There was once a duck that walked alone down to the sea. On the way he saw a crane strolling around in the grass by the sea. The duck stopped up and stared at the crane. “Oh, if I only had such long beautiful legs, instead of these little bent stumps,” the duck said to himself. And as the duck said this, suddenly he was standing there with long legs like on a crane. The duck moved on towards the river, proud and happy about the change.
Artistic research – what is it, how it is done and by whom? These are some of the questions I hope I will able answer in this series that I start here.

My focus is oral storytelling in combination with artistic research.

Artistic Research - Introduction

med Mimesis Heidi Dahlsveen

There is an increased focus on artistic research. For example, in a meeting with Prio –  Center for Peace Research, this has become a topical issue. Firstly, the art is in focus because it is something that suffers when “it goes down with a society”. The art is, after all, the flower of freedom of speech.

Secondly, artistic research contributes with other methods when it comes to accessing people’s data, and it also has another language that may describe reality more diverse, like it is. 

There are several reasons for why artistic research is relevant and promoted as a form of knowledge. For example, there has arisen a need for artistic concepts to be theory-driven in interaction with the practical (Mäkelä, Nimkulrat, Dash, & Nsenga, 2011). This in turn is due to an expectation that art should mean something more to society than “just being art”. And artists are employed at universities and colleges, and it is natural that they bring their aesthetic experience into academia.

When I was small, my mother often told a story about when she was a child herself and was out in the dark. In her fear of going home alone in the dark, she was sure she suddenly saw an angel in front of her leading her home. Now that I am an adult and refers to that story, she says it was probably imagination, and it may well be. The point is that she, in her maternal instinct, she needed to give us a story that would help us as we walked home in the dark at the island where I grew up. She as a guardian of our childhood gave us a feeling of having a protector.
Not long after, a parrot flew over the duck’s head, and the duck saw its beautiful yellow beak. “Oh, if I had such a great yellow beak, instead of this flat thing in the middle of my face,” and right away he had a beak like a parrot. The duck danced on his long legs and smacked his parrot beak.

A nearby peacock suddenly showed its beautiful tail. This made the duck look and exclaim, “Oh if I had such a striking back, instead of this “dot” of a tail I have.” And there, behind him, dragging in the dust, was a peacock’s tail. The duck screamed with joy through his parrot’s beak, as he wandered proudly on his long legs as he practiced opening his new peacock tail.

You may be wondering why I include such different stories that seem to have nothing to do with each other. You may also ask – what is meaning making?

This is where artistic research comes in, because it helps to make meaning (Roes & Pint), though, perhaps in a different way, the use of other methods, such as embodied knowledge.

However, it does not mean that knowledge is embedded in the work itself, having an aesthetical experience of hearing a story is not enough. The artistic researcher must also reflect on the knowledge and disseminate this beyond the work of art itself (Roes & Pint).

In the air, circled an eagle, a curious eagle wondering what kind of bird that was wandering down there. “Oh, oh, look at the wings, what wings,” screamed the duck, “so strong and broad. Why aren’t my wings as strong and beautiful. ” And suddenly it was as if he could hardly walk on the ground, with his big eagle wings spread across a pair of long legs, with a peacock’s tail at the back and a parrot beak in front.

I myself work on the folk tale called Lurvehette – or Tatterhood as it is called in English – which I will use as an illustration in this series. My overall theme is Women and Memories, where I, through various performances address female roles in narratives and try to understand what a memory is.
What is artistic research? Here there are as many answers as there are artists employed at universities. Therefore, it can be difficult to understand what it means to be an artistic researcher. However, there are some similarities through the literature :

Firstly, artistic research is sidelined with other research work. This is enshrined in “Act relating to universities and university colleges” in Norway. The second feature is that the artwork must be followed by a textual reflection containing a research question, a defined methodology, contextualization and references (Mkel, Nimkulrat, Dash, Nsenga, 2011).

But one needs to be aware that  the artistic researcher at universities must struggle to gain an understanding of the results that artistic research is giving (Mkel, Nimkulrat, Dash, Nsenga, 2011).

There is no uniform discourse within artistic research and what lies in the term has different interpretations, even within a single institution it can be understood differently (Mkel, Nimkulrat, Dash, Nsenga, 2011). This also leads to different requirements for artistic research, but both form and content should be contextualized and communicated, and both practice and theory must be the base of artistic research.

To sum it up:

The general theory of artistic research states that artistic research should have both an artistic process and an artistic work, and  there should be a reflection present that points beyond the work itself.

Think about a strong artistic experience you have experienced. Write down the key words about what made it to an experience you cannot forget.

At the same time, a rooster began to crow and the duck noticed its magnificent red cock comb. “Wouldn’t it have been perfect to have such a beautiful decoration on my head, instead of these stupid flat feathers.” And there it was, a red cock comb, topping the parrot’s beak, eagle wings, peacock tail and the crane legs.
I will repeat this:

On a pile stood a rooster. It bowed its head back and began to crow, it shook its large red cock comb and the sun shone a ring around the rooster. It caught the duck’s eye who exclaimed enthusiastically: “If I had had such a cock comb it would have been perfect. I would have been perfect. Then I would not need these stupid flat feathers on my head.” And there it was, a red cock comb, topping the parrot’s beak, eagle wings, peacock tail and the crane legs.

Finally, the duck approached the sea. “I think probably my duck friends and family will be surprised when they see me now,” thought the duck. But when he came down to the water, the other ducks panicked and swam away from him. “Hey, stop! That’s me! Duck! Your friend! ” A recognizable sound came through his parrot’s beak, and eventually the other ducks dared to approach the duck. “It’s Duck,” they said, bursting into laughter as they saw the strange creature in front of them. The duck was embarrassed and said to himself, “If only I were a simple duck like the others.” And he was. He jumped out into the sea, happily reunited with the other ducks.

So what are the similarities between the two stories?

That is up to you to figure out.  


Duby, M., & Barker, P. A. (n.d.). Deterritorialising the Research Space: Artistic Research Embodied Knowledge, and the Academy.

Mäkelä, M., Nimkulrat, N., Dash, D., & Nsenga, F.-X. (2011). On Reflecting and Making in Artistic Research. Journal of Research Practice Vol. 7, Issue 1.

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