Research Studio: Art as experience / experience as Art

by Georgia Lange

At the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, all students in the first year program are required to take a research studio class. These days, it has developed into multiple research studio classes. As a first year student, I chose the research studio entitled “Art as experience / experience as Art.” I will say now that it was a wise choice, as it turned out to be one of the most interesting classes I ever took.

The idea itself is almost philosophical. Art is an experience in itself. To look at a work of art is to take your mind places where you would never have thought to go, and the journey is entirely subjective. Then there is the experience of physically creating the art, and this too is a different experience for everyone. To create the art, the artist must gather inspiration, and this is what an artist would call “research.” Research as an experience comes in many forms, whether it be reading a book or taking a running leap into zip-lining across a tropical landscape. One of the most important elements of research for an artist is documentation. If you are reading a book as research, the problem is solved. If you are using a vacation as the experience to do your research, take a sketchbook or a camera. Take both! You never know what you might find particularly inspiring when you look back over the documentation of your experience, whatever it happened to be.

Then there is the idea of an experience itself being the work of art. For a photographer, the experience of simply noticing the subject matter in the right place and at the right time is the true work of art; the photograph is just the documentation of a living, breathing, moving work of art. It’s all about little moments that inspire something magical in us and drive us to creativity. Never pass on an opportunity for a new experience. Get out of your studio and out of your own head. Go out into the world and live the art that is already there for you to experience. It will replenish and revive your artistic soul, and before you know it, you are on inspiration-overload.

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