So let’s revisit yesterdays party but this time the person that addressed you answers to the question on work that his work is project based, like most of us nowadays involved in the artistic field, and mention that his work gains representation in different fields and that he indeed collaborates, informally and formally, with competences from various fields of knowledge. At some point you propose, not very likely but hypothetically speaking, that his work seems to be inter- or trans-disciplinary to which he answers that it is not the situation at all, and that sharing interests, expertise or competence certainly doesn’t make something inter-disciplinary. On the contrary he says, independently of what or who is engaged it is of utter importance to differentiate between media and discipline.
A medium implies a set of circumstances that concerts specificity in the sense of differentiating it from other media. We recall a brief sentence from Foucault’s Archeology of Knowledge, off the top of my head something like, we have experienced a shift from what is said in what is being said, to what is said here and now and only here and now. Which I interpret as what can be said only due a certain conditioning of meaning production. What can be “said” through the medium choreography is different than what can be said through poetry, painting, cinema etc. Further, however dubious and important to sort out, we recall Peggy Phelan proposing that performance becomes itself in and through its own disappearance. But performance is not synonymous with choreography… yet, if we deploy choreography in respect of performance it is imperative that it’s act produce itself in and through its own disappearance. In other words performance saves nothing, there are traces but they are indeed vague and radically if not ontologically different in comparison to for example poetry or visual art. Then we can obviously also discuss whereas performance, choreography or visual art are media, considering that one possible definition of a medium, in the sense of media, is that it still is on when we turn it off. In other words something gains the status of a medium first when it becomes an integral part of life, e.g. television – some thing that our present world could not be thought without.
A medium is always inscribed in the world through some or other order, and an order forms a discipline. Perhaps we could describe this in the following manner: a medium is constituted through certain inherent capacities, i.e. axioms. A discipline attached or twined to a medium forms the medium’s structural expression into a determined context. Together these (necessarily) produce representations, or strategic expressions, that for example could result in a dance performance, a poem or a painting (and here it is of importance to stress the “a”, the opposite of a general).
These might seem unnecessary details but consider this in respect of artistic research. Contemplate how a university that engage in choreography, dance and performance, defines their field of research. Something that is important in respect of university structures. The research field is that due which the university can offer diploma to students. If the research field is to be dance, which I consider to be an expression, it becomes impossible to determine e.g. what PhD students can be accepted, it would become possible to apply for a PhD in disco dance, the social implications of folkloric dance in Poland or whatever, exactly because dance, understood as an expression, lacks fundamental structures. If instead the research field would be choreography, which is not an expression but is determined in respect of specific circumstances or dare we propose certain structural capacities, then it becomes pretty easy to determine if or not a PhD proposal can be accepted. Moreover if a jury is to evaluate a PhD addressed in respect of an expression it all comes down to qualities, that is taste, whereas considered in respect of choreography the evaluation can be made in respect of structures, i.e. considerations that are general and equally applicable to all proposals. In other words, yes a PhD dealing with disco dance can be accepted but only and as long as its concern is of structural matters, in this case in respect of the specific circumstances of the medium choreography.
From another perspective, if the research field is dance, we need a definition for what dance is and as dance lacks fundamental structural capacities what dance is, is what looks like dance, i.e. something based on experience, in this case ocular experiences. In other words the definition must be based on conventions not rule. In that case, say a research proposal addressing e.g. architecture can not be accepted. On the other hand if the field is choreography the architect can be accepted on the basis that the project addresses circumstances that coincide with choreography as a set of structures.
What initially then appears as narrow minded and exclusive ends up on the other end of the scale, namely as opening and allowing.
Research is fundamentally based on that each specific research project should offer itself to be compared with “every” other research project in respect of that field. This initially has three implications, first that it offers a ground for methods of assessment and, second that each individual research project can be utilized and critiqued by every other proposal in the field, and thirdly that each research project contributes to a solidification of the field on the basis of structures. If a research field is formed in respect of an expression and its representations, such as dance none of these three capacities can be nourished.
We can thus conclude that a research field preferably, or necessarily must be considered on the basis of media-specificity (choreography) and at the same time, and therefore, can be open to any expression, in lack of better terms becoming inter- or trans-expressive.
Thus first of all, what we should struggle for is media-specificity [not in the modernist sense of the word, but rather in order to localize “research” fields in respect of the above mentioned Foucauldian sense of the term], and inter-disciplinarity, in the popular use of term, is the very opposite of such, precisely because it weakens the medium and at the same time strengthens discipline. Yes, inter-disciplinary strengthens the discipline – the structural expressions, i.e. the visible/conventional – and not the other way around. A superficial note, it is after called inter-disciplinary not disciplinary-inter.
To turn inter-disciplinary to a positive and reversed notion it has to be approached on the basis, that two or more fields don’t come together, i.e. like a dinner party where what we do is to through conversation strengthen our initial status and position, but instead engage in establishing a third, or new field, which implodes both or all perspectives strongholds. Inter-disciplinary ordinarily implies to come together and share in order to produce a hybrid, i.e. two fields meet to produce a new known out of two already know knowns. For inter-disciplinary to have any interest it has to work the other way around, namely we come “together” to produce something already defined which non of the engaged parties has any stake in, say a choreographer and painter to produce a piece of music. In other words something due which non of the engaged parties have anything to lose, something that is incompatible with all engaged parties modes of performing power. Then inter-disciplinary turn disciplinary-inter, thus questioning not the modes of sharing but the modalities due with a discipline configures itself vis-à –vis a medium. This is the first step to produce an amorous relation to Foucauld’s proposal: What can be said here and now and only here and now.