Tag: transdisciplinarity

On Thursday 26 June, 2008 there will be a one-day symposium that I helped organize at Napier University in Edinburgh, Scotland. The symposium is titled:

emerging trends in post-disciplinary creative practice

This one day symposium will bring together a number of leading practitioners from the fields of art, architecture and design who each share a common desire to exploit the latest computing technologies in their creative practice. The invited speakers will reveal their cutting edge work that blurs the traditional boundaries of the creative disciplines.

Emerging trends in post-disciplinary creative practice highlight the interplay of conventional boundaries. Speakers:

Moritz Waldemeyer
is at the forefront of mechatronics, a combination of mechanics and electronics, that helps create innovative design ideas for concept cars, smart weapons and washing machines. Over the past few years, Waldemeyer has worked with the likes of Zaha Hadid, Ron Arad and Hussein Chalayan who have all availed themselves of his expert technical know how.

Helen Evans and Heiko Hansen, the HeHe duo explore the territory that is the common ground for designers and artists. They have developed a concept of Cultural Reverse Engineering, that raises political, economical and sociological questions: to study a device or a software in order to modify its initial function is a way of re-appropriating the technology, in a world where most of us have no idea of the way everyday objects actually work nor how their cultural position has changed over time. The workshops they organize to “teach basic of DIY technologies, to students, artists and designers”, can be seen as a concrete application of that concept. HeHe is clearly related to the Lo-Fi philosophy (and it happens to be the title of one of their works), with its playful, yet serious, issues.

Usman Haque
has created responsive environments, interactive installations, digital interface devices and mass-participation performances. His skills include the design of both physical spaces and the software and systems that bring them to life. He has been an invited researcher at the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea, Italy, artist-in-residence at the International Academy of Media Arts and Sciences, Japan and has also worked in USA, UK and Malaysia. As well as directing the work of Haque Design + Research he was until 2005 a teacher in the Interactive Architecture Workshop at the Bartlett School of Architecture, London.

explore non-navigational spaces and interfacelessness. They use less technology, not useless technology and they like extreme prototyping. thePOOCH also prefer to build rather than blog. thePOOCH is a young company with a wealth of experience in computer programming for mobile applications, interactive art installations, advertising and live events. thePOOCH’s team of programmers has 40+ years combined experience in software engineering, user interface design, computer networking and hardware development. thePOOCH work one-on-one with clients and end-users to design, develop and build interactive installations that are tailored for specific target audiences.

is a multi-disciplinary art and design practice founded in 2003 by Conny Freyer, Eva Rucki and Sebastien Noel, who met while studying at the Royal College of Art. Our backgrounds in graphic, product design and communication allow us to engage in work that is at the intersection of the three disciplines, thinking of design as communication art. We develop a variety of self-initiated and commissioned projects that are both engaging and demanding to the user, from printed matter to product design and custom installations. Our approach focuses on the contamination between the arts and design disciplines and is born out of the same love for simplicity, playfulness, and an essential desire for provocation.

In 1993 Andrew Shoben founded Greyworld in Paris. Greyworld’s goal is to create works that articulate public spaces, allowing some form of self-expression in areas of the city that people see every day but normally exclude and ignore.

Jason Bruges Studio
is a Shoreditch based studio producing a diverse range of work that includes interactive light sculptures, interactive environments, events and screen-based installations. We explore the use of interactivity with the public and environment through the use of highly imaginative technologies. Jason Bruges Studio specialises in ‘interactive light environments’, from installations on the streets ofNew York to London’s South Bank.

The Owl Project
make sculpture, music and sound art, notably the Log1K, Sound Lathe, Sound Chair and iLog. Drawing on influences such as woodworking, hobby style electronics and open source software to create music-making machines, they take a craft-based approach to designing their own interfaces and objects. The result is a distinctive range of musical and sculptural instruments that critique human interaction with computer interfaces and our increasing appetite for new and often disposable technologies.

Lucy Bullivant
is an architectural curator, critic and author. Lucy has worked internationally with leading museums, galleries, cultural institutions, publishers and corporate bodies since 1987. Her latest book, Responsive Environments: Architecture, Art and Design (V&A Contemporary, 2006), explores the hybrid discipline of interactive architecture and design. She regularly contributes to Domus, The Plan, a+u, Volume, Architectural Record and Indesign, some of the world’s most authoritative international architectural magazines.

Thursday 26 June, 2008
Faculty of Engineering, Computing, and Creative Industries
Napier University
Merchiston Campus
10 Colinton Road
Edinburgh EH10 5DT

Places are limited and cost £20.00 each (which will include a publication of the speakers’ essays published after the event).

Last night I gave a presentation as part of the “Talking Shop” series at Glasgow School of Art. These talks are aimed at expanding the conception of design and its related fields.

“While the physical world remains very much the product designer’s realm, today’s product designers are also operating in the age of information technology, where intellectual capital and continuous innovation are key. In order that the designers of the future are equipped not only to react to, but also to anticipate, propose & give ‘form’ to invisible products – such as systems, services, interactions & organisational behaviours- we need to expand the definition of the term ‘product’; the product designer of the future must be equally at home within the world of emerging technologies.”


