Renée Turner, Hybrid Research & Transdisciplinarity

Photograph by Ojodepezfotografia

I’m a jack of all trades, master of nothing and mistress of many. Transdisciplinary practice, as elastically as it is defined in my lexicon, is integral to my education, artwork, collaborations and teaching.

My bachelor’s degree is from a small Catholic liberal arts university, where I did more classical studies. After receiving my MFA from the University of Arizona, I moved to the Netherlands to attend the Rijksakademie, which was followed by two years as a researcher in the Theory Department at the Jan van Eyck Academie. With a keen interest in online writing and digital narratives, I also have a second Master’s degree in Creative Writing and New Media from De Montfort University.

From 1996 to 2012, I collaborated with Riek Sijbring and Femke Snelting under the name De Geuzen: a foundation for multi-visual research. At the time, multi-visual research was a speculative monicker. In the Netherlands, there were no visual art PhDs and the possibility of art being research was absurd to many. Operating otherwise, we became an experimental research unit exploring issues near and dear to us.

De Geuzen website where many links have expired as so many things on the web.

Our time together at the Jan van Eyck Academie, a place where art, design and theory commingled, was pivotal. Our practice was informed by a mix of feminist and queer practices (Valie Export, the Guerrilla Girls, Donna Haraway, General Idea, Sandy Stone, Heresies magazine, Judith Butler and many others). We were also inspired by the emergence of the internet, its popular vernacular and online DIY sharing cultures which circumvented traditional exhibition systems.

De Geuzen, Paperdolls with various uniforms, somewhere in the mid-nineties

Our practice took on a variety of forms combining art, design, theoretical enquiry and dialogue with other disciplines. We created shared archives, hosted numerous lectures, created textile interfaces and published online. Next to projects in our own space and on our site, our works have been featured in exhibitions at De Appel, Manifesta, the Bienal de Valencia, Rhizome, Mute, and Thames & Hudson’s Internet Art etc.

Folding, part of an installation at Herengracht 401, 2018

Building on my collaborative practice, I have continued to combine various visual forms of research to explore female identity, narratives of the archive and spaces of co-learning.  With the support of the Creative Industry Funds and a Grant for Established Artists from the Mondriaan Foundation, I conducted three-years of research at Herengracht 401. Entitled, The Warp and Weft of Memory, the project had multiple manifestations: public lectures, an exhibition, a print publication and an online narrative archive. Exploring the closet of Dutch artist, Gisèle d’Ailly van Waterschoot van der Gracht, I looked at how its contents reflected her life and various related histories.

The Warp and Weft of Memory, screenshot of an online narrative archive, 2017-2019

With regards to teaching, I have never drawn strict lines between my artistic practice and education. Research and learning happen in both registers, but perhaps with different restraints and potentialities. I have worked at the Willem de Kooning Academy and Piet Zwart Institute for several years.

Cooking with the Critically Committed Pedagogies Course co-taught with Professor Frans-Willem Korsten, Piet Zwart Master Education in Arts, Donghwan’s Kitchen @ the Rijksakademie, 2020.

From 2011-2015,  I was the Director of the Piet Zwart Institute where I worked on bringing departments together and promoted interdisciplinary approaches. Currently, I am a Senior Research Lecturer working in the bachelors and masters. For four years, I have been co-teaching with Professor Frans-Willem Korsten, specifically, the Critically Committed Pedagogies course in the Masters Education in Arts at the Piet Zwart Institute. This has proved challenging but also miraculously inspiring to have our respective knowledge rub off on each other.

Lastly, I am engaged in RASL Research and this Transdisciplinary Group. My hope for our transdisciplinary research is that we find ways of working together and can establish a lingua franca without levelling the richness and frictions of approaches, vocabularies (visual, verbal, aural, performative or otherwise) which we bring with us. I believe our strength resides in our plurality and differences.

Resources & References Transdisciplinary Vocabularies

A Question of Language

McKenzie Wark Capital Is Dead

Recently, I looked up this link for one of my students. I read the book when it came out and remembered that Verso published an interview with Wark at the time to promote it. Watching it again, I was struck by her observation that when language fails to do the work, we should start to get suspicious. Giving the example of neoliberal capitalism, she rightfully observes there’s a modifier modifying a modifier. And that’s just bad poetry. In a disciplinary context, it is interesting to think about when our respective languages, be they visual, acoustic, written, performative or otherwise, fail us. When our language becomes insufficient, doesn’t fit, or just lousy poetry, then perhaps that’s a sign to shake things up a little bit.

Wark also raises the question of the limits of the humanities and social sciences in grappling with various conundrums we currently face. And the same can be said of the arts. Wark speaks of a need for a collaborative labour of understanding that reaches across all of the kinds of work that are involved in making this world to even be able to analyze it… so there is a kind of comradely production of knowledge that’s required now to even understand what is novel and distinctive about the dominant mode of production of the times. Of course, Wark is working from a Marxist tradition, or what she calls vulgar Marxism, with a specific remit. Nonetheless, there is a lot to be gleaned from her approach to understanding complex systems and language or for that matter disciplinary hacking. I also thought a couple of words she uses can be useful when thinking about the potential of transdisciplinarity.* I especially like the phrase a comradely production of knowledge. It gives me a soft fuzzy feeling, but with a few prickly spikes to keep me from getting too lulled into comfort.

* I say potential knowing that it’s one of those buzzwords that should be used sparingly and handled with a degree scepticism. In other words, I want to avoid any hint fetishization. No tool or approach is the Swiss Army knife solution – the disciplinary, interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary each have their pros, cons, and dare I say potential ; )

Grant Proposals, Reports & Accountability Resources & References Transdisciplinary Vocabularies

Suggested Vocabulary for Tags

Tomorrow we can quickly note down words that need to be included. And start to define how we understand these words.
Dates will be added as definitions are modified.

beyond boundaries […]

collaboration […]

emergent […]

equality (of knowledge) […]

inclusion […]

innovation [Inventively contribute to transdisciplinary knowledges and practices: Transdisciplinary practitioners can identify, integrate, and harness the innovative capacities of transdisciplinary research and practice. They transgress disciplinary boundaries to elaborate and present new contributions to the arts and sciences.]

imagining […]

non-hierarchical […]

not-knowing […]

pluriform […]

transdisciplinary […]

transversality […]

try outs […]

sense making […]