Darla Crispin i sofa

The value of personal experience

Darla Crispin has been engaged in the field of artistic research since it first emerged as a recognised area some twenty years ago. Last autumn she became director of the Arne Nordheim Centre for Artistic Research (NordART) at the Norwegian Academy of Music.

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The Nordheim-centre’s mission is to support projects that advance scholarship and artistic research at a high level with a particular emphasis on those that build on Arne Nordheim’s music and materials.

A young discipline

– There are several ways to be a musician. For some it is enough to play an instrument and not to reflect beyond the very specific demands of that practice. For others, a broader reflection on their performance and deeper analysis of their work comes naturally. Taken as a whole, this second approach amounts to a reflective practice. If we take it to a higher level, a reflective practice can be shared with others. It becomes a discussion among musicians, about their art and about the social implications of what they are doing, says Crispin.

In Norway the term "kunstnerisk utviklingsarbeid" or artistic research, was coined in 1995 and has been a statutory activity for higher arts education ever since. The laws of education state that the discipline should be an artistic parallel to research. The Norwegian Artistic Research Programme, a state educational and research programme, includes all the visual and performing arts. In spite of the concept’s political foundations, it is still relatively unknown to the public. Darla Crispin has a great commitment to the particularities of the discipline and to disseminating these more widely.

– Artistic research combines internal, experience-based knowledge, with knowledge acquired through external sources. Strict methodological requirements place these activities on a scientific level, but with their own language. Artistic research combines the ability to express research ideas with the practice of artistic performance on the highest possible level.

The novel aspect of the discipline is its ability to give relevance and value to personal experience and artistic practice, making these the objects of research. In combination with reflection and artistic performance, this may lead to innovative results.

– Central to this work is the belief that artistic performance is improved by the reflective process a person goes through, and that these two aspects work together to create art that is new, unusual, and that means something to the world as it is today.


Leading in the field

Darla Crispin has experience from several institutions of higher music education. In London, she held leading positions at the Guildhall School of Music and the Royal College of Music. For five years she was a postdoctoral research fellow at the Orpheus Research Centre in Music in Ghent, Belgium, one of the pioneer-centres of artistic research. Her ambition is to make the Arne Nordheim centre into one of the leading centres of artistic research internationally, and she deems this realistic for several reasons:

– Music education in Norwegian society appreciates personal development. This is already present in the Academy’s strategic plan. The Academy appreciates individual experience and challenges musicians to engage in close self-observation, an important element in artistic research. This is a unique quality that distinguishes the Norwegian Academy of Music from institutions in other countries. The educational system here produces very good musicians, who are articulate and wish to reflect on their work as well.

Crispin maintains that there are relatively good economic possibilities for working with artistic research at the Academy. Research programmes are generally well-resourced, and the Artistic Research Programme is quite outstanding when compared with national situations elsewhere.

– The combination of competent people and the support of the school and the national programmes, gives us many opportunities, but also responsibilities, to contribute to the field.

Intrinsic value

– The process of creating music is infinitely fascinating, says Crispin, and she imagines starting research projects about several aspects of musical practice. Some of the most pressing matters at this time have to do with art’s function in society.

– The Arts and Humanities are under immense pressure to prove their value these days. While they constantly have to prove their economic and instrumental value, Crispin believes that many within the musical and educational community are worried about art not being artistic enough and humanity not human enough. Does art always have to have an instrumental value in the world? Doesn’t art have an intrinsic value? We should discuss this instrumentalism in the arts and humanities. That is precisely what artistic research is about, since at the discipline’s foundation is the very experience of being human.

Darla Crispin og Arne Nordheim

Picture by Bodil Maroni Jensen

Last updated: 4. July 2016

Art through
- Motto of the Arne Nordheim centre