Ten years of Tutke Esa Kirkkopelto & Leena Rouhiainen

The anthology Poetics of form is a compilation edited and written by doctoral students, and it celebrates the past ten years at the Performing Arts Research Centre (Tutke) of the Theatre Academy of the University of the Arts Helsinki. During these years Tutke has been responsible for the research and the doctoral training at the Theatre Academy, with the focus on artistic research in the fields represented at the academy. These fields include Dance and Theatre, Dance and Theatre Pedagogy, Live Arts and Performance, and Lighting and Sound Design. In this foreword we will express our view on how Tutke came into being and how its activities developed. The aim of this contribution is to illustrate Tutke’s path and to highlight its importance for the Theatre Academy, the University of the Arts, and, in a wider context also for the performing arts and artistic research in general. This text also contextualizes the articles and the performative arrangements in this anthology by characterizing the environment and the ethos in the particular research and doctoral education environment where the authors have done their work. Altogether, Poetics of form provides a cross section over the substance of the research conducted by a total of seven doctoral students, as well as two artist-researchers holding doctoral degrees. It thus presents an up-to-date perspective on artistic research, focusing mainly on performing arts, and describes the specific nature of the research orientation currently hosted at Tutke.

It has been possible to obtain licentiate and doctoral degrees at the Theatre Academy from 1989 onwards. In the beginning the doctoral studies took place in the academy’s joint programme for postgraduate studies operating within the departments for undergraduate and graduate education. The programme leading to licentiate and doctoral degrees in dance or theatre was led by Research Professor Pentti Paavolainen. At the turn of the millennium an increasing number of research projects realized by artists were rooted in the at the time emergent field of artistic research. Following this trend, after the initial stage of the developing postgraduate education, which lasted for almost twenty years, things changed. The Theatre Academy started a remarkable reform in its doctoral education and appointed Esa Kirkkopelto as its first Professor in Artistic Research in August 2007.

Tutke was established during the same autumn. The work towards a new organizational structure for the doctoral education and a new curriculum begun, aiming at promoting the research and graduation of approximately fifty doctoral students at the time, and also the new doctoral students to come. The abbreviation “Tutke” is still used of the Performing Arts Research Centre. It was coined from the Finnish title of the centre Tutkimuksen kehittämisyksikkö, directly translated as “unit for the development of research”, reflecting the image of the newborn organization: a community focusing on developing and building itself. The questions that were then quickly dealt with during the autumn mainly covered the establishment of the new unit within the organization of the Theatre Academy with respect to the departments responsible for undergraduate and graduate degree programmes. Some important starting points for the work which deserve to be mentioned here are: the numerous and motivated group of doctoral students with justifiable expectations of and needs for their future; the joint strategic vision introduced by Rector Paula Tuovinen promoting the Theatre Academy as a university engaged in artistic research; the independent research culture already emerged, especially within the departments of dance and dance pedagogy, as described in a recent anthology Tanssi yliopistossa [Dance in the university] edited by Soili Hämäläinen; and in addition the work on artistic research at the Theatre Academy, conducted until then by Annette Arlander, Professor in Performance Art and Theory at the time; as well as the doctoral training firmly committed to artistic research led by Professor Jan Kaila at the Academy of Fine Arts.

These starting points also entailed the first challenges and problems of the process. The first issue to be tackled was the question concerning the relationship between Tutke and the departments: will the doctoral students still be part of the field-specific degree programmes within the departments, with Tutke functioning as the coordinating unit, or will Tutke form an independent body, separate from the departments? The standing of the doctoral students was clear: scattered in the departments they suffered from the lack of research community, and it was hoped that Tutke would improve the situation. As an outcome of the negotiations, the concept of an independent unit was soon backed up also by the professors of the degree programmes. A series of operational principles were, however, publicly expressed as a prerequisite, and they are still underlying Tutke’s activities at the Theatre Academy today.

