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APARN2023 Asia-Pasific Artistic Research Network 2023 | by Dominique Lämmli, https://orcid.org/0000-0002-7171-6263



This paper focuses on Art in Action Research as a grounded methodology and wants to highlight the suitability of grounded methodologies for artistic research. To this end, this paper loosely connects various epistemological and methodological inquiries, namely the concept of the pluriverse, the kaleidoscopic dialectic, Art in Action Research, and grounded theory.

Keywords: Artistic Research, Art in Action Research (AiAR), Kaleidoscopic Dialectic, Grounded Methodology, Pluriverse, Grounded Theory.



This paper is based on my online presentation at #APARN2023, held at ISI Yogyakarta - http://aparn.net. As advised by the APARN editors, I have considered and integrated the feedback given at the conference. 

The feedback I received could not be more contrary. Several co-presenters dropped a note of thanks and mentioned that they had also been reflecting on the challenges addressed in my contribution. They found the presentation helpful and clarifying. I felt the same way about the other presentations. Despite the various angles and topics, similarities between what issues were addressed and how emerged. It was satisfying to see how the consequences of the global turn are being considered and integrated into art practitioner stances. 

One participant strongly opposed my ideas. That person raised questions about who is allowed to speak and what kind of topics should be part of discussing artistic research. Interestingly, that person, whose work focuses on an equatorial region, can be said to come from the Global North. 

My presentation on grounded methodology evidently challenged the top-down constellations still prevailing in academic settings. Art in Action Research (AiAR), a grounded methodology which I have developed to serve art practitioner perspectives, provides a robust scientific framework. It enables including diverse notions of art, knowledge bases, theories, and concepts from across various disciplines and regions. Importantly, AiAR does not require artists to do things differently, but helps us to express what we do in academic terms. 

Besides fostering artistic research, we need to nurture and shape practitioner-centered discourses, ones that consider the global turn and the factual disposition of pluralism. Art-centered discourses are relevant to furthering art practice and to understanding its significant role in mitigating the challenges facing societies today.


How to Account for The Global Turn in Artistic Research?

In recent years, I have been exploring various interrelated questions: How to account for the global turn in artistic research? How to integrate various knowledge systems? How to overcome limited notions of art? How might we conceptualise the canonisation of art without merely building on one thought tradition, but instead accepting that we live in a pluralistic world?

Thinking about reframing existing approaches to accepting pluralism, strengthening art practitioner stances and providing frameworks for rigorous research has taken up much of my time in the past few years. My thinking is heavily informed by practice-based experiences, and by co-working and discussions with colleagues based in Hong Kong, India, and Indonesia. And especially so thanks to their sharing of their insights.

I examined the questions that I have just mentioned in a study that I submitted and defended in 2021 as a PhD in Global Studies at Berlin’s Humboldt University, supervised by the philosopher, sociologist, and global theorist Boike Rehbein. 

My study discussed the diversity of art, specified the critical features of the canonization of art, contextualised and assessed the limits of existing approaches within art research, determined and discussed the specifics of practitioner research across disciplines, and then defined the principles of Art in Action Research1 . 

The study was informed by workshops and discussion forums which I have co-organised with colleagues2 .


Art in Action Research as a Grounded Methodology

This paper focuses on Art in Action Research as a grounded methodology and wants to highlight the suitability of grounded methodologies for artistic research. To this end, let me loosely connect various epistemological and methodological inquiries.

I will start with a few general observations, then move on to the concept of the pluriverse, from there to the kaleidoscopic dialectic, Art in Action Research, and then to grounded theory and grounded methodologies. I will only touch on a few important aspects, to emphasise the suitability of grounded methodologies and to prompt further discussion.


The Global Turn

Let’s start with some general remarks: Many notions of art are limited. Rooted or rather entrenched in specific cultural and thought traditions, such notions are not suitable to advance contemporary art practice, especially when this aims to bring about real-world changes. Nor do such notions help embrace pluralism and account for the global turn3 . 

I am thinking here, for example, of the Perhutana project by Jatiwangi Art Factory4 . By now other groups are co-shaping the future of Perhutana, for example, Tunas Nusa5 and restor6 .

Perhutana creates a customary family forest. The project involves applying many different strategies and to address various challenges of the community, locality, and environment. It welcomes and actively engages people from all walks of life. Arts-based methods are as important as other methods, including policy-making strategies.




I think we are all aware that artists have expanded their working materials from clay and paint to norms, ways of thinking, and policy making. Thus, the arts have expanded their types of work from visualising, representing, enacting, beautifying, and critiquing to also transforming, actively and sustainably, socio-cultural settings and environments. In light of these changes, limiting artistic research to art-work centered outcomes and building on limited notions of art falls short of providing methodologies needed for projects such as Perhutana. 

Moreover, we all are aware that the lenses through which we approach our research influence what we see. I have demonstrated this in the brief visualisation below.

