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What is it possible to know?

Douglas, Anne


Anne Douglas


In his 1978 movie Manhattan, Woody Allen's character, lying on a coach in his apartment after a break up of a relationship, records his thoughts on life: 'An idea for a short story about people in Manhattan who are constantly creating these neurotic problems for themselves to keep them from dealing with more terrifying unsolvable problems about the universe... be optimistic Why is life worth living? That's a very good question. Well, there are certain things I guess that make it worthwhile. Like what? Okay, for me, I would say, Groucho Marx, to name one thing and Willie Mays, and the second movement of the Jupiter Symphony, and Louie Armstrong's recording of 'Potato Head Blues,' Swedish movies, naturally, 'Sentimental Education' by Flaubert, Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra, those incredible apples and pears by C{acute}ezanne, the crabs at Sam Wo's, Tracy's face...' By exploring what he really cares about, Allen comes to a personal insight about whom he really loves. (an aside - he really really does not deserve Tracy whom he treats abominably...) But lets return to the point and explore the possible resonance of this clip with artistic research and the core questions of this keynote: What can be known through art/ artistic research? How do we set about posing good questions? It goes without saying perhaps that artistic research should focus on what we really care about. At least I think we can agree that artistic research should not be concerned with concocting neurotic problems that keep us from dealing with what is important. In fact I will argue that our way of knowing as artists is increasingly being called upon to address 'the more terrifying unsolvable problems of the universe' though we may use different words to describe precisely what these are.


DOUGLAS, A. 2016. What is it possible to know? Keynote presented at the Research practice practice research: Fine Art Research Network symposium, 15 July 2016, Lancaster, UK [online]. Available from:

Presentation Conference Type Keynote
Conference Name Research practice practice research: Fine Art Research Network symposium
Conference Location Lancaster, UK
Start Date Jul 15, 2016
End Date Jul 15, 2016
Deposit Date Dec 22, 2016
Publicly Available Date Dec 22, 2016
Keywords Artistic research; Working in public; Pedagogy; Scotland
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