Director of the MA Documentary Film at the LondonCollege of Communication, Pratap Rughani has reported on the 2017 Professoriate Symposium“Our Research In The World” (hosted at Chelsea College of Art, May 24th) Here’s his outline of the event:

“Our Research In The World” was built around the work of Professor Roger Kneebone in evidencing how making and thinking are integrated as ‘two sides of the same coin’ (distilled in his recent article in Nature, Vol 542, Feb 2017, Discovery Through Doing).
His presentation navigated the interdisciplinary world of arts-science embodied in initiatives that bring together too-often separated disciplines by connecting each to their haptic realities. In his presentation surgeons and tailors stitch alongside each other as do varied artists and medics whose specialisms were juxtaposed to reveal their analogues.
Professor Kneebone’s conviction that “correspondence underlies apparent difference; when specifics are blurred, broader themes come into focus” built a frame through which many distinct art and science disciplines could look more openly for resonance with each others’ practice. Central to this is how a surgeon’s finger, feeling around an organ in surgery for example is part of her/his brain in understanding a condition and how to respond. At that point of union of body and mind, language can break down and therefore what is obvious to the practitioner can be strangely effaced; we don’t always then name (or value) to ourselves or professional communities, what our mind-bodies do.
In film terms, it made me think of shooting for a camera person is a conversation between what the eye sees and the hand delivers in framing and camera movement. Or how the process of editing creates a kind of dance of cuts from wider shots to close-ups, revealing different ways of seeing. The challenge in the Academy is that in close-up detail, research can disappear into its own disciplinary focus and miss the embedded connections that (in reality) connect so much of what we do to the surrounding world.

If that sounds like an abstract concern, the gauntlet thrown here insists on naming and reshaping the structuring influence and high walls of disciplinary boundaries. Disciplinary boundaries are understandable in developing an initial depth but can limit how each of us progress – whether in arts or science. As Professor Baddeley quoted in her opening remarks, Professor Kneebone suggests (in Nature article quoted) that each discipline holds a key to reconnecting a more holistic vision and with it, more socially relevant research: “Science and medicine can develop a seductive self-sufficiency, a beliefthat everything that must be learned can be found in their specialized worlds.Engaging directly with the practice of craftspeople and performers reveals another way.”

A panel of five UAL presenters showed their distinct ways revealing a richer UAL nexus of inter-disciplinary insight. Mark Fairnington (CCW), Professor Carolyn Mair (LCF), Dr Caterina Albano (CSM), Dr Veronika Kapsali (LCF) and Sal Anderson (LCC) through disparate practices from art history to film; painting to fashion psychology, via microbiological design, explored how their practices and reflections seek inter-connection, a theme that resonated in two periods of debate.

Finding ways of surfacing these connections at a time when the arts continue to struggle for recognition in national research priorities felt like a significant emphasis that should inform the necessary broadening of STEM subjects to recognise the centrality of arts and design. A challenge that UAL is well-placed to take up.

– Dr Pratap Rughani, Professoriate co-chair.

Abstracts

Dr Caterina Albano – Reader Visual Culture and Science
The exhibition as an experiment
First used by the European avant-gardes, the analogy of the exhibition as an experiment became paradigmatic of the curatorial ethos of the newly founded Museum of Modern Art in New York
in the 1930s. Today, it suggests innovative approaches in curating that challenge institutional
practices. But how does such analogy mobilize twentieth scientific discourses of art and science?
Far from a stable concept, the experiment itself has been imbued with different connotations over time pointing to unacknowledged synergies between the two fields. The presentation will consider such relations questioning the modes of knowledge production and issues of presentness, authority and legitimacy that the analogy of the exhibition as an experiment inflects.

Sal Anderson – Reader in Film
Psychiatry and the subjective: a neuropsychological perspective
The presentation addresses the objective-subjective dichotomy at the heart of contemporary medicine. An analysis of three case studies of films directed and/or produced by Sal Anderson will be used to illustrate mechanisms of cinematic language in conveying the subjective experience of individuals with neurological and mental health conditions. It attempts to draw attention to the value of the arts in a science-centric medical profession.

Mark Fairnington – Reader in Painting
The Perfect Specimen
In this presentation, Mark Fairnington will talk about how his research and practice has examined the relationship between the idea of the specimen as the representative or the type and the depiction of an individual, with all the individual’s peculiarities and idiosyncrasies. Paintings that resulted from research with museum collections including projects with the Natural History Museum, the Horniman Museum and the Wellcome Collection will be reflected upon in the context of concepts of portraiture.

Dr Veronika Kapsali – Reader Materials Technology and Design
Garments that Self Assemble: how biology can inspire a new design-led space for future textiles
This research recognizes the advantages of biomimetic principles for sustainable, low energy, advance functionality design strategies and considers textile manufacturing processes as a platform for transfer of functional mechanisms from biology into fibrous man-made structures. This approach presents a multitude of making opportunities using combinations of standard raw materials (chemicals, fibers, yarns, textiles) and methods (knit, print, weave, nonwoven and finishing). The work sets out to underpin design at the intersection of biomimetic material science and technical textiles by developing novel design-led theoretical and practical frameworks for future research.

Professor Roger Kneebone – Professor of Surgical Education and Engagement Science
Crossing Boundaries
In this presentation Roger Kneebone explores parallels between art, surgery and experimental bioscience in terms of craftsmanship, performance and embodied knowing. Drawing on his extensive collaborations with experts outside medicine and his longstanding interest in physical simulation, Roger shows how insights from apparently unconnected domains of expertise can reveal correspondences which lead to reciprocal illumination.

Professor Carolyn Mair – Reader in Psychology, Course leader MA Psychology for Fashion Professionals and MSc Applied Psychology
The reciprocal relationship between perceptions of appearance and identity
Research in Psychological finds that our thoughts, feelings, motives and actions depend on who we think we are: our self-concepts and identity. This presentation provides an introduction to current understanding of self and identity from a psychological perspective with a focus on the reciprocal relationship between perceptions of appearance and identity.