From the middle of the leg and all the way, almost up to the neck, the seam was destroyed, so the dress was split in two and made visible every blemish that you in good faith thought were well hidden from all eyes that night. This did not happen in the countryside where there were no people to see, nor at home in a private company. But in the midst of the then obligatory place to go, if you consider yourself to be cool. There you went on Friday nights, standing “year-long” queue to enter and feel the twinkling lights and throbbing bass. Inside it was dark with lilacs and the bodies were in clusters, occasionally you could see and hear each other talk.

And to top it all, nobody said anything, they just glowed. Maybe they couldn’t believe their own eyes.

How to get started with artistic research?

“Well, did people stare at you a lot?”, The chef asked as she returned. “I didn’t see if they stared,” she replied.

“Well, did people stare at you a lot?”, The chef asked as she returned. “I didn’t see if they stared,” she replied.

Dear you, I was 20 years old, shy and going out on the town. I was going to the place you went back then. After being reasonably quiet and isolated both through childhood and youth, the spirit came over me as I turned eighteen and I embarked on a social rush project.

 I needed something to wear. I needed a dress. Then I needed a fairy godmother who could come and hit the stick on me. I have a sister. At that time, she was training for becoming a tailor, she made a number of dresses. And just that day there was a nice  dress stretched out on her bed, to the right of the room if you were standing in the doorway. I didn’t know then that it was put there, for a particular reason. The dress, beautifully made by my sister, black with thin white stripes and a good cut, fit perfectly for my social project. I put it on me, it sat properly and I went to town. I went to dance and amused myself and so did others, I could see.

Then came the time when one should visit the toilet,  not only to do the necessary thing, but also to study oneself, if I may say so. As I stood in front of the mirror, I decided to see how I looking from behind. Here was the mirror mirror mirror on the wall where I could observe the whole body, from multiple angles, both up and down. I had not been given this opportunity earlier that night. I turned and looked straight at my black underwear that I was wearing, a slightly randomly chosen underwear.

My sister had put the dress aside because it needed a heavy repair, it was jammed all the way to the middle of the back.

In a previous post, I wrote that one of the features of artistic research is that it must include, among other things, an artistic practice, an artistic product and a (theoretical) reflection. According to Mika Hannula, Juha Suaranta and Tere Vadén, artistic research means that you create art and research on the creative process (Hannula, Suoranta, & Vadèn, 2005). Artistic research is practice-based and practice-driven research within contemporary cultural and artistic fields. They further argue that it is important for the artist-researcher to have the freedom and opportunity to build up a practice-based knowledge. It should be an open and inclusive research. They recognize the problematic with artistic research, such as being recognized as an artistic-researcher, the various discourses within artistic research and the conceptual confusion.

For it can be a bit like standing on a disco and not be aware that the dress has ripped from the bottom edge to well up on the back.

Hanulla and co-authors believe one should defend and be tolerant of what seems different – or that is a methodical anarchy as they call it.

Artistic research is dominated by methodological pluralism (Serig, 2012) and it is important that the knowledge it brings is conveyed beyond the actual production of art. Dan Serig adds one more component: artistic research also focus on higher education and the arts education – ie the teaching that you carry out. The research you do as an artistic-researcher should influence your teaching. With this, it is a principle that in order for you to be able to do artistic research, you must be affiliated with a higher education or a research institute.

In a kingdom it was naturally a king,

otherwise it would not have been a kingdom. The king was a widower. The Queen was dead long ago. The king was powerful with counselors who obeyed his slightest wink and servants who obeyed his slightest “blink”. There were more than enough women who wanted to lay flat for the king, but the king did not find one he liked.

One day the king stood and looked out of the window, stroking his beard, holding his pipe as he watched his daughter walking with her hips towards the stable to get a horse. The king coughed, letting his eyes and body follow the daughter as she almost danced almost. A drop of sweat settled between the king’s eyebrows. The king blushed, dropped his pipe and called for a counselor.

