The FWF’s Arts-Based Research (PEEK) program is a special type of funding that is rare in Europe: It focuses on research in the arts, on forms of science that combine artistic and academic knowledge and methods on an equal footing.
“With the PEEK program, we want to increase the international relevance of arts-based research and give researchers in these disciplines additional opportunities to generate findings. Funded projects always demonstrate a particularly high degree of innovation,” says Christof Gattringer, President of the FWF.
In December 2023, PEEK funded four projects with a total of €1.71 million, one of them from the AI Mission Austria funding initiative. The four projects involve a total of twelve different disciplines – from acoustics and performing arts to machine learning and quantum physics. A total of 15 projects with a funding volume of €6.1 million were funded in 2023, including two projects co-financed by the states of Carinthia and Tyrol as part of the Matching Funds program.
Principal investigator: Arno Böhler
Research institution: Artistic Research Center (ARC) of the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna
Disciplines: Performing arts, intercultural philosophy, cardiology, and quantum field theory
Funding volume: €427,885.09
The heart as a representation of physical and sensitive perception is the focus of this three-and-a-half-year research project, in which a cardiologist, a quantum physicist, a visual artist, two actors, a dancer, several philosophers, an Asian scholar, and a musician form a research collective. The researchers come from the USA, India, and Europe. Based on the work of Friedrich Nietzsche and Aurobindo, the intercultural collective will use workshops, lectures, talks, and public performances to highlight why the physical, affective, and artistic have become separated from science and philosophy and attempt to reconnect both dimensions. During the project, in addition to performances, a joint notebook with texts and drawings will be created and published as a book. “In the European-Western tradition of science and philosophy, we are used to honing definitions, but we are silenced on an affective and physical level: Science pretends to be disembodied thought, although in ancient Greece, philosophical knowledge was still understood as a way of life that had to be practiced physically. Our research aims to remind people that scientists also 'have a heart,' as the philosophy of yoga says,” explains philosopher Arno Böhler, who is leading the project. He adds: “This heart has its very own forms of knowledge.” Arts-based research is intended to reactivate, highlight, and analyze the repressed affective level.
Principal investigator: Thomas Grill
Research institutions: Artistic Research Center (ARC) of the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna; Institute for Computational Perception of the Johannes Kepler University Linz
Disciplines: Composition, media art, machine learning, ethics of technology
Funding volume: €448,840.14
In this art-based research project led by Thomas Grill, artists, sound researchers, computer specialists, and media ethicists will embark on a metaphorical search for the “spirits” that animate electroacoustic musical instruments and technologies. A starting point for the multi-year project for the researchers and artists involved was the realization that electronic instruments – or sound technologies in general, including software whose sound production is based on artificial intelligence – have a will of their own and sometimes remain inaccessible in this willfulness: “Many of these technologies that we work with are black boxes to a certain extent. They're not completely transparent, they harbor secrets,” explains Grill, who heads the Certificate in Electroacoustic and Experimental Music program at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna. How can we approach these metaphorical spirits? Instead of adhering to analytical-technical measurements, the researchers want to try out new ways of entering into discursive relationships with the technologies and encountering them as animate objects. Models for this approach can be found in indigenous ontologies or rituals in dealing with acoustic musical instruments. Among other things, the researchers will look at the lifespans of individual electroacoustic instruments and how their sound character changes over time; change the environmental conditions in which electroacoustic instruments develop; investigate feedback as a tool of subtle contact; shed light on the latent spaces of AI models; make artistic use of music systems that automatically generate music, and finally, create compositions with human and non-human participants. In this way, the arts-based research project promises insights that can also inspire the use of AI systems in everyday life. Thomas Grill: “If AI systems and the tech monopolies behind them have such a strong influence on our lives, we should not retreat to passive use, but define for ourselves how we want to deal with these systems and use them to actively and critically shape our lives.”
Principal investigator: Ujjwal Kanishka Utkarsh
Research institution: Institute for Art and Cultural Studies of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna
Disciplines: Fine arts, cultural anthropology, political geography
Funding Volume: €399,727.13
Is it possible to commemorate a revolution that is (perhaps) yet to come? The revolution that this arts-based research project focuses on began in 1927: The Dalit (the lowest groups in Hindu society) Anti-Caste movement, which continues to challenge the caste-based social order in India today. “This revolution is a process that is unfinished and will probably remain unfinished, precisely because it is a process,” says filmmaker Ujjwal Kanishka Utkarsh, who initiated the research project on the Dalit Anti-Caste movement, on the title of the project. Regardless of the completeness or incompleteness of the revolution, March 20, the day lawyer and later labor minister B. R. Ambedkar initiated the first public rally against social discrimination in Mahad, is celebrated there every year with great pomp and spectacle. The issue in 1927 was the right of Dalits to use public water sources. Ambedkar turned it into a movement against the caste system, and April 14, Ambedkar's birthday, is now a national holiday in India. The researchers will explore the memory and commemoration of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar and the Dalit Anti-Caste movement, questioning the linearity of memory and (cinematic) narrative. In addition to exhibitions and performances in Vienna and Mahad, a film is to be made based on conversations with people who are directly or indirectly connected to the events of March 1927 or who remember stories about the events. The researchers and artists come from different disciplines (performance, film, and political geography) and castes, have different nationalities (Indian, American, and Mexican) and genders. “I'm looking forward to crossing disciplinary boundaries in this project. We are so often caught up in our respective discourses and rhetoric,” says Utkarsh.
Principal investigator: Elisabeth Schimana
Research institutions: University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna; Department of Arts and Musicology at the University of Graz; Acoustics Research Institute of the Austrian Academy of Sciences
Disciplines: Composition, musicology, acoustics
Funding Volume: €435,629.51
How do musicians interpret scores when they are not available in written form as sheet music, but as sound? How do composers have to formulate such sound scores so that they are interpreted correctly? In order to answer questions like these, Elisabeth Schimana and her team of researchers first set out on a global search for scores that only exist in acoustic form and for composers who work with these scores. For the first time, this project will provide an overview of previously unknown stakeholders and audio scores. “Sound as a score is a relatively new field, there is hardly any research into it and little international exchange,” says Elisabeth Schimana. Schimana is a composer, a researcher at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna, and uses sound scores in her own compositions. “With notations and graphic systems, there is a change of medium from sound to writing and vice versa,” she explains. “During the interpretation, musicians translate the visual signs back into sound. This interpretation process is well researched, but in terms of sound scores, very little is known about how musicians decide to interpret complex audio scores.” In order to better understand these decision-making processes, the researchers accompany composers to a composition laboratory, where composers will experimentally explore and analyze different methods of generating and interpreting audio scores. Based on psychoacoustics and a musicological aesthetic analysis, conclusions can be drawn for the composers: How does a score have to be generated to allow it to be interpreted in a certain way? Psychoacoustics in particular is still a little-used method of analysis in composition, explains Schimana. “We can expect to gain many new insights that would not be possible without this combination of research and art, in this case the participation of musicologists, psychoacousticians, musicians, and composers. All the disciplines and arts involved will learn a lot from each other.”
The FWF Arts-Based Research (PEEK) program
The Arts-Based Research program (PEEK) funds innovative, high-quality research in the arts. Artistic practice plays a key role in the research questions. The goal is to strengthen the research skills, quality, and international reputation of Austria’s arts-based researchers. A further objective is to increase both public awareness and awareness within the academic and arts communities of arts-based research and its potential applications. The maximum duration of funded projects is 48 months.
The Arts-Based Research program has a rolling submissions policy.