Thomas Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) and its subsequent extensions by others provided an initial theoretical grasp to frame and understand the parallel existence of different research approaches. In particular, Kuhn realised the importance of social context to any research practice, and how – as a result – the embeddedness in particular contexts could make the “languages” of different research approach “incommensurable”, i.e. inherently impossible to translate strictly between different contexts.
More recently researchers like Tim Ingold, in his chapter “Against Space: Place, Movement, Knowledge” (c. 2009), expanded this early take on the practice of research to consider the existence and validity of whole systems of alternative knowledge reflecting the existence of different knowledge forms that are informed, established and passed on within distinct communities, cultures, and/or contexts in other (non-academic) ways including language, systems of classification, resource use practices, social interactions, rituals and spirituality. Indigenous knowledge is most often cited as example for such systems as it has proven to sustain societies around the world for many generations, but other communities and (sub)cultures – various minorities, LGBT communities, professional guilds, social classes etc. – may just as much have developed their respective distinct bodies of knowledge.
Many of these knowledge forms are predominantly practical in nature, thus aligning them with creative practices in the arts. Also, the arts are alternative knowledge systems in their own right that by their very nature seek to act as agents to adequately capture, interpret and give access to non-conforming knowledge for a broader audience. Where the more conventional formats have exhausted their possibilities, artists, designers, and/or other creatives may create metaphorical spaces for exchange through an externalised conversation between the researcher/creative practitioner and their subject. According to the painter and Bauhaus educator Paul Klee in his Creative Confession (c. 1920), “art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible.” This implies that creative production isn’t about merely (re-)stating the preconceived but making accessible previously inarticulate knowledge by giving it form.
It was with these considerations and examples in mind that the editors for Cubic Journal 5 called the global creative community for contributions in summer 2020 in an attempt to map practices for generating and sharing alternative knowledges across a variety of creative methods and forms.
Benz, Peter, Huaxin Wei and Justin Chiu-Tat Wong (eds). Alternative Knowledges: Communities, Creativity, Narration. Prinsenbeek: Jap Sam Books, 2022.