The current rhetoric of the Open Access project – as put down i.a. in the Berlin Declaration – seems to want to answer the mechanism of exclusion intrinsic to the academic system of publishing. In their article “The Political Nature of the Book” (2013) Janneke Adema and Gary Hall draw an interesting parallel with the way artists in the 1960s confronted the commodification-oriented gallery system by opposing it with a new form of experimentation – using the book as a democratic medium. Similarly, over the past decade the potential of digital publishing has been presented in the scholarly world as medium-specific possibilities to develop counter-institutional forms of dissemination. An overall academic optimism arose: open access would achieve the complete accessibility of research results and thus – in the spirit of the current state of the democracy – break down the boundaries between the academic community and the rest of society.
This optimism, however, was almost immediately framed by the rhetoric of the neoliberal agenda: research should constantly be measured by the yardstick of transparency, accountability, discoverability, usability and efficiency. The net result was the emergence of a culture of peer-reviewed journal articles. A form of publishing that neatly copied the quality control procedures and the preservation structures of the profit-driven academic publishing houses. A form of publishing also that ultimately tried to exclude any form of experimentation for the sake of maintaining the confidence of the academic community.
How should artistic research relate to this development? Should it be, in the spirit of this form of research, a critical, self-reflexive, processual, non-goal oriented way of thinking about dissemination? How can such a form of conceptual openness be peer-reviewed? Does artistic research perhaps need a recalibration or a revision of the assessment criteria (such as relevance, ground breaking, originality, ambition, risk, topicality, beyond the state of art, scientific approach, suitability of methods, feasibility, broader impact). And ultimately, does it have the ability to question the radicalism of Access anew?
Jan Kaila and Henk Slager
This text is a curators’ statement that will also be present in the Research Pavilion for visitors to read.