Analysing Walter Benjamin's 1919 dissertation ‘The Concept of Criticism in German Romanticism’, this paper questions definitions of artistic research that require textual support. In an attempt to investigate alternative definitions of artistic research, the paper follows Benjamin's theory and places reflection, critique's underlying concept, within artistic practice. A number of secondary texts are used, most importantly Winfried Menninghaus' book Unendliche Verdopplung, in order to focus on the formal character of Benjamin's argument and to avoid repetition of metaphysical assumptions embedded in Romantic philosophy. A formal and systematic approach promises that a coherent argument can be made towards an alternative definition of artistic research that does not require a discussion of Romanticism's shortcomings. As a result, a definition of an essentially reflective artistic practice is sketched out that operates beyond the practice/theory divide and for which concepts such as ‘beauty’ or ‘intuition’ are irrelevant.