Inherently interdisciplinary: four perspectives on practice-based research
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I assess the theories of knowledge operating in visual arts research, as presented in four recent book-length studies: Carter (2004); Gray and Malins (2004); Hannula, Suoranta and Vadén (2005); and Sullivan (2005). A single thesis is Identified that runs independently through all four books (that is to say, none of the books cross-refer or share sources), and steps are taken to fill the gaps left by the books in their treatment of the thesis. Art, they all claim, is uniquely placed to generate research on account of its inherently interdisciplinary nature, that is to say, art in and of itself involves combining different subjects and methods, and its epistemic significance stems from the generative potential of these combinations. While all four books set out relevant perspectives and methods, none provides a fully worked-out theory of how interdisciplinarity promotes the generation of new knowledge. Carter and Sullivan offer the most explicit and sustained studies of interdisciplinarity, but omit to say precisely how it leads to new knowledge. Interdisciplinarity is hinted at by Hannula, Suoranta and Vadén, and by Gray and Malins as being crucial to artistic research, but the idea is not pursued. I demonstrate how Kant’s theory of knowledge can go some way towards filling the gap left by the four books. The value of Kant’s philosophy is that it provides a framework for understanding how the coming-together of two concepts or domains creates the conditions which allow new ways of seeing to come into being. On his view, concepts determine the content of experience, and the interdisciplinary tension between concepts creates occasions for reality to surprise us and for new observations to be made.
Cazeaux, C. (2008). Inherently interdisciplinary: four perspectives on practice-based research. Journal of Visual Art Practice 7, pp. 107-32.