Serig further writes that all artistic activity is in a sense about research

«whether through material/performance experimentation, subject selection, or technique acquisition, to name a few instances. (Serig, 2012).»

But artistic research requires a presence of peer review and not least dissemination of results. Artistic research is not only about developing  own competence, but also the competence of the field.

Serig therefore believes that when you start with artistic research, you have to check out the following:

– Does the theme relate to art education?

– Does it bring new knowledge and will it affect your professional practice?

– Will the proceeds be part of a dialogue with both contemporary art and teaching art?

– Are you prepared and can you handle a methodical transparency? (Serig, 2012)

Then you must make sure that the practical framework is in place, for example in the form of rooms to work in and support from the institution you work or study at. Furthermore, the artistic – researcher must relate to and disseminate within the discourses one works within or into (Serig, 2012). You have to be relevant in the research you do.

The folktale I have included in this post is called the Girl and the crow-skin dress, it is collected by Moltke Moe and is published in the booklet called Folk-tales from Flatdal. The theme that I illustrate artistic research with, is women and memories – where I look at female protagonists in narratives. My main story that I work on is Lurvehette or Tatterhood, but one of the methods I use is intertextuality, where I use both my own memories and folk memories with which I compare and study Lurvehette through. Intertextuality is a natural method for a storyteller to use, because the storyteller often relates to several variants of a folk tale. Very generally, one can say that intertextuality is about how a narrative speaks to other narratives. Thus, one of the methods I use is something I call the intertextual method. This is based on the fact that I use seven fixed scenes which in turn are inspired by the bardic tradition. The scenes are: arming, fighting, traveling, messenger scene, dialogue, sacrifice and meal. These scenes I locate in the story I work with and then I find similar scenes from other stories and my own life. This is actually one of the first things I do when starting a process.

If the scene is sacrifice – I can use the scene where the daughter gets a specific message from her father:

The king leaned forward and said, “Dear daughter, you are grown now and you will have a groom. Shortly we will celebrate a wedding. Your chest is full and your hips are wide, what a joy of a bride. No man in this kingdom is like me. So, daughter, you are definitely my new queen and I am your king.

The scene fills us with a kind of fear and can be compared to the scene in Lurvehette where the sister “is stripped of” her head by trolls and Lurvehette has to fight the trolls. Both scenes are about fear, but manifest themselves in different ways. For example, the first stage may be a more psychological fear and time goes slower. But the second scene is a more physical fear and perhaps more “fast-forward.” In the last scene, the cultural memory tells us that Lurvehette will win, because we know that humans always win over trolls, but the first scene seems more realistic and gives us other associations.

I feared what kind of rumor I would get in the aftermath of the dress, sacrificing the honor of my youth, I had gone and shown my underwear at the toughest and roughest place in town. Would people point to me in window reflections and say, there is the one who shows her underwear ever so often.

I’ve mentioned three sacrifice scenes, what about you? Do you have a situation related to sacrifice you can add?

The counselor came, the king wiped the sweat from his forehead and said, “We must change the laws. Now it should be allowed to let close relatives marry one another. ” “Then it’s a law from now on,” replied the counselor, scratching and bowing. The king nodded and the counselor nodded.

When the daughter arrived back home that evening, she was called to the king’s high seat. There, the counselors and advisers sat with serious looks and the flames in the candles flickered uneasily.

The advisers had serious looks and the flames were burning.

Serious looks and the flames …

She stood before her father, nodded and saluted the father, the king, the majesty, the ruler. The king raised his hand and saluted back.

In the red room there were shadows leaning against the walls, but the king’s shadow was greatest and even bigger as he leaned forward.

The king leaned forward and said,

Dear daughter, you are grown now and you will have a groom. Shortly we will celebrate a wedding. Your chest is full and your hips are wide, what a bride. No man in this kingdom is like me. So, daughter, you are definitely my new queen and I am your king.

