The Studio for Transdisciplinary Arts Research (STAR) is an initiative of Honorary Professor Paul Thomas associated with the Fine Arts at the University of New South Wales, Sydney. STAR incorporates a conference series, symposiums, publications, workshops and various events.

Transdisciplinary Imaging Conferences instigated by Honorary Professor Paul Thomas in 2010

The conference series

The first conference took place at Artspace in Sydney 2010 where the conference theme was asking questions of what art was adding to the discourse of the image. The concept proposed was a remediated apprehension of the image: an active image and activity of imaging beyond the boundaries of disciplinary definition, but also altering the relations of intermedia aesthetics and interdisciplinary pedagogy.

Mediation and the new media arts have in fact become the new medium of critical and pedagogical discourse: like water is for fish, like culture is for cultural studies, mediation is a concept that is taken for granted now because it is itself the medium in which we think and act, in which we swim. Selected papers were also published in the Artspace journal Column.

The second conference took place in Melbourne 2012, where the notion of ‘Interference’ was posed as an antagonism between production and seduction, as a redirection of affect, or as an untapped potential for repositioning artistic critique. Maybe art doesn’t have to work as a wave that displaces or reinforces the standardized protocols of data/messages, but could instead function as a kind of signal that disrupts and challenges perceptions.

The third conference — entitled Cloud and Molecular Aesthetics — was ambitiously located in Istanbul 2014 to draw from an additional international dialogue. The conference posed questions about the cloud as a new formation of data as a global and seemingly immaterial distribution of storage and means of retrieval. The data cloud that exists everywhere and yet is nowhere in particular. As with the protocols of bit torrent files, could the cloud provides a new concept of sound and image “assembly”, distinct from and beyond the materialist machinic diagrams and the practices of re-mixing or remediation that became characteristic of late twentieth-century and millennial aesthetics. The cloud is not an object but an experience and its particles are the very building blocks of a molecular aesthetic in which we live and act.

The fourth conference focused on the Atemporal Image to examine whether our contemporary quotidian lives are becoming increasingly indebted to virtual platforms for social exchange and cultural mediation. The ubiquity of social media has necessitated the birth of virtual graveyards; frozen digital reliquaries marking the cessation of our online busywork. Museums and culture conservationists are hurriedly digitising material fragments of the Anthropocene in an anxious contest against time and entropy.

The fifth conference in the series took place April 2018 hosted by The University of Edinburgh, led by the Centre for Design Informatics, supported by EFI. The conference investigated concepts related to the Latent Image, with international keynote, speakers Karen Barad, (science), Jan Willem Tulp, (data visualization), Edward Colless (art theory) drove the discourse around the Latent Image.

The sixth  Transdisciplinary Imaging at the Intersections between Art, Science and Culture; The Dark Eden conference comprised three stimulating days of key-note lectures and presentations by over sixty international professionals including creative arts practitioners, media artists, science and technology researchers, designers, curators, historians, critics and theorists, presenting new and innovative work exploring the theme of Dark Eden. Our distinguished keynote speakers Timothy Morton, Laura Marks and Barbara Bolt covered diverse topics such as beauty, cognition, freedom, media consumption, magic, performativity, matter, embodied imaging, contemporaneity and human and non-human agents, to touch lightly on their compelling provocations. Conference theme Is the Dark Eden a Counter-Enlightenment? Is it a shadow zone, a spectral landscape, a cemetery or a zombieland? Is it the debris of an image culture, or does it provide the material for a new culture?

STAR Education

Transdisciplinary Art Education worked with the Leonardo Education and Arts Forum to explore new paradigms of teaching in relationship to questions being asked by science and technology.

Emerging technologies, social networking and a multi-layered world view call for a working model of transdisciplinary education in new curriculum for creative arts, design, and media education.  To address C21st challenges, fine art must explore transdisciplinary learning, teaching and assessment strategies synthesizing This project explores new knowledge creation situated across the transdisciplinary ‘art’/’science’/’technology’ divide and challenges traditional educational paradigms of segregated disciplinarity, increasingly subject to critical and creative contestation around ‘wicked problems’ involving ‘chance’, ‘discontinuity’ and ‘materiality’ (Foucault, 1976). The Project enables stakeholder (re)visioning of the role, activity and value of Art and Design Schools working at the intersection of Art, Science and Technology in a university context, disseminating case studies in new and innovative curriculum design and documentation to national and international Higher Education communities.

Paul Thomas