In so far as training artists in the performing arts is the objective of the Theatre Academy, it in principle reaches its goal already at the Bachelor’s and Master’s levels. Doctoral training is not a direct continuation of Master’s level studies, it does not represent the top of the hierarchy, nor does it thus primarily oblige the departments to prepare students for the third and the last cycle of university education. In this respect, the dynamics fundamentally differs from science universities. From the very beginning, Tutke was established to promote artistic research, with the foundation built on the skills and visions of artists having been tried and tested in practising their profession. Also the pedagogical needs of both the Theatre Academy and the University of the Arts have essentially motivated Tutke’s activities. University pedagogy required novel, research based expertise, and doctoral training offered both the means and the channel to achieve it. The needs of the academy were answered by making sure that the professors responsible for the degree programmes are represented in Tutke’s bodies and participate in Tutke’s decision-making processes, particularly in student admission. A research council separate from the teaching council was soon, in 2010, established to regulate Tutke’s activities. A systematic and transparent student recruitment process was also created in Tutke. In this context it was then agreed that the expertise and research interests of the students to be admitted in Tutke should be meaningful also for the Bachelor’s and Master’s levels. In practice, each doctoral student is engaged in the activities of one of the field-specific Master’s degree programmes through the respective professors. Right from the start, this practice secured that the activities of the new unit consuming the common funds of the university would not disappear from the horizon of the departments, outside their interests. At the same time the departments were willing to offer the doctoral students and the whole Tutke an operational environment supporting their activities. Tutke thus both became immersed in and secured its relative autonomy within the operational environment of the Theatre Academy.

The solution was most challenging for the Department of Dance and Theatre Pedagogy. Unlike its sister departments, it had already established an active, internationally networked research culture. However, the whole department suffered from a particular kind of isolation at the time with respect to other departments and the artist education these engaged in. This state of affairs helped in achieving the positive outcome in the negotiations with the professor of the department, Eeva Anttila. It was agreed that artistic research would become an umbrella term for all research conducted in Tutke and in the Theatre Academy. This solution was also welcomed by the doctoral students, since most of them were practicing professionals, artists and artist-pedagogues, whose research was based on doing art and on artistic processes. For the first time, both the artists in doctoral training in the fields represented by the Theatre Academy and the pedagogues were brought together by Tutke in joint seminars and around the same tables. Within Tutke, pedagogy has from the beginning been understood as an integral methodical and ethical characteristic of artistic research, expanding the expertise of artist-researchers and broadening the social significance of their research. The outcome strengthened the importance of the department within the Theatre Academy while Tutke could benefit, on the level of its results and in organising the teaching, from the research volume and the expertise provided by the department.

The political nature of these solutions concerning both the structure and the content of doctoral training is highlighted by the fact that their realizations were never self-evident, and during the past ten years they have required constant renegotiating between Tutke and the Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programmes. Also the strong development of the degree programmes, with respect to both pedagogy and research, affects the relationship between Tutke and the current degree programmes, raising new hopes and needs. Along the development of the university level art education, also the nature of the performing arts has changed during the past ten years: it is often conceptually or theoretically orientated, commenting self-reflectively on the traditions of art and seeking social interaction.

The process of organization described above was supported by the definitions of the principles of doctoral training and the concept of artistic research. By bringing together the doctoral students into one unit, Tutke established a much-needed research community, and communality has from the beginning been recognised in Tutke as not only a value, but also a practical basis for developing its operations. But what kind of research did Tutke mean to develop, and whom did it train in the end? Tutke’s focus on “artistic research” was not self-evident in the beginning either. The new label was needed to overrule the prevailing degree regulations that categorized the licentiate and the doctoral research projects as “scientific based” and “arts based” with different requirements. The former complied with the criteria for academic art research, while the model for the latter was obtained from Sibelius Academy, where the degree still today comprises of a series of artistic demonstrations, and a written thesis reporting them. In the realm of theatre where artistic productions are in many ways laborious requiring a lot of time, the model led to prolonged degrees, at the same time than the written parts of the doctoral research expanded due to the theoretical ambitions of the doctoral students. Also, since an ongoing national discussion took place within the science policy at the time on the relevance of artistic research as an academic area of research, it was wise of Tutke to mark out art research at that point, and especially history of art, outside its own focus area and highlight the academic nature of artistic research.

