Leonardo Education and Art Forum: Transdisciplinary Visual Arts, Science & Technology Renewal Post-New Media Assimilation Workshop

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  • Workshop Statement

    Transdisciplinarity is deemed ‘radical’, ‘provisional and opportunistic’ because it challenges traditional educational paradigms. It focuses critical and creative attention onto domain-specific problem areas of ‘chance’, ‘discontinuity’ and ‘materiality’ (Foucault, 1976) to transcend limits within established disciplinary knowledge practices. This enables (re)visioning of the role, activity and value of Art Schools in uniting the pedagogical and technological strengths of the humanities and sciences in a university context, utilising conceptual growth, experimental innovation, visual communication and flexible learning spaces to deliver a model of Transdisciplinarity. The transdisciplinary model will be explored in the context of the trans-migratory role of ISEA and look for a different voice from the various constructed international institutional perspectives. This workshop will address and share experiences and difficulties encountered while developing transdisciplinary art-science research, teaching, and when meshing curricula from diverse fields. Each workshop leader will introduce their topic and the participants will be able to join one of the three groups  to discuss specific areas of focus (transdiciplinary colloborations, studio practice or theory) led by the panelists. Each focus group will seek to identify and share ways to surmount some of the difficulties commonly encountered in interdisciplinary art/science practices and curricula with the aim of publishing effective transdiciplinary models and best practices.

    Focus Group 1: Transdisciplinary Framework for Research Collaboration

    Petra  Gemeinboeck – Transdisciplinary Framework for Research Collaboration

    This presentation will explore how historically experimental arts practices seem to be particularly privileged for opening up and navigating via transdisciplinarity such a complex, slippery terrain. Yet we haven’t even opened “pandora’s box” yet – asking the question of how transdisciplinary research can be practiced within the established institutional framework? This includes the issue of locating ones’ research and related barriers with regards to funding and promotion. How can we develop and foster a horizontal, open transdisciplinary framework for research collaboration that perforates and transcends existing disciplinary boundaries within an institutional system where both resources and career paths are confined to vertically aligned, formally defined codes and practices?

    Andres Burbano – Folding “papers” and unfolding projects
    The topic of my doctoral research is the “History of Media Technological Inventions in Latin America” it is based on the study case methodological approach. At the moment I am confronted with a series of interesting and profound questions related to the subject. When I explore the contents of this particular research at least ten general fields emerge as the key components of the theoretical study: History of Technology, Art History, Archaeology of the Media, Computation, Music Composition, Photography, Bioacoustics, Color Television, Space Missions and Latin American Studies. The implications of such research are not insignificant especially considering the current interest in societies in Latin America in processes of innovation and technology, and media development. An understanding of the  “History of Media Technological Inventions in Latin America”  will be an important contribution to the understanding of Technology and Media in non-Western societies. Additionally as a media arts practitioner myself I am in the process of creating practical media art projects based on the findings of the historical research, this condition adds more elements to the problems already there. All this complexity does not come as a surprise to me, however I must admit that while developing these kind of research/practice projects continuously see myself facing questions that initially I have no tools to answer. The most important task is the process of acquiring those tools needed.

    Focus Group 2. Discuss transdiciplinary studio practice

    Ross Harley – Working Across Disciplinary and Cultural Borders in Australia and China
    For two weeks in September 2009 more than sixty art, design, and architecture students, practitioners and academics worked on a live design brief in an intensive two-week studio at Donghua University, Shanghai. e-SCAPE was a partnership between Professor Richard Goodwin’s Porosity Studio, and The Collabor8 Project (C8), in collaboration with Donghua University (Shanghai) and COFA (Sydney). This presentation will briefly outline some of the successes and challenges encountered in the process of working across disciplinary, cultural, and institutional boundaries.

    Ionat Zurr – Discipline Autonomy and Transdiciplinary
    SymbioticA’s Master of Biological Arts degree enables a situation in which students with an arts background take science units and students with scientific backgrounds must enrol to arts units, in their first year of study. The second year is dedicated to a transdiciplinary research. In the forum I will employ specific examples to discuss and unravel some of the issues concerned with the understandings and perceptions of what is “research” in the different disciplines, especially when the research include hands-on practice that involves life manipulation.

    Focus Group 3. Discuss transdisciplinary theory

    Edward Colless – Transdiscipilinary Occult
    Does the “transdisciplinary” adjective, then, offer an alternative or a distinction to interdisciplinary, institutional consensus? I believe it does, but in a way that requires criticism as well as endorsement. I propose that we theorize the “transdisciplinary” as a disruption to interdisciplinary conferring: that we encourage it as disagreement and, in a more demanding finesse of its alterity, as the “un-relation” of disciplines. There is some caution in this: do we not lose the prospect of academic cosmopolitanism, and its imperative of universality, when the interdisciplinary meeting place is disrupted? Let us think of the “transdisciplinary” disruption, however, not as a deregulation of academic discipline (as a cultural relativising of the arts and sciences meeting on equal ground), but as an irregularity within academic discipline; as an insurgency or “in-discipline” of academe. I suggest, in response, that we use the prefix “trans” to suggest drift and errancy, as disciplines cross each other with the eventful possibility of collision or collusion but without the eventuality of their consensus. I would provocatively call this crossing an occultation, in that it induces an esoteric knowledge not manifestly conferrable, discernable or communicable. In this respect, the “transdisciplinary” induces an occulting of disciplinary research by an abnormality or unnaturalism, which is to say it offers a new manner of occult knowledge. Can we speculate, within our specialities of visual media for instance, on “transdisciplinary aesthetics” as such an occult vision? In the fugue-like drift of the “transdisciplinary”, could aesthetics become an occult science, or (in no way symmetrically or commensurately) could science become an occult aesthetics?

    Wendy Coones – 3 + 5 + 7 = 1 * Propagating Transdisciplinary Theory
    The propagation and cultivation of an international field requires diverse and concerted efforts. Between formal education curricula, digital and print dissemination points, common research tools, national / international collaborations and continually developing interaction structures; a polycultural space can evolve. Taking into consideration the parameters of individual endeavors and their possible influence on one another, a larger image of the interconnectedness can be discussed.

    Sponsored by the National Institute for Experimental Arts. Presented in collaboration with the ISEA2011 educational workshop