13th May 2020: SEMINAR: How to be both or neither or none or all – research across disciplines (in a time of reduced interaction)

This seminar began with a presentation by M about how she understand the term ‘discipline’ within her research practice. Thinking about the experience of navigating disciplines as a liquid, growing movement, she presented a diagram taken from a blog post (https://www.arj.no/2012/03/12/disciplinarities-2/) which illustrated different levels of disciplinarity:

Copy of diagram

This diagram seems to me to perfectly illustrate that fluid movement from disparate parts to cohesive whole through a process of overlap and eventual merger. M described the INTERDISCIPLINARITY of her own work as an INTERLACING (using her own term PLASDICIPLINAITY), drawing a distinction between INTER – the connections between, and INTRA – the internalised within. I’m wondering how my own work sits – perhaps I’m in the process of merging different elements? I’m not sure yet…

An interesting question was raised about the difference between a discipline and a discrete body of knowledge – perhaps it’s about the edges of concern, or perhaps a discipline simply defines an agreed set of parameters? Maybe the idea of a discipline is about the edges – indeed the out circles in the diagram seem to suggest a perimeter, and if that is the case, what is outside it?

What this is making me think of is a sort of organic cell structure – the outer circle being a membrane that contains your interests (whether in the process of merging or still floating separate) but this membrane has the potential to be a porous one – we can take ideas from ‘outside’ and bring them into our sphere of concern:

My diagram – thinking about absorbing new thing

I think this middle stage is quite interesting – it’s the ‘cursory’ examination phase, not just adopting something new but looking at it first to see if it might be worth absorbing.

Extending this idea to the actual material practice, it could be conceived of as an examination of the relationship between the different materials, or the materials and the body, or the works to each other.

I wonder how this works in terms of connections between shifting to a state of merger within? Trying to find/see connections is a fundamental part of studio practice – but what about the shift to absorption… perhaps this might be a definition of skilled practice? The deep understanding of the body, tools and materials, to the point where you can only regard one in terms of another? Hmmm… that seems a bit too reductive – I need to think about this some more…

A final point made by M which I found relevant was her look at the meaning of the word ‘discipline‘ and how it has changed over time. I was particularly interested in the term discipline as a devotion to one thing and its implication as a concept of developing a regular practice – Linking this to the idea around discipline being a boundary, perhaps the idea of our practice as a discipline is about creating a space for creating new work?

This idea was touched on in our discussion, mentioning another meaning of the word discipline as punishment and pain, in talking about the pain of regular practice (something I understand is quite viscerally). We also talked about the idea of a discipline being the water you swim within (Pierre Bourdieu & Loïc J. D. Wacquant – An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology) but also discussed the question of whether a discipline is just a construct, thinking about the conversations that happen across disciplinary boarders (noting problems of shared languages and conventions) and the missed opportunities of sticking to a single discipline. As B pointed out, for the purpose of PhD research, we need to be specific about our discipline (if only to get the right examiner) but I think my main takeaway from today’s discussion is that in creative research the discipline is probably just a clarity of the position – the way you use “I“.

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