Art as Knowing:
A Public Conversation About Art, Ideas and Practice
This symposium begins with the presumption that art is a way of knowing integral to a wide range of disciplinary inquiry and cultural production. Artistic practice is itself an epistemology. Henry James's quip, "How can I know what I think until I read what I write?" resonates with practitioners of many disciplines. Yet it has a particular relevance in arts disciplines, which are premised on processual, material, embodied engagements with a problem, in which "thought" does not precede but is produced in and by this process of engagement. What does art making reveal about knowing and creative practices generally?
Art disciplines could be thought of as privileged sites in which experiment can occur without either hypothesis or practical application. Artistic practices can foster radical methods and produce speculative or unsanctioned knowledges, and function as spaces in which to reconsider what we mean by and do with knowledge itself. This processual mode of inquiry is not peculiar to the arts. Its commonality to other endeavors provides the basis for a cross-disciplinary discussion in which artistic communities play a central rather than an ancillary role.
Although terms like "creativity" and "process" have entered the corporate world fetishistically, one of art's great strengths remains artists’ relative control over their own work. Art objects and processes are studied in a range of fields such as neurology, psychology, psychoanalysis, anthropology, sociology, history, education, medicine and philosophy. Some of these disciplines have also begun to experiment with artistic practices as methodological models. Art is at the core of human culture and as such deserves a primary place in the discussion.
Some speculations the Art as Knowing symposium will explore include:
- What does art making and art scholarship do that other disciplines and scholarly practice do not? Conversely, what are the areas of contiguity, resonance, and overlap?
- How variably can arts’ production be characterized? Is art a series of methodologies, thought experiments, alternate worldviews, transient gestures, interventions, a set of objects?
- What can art making and the processes we engage in when we attempt to understand it ("art appreciation") tell us about epistemology, method, modes of expression and communication, scholarly and other?
- How can we discuss art and its relation to thinking in ways that do not reduce to a simple opposition between the two?
- How do art theory and practice help us think about the forms of creativity, improvisation, visceral pleasure, non-deliberative thought, etc. that inspire and occur in scholarship in every discipline?
- What methodological provocations can art-makers present to the broader community?
- How does understanding and/or practicing art contribute to learning in other disciplines?
- How can/do other areas of scholarship and creativity employ the ways that artists pose and think through problems, understand and treat evidence, determine conclusions and communicate them?
- How can the forms of participatory engagement, commitment, public-ness, address, dialogue, and communal speculation fostered in arts practice inform the relationship of all disciplines to their students, and to the various publics with which they engage?
- How can the arts stimulate new insights into recurrent problematics in the humanities, sciences, and social sciences (for example, those surrounding embodiment, inter-cultural flows, translation, interpretation, negotiating boundaries, or the materiality of thought)?
- What (and how) are the ethics of knowing—or not knowing—made visible in art practice? What, for example, could such a practice contribute to ethical debates about objectivism, responsibility or risk in scholarly practice?