The COVID-19 pandemic amplified, re-drafted and problematised notions of the boundary in the collective imagination on a personal, community and global scale. Since 2020 the maintenance of our corporeal limits, and the buttressing of national borders have become contested global obsessions as populations divided themselves along partisan lines of those for and against public mandates. As a result, we are called to question the nature of boundaries and their implications.

Boundaries in contemporary art practice are often conceived as the distinctions between disciplines, produced by divergences in materials, technical conventions and discursive traditions. Conversations on disciplinarity today celebrate the notion of breaking boundaries, crossing the edge or becoming all encompassing. Terms such as inter-, cross-, trans-disciplinarity, expanded practice and the postmedium are valorised as if the mere act of moving beyond an established mode or media of production is sufficient to generate new value. Artists speak of unshackling their practice from the history of specialisms, forging new frontiers and testing disciplinary limits, whilst working at the cutting edge. It is considered productive to occupy multiple disciplinary positions and work across media — to effectively enlarge or re-draw the territory of possible creative action. This obsession with disciplinary limits reveals a language of spatial metaphors (fields, frontiers, and domains etc) and actions (breaking boundaries, territorial expansion, etc) reveals imperialist overtones in almost every utterance pertaining to disciplinarity?

In this paper we highlight how the language we use to address and redress disciplinarity today is spatialised, and premised on notions of imperialist territoriality which are at odds with efforts to decolonise the arts. We open a space in which to speculate on other ways to approach disciplinarity in teaching and research, without theorising boundaries, territories and their rupture. In this moment after the pandemic, where the notion of the boundary has been re-inscribed in our psyche, we consider the critical and creative potential found in forms of thinking and practice that seek to coalesce and value, not to colonise.

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Stream C: Panel Three