TEXT BY 撰文 x Peng Zuqiang 彭祖強
“We have entered a post-post-studio age.” Announced on the cover Alex Coles book The Transdisciplinary Studio, since ‘Post-studio’ was only a novelty in the 60s in the art world. He identified the term ‘Transdisciplinary Studio’, as a model which deliberately crosses the boundary between disciplines: art, architecture, design, and etc.
So what is ‘Transdisciplinary’ then? It is not multidisciplinary which adopts different disciplines simultaneously; it is also different from Interdisciplinary, which combines different disciplines and attempts to create something new. Transdisciplinary is supposed to transcend the borders of disciplines and therefore practice from a degree level zero. It is “a space that is at once between, across, and beyond all disciplines” which exceeds the forms of multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary practices.
The prime example is without a doubt Studio Olafur Eliasson. Eliasson’s practice is renowned for the intersection of science, architecture and fine art. Through case studies and interviews, the book unfolds more details of the daily running of Eliasson’s studio: It is a structure that accommodates not only artist, but also curators, researchers, teachers, and, chefs. The Studio Olafur Eliasson is closer to an art institution rather than a traditionally defined studio with only artist and the assistants. A quick glimpse on its website reveals each members’ role and positions, its specification is nothing smaller than an art institution.
As its head of research and communications Anna Engberg-Pedersen suggested in the book “What we do is essentially art and what we are borrowing from other fields – words, molecules, whatever – we insert into art practice, transforming them and putting them to sue in a way that expands what we are producing in the field of art.” She did not over-emphasis the role of the studio’s ‘transdisciplinarity.’ Instead, she affirms the necessities of having disciplines.
正如工作室研究和媒體部總監安娜·安格堡－皮德森（Anna Engberg-Pedersen）在采訪中所說：“我們所做的說到底仍是藝術，我們從其他學科借鑒語言和元素，並將他們註入到藝術創作之中，把他們重新轉換整合，從而拓寬我們對藝術創作的定義。“ 她並沒有刻意強調工作室中跨界性的意義，反倒肯定了不同學科獨立的重要性。
In the series of interviews with members from the Studio Olafur Eliasson. Coles did not interview Eliasson himself, but chose to talk to other members in the studio who hold various positions such as the archivist, the curator, the architect. As a result, readers might get a better sense of the supposed Transdisciplinarity of the studio. This can be considered as a deliberate attempt to overcome the prioritization of its central figure over its other members. Cole’s attentiveness to the literary conventions is also indicated in the introduction where he referred to developments in different genres of literature such as art criticism, ethnographical writings, and new Journalism, all relevant references for the writing structure of this book. It is obvious that the publication itself is experimenting with another new way of knowledge production.
In the second half of the book, Coles interviewed some other well-known figures in the art world, from the artist-turned-designer Vito Acconci, to the curator Maria Lind. There are also some unexpected interviewees, including anthropologist James Clifford. However, the inclusion of Clifford was not only to investigate on the cross-section between art and ethnography, but also to diversify the book’s very own ‘transdisciplinarity.’
在書的下半部分中，科爾斯采訪了藝術圈中的其他一些知名人士：從藝術和設計創作兼容並包的維托·阿肯錫（Vito Acconci），到策展人瑪利亞·林德（Maria Lind），但其中也有一些意料之外的受訪者，比如人類學家詹姆斯·克利弗德（James Cliffod），而采訪克利弗德不僅僅是為了討論藝術和民族誌之間的聯系，同樣也是在拓寬此書自身的‘跨領域性’。
But we also need to be aware that Coles chose these four studios precisely because they practice in such boundary-crossing style – one which might not be relevant for most practitioners. In the area of multidisciplinary, criticisms emerged, questioning whether by foregrounding such terminology, the actual practice is falling behind, and being ‘Transdisciplinary’ for the sake of it. Although such trend reacted to the rigid categorization of modern disciplines, many practitioners in fine art still prefer not to call themselves transdisciplinary artist. This does not merely mean they focus on only one specific genre or medium, but the fact that the word disciplinary is easier said than done. This might also lead the readers to wonder whether the transdisciplinary approach necessarily produce better art practice?
Few of the educators interviewed in this volume, for instance Ronald Jones, was an advocate on the further transformation of different disciplines in art and design. As Jones argued “…but we must first overcome the way we have been trained at university practising out of very narrow, discipline-bound methods. We need to think in terms of systems and themes, not disciplines.” True, more so in the other side of the Atlantic, courses and degrees adopt prefixes such as inter/trans/cross. The students are encouraged to take inspirations from all different fields of knowledge. However, already in the fine art departments, a clear distinction between fine art and design are drawn to retain their very own radicality. This sometimes biased hierarchy between art and design reject their integration, so that the disciplines retains their own methodology in knowledge production. Or maybe it is not fair to judge and compare such a volume solely in the context of fine art, as that might obey the premise of the project which is about crossing boundaries.
書中所采訪到的幾位教育人士，包括羅納德·瓊斯（Ronald Jones），都是對藝術和設計領域邊界進一步演變的支持者。瓊斯說道 “我們應該克服在大學之中所接受的比較狹窄而邊界清晰的教育模式…我們應該借助系統和主題而不是邊界來思考。” 的確如此，在大西洋的另一邊，課程和學科設置或許更為迎合‘跨學科/多學科/學科際’等模式。教育模式也支持鼓勵學生從不同的學科和知識領域吸取營養。但是，在純藝術系別中，對藝術和設計的一個清晰的劃分似乎已經定型。這種時常在藝術和設計之間略有不公的等級差異，似乎也抗拒著他們進一步的融合。也正因為如此，或許僅僅從藝術的角度出發來評論這樣一本強調‘跨領域’的書，本身也是不全面的。
Therefore it is worth paying attention to the rationale behind such terminology, indicated by Coles’s own comment in the book: “My sense is that in an age that is considered to be of the “post-studio” – theoretically, at least, no model has replaced that one – there has been a total reinvigoration of the studio but no theory has been written to account for it.” This underlines Coles’s ambition of theorising a new model in the structure of studio practice. Nevertheless, are these examples representative of the entire structure of the art practices? Or if these studios themselves can really be generalised as ‘Transdisciplinary.”
The book offered a detailed articulation of what is considered as ‘Transdisciplinary Studio’ in the contemporary visual practices. However, instead of providing a concluding rhetoric of such term, the author assembled a rich collection of interviews with practitioners working in fields related to the ‘transdisciplinary’, and their words, no matter how transdisciplinary they are, provide entry points for the readers to consider if this very term applies.
“Transdisciplinary is a space that is at once between, across, and beyond all disciplines.”
“My sense is that in an age that is considered to be of the “post-studio” – theoretically, at least, no model has replaced that one – there has been a total reinvigoration of the studio but no theory has been written to account for it.”