Last night I gave a talk at Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh. I ran through a range of ways of thinking about the relationship between art and design. I was interested in doing this after I unearthed the Dan Graham paper ‘Art as Design/Design as Art’ at the National Library of Scotland. This was first published by Fruitmarket in 1987 to coincide with Graham’s show there: Interior Design for Space Showing Videotapes. The paper has just been republished in Alex Coles’ new book “Design and Art”, Whitechapel/MIT Press, 2007.

My talk was broken down into the following sections:

Art as Design/Design as Art – Dan Graham

Design≠Art – Barbara Bloemink

Art in the Context of Design/Design in the Context of Art – Troels Degn Johansson

DesignArt – Alex Coles

Design and Art – Alex Coles

Critical Design – Dunne & Raby

Hybrid Art+Design – Me

Transdisciplinary Discourse – Me

An interesting idea that I tried to throw around was the use of the term “avant garde.”

“Avant-garde represents a pushing of the boundaries of what is accepted as the norm, or the status quo, primarily in the cultural realm. The notion of the existence of the avant-garde is considered by some to be a hallmark of modernism, as distinct from postmodernism. Postmodernism posits that the age of the constant pushing of boundaries is no longer with us. Postmodernism posits that avant-garde has less applicability (or no applicability at all) in the age of Postmodern art.”

Yet, Marcus Fairs has titled his book ‘Twenty-First Century Design: new design icons, from mass market to avant-garde.’ And,

“In 2002 the Crafts Council held an exhibition called Home Made Holland, which suggested that Droog and other contemporary Dutch designers, such as Marcel Wanders and Hella Jongerius, had found a way forward for design by embracing avant-garde craft. Significantly, one of the chief protagonists behind Droog is Gijs Bakker, a radical jeweller who revolutionised the discipline during the late 1960s by combining throwaway materials with conceptual ideas. It was through applying this formula to a wider range of objects 30 years later that the Droog phenomenon exploded, yet in spite of its genesis in art and craft, the design world has been happy to claim Droog as its own.”
Craft Wars icon016 October 2004 by Lesley Jackson

“…admit that so-called avant-garde strategies operating in art and design today should be seen in a context of ‘post-avant-garde’, in which it is no longer relevant to distinguish between the two…”
Troels Degn Johansson

“First and foremost, all the claims that I have inventoried thus far are predicated on certain clichés of what constitutes ‘progressive’, ‘vanguard or ‘advanced’ art and are based on assumptions about current conditions of cultural practice that are out of sync with their realities. One such assumption is that medium categories in art or disciplinary divisions in the humanities are still oppressively strict, so that any art that touts interdisciplinarity or ‘crosses boundaries’ is attributed with automatic and unquestioned critical value. But it seems to me that even while the disciplinary debates/fights continue in certain sectors of academia, the destabilized state of medium specificity and disciplinary categories is already the dominant or given condition of cultural practice. As such, rather than serving an interventionary function within exclusive art institutions, so-called cross disciplinary practices or events that blur categorical distinctions may simply be symptoms of the tendency towards de-differentiation that pervades cultural experience generally.”
Miwon Kwon ‘Jorge Pardo’s Designs on Design’ published in Alex Coles’ new book “Design and Art”, Whitechapel/MIT Press, 2007.

Here are some other articles that I think contribute to this discussion:

What’s the use? Art Journal, Spring 2004 by Ross K. Elfline.

Art’s Little Brother icon023, May 2005 by Rick Poynor.

What is Design? icon018, December 2004 by Marcus Fairs.

Historically the use of technology to level out traditional, disciplinary distinctions was a critical driver of De Stijl in The Netherlands, the Bauhaus in Germany and the Russian Constructivists -whose architects, artists and designers saw industrial modes of production as a means of moving art into life:

“…many artists championed the industrial artefact – generated mechanically and consumed collectively – over the singular work of aesthetic contemplation”
Ellen Lupton

Maybe sensational art and the rarefied space of the gallery are so disconnected from ‘the everyday’ that the last recourse is to turn to craft, design and domestic objects? Or maybe its just a great marketing hook…

The slides from my presentation are here.

The ‘Perimeters, Boundaries and Borders’ Symposium at St. Martin’s College, Lancaster on Thursday 28 September, 1 – 5pm went really well. The discussion was self-sustaining (to the point that a summary was irrelevant) and raised many important points. The line up was as follows:

13.00 – 13.30 Arrival
13.30 – 13.45 Welcome, Introductions (John Hyatt of Miriad)
13.45 – 14.15 Keynote (Dr. Paul A. Rodgers of Napier University)
14.15 – 14.35 Tavs Jorgensen http://www.oktavius.co.uk/
14.35 – 14.55 Aoife Ludlow http://aoifestuff.com/
14.55 – 15.10 Break
15.10 – 15.35 Justin Marshall http://www.justinmarshall.co.uk/
15.35 – 15.55 Lionel T. Dean http://www.futurefactories.com/
15.55 – 16.15 Human Beans http://www.humanbeans.net/
16.15 – 16.45 Q+A, Discussion
16.45 – 17.00 Summary (John Marshall/Taylor Nuttal)
18.00 – 20.00 Private View @ Citylab, 4-5 Dalton Square, Lancaster LA1 4PP

I recorded the entire session and hope to get it online as a transcript or podcast in the near future.