boissier
Art and research is not only a matter of free collaboration between artists and researchers. Since 2008, it’s a political, educational, bureaucratic issue in Europe. On this matter, the French debate is extensive. Is it because of the history of art education in France? Indeed, the separation that occurred between Fine Art Schools and University Programmes at the end of the 60s led to two distinctive conceptions of art education. Two ways of studying and making art. One where a Ph. D. thesis conclude 8 years of study, the other that ends in the 5th year by an artistic project. Either way, how art is relates to theory is a central disparity.

The License-Master-Doctorate reform, the so-called Bologna Process, all over Europe led to a harmonisation of art education. It forced Fine Art Schools to rethink what research in art was and to get closer to the university model. It required students to accompany the presentation of their art work by a one or two hundred pages thesis. To this end, Fine Art Schools need to rethink their curricula and increase theoretical training.
French art sociologist Jérémie Vandenbunder[1] who did his fieldwork at the height of the reform, shows the great impact this change had on the definition of what an artist is. What is the expertise required become an artist? Do artists need this type of training? And who is qualified to judge an artist’s work?

Is this reform worth losing the specificity of research in art? Are Universities a better model than Fine Arts Schools? This what French intellectuals are asking. The exciting edition of Critique journal [2] offers an overview on this debate. Coordinated by Élie During and Laurent Jeanpierre, the issue comes back on the articulation between art and theory. Notably, they observe that while artists are more than ever trained in theory, they are mush less prone to write manifestos or critiques, unlike their peers of the 60s. In that case, what is all this theory is about? What is it offering to the art? And is it a one way relation of influence or does art impact the making of social sciences?

The Bologna process led to the development of collaborations between Fine Art Schools and research laboratories. The researcher Yves Winkin, professor in communication sciences, comes back on his experience highlighting that it is not all the time a happy one, that negotiations are needed.[3] Indeed, artists and researchers are part of two distinct professions, where times, norms, issues, outcomes are all but similar. Finding a way to work together is not always an easy task. Not because it is the craze, or because institution ask for it, but because we actually think it will increase our perceptions of the world, our knowledges. Because it makes our art and our research better.

Annabelle Boissier is a socio-anthropologist. Her research focusses on contemporary art worlds, writing processes in social sciences and alternative ways of producing knowledge.

[1] Vandenbunder, Jérémie. « Peut-on enseigner l’art ? Les écoles supérieures d’art, entre forme scolaire et liberté artistique ». Revue française de pédagogie, no 192 (19 août 2016): 121‑34.

[2] Élie During, Laurent Jeanpierre, « En pensant par l’art », Critique 2010/8 (n°

759-760), p. 643-646.

[3] Winkin, Yves. « Les sciences humaines aiment-elles l’art contemporain ? » Tracés. Revue de Sciences humaines, no #11 (1 décembre 2011): 79‑87. doi:10.4000/traces.5271.