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Carole Gray


The relationship between professional practice, teaching and research
in Art & Design

Professorial Lecture, 17th June 1998



I'm going to take this opportunity to profess - to affirm, to acknowledge - my beliefs about professional practice, teaching and research. The lecture has two halves: first, a personal story - a journey which has raised difficult questions to test and shape my philosophy and practice; and second, an exploration of these questions and an affirmation of how, in my view, these three activities are interrelated and essential components of 21st century education.

The title - 'squaring the circle' - refers to the famous mathematical problem, which so much preoccupied the ancient Greeks:

"Greek mathematics is as significant for the questions it raised and did not answer as for those it did... 'Squaring the circle' means to construct a square, the area of which is equal to a given circle, using only an ... unmarked ruler and a compass... In Plato's opinion, the introduction of more complicated instruments which might be adequate to the solution called for manual skill unworthy of a thinker. The long years of labour on this famous problem indicate the care, the rigour, the patience, and the persistence of mathematicians....The question is not of practical importance ... nevertheless people with an irrepressible desire to meet intellectual challenges attempted the theoretical construction. Actually, the search for iron has often led to gold. The conic sections, which paved the way for modern astronomy, were discovered during attempts to perform the construction, as were hosts of other beautiful and useful mathematical results."

(Morris Kilne 'Mathematics in Western Culture', 1953)

Leonardo da Vinci :
"Proportions of the Human Body"

In seriously thinking about and attempting to do one thing, other often unexpected and valuable things emerge. This is very close to the concept of 'bisociation', a term which Arthur Koestler coined. Bisociation is the bringing together of two previously unconnected concepts into a creative union. For example, as in a joke. You can provide your own examples - I'm notoriously bad at telling jokes, and extensive research failed to unearth a short clean one!

In a joke initial puzzlement at seemingly absurd associations create tension. The punchline releases this tension and we connect the different concepts and laugh (hopefully)! The bringing together of different, and perhaps seemingly difficult combinations - say for example intuition and reason - into a harmonious balance might enable a creative productivity.

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