The thesis prize was founded by the research centers AOK and TDA (Zuyd University of Applied Sciences) to encourage students to make theses (and/or documentations of artistic processes) that do justice to their own artistic practice. Too often, reflection within arts education falls back on semi scientific ideals of validity and objectivity. This removes critical reflexivity from artistic practice. The research centers TDA and AOK support theses, documentations, reflection and research within arts education that are relevant to artistic practice.
The strange year 2020 was definitely a good year for scriptiekunst.org. We had a surprisingly high turnout, both in numbers as in the quality and diversity of the submitted theses. We received a whopping 48 entries in the Scriptiekunst.org competition, almost doubling those of last year. 18 of these came from students in master programs. It’s encouraging that we received entries from almost every academy or track of the Zuyd art schools. Maybe indicative of the growing renown of the prize, was an entry by a student from Delft University, which we unfortunately could not consider. Although the number of theses is quite an imposing challenge for the jury, we hope this success will be continued in the coming years.
More than ever, we see a huge diversity in approaches towards artistic research and the writing (and styling) of a thesis: from personal process reports that prepare for a graduation project, to thorough documentations of finalized research. From explorative preparations for stage directions, to fundamental browsing through theoretical literature. From ego-documents on urgent issues in professional practice to whimsical texts focusing around seemingly random objects. That in itself is a good thing, as long as the chosen strategy of research proves to be appropriate for the chosen subject.
Some general remarks and advice:
- Overall, the quality of the submitted theses improves every year. The subjects of the theses seem to be more relevant for the artistic ambitions of the students, which obviously helps in the artistic research. The jury particularly enthused about those entries that give an indication that they are written by makers/artists in aid of their own practices as makers/artists.
- The jury loves the style exercises it receives: those theses and documentations that self-consciously experiment with form distinguish the reflexive and analytic work that belongs in art schools. It still feels strange when an art thesis doesn’t reflect the artistic hand and mind behind it in any way. However, as in art projects, sheer stylistic exercises – a ‘spielerei’ – are not enough in themselves. The jury looks for entries that fundamentally connect and utilize form to deal with questions such as: What are you experimenting with, about and for? What’s at stake?
- Another issue that arose around style exercises, was that of readability. The jury sometimes wondered how much work the reader can be expected to do. Some entries don’t support the reader enough in their quest to understand or even to find an entry into the student’s work. The jury likes to be activated by the theses they receive, but also like to feel that this work is a relevant part of the argument the thesis or documentation is making, and not just laziness of the writer.
- Apply consistently some kind of system for citing and referring to sources so you don’t plagiarize unintentionally. However, this advice is not intended to make sure your thesis looks neat and serious. You should do so because you require sources and understand how to use them as (counter)arguments, elaborations, supports, or qualifications, instead of confirmations or better versions of your own writing. More generally, the jury remains concerned about the lack of contextualization in some theses. It is as if students’ remain unaware that others – artists and academics – have grappled before and interestingly with the questions they address.
- Quite a few of the theses this year were extremely long. A lengthy thesis doesn’t always prove to be a thorough, original or readable one. The ambition could be to transform an original and thorough artistic research into a concise, readable and precise thesis. To paraphrase the late Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: it’s sometimes just too many words. Rewriting and editing are important skills.
- Remember: writing a thesis may not be so very different from making a work of art. It is just as hard, just as interesting. Things like consistency and coherence, imagination and craftsmanship are important here too.
For the year 2019-20, the jury has decided to award one scriptiekunst.org 2020 award to:
Lotte Hendriks ‘Een poepie laten ruiken’
The jury also decided to award three encouragement prizes to:
- Romy Moons ‘VUURWERK’
- Elisabeth Ott ‘TEMPLATES’
- Helen Svoboda ‘Vegetable Bass’
Lotte Hendriks ‘Een poepie laten ruiken’ scriptiekunst.org 2020 award
This thesis has it all and stood out spectacularly for the jury: it starts from a highly original and relevant problem, it’s personally and artistically engaged, it’s well documented, it’s consequently styled, it delivers a surprising result and above all: it’s a great read. Starting from what seems to be a ‘faits divers’ in the media, villagers complaining about pigeon droppings, the thesis takes the reader on a fascinating research journey through the emerging bigger picture behind this rather banal problem, proposing some genuine artistic – and refreshingly simple – answers to the problem. The thesis combines thoroughness with fun, big societal problems with small scale personal solutions, originality with research. The thesis meanders through a wealth of different approaches to the ‘big pigeon problem’, ranging from historical research, big-data mining, personal interviews with the villagers involved, chemical analysis… you name it. It’s deadly serious and hilarious in its thoroughness. The jury thoroughly enjoyed reading this thesis and also values the sense that the author really enjoyed herself. Research and documentation aren’t obligatory here, language and topic are not overly swollen or grandiose. This research is down to earth yet relevant and exciting. It is nicely subversive about the requirement for design to be useful. And at the same time, the proposed solution could actually be beneficial for a wide range of social issues: let’s get together around a cup of tea. A pigeon poo decorated cup, that is…
Romy Moons ‘VUURWERK’ scriptiekunst.org 2020 encouragement award.
This thesis has the appearance of a marriage between a theatre play, a highly stylized coffee table book and a mental exploration of… Of exactly what, the jury was not exactly sure. The tension and seductiveness of the specific unclarity of what this thesis is actually about, forms an important part of its allure for the jury. It reads like a radical anti-thesis, and as such resonates with questions about artistic research, documentation, substantiation and contextualization in the arts. The thesis seems to be quite personal and well documented at the same time, although the references are well hidden in the apparent poetry of the text. The staged photographs exhibit an authentic and consequent artistic style. Sometimes, the text is overly ornamental and would benefit from some explicit references to background material. It’s not so sure where this journey leads to, but for a lot of the ride, it is a breathtakingly fascinating journey.
Elisabeth Ott ‘TEMPLATES’ scriptiekunst.org 2020 encouragement award.
With the appearance of a scrapbook, this thesis proposes a radically different approach to dealing with references. The research is concerned with the role of craftsmanship and the thesis performs as well as documents the issue. It uses the ‘collage-technique’ to document its research path through literary references. Citing thus becomes a material part of the argument, the exploration that is presented, inviting the reader to engage with various mental and material relationships between texts and the manners in which they are made present. This strategy has great potential, although in the end, this particular journey disappoints a bit. Technically, this thesis is much more complexly layered than is apparent at first glance: scanned hand written remarks are laid over an editable (and researchable) text. It thus goes beyond a ‘annotate, scrap and scan’ approach. The end result may not be the most readable text, but it is a promising formal approach, radically flirting with ‘spielerei’.
Helen Svoboda ‘Vegetable Bass’ scriptiekunst.org 2020 encouragement award
A highly specialized thesis with a twist, dealing with all the technical intricacies of playing the double bass. How thorough can you get? Setting this thesis apart from its colleagues in the field, are the light hearted references to the vegetable garden. This thesis more successfully manages to open up the highly specialized subject to a more general public, helped by some simple but clever stylization of the text. ‘Vegetable Bass’ tries to clear the fog surrounding the notation of contemporary music. It is refreshingly readable and thorough on one hand, and overly conventional (with the obligatory ‘questions’ and ‘sub-questions’ etc.) on the other hand. Luckily, this imposed frame doesn’t get too much in the way of a fascinating journey through the contemporary playing techniques of the double bass. It is well illustrated with references – and useful links – to a wide variety of fascinating new music. It’s one of the few theses to deal with its own copyright, by explicitly licensing it under the ‘Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License’. This opens up this (rather funny) garden to all interested readers.
Read the winning theses HERE!