Living the change towards a sustainable future is on everyone’s lips. How do we get there? How do we adjust our research frameworks to do reality-centered work? And what are the implications of these changes for art practice? 



This brings me to the concept of the pluriverse: A group of scholar-activists from around the world—Ashish Kothri, Ariel Salleh, Arturo Escobar, Federico Demaria, and Albert Acosta—recently published a post-development dictionary titled Pluriverse (2019). 

They oppose top-down interventions and universal approaches. Instead, they emphasise the need to acknowledge that there are various ways of being in the world and thus to accept pluralism. Their basic hypothesis is that there are “thousands of (…) transformative initiatives around the world” living the change (p. 29). Accordingly, Pluriverse comprises some of these societal imaginaries and practices, including agroecology, bio-civilization, convivialism, earth spirituality, environmental justice, Jain ecology, and ubuntu. 

If we acknowledge that there are various ways of being in the world, and thus accept pluralism, what are the epistemological consequences? 

This brings me to Art in Action Research, kaleidoscopic dialectic, and grounded theory.


Lämmli, Dominique (2023 [image]). AiAR, Kaleidoscopic Dialectic, Grounded Theory.
[To Come]


Kaleidoscopic Dialectic

Let me start with Boike Rehbein’s Kaleidoscopic Dialectic, first published in 2013 (published in English in 2015):

Rehbein sought to integrate various perspectives and pluralism into hermeneutics and research. To this end, he proposed a kaleidoscopic dialectic, a procedure that both accepts the world’s factual pluralistic disposition and rejects the dichotomy of universalism versus relativism. 

Rehbein suggests a middle way: He emphasises that if we acknowledge that all knowledge production is relative to specific thought traditions, and that realities are informed by various traits of traditions, then we need to configure aspects that are relevant to research as a relational web. Configuring this relational web is thus integral to the research process. 

In this way, Rehbein expanded critical theory towards a sociologically informed global hermeneutics. The result is an epistemology that integrates the awareness that our world is pluralistic into a research framework that thereby becomes viable and enables researchers to engage in today’s pluralistic world7 . 


Art in Action Research

This brings me to Art in Action Research8 . Being strategic, the AiAR paradigm is not predetermined by theories and concepts of how to be in the world or how to see things. Rather, its disciplinary perspective is that of an artist (self-)reflectively grounding all parts of their research in the issue being researched—including the choice of theories, concepts, and methods. 

AiAR does not introduce a new way of how art practitioners could work. On the contrary, it provides a robust framework that enables arts practitioners to formulate, reflect on, and further develop what they do in a research-specific manner.

AiAR thus corresponds well to professional art practitioner procedures. It supports grounded “methodology crafting,” that is, configuring and developing project-fitting methodology by addressing issues emerging from the work environment. Such issues include settings in which the art practitioner researcher (or an art practitioner team) tackles a real-world challenge through various methods and through art to co-create a liveable future.


Figure 3 - Lämmli, Dominique (2023 [image]). AiAR Supports Issue-Grounded “Methodology Crafting”. [To Come]


AiAR suggests replacing art-work-centered research with issue-centered approaches. Thus, the issues emerge from the particular work environment. Furthermore, AiAR acknowledges the pluralistic disposition of our realities and overcomes pre-established notions of art. Art notions relevant to a particular action or project are made visible through the research process.


Figure 4 - Lämmli, Dominique (2023 [image]). AiAR. Methodology Crafting. [To Come]


Grounded Theory

Let me specify the term “grounded” as defined by Glaser and Strauss when introducing the concept of “grounded theory”. A colleague recently pointed out that all research is grounded. Of course, if we take the everyday meaning of “grounded,” then this is obviously true because everything we do is related to thought and action scapes and traditions.

However, in methodological discussions, “grounded” has a specific meaning. This brings me to Glaser and Strauss’s seminal study The Discovery of Grounded Theory: Strategies for Qualitative Research, published in 1967. Previously, they had published a book on temporal aspects of dying of patients in hospital care. In the follow-up publication, The Discovery of Grounded Theory Glaser and Strauss reflected on their research procedures, which they then called a “grounded theory” approach.

But what is a theory? A theory is basically a general explanation about something.

To clarify what Glaser and Strauss mean by grounded theory, they delimited the grounded approach from an approach that merely tests pre-existing theories. Glaser and Strauss illustrated the difference between these two research approaches as follows:

  • Example 1: 

A researcher approaches what is to be studied through the lens of a speculative or logically deduced theory and then searches for data that supports or refutes that idea or theory.

  • Example 2: 

A researcher collects, codes, and interprets data and thereupon develops a theory, or adapts a pre-existing one. Next, that theory is “illustrated by characteristic examples of data” (Glaser and Strauss, 1967, p.5). Generating a theory thus involves reality-centered research processes.

Glaser and Strauss’s achievement was to clearly differentiate these two different approaches and to pave the way for future grounded methodologies.