Research is conducted by artists and art pedagogues themselves, striving to criticize and renew their own field of art, or to study the society and the reality around us, using the means it provides, building on their own experience and adhering to academically sound criteria. The doctoral degree comprises one or several artistic parts, separately examined, and a written part examined at the end of the process, nowadays called a “commentary”. Artistic research is not a doctrine but an area of research where different approaches are accentuated in various ways. It is realized in the continuum between artistic practice and scientific theory formation, maintaining contact with each, identifying purely with neither.

In addition to developing one’s own artistic knowledge, the studies were motivated by an ambition to assume responsibility for developing the practices, training, and knowledge of one’s own special field. Instead of focusing on “Excellency”, the reasoning was directed to critical identification of artistic, ethical, political and pedagogical problems in different fields of art, and to providing possible solutions respectively. This attitude was supported by the principle applied right from the start in student admission that the route to doctoral studies was not a direct path from the master’s degree studies, instead the professionally experienced and excelled applicants with a solid research idea were given priority. Artistic research was understood as experiential, experience-based research with the starting point in the practical experiences of the artist and the observations and questions emerging from them. It is also characteristic of the operational environment of Tutke that so far the average age of its doctoral students has been well over forty! However, this tried and found principle differs significantly from the tenure track model in the science universities aiming at lowering the age for doctoral defence. The University of the Arts shall also in the future ensure that the models it adopts correspond with the dynamics of the fields that are taught and studied.

Even if Tutke aligned art research outside its own focus area, the interaction between artistic research and art research has been continuous. Valtakunnallinen esittävän taiteen tutkijakoulu (VEST) [The national doctoral school for performing arts], established already in 1995, with both art research and artistic research represented, offered them a common forum for collaboration until the year 2012. This doctoral school network administered by Sibelius Academy also comprised the universities of Helsinki, Tampere and Turku besides the Theatre Academy. Since 2007 it expanded and continued under a new title EST, and among others the universities of Joensuu and Jyväskylä joined it. Also post-doctoral research activities within Tutke were established. The young researchers Teija Löytönen and Leena Rouhiainen, having obtained their doctorates at the Theatre Academy before Tutke’s time, were appointed to Tutke as post-doc researchers funded by the Academy of Finland, the latter also as an Academy Research Fellow. Before long, also art researchers interested in artistic practices in performing arts, such as Anne Makkonen, Hanna Järvinen and Anna Thuring, joined Tutke as visiting researchers and have become long-term members of the community. Several research projects with public funding and participants from the Academy of Fine Arts and the University of Helsinki besides the Theatre Academy were established, such as Actor’s Art in Modern Times (2008—2011) and the Asian Art and Performance Consortium (2011—2014). Theatre Academy was thus among the first art universities in the world where developing an artistic post-doc culture and its practices became possible. Doctoral graduates were encouraged to apply for research funding and they were supported in the process. A group for post-doc researchers was established in Tutke, and practices for visiting researchers were created. Even a preliminary procedure for granting titles of docent was set up in the Theatre Academy, but is now left for the University of the Arts to complete. At the moment Tutke hosts several visiting researchers such as the post-doctoral researcher funded by the Academy of Finland, Susanna Hast with her project Kehot sodassa, kehot tanssissa (2017—2020) [Bodies in War, Bodies in Dance] as well as another research project funded by the Academy of Finland, Kuinka tehdä asioita esityksellä (2016—2020) [How to Do Things with Performance] led by Annette Arlander.

