Cut on the Bias: Relating Art and Architecture through Interdisciplinarity and Transdisciplinarity

In exploring questions of method or process that discussions of interdisciplinarity inevitably bring to the fore, the term has been described in psychoanalytic terms by cultural critic Homi Bhabha as ‘the acknowledgement of the emergent sign of cultural difference produced in the ambivalent [my emphasis] movement between the pedagogical and performative address’,[i] while Julia Kristeva has noted that ‘interdisciplinarity is always a site where expressions of resistance [my emphasis] are latent’, arguing that because of ‘a tendency to jealously protect one’s own domain. Specialists … do not … teach their students to construct a diagonal axis in their methodology’.[ii] It is precisely the presence of the unconscious in interdisciplinarity that interests me, because reference to psychic conditions indicates how difficult such work is – not only materially and intellectually, but also emotionally. In demanding that we exchange what we know for what we do not know, and that we give up the safety of competence and specialism for the fears of inability and failure, the experience of interdisciplinary work produces a potentially destabilizing engagement with existing power structures, allowing the emergence of fragile forms of untested knowledge and uncertain understanding.

[i] Homi K. Bhabha, The Location of Culture, (London: Routledge, 1994), p. 163. Homi Bhabha has distinguished by the widely accepted ‘Interdisciplinarity 1’, where the ‘foundational truths’ of disciplines are put ‘in proximity’ in order to create a ‘wider base’, and the more problemmatic, ‘Interdisciplinarity 2’, which, ‘posed at the point of our disciplines’ liminality … requires us to articulate a new and collaborative definition of the humanities’. See ‘Translator Translated’, (interview with cultural theorist Homi Bhabha) by W.J.T. Mitchell, Artforum v.33, n.7 (March, 1995), pp. 80– 84.COPYRIGHT Artforum International Magazine Inc. 1995 I have argued for a similar distinction between multidisciplinarity, which describes a way of working where a number of disciplines are present but maintain their own distinct identities and ways of doing things, and interdisciplinarity, where individuals operate between and at the edge of their disciplines and in so doing question the ways in which they usually work. See Jane Rendell, Art and Architecture: A Place Between, (London: IB Tauris, 2006), pp. 10–11.

[ii] Julia Kristeva, ‘Institutional Interdisciplinarity in Theory and Practice: An Interview’, in Alex Coles and Alexia Defert (eds) The Anxiety of Interdisciplinarity, De-, Dis-, Ex-, vol. 2 (London: Black Dog Publishing, 1998) pp. 5–6.


Jane Rendell, ‘Cut on the Bias: Relating Art and Architecture through Interdisciplinarity and Transdisciplinarity’, Marie-Ange Brayer (ed), Art et Architecture, (HYX editions, 2014). (French/English)

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