Almost Documentary: Celcrabeels' introduction to taxi-to-praxi

Dear all, I have thought about the questions put to us by Taxi to Praxi. I will elaborate a bit.

How do you define practice-led artistic research?

One has to look at the context, the Bologna Process aims to create a European Higher Education Area by 2010. Due to this process the Belgian Academy’s and University’s recently are merging into one structure. This evolution has created a need for 'PhD candidate researchers in Fine Art ' in the Belgian. academic world.

To me research is an essential part of my artistic practice, although my definition of ‘research’ will presumably be different from the one used in a academic environments. I have a interest in interactive, user-friendly and relational concepts. I see practice-led artistic research in the first place as broadening and intensifying of my artistic practice. It is an opportunity to explore different contexts of artistic production. Conducting a practice-led artistic research embedded In the University of Leuven will hopefully be a opportunity to spend a lot of time and efforts at my inquiry into the use and importance of artistic documentary strategies. Next to this it is a challenge to become a team player.

How do you view your research fitting into the larger picture of academia or open-source culture?

My research project* will involve the participation of several people who will together produce and contribute a larger amount of data, text, audio, video, documents… In the classical PhD setup of the University of Leuven a researcher is expected to process all this material into a PhD paper. I’m not in favour off this condensation and reduction of ideas, actions, relations and materials. I’m not rejecting a ‘theoretical’ discourse as inquiry in to the subject of my research but I would like to suggest another format in which the results of this theoretical part of the research should be processed and represented.
The use of open-source platforms (e.g. the probably is a valid and more appropriate alternative for a PhD paper.

*Almost Documentary, an inquiry into the use and importance of artistic documentary strategies. AD is a documentary research project embedded in a PhD (Doctoraat in de Kunsten) at the University of Leuven, Belgium.

Abstract about the A.D. research project

The research is concerned with Artists who are sampling images, sounds, documents, films, video footage and newly produced content from its original narrative contexts to generate fresh ideas meanings and relevance. These artists are using documentary strategies and improvisations creatively and subversively as an integral part of their artistic process. The process by which artistic 'documentation' becomes 'circulation’ takes an important place in their artistic practice. This project aims to chart how contemporary audio-visual artists creatively and subversively employ these documentary strategies and how they deal with the problematics of using pre-existing content. I will (re)examine notions such as found footage, re-enactment, traumatic realism, faction, transmediality, documentary improvisations, and how these notions interfere with creation, authorship, objectivity and originality.

A number of artists will be invited to participate and contribute at this research project. Several case studies and collaborations will be set up. The above mentioned artistic practices will be examined from an inside point of view. During the course of this research the content generated by the participants could be archived and made accessible by making use of open and collaborative (FLOSS) methodologies. We are aiming for a collaborative documentary production process.

In this project we will be looking at documentary strategies, not from the ‘documentary makers’ point of view but from the position of the artist. It will be different from “traditional” projects because artists are in many ways operating ‘outside the box’ They are on the verge of the new and the subversive. Artists are constantly challenging knew formats of storytelling, factuality, fiction and representation of reality. It will be interesting to follow up how these formats are being treated by a group of upcoming and leading contemporary artists.

Cel Crabeels was artist/researcher at the Fine Art department of the Jan van Eyck Academie from 1997 to 1999. He is conducting a PhD (Doctoraat in de Kunsten) at the University of Leuven. He exhibited in many museums throughout Europe (Museum Ludwig-Forum Fur Internationale Kunst, Aachen, MuHKA, Antwerp, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, Witte De With, Rotterdam, MIT visual arts center, Boston). Crabeels has lectured at Leeds Metropolitan University, Academy of the Arts, Reykjavik, Sint-Lukas Academie, Brussels, Sint-Lukas Academie of Antwerp, Brussels, HISK Antwerp,Ghent, KASK Ghent and Post-Sint Joost, Breda.

Cel Crabeels makes use of the aesthetic strategies of contemporary audio-visual media to explore the phenomena of identification, documentation, historyfication and the artistic use of them. At the same time the artist propagates a critical, self-reflective distance towards this issues. The videos, audio-visual installations, documentary projects and photographs of Cel Crabeels reveal a fascination for obscuring the divisions between representation and reality, fiction and documentary, private and public, critical observation and autobiography. Early works revolved around the existence and persistence of unspoken rules and codes, imposing, obeying or violating limits and norms.