Whether we use the approach described in example 1 or example 2 obviously depends on what we want to achieve. Do we want to approve or disapprove of an existing theory? Or are we trying to understand, document, explain, and further develop reality-centred activities and concerns?

As artistic research is often oriented towards action and development, a grounded approach is more suitable. Nor should artistic research, of course, be limited to generating theories, but include the entire spectrum of research, as proposed by Art in Action Research.



To conclude, let me summarise the main points: I have, in several large steps, related the kaleidoscopic dialectic and grounded approaches. In so doing, I have emphasised that reality-centered approaches acknowledge pluralism and manifold perspectives rather than adhere to a single, limited one. 

Pluralism poses new challenges for epistemological approaches. The kaleidoscopic dialectic as well as Art in Action Research understand the crafting of methodologies as an integral part of doing research. This process, which includes critically reflecting on and researching real-world dispositions and related histories and thought traditions. As such, AiAR provides a robust framework that allows art practitioners to formulate and reflect on what they are doing in their research. 

Or with other words, Art in Action Research supports artists in co-creating liveable futures to express their insights in academic terms, and with a robust conceptual framework.

Connecting the kaleidoscopic dialectic, Art in Action Research and grounded theory opens up many productive lines of thought regarding the viability, scope and limits of the approaches introduced. 



Glaser, B. G. and Strauss A. L. (2006 (1967)). The Discovery of Grounded Theory. Strategies for Qualtitative Research. AldineTransaction.

Kothari, A. and A. Salleh, A. Escobar, F. Demaria, and A. Acosta, eds. (2019). Pluriverse. A Post-Development Dictionary. Tulika Books and Authorsupfront Publishing Services Private Limited.

Lämmli, D. (2023). Art in Action Research (AiAR) and the Glocal Rootings of Art. Culture Crossroads. Journal of the Institute of Arts and Cultural Studies. Latvian Academy of Culture, 22, pp. 20–30. https://www.culturecrossroads.lv/index.php/cc/issue/archive

Lämmli, D. (2022). Art in Action Research (AiAR): Integrating Tacit Knowledge into Research. In: The Proceedings of the Arts Research Africa Conference 2022, ed. By Arts Research Africa (ARA), held at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, from 14–16 September 2022. The Wits School of Arts.

Lämmli, D. (2021). Art in Action Research. Edoc-Server Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. https://doi.org/10.18452/24144

Rehbein, B. (2015). Critical Theory After the Rise of the Global South. Kaleidoscopic Dialectic. Routledge.

Rehbein, Boike (2013). Kaleidoskopische Dialektik. UVK. 


About The Author

Dominique Lämmli is a visual artist, philosopher, and educator. She has co-initiated spaces for joint learning, imagination and co-creation with colleagues across the world and has explored and written on working with art in socio-cultural settings. In 2022, she earned a PhD in Global Studies at the Humboldt University zu Berlin for her study on Art in Action Research (AiAR), supervised by Boike Rehbein. She is a lecturer at Zurich University of the Arts (Switzerland) and the co-founder of FOA-FLUX, a research micro-hub. https://dominiquelaemmli.ch, https://orcid.org/0000-0002-7171-6263, https://foa-flux.net.


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  • 1https://doi.org/10.18452/24144
  • 2 E.g., (2018–2019). Expert workshops Art and Society Talks, session chairs were Leung Mee Ping, Lau Kin Chi, Yang Yeung, Tam Hok Nang, Jay Koh, and Him Lo. Location: Boötes Academics Hong Kong; (2016). Conference Action Art. The role of artists and art strategies in civic empowerment and transformation processes. With artists and researchers from Switzerland, Mexico, Singapore, India, and Hong Kong. Location: Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK); (2015). Conference Art • Life • Technology. With artists and researchers from India, Indonesia, Hong Kong, and Switzerland. Location: Swissnex India, IN-Bangalore. Co-organised with Srishti, Institute of Art, Design and Technology; (2014). Art / Community / Activism & Funding. With artists and researchers from India, Hong Kong, and Switzerland. Location: Hong Kong Arts Center (HKAC). http://foa-flux.net.  
  • 3 Lämmli (2023:23): “Ulrich Beck [1997] called the corresponding pressure on existing reference systems to change a mega-change, while Darian-Smith and McCarty [2017] have termed it a global turn.” References: Beck (1997). Was ist Globalisierung? Suhrkamp; Eve Darian-Smith & Philip C. McCarty (2017). The Global Turn: Theories, Research Designs, and Methods for Global Studies. University of California Press.
  • 4 https://perhutana.id/ (7 August 2023); insta: perhutana (7 August 2023).
  • 5 https://tunasnusa.org (7 August 2023); insta: tunasnusafoundation (7 August 2023).
  • 6
  • 7For a more thorough discussion of Rehbeins kaleidoscopic dialectic, see Lämmli (2021, pp. 55–57).
  • 8 Lämmli (2021 and 2022).
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