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The Potential of Cross-Disciplinary Approaches

The potential for cross-disciplinary approaches has changed because everyone is now able to share files containing past art and design data. Technological progress is making it possible to segment production processes and it has become easier to collaborate with specialists in other fields. Since the turn of the century, creators have needed to take a much more analytical and more critical look at their own productive acts. The great ideologies and third-party standards that used to underlie and justify these acts are no longer available. Today it is the market that is in control. In this situation, a single field is no longer sufficient for a creator to produce something with new significance while maintaining ethics and aesthetics. The reason for this is that the categorization into fields reflects their base in the conventional industrial structures and value structures of modernism. These necessities lay behind the initiation of intellectual fieldwork by creators with the objective of overcoming or neutralizing the conventional field categories.

Cross-disciplinary production of the 21st century is not the same as a simple trans-border approach; it is more like genetic engineering. Crossbreeding can produce hybrids, but genetic engineering goes a step further, intentionally manipulating genes to select and extract specific genetic traits. Rather than just being specialized in one field discipline, creators are dipping deeply into other fields, and just as genetic engineers are selecting and inserting genes for specific traits, creators are selecting particular technologies, methodologies, and theoretical approaches to incorporate into their work. The programs for artistic expression also need to be rewritten, much as parts of dna sequences are rewritten.

Programs should not be oriented towards seeking newness in itself, but towards seeking a new kind of humanity. When art and design separated in the 19th century, the division enabled art to enrich the spirit while design worked for industrial society to make people’s lives more convenient. Today, even though there is a resurgence of a utopian trend, it will not be as easy as it was at the beginning of the 20th century because in a post-industrial, post-colonial age, there is so much diversity and it is no longer possible to assume uniform values. Each individual creator must seek out his or her own vision of the ideal form for humanity. In today’s situation, providing diversity and flexibility is the best way to let the user or viewer make the final decisions by leaving a certain level of ambiguity and uncertainty in a program. Through such programs and works, the user or viewer and the creator share the responsibility of seeking out humanity and producing meaning.

The rapprochement of art and design provides a further opportunity to encourage this trend. Computerization and dematerialization are encouraging the shift from design that works at a visual level to design that works at the level of consciousness or of all five senses. At the same time, networking has changed the role of design, shifting it from something perceived as independent and individual to something perceived of in terms of its relationship with society, with nature, and with our information environment. In the world of art, the shift from prioritizing the visual to prioritizing the body, and the relationship with society and with the environment are beginning to appear in the configuration of spaces, and in projects that consist principally of actions and processes. Projects such as those by Rirkrit Tiravanija and Surasi Kusolwong that take ordinary acts such as eating or shopping and use them as readymades are based on an attempt to provide new viewpoints by slightly displacing the significance of everyday acts. The reason that such displacements and ambiguities eventually link to a rich imagination and to everyday vitality is that a cross-disciplinary approach has successfully found an in-between solution.

At this point let us look at changes to the systems that support the creative efforts and lives of creators and other artists. For example, in the field of fashion, shows are held to present the collections that are updated each year. The buyers buy from these collections, and at the end of the season, anything remaining is sold off. If the show is configured as a presentation, it can be modified for use online or as a video, and the visual expressions of a designer’s concept are acceptable as art works. Hussein Chalayan and Martin Margiela, whose works employ highly experimental concepts or convey critical content, produce concept exhibits that can be regarded as conceptual art in their own right. BLESS has shops in Paris and Berlin, and comments that whether exhibited in an art museum or in a shop, the same thing applies: It’s a question of working out who you want to communicate with and in what way.

Architect Junya Ishigami produces conceptual works with original materials such as mist and metal balloons, explaining that he moves between real (actual architecture) and concept works (installations for exhibitions), so it’s just a question of where the next point of contact will be.

In Japan, there has been a distinction between visual art linked with reason, and handicraft based on bodily awareness. Traditional craft that is the closer to the latter is labeled ‘industrial art.’ Over the last 20 years or so, this field has demonstrated a dynamism that would not have been possible if bisected into functionality and appreciability. The situation has been helped by the fact that the high culture/low culture hierarchy is not as strong as in Western culture, and has enabled the establishment of a genre that includes craftwork finished by hand to a high quality. The availability of computers has meant that the conceptual aspects of drawings, plans and designs, and the quality aspects of the final produced for each of these have been appearing in many fields in the form of a fusion between organic and digital. For the future, it will be interesting to watch how this trend plays out at the global level. We will need to stay aware of how everything contributes to the big objective of symbiosis and group knowledge for the purpose of survival.

Yuko Hasegawa. Graduated from the Faculty of Law, Kyoto University. Completed a master’s degree course at the Special Graduate Course of Fine Arts, Tokyo National University of Fine Arts & Music. Curator at the Contemporary Art Gallery, Mito Arts Foundation. Visiting curatorship at the Whitney Museum of American Art under a grant from the Asian Cultural Council. Curator at Setagaya Art Museum in Tokyo. Chief Curator (1999–2005), then Artistic Director (2005–2006) of 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa. Chief Curator of Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo since April 2006. Special-appointment professor at the Faculty of Art and Design, Tama Art University, Hachioji, Tokyo. Board member of the International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art (CHIMAM). Ms Hasegawa has curated and directed many biennals and other exhibitions worldwide.