Practice as a Symptom of Research


  • John Hillman



research, practice, symptom, Jacques Lacan, philosophy, creative


What is the distinction between “pure practice” and “research-focused practice?” It is typical to undertake background research in order to produce most forms of creative practice. This kind of research activity may involve finding out how to use a particular medium, how to refine a technique, or simply reviewing what similar work already exists. Many creative practitioners would claim to undertake research in this way. But any creative practice coming from this process cannot necessarily be described as research. It would be better to describe it as an output of a reasoned research activity. So how can research as described here be distinguished from research that comes from practice itself? Often in creative contexts, research is understood as a discrete activity and the making of practice is seen as another. The key to addressing how practice can be defined as research is in how both practice and research are brought into relation with one another. Importantly, for practice to be research, it must contain a certain knowledge-building capacity. This paper will consider what defines practice as research. It will claim that practice can only reveal new knowledge when it is understood as a symptom of research. My goal is to attempt to bring about a homology between research and practice through the notion of the symptom.

Author Biography

John Hillman

is an academic leader, researcher, educator, practitioner and writer. He currently works at the University of West London as associate professor and head of film, media and English. In all his activities he strives to bridge the perceived gap between questions around visual culture, art, society, technology and creativity. He is also interested in approaches to teaching that are driven by inspiring and motivating new and original ways to think and learn. His research interests are focused on philosophical approaches to contemporary culture, which includes understanding how films, images and media technologies shape our experiences, make us who we are and make society what it is. What differentiates his research is his use of visual culture to explain critical concepts rather than using theories to explain creative practice.

Magda Stanová, (A research paper); Magda Stanová, (Visual abstract); Magda Stanová, (Verbal overshadowing 1); Magda Stanová, (Verbal overshadowing 2); Bettina Minder, Pablo Müller, Wheel of tensions illustrating connected concerns and anxieties documented from two PräDoc courses (2020/2021); Greg Bruce, Form sketch of Feedback Saxophone Etude No. 2; Greg Bruce, Music Research “Compass”; Olav Westphalen, 2 cartoons for the Congress of Artistic Research, 2021




How to Cite

Hillman, J. (2023). Practice as a Symptom of Research. Acta Academiae Artium Vilnensis, (109), 47–64.