• Vicky

2/4 Time for a Lovestory

About Research in the Arts: a lover’s discourse by Victoria Pérez Royo


“This is the creative moment when the artist finds herself working with the research subject-matter without knowing yet exactly where it will lead to, or being able to imagine the ways in which she’ll make her work public.” (534)


“What I’m talking about is delving deep into the functioning of subjectivity in the work of research and creation, so that it gives us clues leading to one or other type of study programme in practical terms.” (535)


“I intend to address artistic subjectivity in the early moments of creation through an analogy with the figure of love. From this place, from the topos of love, it seems possible to access the task of subverting, dismantling, reconstructing and rethinking a structure that is at the basis of a historically very skewed concept:the relationships between the researching subject and the object of study; this is a relationship that, from my point of view, needs to be reformulated in order to be able to find novel and, above all, fair ways of approaching research processes” (inbid)


Perez interest is about the analogy of the lovers that makes it possible to conceive of this bond as a give-and-take, in which both termini undergo a transformation (535f)

She uses “a procedure tried out by Roland Barthes in Fragments d’un discours amoureux. In this text, the French author compiled fragments of literature in which the loved subject expresses herself directly.” (536)


Affirmation: Not starting from the expected outcome means a different economy of labour, which involves a much more rigorous process because the person doing the work puts their focus on it. For the discovery of knowledge it is qualitatively more valuable not to put forward a thesis that one already knows to be true, rather than the unforeseen experience or insight that comes without having sought it beforehand.


The catastrophe: the tragic moment in the research, a moment of crisis - but always a good chance as well.


I want to understand:





The excerpt brackets “(what is happening to me)” in this text by Barthes is fundamental. A research project doesn’t consist solely of extracting knowledge of the object as an entity separate from the subject analysing it, but also (or perhaps principally) of Perez 4 knowing how the subject is affected by that interaction and how she defines herself in relation to it. (539)


Connivance: Your peer is your buddy!


Contacts: the contact takes place – when the researcher finally gets working directly with the materials – an especially interesting way of thinking emerges: an embodied one; one that is inherent in and intrinsic to the materials and which, in that start-up phase of the research project, is inseparable from them. This figure, the contact, signals the moment when the researcher sets to work and engages fully with the materials: Perez 5 delves into them, pulls them apart, decontextualizes them and rebuilds them using a different logic. (542)

Errantry – the ghost ship: Research doesn’t end with the production of a work (543)


Waiting: daily life placed at the service of the object of research


Expenditure – exuberance: Although it is true that each of these invented strategies may have a specific purpose, the figure of Expenditure drives home to us that this goal is not external or foreign to the object of study; in point of fact, it is geared to intensifying the reciprocity between researching subject and object of study. (544)


Gossip: you maybe have to create a new language to do your research about certain things. And don’t annihilating its power by discussing your research topic too much.


The Unknowable: Positive: it broadens and enriches the angles of study, thereby helping to propel the process forward; Negative: the realization that the object of study is unknowable may paralyze the research by bringing it home to the artist that she would have to go a very long way to be able to capture the object of study from a wide enough angle. (546)


Induction: “Just show me whom to desire, but then get out of the way!”





The Informer: The tutor is your friend. Somehow.


Ravishment: it is the object itself (the theme that has been found, the situation that fascinates, the field to be explored) and the relationship that is formed with it, that is the purpose of the research project. The pleasure of study lies in the encounter with the object and not in a goal hierarchically superior to it. (551)


Reverberation: effects that research has on the person who researches foster not only a reconsideration of the relationships between subject and object, but also a series of data and pieces of information of great value: not only the ones provided by the concentrated attention on the object of study, but also those that this observation and this relating produce on the researcher herself (552)


Signs: [T]he idea that the artist does not think as intently and penetratingly as a scientific inquirer is absurd. [...] To think effectively in terms of relations of qualities is as severe a Perez 10 demand upon thought as to think in terms of symbols, verbal and mathematical. Indeed, since words are easily manipulated in mechanical ways, the production of a work of genuine art probably demands more intelligence than does most of the so-called thinking that goes on among those who pride themselves on being ‘intellectuals’ (Dewey, 1934, p. 45-46)


I-Love-You: Generating a flow of communication, starting up a transforming dialogue to both, translates in this case to moving ahead with a research project. (554)

So, research goes far beyond an objective analysis, a rational forecast of results, the more or less routine application of a series of pre-tested working procedures. Actually, it reveals itself as a period of intensity, of full vitality in a relationship of the subject with the world around her that goes far beyond a calculation of end goals (554)





Truth: the moment when the consideration of the object of research is radically different from how others view it or what common sense would dictate. Therein lies research’s potential to transform the world, to revolutionize conventional wisdom (555)

It’s a very fragile moment, when curiosity may be squeezed out under the weight of convention (inbid)

The researcher should make a real effort to offload the pesky burden of explicative science, or of abusively-rationalizing ‘common sense’, that likes to daub any event that suddenly grabs our attention with the drab greyness of custom to ‘protect’ us from a hard-to-handle world. The scientist’s role is precisely that of handling the world, getting to grips with it; his basic faculty will be to ‘apply curiosity’ to the innumerable holes in the explicative fabric, which are so commonplace that it takes a considerable effort to make them show up (Moles, 1957, p. 176)




Pérez Royo, Victoria (2015): About Research in the Arts: a lover’s discourse. No. ART-2015-93795.