Leonardo Education and Art Forum: session two

Transdisciplinary Visual Arts, Science & Technology Renewal Post-New Media Assimilation workshop

Sponsored by the National Institute for Experimental Arts
Presented in collaboration with Rewire the Fourth International Conference on the Histories of Media Art, Science and Technology .

Location: Liverpool School of Art & Design, 
Liverpool John Moores University Art & Design Academy 
Duckinfield St,
 Off Brownlow Hill, Liverpool

DATE: 27th September

TIME:  2-5 pm

Workshop moderators:

Associate Professor Paul Thomas:, College of Fine Art, University of New South Wales;

Nina Czeglady: Senior Fellow, KMDI, University of Toronto, Adjunct Associate Professor, Concordia University, Montreal, Senior Fellow, Hungarian University of Fine Arts, Budapest.

Workshop Abstract:

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 a trans-migratory role from Istanbul to Liverpool post the ISEA workshop and look for different voices from the various 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.


Working groups focus:

1. Discuss transdiciplinary colloborations

Working group leaders: Petra  Gemeinboeck  and Mike Phillips

2. Discuss transdiciplinary practice in the studio

Working group leaders: Ross Harley and Peter Ride

3. Discuss transdisciplinary theory

Working group leaders: Darren Tofts and Wendy Coones

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 a guide to effective models and best practices.

The LEAF international intend to publish an article based on the contributions by participants of transdiciplinary workshops 2011

Focus Groups

Focus Group 1. Discuss transdiciplinary colloborations

PRESENTATION TITLE: transdisciplinary framework for research collaboration.

PRESENTER: Petra  Gemeinboeck


AFFILIATION: College of Fine Art, University of New South Wales


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?



PRESENTER: Mike Phillips

TITLE: Professor of Interdisciplinary Arts

AFFILIATION: i-Dat University of Plymouth



Certainly, within the Earth Sciences, there is a fractious debate around the value, nature and meaning of ‘data’. To the instrumentalists that measure the world data is something clean and uncorrupted by human hands. For them the data collected by people, through unmediated observation, citizen science processes and historic archives is described as ‘dirty’ and therefore fallacious.

This divergence within a single disciplinary community does not bode well for the cultivation of interdisciplinary relationships where the amplification of difference may threaten to drown out opportunities for harmony.

Or could it be that this friction is the necessary ingredient to create the conditions to put the ‘Trans’ into disciplinarity? Looking through and beyond the language of dispute to the materiality of the data it self to enable creative interventions that are mutually beneficial for the sciences and the arts. Here the ignition for transformation comes from an understanding of the ‘qualitative’ and ‘quantitative’ as a coherent whole. This requires a subtle shift of position for the arts and an embracing of a level of information literacy that moves through the Albertian window to create a new perspective on the world.

This presentation explores the importance of developing an understanding of data as a creative ‘material’ and as a Rosetta Stone for unlocking transdisciplinary dialogues and collaborations.


Focus Group 2. Discuss transdiciplinary studio practice

PRESENTATION TITLE: Working Across Disciplinary and Cultural Borders in Australia and China

PRESENTER: Ross Harley

TITLE: Professor

AFFILIATION: National Institute of Experimental Arts; School of Media Arts, COFA, University of New South Wales.


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.


PRESENTATION TITLE: construction of meaning in practice


TITLE: Principal Research Fellow

AFFILIATION: University of Westminster


Curating is increasingly an interdisciplinary activity and the boundaries of what can be considered to be ‘curatial practice’ have changed. We can see that questions about curatorial practice that have been alive and well for many years in the new media field are increasingly being articulated as issues facing all areas of contemporary practice. However I argue that what often gets left out of the picture is the audience, and that in analysing what curatorial practice means we often concentrate on the place of the production at the expense of understanding meaning. Or more specifically how meaning is communicated to an audience. Using the term that is current in Visual Culture,  what constitutes a ‘visual event’? Recent educational theories around fine arts practice-as-research suggest that we can see the construction of meaning in practice as a point of cognitive transference. I suggest that we can adapt these models and use them to explain the ‘visual event’ when the audience meets the work and the entire construction of meaning as en example of cognitive transference.


Focus Group 3. Discuss transdisciplinary theory


PRESENTATION TITLE: Being Undisciplined


PRESENTER: Darren Tofts

TITLE: Professor

AFFILIATION: Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne



Darren Tofts  expands on Edward Colless’s ISEA  abstract  by focusing on the undisciplined in addressing whether the “transdisciplinary” adjective,  offers 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 an occultation, 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 occultknowledge. 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?



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

PRESENTER: Wendy Coones


AFFILIATION: Department for Image Science * Danube University Krems. Academic staff & coordinator of the MediaArtHistories, MA


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 Moderators and Presenters

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.

