Leonardo Education and Art Forum: session one

LEAF International Liaison   Associate Professor Paul Thomas

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

Sponsored by the National Institute for Experimental Arts and presented in collaboration with the ISEA2011 educational workshop led by Nina Czeglady

This workshop will address and share experiences and difficulties encountered while developing transdisciplinary art-science research, teaching, and when meshing curricula from diverse fields.

Saturday, 17 September, 2011 – 13:00 – 16:00


Paul Thomas

Workshop Moderator: Assoc. Prof. Paul Thomas

Workshop Leaders:

Focus Group 1. Discuss transdiciplinary colloborations: Petra  Gemeinboeck & Andres Burbano

Focus Group 2. Discuss transdiciplinary studio practice: Ross Harley and Ionat Zurr

Focus Group 3. Discuss transdisciplinary theory: Edward Colless and Wendy Coones

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

Transdisciplinary Framework for Research Collaboration

by Dr. Petra  Gemeinboeck

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?

Folding “papers” and unfolding projects

by Andres Burbano

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

Working Across Disciplinary and Cultural Borders in Australia and China

by Prof. Ross Harley

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) led by Ian McArthur, 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.

Discipline Autonomy and Transdiciplinary

by Dr. Ionat Zurr

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

Transdiscipilinary Occult

by Dr. Edward Colless

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 anoccultation, 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?

Title: 3 + 5 + 7 = 1 * Propagating Transdisciplinary Theory

by Wendy Coones

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.

Bios of the Presenters

Andres Burbano

Andres Burbano, originally from Colombia, explores the interactions of science, art and technology in various capacities: as a researcher, as an individual artist and in collaborations with other artists, designers and engineers. Burbano’s work ranges from documentary video (in both science and art), sound and telecommunication art to the exploration of algorithmic cinematic narratives. The broad spectrum of his work illustrates the importance, indeed, the prevalence, of interdisciplinary collaborative work in the field of digital art.

Andres Burbano is currently a PhD candidate of Media Arts and Technology at the University of California Santa Barbara.

Edward Colless

Dr. Edward Colless is Head of Critical and Theoretical Studies at the Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne. He has lectured in numerous institutions in art and cultural history, aesthetics, cinema studies, and design with practical teaching in performance. His publications include art criticism, reviewing, fiction and travel. He has also worked at various times as a professional theatre director, as a filmmaker, curator, journalist and architectural assistant. His most recent grant from the Australia Council has been in support of a writing project titled Hallucinogenesis, which deals with performativity and possession.

Wendy Coones

Wendy Coones studied Fine Arts at the San Francisco Art Institute and received her BFA during a time when new genres were being incorporated into the cutting edge of art school curricula.  After

receiving an M.Ed. in Educational Research & Philosophy, she began working in museums as an exhibition developer of international cultural and scientific exhibits. Since 2005 she has been on the academic staff at the Department for Image Science responsible for curricula development, course realization and research. She has been on the Database of Virtual Art team since 2003 and was the founding web coordinator of the MediaArtHistory.org platform during her time at Humboldt University in Berlin.

Petra  Gemeinboeck

Petra  Gemeinboeck explores the ambiguities and vulnerabilities in our relationships with machines, seeking to make tangible the desires and politics involved. Her practice in machine performance, interactive installation, and virtual environments engages participants in scenarios of encounter, in which they are provoked to negotiate, conspire with or even solicit a machine-generated co-performer.  Often involving collaborators, her research spans the fields of architecture, computational creativity, new media arts, performance, robotics, textile design, and visual culture. Petra’s works have been exhibited internationally, including at the Ars Electronica, Archilab, Thessaloniki Biennale, MCA Chicago, ICC Tokyo, OK Center for Contemporary Art, and the Centre des Arts Enghien at Paris. She has also published widely on issues of interactivity and machine agency. Born in Vienna, Petra is currently based in Sydney, where she is a Senior Lecturer in Interactive Media Arts at the College of Fine Arts, University of NSW.

Ross Rudesch Harley

Ross Rudesch Harley is an artist and writer whose work has been presented at the Pompidou Centre in Paris, New York MoMA, Ars Electronica in Austria, and at the Sydney Opera House. He is also well-known for directing the audio/vision for the Cardoso Flea Circus videos and live performances with Colombian-born artist Maria Fernanda Cardoso. Recent work includes Aviopolis (with Gillian Fuller), a multimedia project and book about airports, Black Dog Publications, London; Busface, a photo-media installation with the Ejecutivo Colectivo exhibited at ArtBasel, Miami; and the DVD installation Cloudscope in collaboration with Durbach | Block architects at Elizabeth Bay House, Sydney. He is a former editor of the journal Art + Text, and has written regular columns on design and popular culture for Rolling Stone and for The Australian national newspaper. In 1992 he was the director of the Third International Symposium on Electronic Art (ISEA). He is Professor and Head of the School of Media Arts, College of Fine Arts at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.

Ionat Zurr

Dr. Ionat Zurr is an Artist, researcher and a curator as well as the Academic Coordinator of SymbioticA – The Centre of Excellence in Biological Arts, School of Anatomy and Human Biology, the University of Western Australia.  She has been an artist in residence in the School of Anatomy and Human Biology since 1996 and was central to the establishment of SymbioticA in 2000. Ionat developed and runs the world unique postgraduate programme in Biological Arts. Ionat together with Oron Catts formed the internationally renowned Tissue Culture and Art Project. She is considered a pioneer in the field of biological arts and her research been published widely, exhibited internationally and her artwork has been collected by MoMA New York.. Ionat have been a fellow in the InStem Institute, NCBS, Bangalore (2010) and a visiting scholar at The Experimental Art Centre, Stanford University (2007) and The Tissue Engineering & Organ Fabrication Laboratory, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School (2000-2001). She exhibited in places such as the MoMA NY, Mori Museum Tokyo, Ars Electronica, Linz, GOMA Brisbane and more



Aims: 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.

The LEAF intend to publish the contributions by participants of transdisciplinary workshops 2011


For further information please contact Marzena Topka