The daughter stiffened, a marriage had not yet been in her mind.

In the hall, the silence was a poisonous snake sneaking around the room, spewing out poisonous delights. No one had the courage to speak out against the king. She looked around, but it wasn’t a look to meet. Hands folded under the table, afraid that they would reveal the rhythmic restlessness. The king sat relaxed in the high seat, poking with a stick in his teeth. The silence, the snake emptied the room of air and the daughter was pale.

“I’ll give you what you need for the wedding,” the king said. “Give me three days to think,” she replied. She curtsied and he nodded. She turned, he smiled.

Well, she didn’t know where she was going, because in what direction could the rescue lie? A crow landed at her feet and hit the beak along the ground. She went to her room and the crow flew her way.

The first night when the stars shone brightly at the sky, it knocked gently on her door and her father whispered her name. She pretended to be asleep, but no sleep sang sweetly to her.

The other night when the moon was about to get full, he knocked on her door and said her name. She didn’t answer, she hid in the corner of the bed.

The third evening, as the sun was about to go down and cast a red light into the room, the king opened the door and entered the room. “Daughter, give me an answer to what you need for the wedding.” “Tomorrow, father king.”

Early the next morning she went out into the garden. There, an older woman met her. She had long gray hair in a ponytail and she spoke to the girl in a squeaky voice. “What’s wrong with my child,” said the elder, “tell and I can give you good advice.” Crying she told what was about to happen. “Don’t cry, don’t worry,” the elder said. “Ask the king for a dress like the stars, a dress like the moon and a dress like the sunset. And then you ask for a gown of crows skin. If he can give you this, you bring the dresses with you into this garden. “ 

She immediately went to her father and asked for the dresses. The father drummed his fingers and replied that it was not a problem. The best tailors and sewers were sent after who immediately measured her and sent for spinners and weavers who in turn sent messages to sheep farmers, merchants and hunters. Crows were slaughtered and sold at high prices. Sheep were cut, wool carded, spun and woven. Merchants carried fabrics from distant regions with the most beautiful colors. No one understood why she wanted a dress of crow-skin, but perhaps there it was a ritual they did not know. When three times three days had passed, the four dresses were presented to her. She took all four of them and sneaked out into the garden. The garden, where the trees now were standing with buds, but the birds had left it and it was not a crow to see, well, a crow would soon appear.

Maybe you’re out walking now? At least the next time you’re out, try studying a crow. Why not simply make a crowing sound now.

Out there in the garden stood a gray horse with long mane. That was the old woman. It nodded the head, signaling her to sit on her back. She put on the crow-skin dress and no longer resembled herself, but a strange bird. She sat on the horse and then it went off. She didn’t look back.

She rode and they traveled and took no rest, but moved over hills and moors until they came to a foreign kingdom. There she was, a bird that had escaped from the cage, and you can imagine how it felt.

In the beginning, when I embark on a project that potentially could become an artistic research project, I often base myself on an impulse that I try out in relation to my own interest and professional development and what it does to the subject that I carry out a research project within. In other words, it is not enough that I have an interest in this myself, I also have a professional responsibility, and besides, it must have a social relevance and it should lead to changes in my practice and teaching. I do not necessarily start with a research question, it comes up along the way as I begin work. Personally, I make a distinction between the exploration process and the research process. It makes it easier for me to sort within the methodological, that some methods are linked to the development of a concept or performance and some methods are research methods. Of course, this may slip into each other, but I still need to sort through the process.

I do not yet have a research question, but an interest field. I have a long experience in processes and am confident that I can dwell a little in the field of interest and a clearer narrowing will emerge. At the same time, I see it as essential to constantly ask questions in and about the process I am going into. This helps to lay a groundwork for critical thinking.

Initially, there are three questions I ask myself that encourage me to form a framework for further exploration and research.