Nina Czegledy

Nina Czegledy, award winning media artist, curator and educator works internationally on collaborative art& science& technology and  educational projects. She has produced time based and digital projects and exhibited widely. Czegledy curated numerous international touring exhibitions, developed and presented in collaboration 18 international educational workshops and has lead and participated in forums, workshops and festivals worldwide. Her academic lectures lead to numerous international publications in books and journals. Czegledy is affiliated with KMDI, University of Toronto, Concordia University, Montreal, The University of Fine Arts, Budapest, the Moholy Nagy University of Design, Intercreate Org. and is a Member of the Governing Board of Leonardo/ISAST, Observatoire Leonardo des Arts des Techno-Sciences OLATS, Year 01, Media Arts Collective, Contributing Editor: Leonardo Electronic Almanac, President of the Critical Media Arts Society.

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.


Mike Phillips

Mike Phillips is Professor of Interdisciplinary Arts at the University of Plymouth. R&D orbits digital architec-tures and transmedia publishing, and is manifest in a series of ‘Operating Systems’ to dynamically manifest ‘data’ as experience in order to enhance perspectives on a complex world. The Operating Systems project explores data as an abstract and invisible material that generates a dynamic mirror image of our biological, ecological and social activities.

Mike Phillips is director of i-DAT.org, an Arts Research Organisation that acts as a catalyst for creative innovation across the fields of Art, Science and Technology, facilitating regional, national and international collaborations and cultural projects. As a networked organisation and ‘cultural broker’ i-DAT’s transdisciplinary agenda fosters ‘open innovation’ and knowledge exchange between companies, institutions, communities and individuals. i-DAT is developing new ‘tools’ for production, dissemination and participation that challenge traditional models of creation and consumption, and embrace the shifting relationships between audiences and cultural producers. i-DAT’s projects can be found on the i-DAT web site at: www.i-dat.org


Peter Ride

Peter Ride is Principal Research Fellow at The University of Westminster. He is course leader for MA Visual Culture and the MA Museums, Galleries and Contemporary Culture .

His research is centred around creative practice, in particular addressing digital media and interdisciplinary arts projects. He was one of the first curators in the UK to produce internet artworks. Recent curatorial projects include a retrospective, ‘David Rokeby -Silicon Remembers Carbon’ in the UK and Canada (2007/8) and a group exhibition ‘Timeless: time, landscape and new media’ (Toronto, 2005).

Previously he was employed at the National Museum of Photography, Film and TV, (1983-7) The Photographers’ Gallery (1989-93), Cambridge Darkroom Gallery (1993-5), Artec, the Arts Technology Centre, London (1995-7) and DA2 Digital Arts Development Agency (1998-2000).

He is the co-author with Andrew Dewdney of ‘The New Media Handbook’, Routledge, 2006.

Paul Thomas

Dr Paul Thomas, has a joint position as Associate Professor Head of Painting at the College of Fine Art, University of New South Wales and Head of Creative Technologies at the Centre for Culture and Technology, Curtin University. Paul has chaired numerous international conferences and is co-curting a show of Australian artists for ISEA2011.  In 2000 Paul instigated and was the founding Director of the Biennale of Electronic Arts Perth.

Paul is an artist, curator, academic and writer who has been working in the area of electronic arts since 1981 when he co-founded the group Media-Space. Media-Space was part of the first global link up with artists connected to ARTEX. From 1981-1986 the group was involved in a number of collaborative exhibitions and was instrumental in the establishment a substantial body of research. Paul’s research project ‘Nanoessence’ explored the space between life and death at a nano level. The project was part of an ongoing collaboration with the Nanochemistry Research Institute, Curtin University of Technology and SymbioticA at the University of Western Australia. The previous project ‘Midas’ was researching at a nano level the transition phase between skin and gold. In 2009 he established Collaborative Research in Art Science and Humanity (CRASH) at Curtin http://crash.curtin.edu.au

Darren Tofts

Darren Tofts is Professor of Media and Communications, Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne.He is a well-known cultural critic who writes regularly for a range of national and international publications on issues to do with cyberculture, new media arts and critical and cultural theory.

Teaching: Darren teaches in the areas of Australian and International media arts, postmodernism and the historical avant-garde, literary history and twentieth century writing, critical and cultural theory and cyberculture.

Research: He is the author (with artist Murray McKeich) of Memory Trade. A Prehistory of Cyberculture (Sydney, Interface Books, 1998) and Parallax. Essays on Art, Culture and Technology (Sydney, Interface Books 1999) and Interzone: Media Arts in Australia (Thames and Hudson: Sydney, 2005). With Annemarie Jonson and Alessio Cavallaro he edited Prefiguring Cyberculture: An Intellectual History (Power Publications/MIT Press, 2003).Formerly an editorial correspondent for 21C magazine, he is a member of a number of national and international editorial boards including Postmodern Culture, Continuum. The Australian Journal of Media and Culture, fibreculture journal, Hypermedia Joyce Studies, Rhizomes: Critical Studies in Emerging Knowledge, Scan Journal of Media Arts Culture and RealTime, where he is a commissioning editor for new media arts.His most recent book is Illogic of Sense: the Gregory L. Ulmer Remix (edited with Lisa Gye), Alt-X Critical eBook series, 2007.

For a more detailed list of his academic and journalistic publications


For further information please contact Marzena Topka