Even if hardly anyone seriously discusses anymore whether, alongside the sciences, the arts likewise generate a kind of knowledge, the possibility of collaboration between the two still faces difficult and, moreover, unequal conditions. In the “knowledge society” of today – not least in the interest of policymakers and business leaders – scientific knowledge is routinely accorded a higher value than “artistic knowledge.” This, together with the ideological primacy of technical rationalism and alleged objectivity, barely leaves a niche for “artistic research.”
Artistic interventions in the practice of science, meanwhile, are hardly ever permitted, always citing the “purity” of scientific method. Yet more than just recently, studies have shown that the sciences are, in fact, never “pure.” Scientists’ everyday deeds and thoughts are always receptive to the non-scientific and methodically blemished. Moreover, the discourse of knowledge in its entanglements with power has long been criticized, especially in the relationship of the Global North and South. In recent years, terms of situated and partial knowledge have increasingly been put in place with a critical eye against allegedly universal dispositives of knowledge. This all also goes hand in hand with reflection over the possible potential in the plurality and hybridity of various forms of knowledge.
The Research Group “Art as Knowledge” devotes itself through exploration and experimentation to cooperative projects targeting precisely these plural and hybrid forms of knowledge. The latter forms yield knowledge that is neither “purely” scientific nor artistic and which encompasses, in addition to the dimension of cognition, that of experience as well. Beyond simply grafting scientific methods onto artistic spaces or vice-versa, the Research Group seeks to contribute above all toward theoretically exploring and practically testing new (or perhaps older and forgotten) forms of productive association between science and art.
2017/2018: Project „Vr-Audio“
In the “VR Audio” project, Miriam Akkermann and Christian Stein are developing a prototype for an acoustic virtual reality game that explores the relationship between room acoustics and spatial visuality. Their goal is to find out whether it’s possible to render an environment using VR technology and 360° audio that is so realistic that it can be used to improve conscious hearing.
Long gone are the days when virtual reality was considered nothing more than a way to enhance computer games. VR technologies continue to gain in importance in research fields such as psychology and cognitive science because of the wealth of opportunities they offer, for example, when it comes to the development of new learning methods or of new approaches in psychotherapy.
What has yet to be explored is the vast spectrum of opportunities within audio-visual projects that explicitly focus on the use of VR in the realm of audio. From our daily life experience, we know that our spatial orientation is influenced by what we hear. Furthermore, film studies have shown that audio can enhance people’s sense of immersion in audiovisual works.
In our project, we want to find out whether it’s possible to use VR technology and 360° audio to render an environment to such a realistic extent that we’re able to develop computer games designed to train people’s hearing. The film and sound recordings used in our project were made in outdoor spaces and buildings in Berlin and Bayreuth. For the sound recordings, we used a microphone designed at the TU Berlin. At each level of the game, players are required to solve perception-based tasks, such as connecting the direction of a sound with the corresponding film clip. The game is intended to be motivating and entertaining while simultaneously training players’ auditory perception.
Based on this game, which is currently in development, our project explores questions that extend beyond the game itself:
What can be and should be achieved with spatial audio in the field of VR?
How can spatial perception be influenced by sound and imagery in VR?
How can VR be used for training and knowledge transfer?