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When Art meets Science: Conditions for Experiential Knowledge Exchange in Interdisciplinary Research on New Materials

Conference paper
Authors Camilla Groth
Margherita Pevere
Kirsi Niinimäki
Pirjo Kääriäinen
Published in Proceedings of the International Conference 2019 of the DRS Special Interest Group on Experiential Knowledge. Tallinn, Estonia, 23-24 September. p. 237-250.
ISBN ISBN: 978-9949-594-82-5
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Conservation
Language en
Keywords Art; Science; Research; Interdisciplinary collaboration; Knowledge transfer
Subject categories Visual Arts, Design, Art History, Arts


Interdisciplinary research across art and science offers the potential to open up new areas of knowledge previously hidden in-between disciplines. At the same time, differences in disciplines’ theoretical frameworks, verification methods and expectations can cause discrepancies, which can be fruitful but may also require further navigation efforts. In this paper, we discuss the potentials and challenges of combining scientific and artistic research in interdisciplinary projects studying new materials. We interviewed 11 researchers working in different projects that combined scientific and artistic research in Finland and Germany, in order to investigate how they deal with different epistemological approaches and the limitations and possibilities that they brought up the interviews. In this paper, we focus on experiential knowledge sharing between the researchers in their research of organic materials. Our findings show that the prerequisites for experiential knowledge transfer need to be built consciously, over a long period of time by engaging in handson practices and cognitive activities that surpass the personal comfort zone of all members, and the common goals and research questions need to be motivating for all involved. Although academic research funding agents encourage interdisciplinary research, funding alone is not sufficient to motivate people to work and truly learn together. Even when motivation and common goals are found, the short longevity of funding might drive researchers to multitask, which in turn may damage the ideal conditions for transformational learning and knowing together. Thus, in addition to recruiting enabling professionals who have t-shaped experience of two or more disciplines, we suggest that conscious education in a new discipline could create a new generation of thinkers and makers who feel comfortable in the possibly unsettling zone between the disciplinary borders of arts and sciences.

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