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Visit to ELIA Biennal Conference in Helsinki

Bertrand Chavarria Aldrete
Bertrand Chavarria Aldrete

ELIA is a European network for exchange and development in higher arts education. This year’s biennial was held in Helsinki by Uniarts. The events and presentations were at the Theatre Academy, the Fine Arts Academy and the Paasitorni congress hall from the 23rd November until the 26th. Doctoral student Bertrand Bertrand Chavarria Aldrete at Malmö Music Academy has been the faculty’s representative at the ELIA Biennal Conference, taking place in Helsinki 23-26 of November.

Bertrand, can you tell us what the conference was about?

The theme of this year was “No stone unturned”, which led to a very open discussion in art, education and research for the creation of new knowledge. The main themes were: climate crisis, art education, activism in the arts, mental health, digitalisation, empowerment and identity, new ideas in artistic practice and education and trans-disciplinarity; thematic for which I was selected to present my PhD research in “Plastic Extension of Music”. Twenty-four countries were represented in the official presentations and there was a total of 400 participants from Europe and North America.

The vast majority of the presentations were axed on the actual problematics derived from climate and political crisis, post-covid, digital solutions, Agenda 2030, trans-disciplinarity and how Artistic Research can create new knowledge and propose solutions imagining new worlds.

What were the most important issues that were discussed?

Artistic research is and will be always the guiding principle. The most important issues were the following four:

Funding

Ellen Røed (Stockholm University of the Arts) and Jørn Mortenssen (School of Arts, Design and Media, Høyskolen Kristiania in Norway), made a very important presentation followed by a discussion about the revision of the Frascati Manual, a document created by Christopher Freedman known as “The Proposed Standard Practice for Surveys of Research and Experimental Development”.

In 2016, ELIA created the Artistic Research Platform that created “The Florence Principles”, a position paper on the doctorate in the arts to create an official declaration: “The Vienna declaration” pointing out a series of imprecise definitions and confusions with the vague distinctions between the arts and the humanities in the Frascati Manual, proposing a whole new section of the Artistic Research disciplines. The proposal was unfortunately rejected by the NESTI bureau just weeks ago.

During the discussion, new ideas were proposed to succeed in this revision of the Frascati Manual, such as finding new ways of publishing, the irreproducibility of artistic research as an advantage, a better access to research to improve actual research, new strategies for documentation, the ambition of research data and the methodologies applied or created in artistic research.

Arts in Education

Ana Telles (University of Évora, Portugal) presented a brilliant session with a very rich panel: Thora Einarsdóttir and Frida Björk from (Iceland University of the Arts), Marika Orieunus (Uniarts Helsinki) and Thomas Bloch (Musikshule Konservatorium Zurich, Switzerland), to discuss new ways to teach and learn in art.

Thomas Bloch presented his particular pedagogy based on a student oriented teaching model; a very similar model to the French system used in local conservatories, a study plan to prioritise the formation and development of amateur musicians instead of professionals.

Thora Einarsdóttir and Frida Björk amazed us with the results, ideas and social impact of the Iceland University of the Arts, using new creative methods issued from artistic research to teach the new generations of students. They pointed out the good communication and shared objectives between all art disciplines that has helped increase their reputation inside the university, along with a language training in writing from their scientific community for all artistic researchers and a fast turnover of teachers (maximum 10 years in the position) to keep fresh and healthy departments.

Marika Orienus stressed out that teaching is an artistic practice, proposing a methodology for education in the arts based on listening, watching and communicating as an alternative model of assessment and peer learning in the arts.

Sustainability

Since my arrival to ELIA many people approached me asking for our sustainability agenda and how our activities were in coordination with the Agenda 2030. Lund University has an amazing reputation on this matter and felt proud to talk about the different projects going on in our artistic research department, that led to very vivid conversations, projects and contact exchanges all over Europe and North America. Most of the presenters and participants have their mind focused on how to create new projects and develop bridges between the different artistic research departments to imagine creative ways to attain the objectives in the agenda.

Hazan Ertürkan and Sarah Lugthart (St. Joost School of Art & Design, TU Delft, Netherlands) offered a creative workshop on imagining worlds with living material (bacteria, algae, mycelium) and the creation of new modes of sustainability in the future.

Transdisciplinarity

I probably heard this word 100 times each day. Europe is working hard on developing transdisciplinarity. Made clear by everybody who I talked to, today, each and every university has the same basic problem of internal communication between departments, so all the universities are building fresh new teams of artistic research with researchers, philosophers and artists crossing the borders of their own discipline to have common and shared objectives within their research and their practice.

We have to prepare for a future in which academia will keep alive the cross disciplinary researchers as NASA does with their astronauts, to discover new worlds and ideas in between our disciplines.

How can ELIA be of importance to our faculty in the future?

Our faculty could really profit from the very solid network that ELIA has built over the years. We clearly have the possibility to expand our research and activities overseas and have a bigger influence in the future to come; not only inside the arts, but in tandem with the many other areas in which Lund University excels, creating strong clusters of transdisciplinarity research emerging from our faculty, to present and exchange in events like this, developing new bridges and collaborations around the world.

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