Research-based Art Practices in Southeast Asia: The Artist as Producer of Knowledge 


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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Award date13 May 2020


Since the 2000s, more and more artists in Southeast Asia are engaged in research processes inspired by the social sciences, working as historians, archivists, archaeologists or sociologists, yet applying freely the methodologies of work of these disciplines. The outcome of the artists’ research is exhibited as an artwork and not presented in a written and academic format. Still, these artistic “incursions” into academic fields are challenging the established system of knowledge production, in particular the modes of knowledge production dominated by Western academic and scientific discourses inherited by the colonial past, and the official and local received knowledge modelled on authoritative discourses. Research appears thus as a new strategy to convey legitimacy and value to counter-narratives on social, cultural, historical and political issues, while bringing forth new creative possibilities and innovative epistemological languages.

Drawing from extensive fieldwork, I seek to analyze this creative entanglement of academic and artistic research in Southeast Asia, in particular in Cambodia, Myanmar, Singapore and Vietnam, and to examine its epistemological significance as a potential new mode of knowledge production. Given the specific context of the region, it aims at highlighting the emancipatory dimension of research-based art practices and the role of research as a strategic agent of creativity and liberation.

The thesis is organized in two parts: a first long introduction aims at studying the general framework and context of Southeast Asian research-based art practices and at underlying the issues at stake; the second part focuses on specific cases studies that deconstruct and consider four artists’ research processes of work and research outcome in order to shed light on the way these artwork divert and question the existing knowledge frameworks.

    Research areas

  • research-based art practices, knowledge production, Southeast Asian art