In developing Tutke, the key factors right from the start have been teamwork and a wide enough student community. Together we have had more courage and capacity to launch initiatives than alone. Things that were planned in cooperation from the start were easier to promote also in wider communities. During the first years, the responsible core of the team consisted of Professor in Artistic Research Esa Kirkkopelto, Professor in Performance Art and Theory Annette Arlander, and Professor in Dance Pedagogy Eeva Anttila. They were also responsible for creating the first round of degree requirements and teaching programmes. Professor Soili Hämäläinen started as the Head of Tutke soon after. After her retirement in 2012, Leena Rouhiainen continued as the second Professor in Artistic Research and Head of Tutke. During the years university lecturers Hanna Järvinen, Kai Lehikoinen and Kirsi Heimonen have been important in developing teaching and supporting the doctoral candidates in various ways. Likewise, a professional team of research coordinators, senior advisors, coordinators and secretaries, Johanna Laakkonen, Tiina Keisanen, Annika Fredriksson, Katja Kiviharju, Riitta Pasanen-Willberg, Elina Raitasalo, Helena Hongisto, Irma Koistinen and Siiri Heino, has answered for the smooth running of Tutke’s processes. The wide student community, in turn, provided Tutke with a firm base for a broad development of activities, courses and research projects. It was a foundation that also initiated an international biannual conference in artistic research Colloquium on Artistic Research in Performing Arts (CARPA), organized in 2009 for the first time. Collaboration with the doctoral training in the Academy of Fine Arts further expanded the volume and the versatility of the activities. Also joint seminars were started in 2009 and the joint monthly teaching programme of the doctoral studies in the Academy of Fine Arts and the Theatre Academy is nowadays planned and realised in full cooperation. The international Summer Academy for Artistic Research (SAAR) organised in 2011 for the first time has since been established as a joint Nordic forum for doctoral education operating on a regular basis.

The biggest practical problem related to the large number of doctoral students has naturally always been the funding of the doctoral studies. In Finland the doctoral students have no access to the government-provided financial support received by the students on the Bachelor’s and Master’s levels nor an option to apply for study loan. In spite of this, the target completion time of the doctoral degree comprising 240 credits is four years full-time and six years part-time studying. However, few doctoral students receive continuous financing for the full four years of doctoral research. Even if the efforts to minimize the time required for the doctoral studies through degree requirement reforms, personal study planning, tuition designed to meet the needs of the doctoral students, supervision and many other means supporting the studies have helped to decrease the duration of the doctoral studies, they still take a minimum of six years. For several years the Theatre Academy was able to offer fully funded doctoral candidate posts with the maximum length of four years for four doctoral students at a time, nowadays increased to six within the University of the Arts. In addition, there were funding options for some students, first within the EST doctoral school and afterwards within the Doctoral Programme in Artistic Research (TAhTO) during 2012—2015. Funded by the Academy of Finland, TAhTO was launched as a joint programme between the Theatre Academy, the Academy of Fine Arts, Sibelius Academy and the Aalto-university School of Arts and Design, and in addition to the doctoral degrees it also produced valuable experience on doctoral training within different fields of art. As in science universities, private foundations have also been important sources of supplementary funding for doctoral education and research. During the past ten years several foundations have held artistic research close to heart and supported doctoral researchers regularly and generously.

When Tutke reached the age of five years in 2012, its birthday was not yet celebrated. Tutke’s staff could, however, already then note with astonishment and pride that almost all expectations that had been placed on Tutke in 2007 had been realized. The development had been truly fast. The prerequisite for this has, however, always been Tutke’s special strategic position within the Theatre Academy, which was seen in increased resources in a period of time when other universities started to experience the suffocating effects of “structural development”. The establishment of Tutke took place during the historical second wave in the development rooted in the Bologna agreement and the pan-European alignments on the development of higher art education. In the background can be traced an international development that had begun in the turn of the millennium and that was characterised by disputes on the nature of the research conducted in the art universities, and during which the first artistic doctoral programmes were established. The Theatre Academy had cleared the way for the acceptance of artistic research already in the previous art-oriented doctoral training. The fact that the Theatre Academy engaged more steadily in artistic research with the establishment of Tutke, and also grasped without hesitation the institutional potential that presented itself in the process, had both national and international relevance. We offered a clear, working example of how a small art academy can organise itself into a university engaged in research. Tutke became instantly an active and a well-known player in the European organisations, events and collaborative initiatives, and also the doctoral students have during the years become significantly more international. In the last round of applications, out of more than fifty students applying for Tutke, twelve were international applicants.

