Academic journal article Liminalities

How Do We Know What We Know? A Meditation on Expert-Intuitive Workshop Practice

Academic journal article Liminalities

How Do We Know What We Know? A Meditation on Expert-Intuitive Workshop Practice

Article excerpt

Since the eighteen century, a number of writers have attempted to unpack the dialogic relationship between contemplation and intuition most notably Immanuel Kant.1 Applied to understanding the creative process of the arts practitioner this has had little attention apart within scientific, educational and action research contexts.2 Yet intuition provides a form of knowing-in-practice for many arts practitioners often expressed as knowing the right thing at the right moment of a 'disciplinary-mastery' in their respective practices and challenging the critical orthodoxy attendant to intra-disciplinary heresy. Intuition is also pertinent to those who have experienced a paradigmatic shift from a singular art form practice towards an inter-disciplinarity where a heretical crossing of boundaries is implicated that is fundamentally misunderstood particularly in a Eurocentric context where there is a fear of cross-disciplinary miscegenation. Within education, these are those practitioners who are prepared to take risks within an increasingly bureaucratic and meritocratic education system that tends to engage with inter-disciplinarity as a strategic practice that can holistiMichael cally benefit themselves and their students.3 We might include here, arts and cultural practitioners: artists, writers, poets, musicians, dancers, theatre-ineducation companies that make similar interventions through workshops, residencies and a myriad of activities in education. It is not simply that disciplinary knowledge could be threatened but that a new unknowable model of knowledge and model of intelligibility could become a model of practice that cannot be policed and regulated by the critical orthodoxy. Such a theoreticalpractical liberation-'praxis' has given life to a fresh critical approach, which is exemplified through workshop practice.

In her ethnographic study of high-energy physics and molecular biology, Epistemic Cultures, Karin Knorr Cetina uses the notion of epistemic cultures to explain, and contrast domain differences in knowledge-making processes. She defines epistemic cultures as "those amalgams of arrangements and mechanisms...which, in a given field, make up how we know what we know. Epistemic cultures are cultures that create and warrant knowledge..." and the investigation she advocates is one that unpacks "the meaning of the empirical, the enactments of object relations, [and] the construction and fashioning of social arrangements" within a disciplinary area. Knorr Cetina also writes about the impact of 'set-up' on decisions taken, because the notion of 'set-up', as Melrose argues (www.sfmelrose.u-net.com), provides us with a more detailed and precise notion, than is available when we think about the notion of 'culture'.4 In terms of Knorr Cetina's key question - 'how [do] we know what we know?' It could be argued that the trajectory of that process has been not so much linear, but fragmented, such that an 'intra-disciplinary' critical interrogation, performed in the interstices, has provided the potential, via a ceaseless feedback process, for the emergence of a trans-disciplinary hybridised practice, whose outcome is more than the sum of its diverse parts. This paradigmatic shift has been predicated on critically challenging what is perceived, for instance, to be an orthodox mode of art making.

Furthermore, Gregory Ulmer's "The Object of Post-Criticism", offers a practical-theoretical template here in terms of how a subjective/objective dualistic approach might also be employed.5 Ulmer argues that there are techniques of modernist art applicable in critical representation, the principle device being collage/montage: like Picasso gluing an oil cloth with chair caning to suggest the presence of a chair without representing the actual chair in the first Cubist painting, 'Still-Life with chair caning', I propose in what follows, to interrupt and reposition the notion of objectivity and the subjective, in the context of analysing the object of study: in foregrounding first-person experience and the particular, I propose nonetheless to provide an exemplary account of expert practices in a particular field of workshops. …

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