  1. Why is it important for me to implement this and what kind of competence (skills and knowledge) do I want to develop?

  2. What does this mean for the field (students and professionals) that I carry out such a project?

  3. Where is the social relevance of such a project?

To sum it up briefly, as I embark on a project, I follow a special field of interest with which I ask three questions.

So why is it important to me?

My starting point for the theme “women and memories” comes from my work on Norse poetry. In working with ancient sagas, I discovered that in the male-dominated structures lay female destinies that were unresolved. I looked through my own repertoire of stories, and discovered that there were few stories with female protagonists, I identified with stories with men. At first glance, I thought it was because I never have been concerned about “girl-eating” if this can be called that at all. For example, I have not played with dolls as a child, at least not to any great extent. Such a project gives me a larger repertoire and I can get an overview of what is found in traditional stories with female protagonists. Furthermore, I am afraid to forget. As a storyteller, I’m addicted to memory, but I’m also afraid to forget on a personal level. My son died a few years ago, and I’m afraid of forgetting who he was. Knowledge of memory is important in many disciplines and is therefore transferable.

What does this mean for the field?

Folk tales and gender roles are a discussed area in oral storytelling. In other words, there is already a discourse attached to this. I also have experience with students who do not want to tell folk tales because female roles are perceived as “weak” and unmanageable.

Working with memories is also a technical skill that should methodically be explored further to create a good teaching program.

Then the social relevance:

In a larger perspective, the role of women in society is constantly under debate and rights are repeatedly under threat. The rights we take for granted in Norway are still defective in other countries. With social media, new gender debates have emerged and representations of gender may seem to be taking the steps backwards where representative stereotypes are highlighted through click-friendly images.

These are reflections that are currently based on views and loose experiences, but which I still consider to be an important part of the process.

Close to the castle there was a small

house, where the two settled. The horse was a horse during the day and went out to graze, in the evening she was a woman tending the house. “You have to go to the castle and get a job,” she told the woman in the crow-skin dress. She went to the castle and worked in the kitchen. There she lay on the floor, scrubbing and rubbing, so that everything was spotless and shiny.

When Sunday arrived, people were getting ready to go to church. She asked to join. “The way you look? Then people think that Satan himself is among them. What are you going to church for? the chef asked. “No, sit still and don’t go out among people.” But she ran to the house and put on her dress that shone like stars and rode to the church.

Everyone glared at her and no one listened to the priest. The King’s son could not help but stare over his shoulder. When she left he would follow, but the horse was too fast. “Well, did people stare at you?”, The chef asked as she returned. “I didn’t see if they stared,” she replied.

The Sunday after, it went like the first one. She ran down to the house and put on the dress that resembled the moon and rode to the church. everyone glared at her and no one heard what the priest preached. The king’s son followed her when she left, but the horse was too fast. The horse whipped its tail in his face. “Well, did people stare a lot on you?”, The chef asked as she returned. “I didn’t look,” she replied.

On the third Sunday she wore her dress that looked like the sun. This time the king’s son was quick and grabbed one of her shoes.

The King’s son had now been given the key to love, marriage and the like. He was supposed to find the virgin who owned the shoe. So all women had to try the shoe, but no one would fit the shoe.

Then there was only one left, the woman with the crow’s skin. Then he came to her. “I’ll try the shoe on you, as there is no one left.” “Do you think it fits me?” she said. And then she lifted the crow’s dress so he could see the fine dress underneath. Then he may be happy. And then there was party.

That’s how the folk tale ends, but I don’t believe it. I prefer that she say, “Thanks for the attention, but I think I’ll spend a some time figuring things out. Travel, look around and understand how things is connected. Thanks for the offer, you will get my other shoes, and you can try to walk in them yourself. ”


Hannula, M., Suoranta, J., & Vadèn, T. (2005). Artistic Research – theories, Methods and Practices. Helsinki: Academy of Fine Arts.

Serig, D. (2012). Doing Artistic Research. research review VOLUME 10, NUMBER 2.