During the past ten years, the professors and other staff in Tutke have been active in various international forums for promoting artistic research in performing arts. Tutke has been an active player in the Society for Artistic Research (SAR) among others, promoting artistic research and the publication of its results. As an outcome of this activity, its eighth international conference on artistic research Please Specify! was organised in the University of the Arts with the Theatre Academy as its venue. Tutke’s staff has been active in founding the first international peer-reviewed multimedial publication Journal of Artistic Research and its national version Ruukku. At Tutke’s initiative annual meetings have been organised within the International Platform for Performer Training since 2014. Tutke’s people have also actively participated in establishing the international association Performance Philosophy. Tutke is a partner in the project Artistic Doctorates in Europe funded by the Erasmus+ programme, which seeks to promote good practices in doctoral training of artistic research and to enhance the interaction between doctoral students and the art field. These examples speak of the various ways in which Tutke has during the past decade established its place as an international actor.

During the past years the instructions and practices supporting Tutke’s doctoral training have been developed in many ways and in many occasions. The third degree requirements are in force at the moment. They are structurally based on the first round of degree requirements but take better into account the orientation of the doctoral students, multimedial publishing and the internationalization of the doctoral students. The purpose of the teaching programme is to offer good basic abilities for the artists and the pedagogues for engaging in artistic research, to enhance their ability to participate in critical discussion and to articulate artistic processes in appropriate ways, as well as to maintain the local community of artistic research. Each doctoral student is appointed a professor in artistic research as his or her contact professor for negotiating issues related to the progress of the doctoral studies and the research. Doctoral students can publish their doctoral research not only as printed matter but also as a multimedial publication in the publication series Acta Scenica. The multimedial publication series Nivel offers a platform for the CARPA conference proceedings, the expositions of the doctoral students and other publications related to artistic research, such as the work at hand. Such measures have guaranteed that doctoral defences have been held regularly at Tutke recently. At best there have been as many as six in a year, and on average Tutke has succeeded in exceeding the target number of degrees defined as three doctoral defences per year.

The way in which Tutke was organised within Theatre Academy had no real model at the time, so the solutions were sought pragmatically in relation to the needs, the given starting points and the strengths. In the Sibelius Academy, the Academy of Fine Arts, as well as in the Aalto-university with which the collaboration has been constant, doctoral training and research were, and still are, organised differently. In all these institutions, also the concept of artistic research has been understood in different ways. The establishment of the University of the Arts has again raised the question of the relationships of artistic research, art research and art pedagogical research, and the position of the “Tutke model”, in spite of its functionality, is in no means secured in the future. Within the University of the Arts, Tutke is constantly required to justify its solutions with respect to the other two academies at the University of the Arts, the Academy of Fine Arts and Sibelius Academy, while seeking collaboration with them at the same time. Doctoral training complying with the principles and structures that have earlier been established in each academy at the University of the Arts is still offered in the academies. In addition, joint study modules for all doctoral students on the University of the Arts level are organised. The University of the Arts has supported doctoral training by granting each academy with additional funding for appointing one or two doctoral candidates and by offering doctoral students new grants for realizing the artistic parts in the research projects. The research pavilion in the Venice Biennale in 2015 and 2017 funded by the University of the Arts has brought the research results exceptional international visibility. How the University of the Arts in the end organises its research activities is still an open question. Will research stay within the academies, will it be transferred into a joint unit or will it be divided in both under certain conditions? The vice rector responsible for research and doctoral education Lauri Väkevä started in his task a year ago. The post-doc research is now fostered in a research environment Research Hub comprising three research centres focusing on history of music, art education and artistic research. The Research Hub has been developed with profile funding granted by the Academy of Finland to the University of the Arts and its functions have just begun. The future will show what it will achieve and what impacts it will have on the Performing Arts Research Centre at the Theatre Academy of the University of the Arts Helsinki.

Esa Kirkkopelto and Leena Rouhiainen
Translation Hanna Westerlund