Sha Xin Wei’s overarching research is “a philosophical investigation that is conducted in a poetic mode of installation or event-based art and technology.” His collaborative practice weaves together, traverses through, and resists disciplinary methods that operate as doctrine, arguing that “poesis precedes theory-building, and theory-building precedes methodology, because methodology repeats a process that no longer generates knowledge. Therefore the arts and humanities play a central role in creating fresh knowledge.” In this, he embodies a media practice about practice–in essence, a critical media practice. Through several decades of collaboration he has combined forces with divers actors to form what he refers to as “ecologies of practices” that simultaneously organize and disassemble conventional research assemblages of the university. As a new department that seeks to build a culture of heterodoxy within media art practice, Xin Wei’s research not only speaks to the pedagogical aims of Critical Media Practices, but to the broader aims of working together with our peer practitioners in media, art, environment and technology across the university to collaborate as a mode of inquiry in itself, as much as one that may yield singular products.
Statement on Transversal Research-Creation:
Poiesis, the art of creation, precedes theory-building, and theory-building precedes methodology, because methodology repeats a process that no longer generates knowledge. Therefore the arts and humanities play a central role in creating fresh knowledge. But how can engineers and humanists learn more effectively from artists other than beholding their singular products, and vice-versa?
Alchemy was the art of transmuting bodies and substances, the quick and the dead, the inert becoming vital, accidentals and essences becoming quintessences. Five centuries ago, alchemy was a practical and magical art, concerned with bodies and materials that are always suffused with ethical, vital and material power. Under the prism of the Enlightenment, such practices split into the practical (e.g. engineering or medicine), the scientific, and the art of the imaginary. Our work fuses these arts together again to transmute the material of social relations.
Ateliers like Synthesis provide homes for experimentally inventing and fusing fresh practices of understanding how the world works with fresh practices of making meaning. The motto “Art all the way down” implies that we cannot do business as usual by simply identically reproducing ourselves: our apprentices will learn but differ from the professions under which we were trained. We create stronger alloys of the know-hows and know-thats we have inherited from the past 500 years of knowledge creation. This is the basis for our choice of themes and affiliates. Transdisciplinary research is more than merely sitting an engineer and an artist and a philosopher in a room; it means transforming each discipline’s own ways of doing things, with care.