5th Research into Practice conference – Royal Society of Arts, London, 31 October 2008

Registration is open for the 5th Research into Practice conference at the Royal Society of Arts in London on 31 October 2008. You can register online at

The conference will explore the problem of interpretation in research in the visual and performing arts. The keynote speakers will be W.J.T. Mitchell (Chicago) and Griselda Pollock (Leeds).


It is characteristic of research outputs, reports and theses in traditional disciplines that they are expressed in unambiguous language. One reason for this is to establish the grounds and argument from which the conclusions derive. Another reason is to be quite clear and explicit about what is being claimed as original by the author for the research. This characteristic has the effect of reinforcing the dominant knowledge models such as “the scientific method”, “empirical methods”, etc. However these models come from disciplines whose aims and objectives may differ from those in the arts and humanities. There has been much discussion about the suitability of such models for the visual and performing arts, which seem to rely on a more pluralistic approach to interpretation which values the fact that different generations and different cultures find their own value in the artefact.

Does this difference of explicitness between traditional disciplines and the arts mean that their research outputs cannot be compared? What is the status of the outcomes of research in the visual and performing arts in terms of what is known or discovered? Is research in these areas actually trying to achieve something quite different, and if so what? Is the value of research something constructed by the receiver, and if so what would that mean for knowledge-models in the arts? Are its outcomes more contingent than those in other disciplines because of this difference in the role of interpretation by the reader/viewer? Does the scientific method really result in unambiguous interpretation, or conversely is interpretation really so subjective in the arts?

The conference will focus on the theory of interpretation in research in traditional disciplines and on the emerging theory of interpretation in research in the visual and performing arts.

Conference website: