A Poet not a Logician

mickyates Art, Cambodia, Critical Research Journal, Ethics, History, Ideas, Insight, Photography, Plans & Notes, Poetry, PositionsPractice, PPWeek2, Practice, Project Development Leave a Comment

I am a rather ‘logical’ person. My BA is in Mathematics and Philosophy. I have an MSc in Consulting and Coaching for Change from HEC. I have spent over 40 years in business, most of it at General Manager or Board level, where logic prevails. Within that career, I spent 10 years in the realm of ‘Big Data’ – and now both teach and consult on the subject.

That includes my role as Visiting Professor at the Inter-disciplinary Ethics Applied Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (IDEA CETL)  at the University of Leeds (what a mouthful!).

Logic, logic, logic.

Yet, as a teenager I was a poet and a painter, and I first wanted to go to Art College. I was persuaded otherwise, and the result was a successful career in business. Yet, I still wrote and painted. The image above is from my very early years, ink on paper, a product of the 60s. And from the early 90’s …

I am also a photographer, to varying degrees of seriousness, and have been my entire adult life. Technically, I believe I can do proficient work, and I am finding myself in demand locally.

Yet somehow I feel I am observing, documenting, rather than treating what I see as art or poetry.

Something I wrote in 1998:

Raw Manifesto, No Zen

I need depth, texture and release from self-imposed geometrics.

I need mind, exchange, challenge and stillness.

I need listeners, followers, engagement, where the symbiosis is complete.

I need art, technology, freedom, and I need it all now.

There is always more.

There is now, and then there is then.

Then yesterday doesn’t exist.

I need anger, life, change, and the chase.

I need love, and the energy to create.

I need need.

As I am considering my Final Major Project, I want to revisit and re-examine our Cambodian story. There are many, logical options for how to do this, set out in that post. I believe the best is to tell the story through the eyes of others, and especially Sarath.

But I think I am missing something. At lunch today, Ingrid made it totally clear. I am delivering my photography by looking through the viewfinder. In a way, I am treating it as I would a business. Looking at the angles, the options and not necessarily the subject.

I said in my Week One reflections that I have studied the history of photography, even taught a bit on the subject – but I want to move beyond the facts to the feeling of it all.

Why don’t I treat this project as a poet would? That puts me way out of my comfort zone in photography, which I know is the point!

I have just booked to fly to Cambodia to meet Sarath, the first week of March, to jointly consider how to approach this.

I want to re-eaxmine the way I take pictures, and the feelings associated with that. And, whilst the earlier stills work was a good start, I also want to examine using other media – movies, words and possibly poetry.

I already know that an end point must be a book and an exhibition.

I also know that this must be a story with the people of Cambodia, not just about them. It must share their history.

More anon.


mickyates ContextualResearch, Critical Research Journal, Ethics, Ideas, Insight, Photography, PositionsPractice, PPWeek2 Leave a Comment

The theme of Week Two is close to my heart, as I am Visiting Professor at the Inter-Disciplinary Ethics Applied Centre of Excellence for Teaching and Learning (IDEA CETL) at the University of Leeds.

In 1985, I was also one of Procter & Gamble’s first General Managers leading a multinational team across Europe, which included multiple disciplines – marketing, finance, manufacturing, product development, research and sales.

The role of a General Manager or CEO is to lead multiple disciplines. Of course, these disciplines need in turn to be led by real experts in their fields.

However, in my view there is a distinct difference between ‘multidisciplinary’ and ‘interdisciplinary’. Strictly, multidisciplinary means that various disciplines are needed, depending on the task at hand. Yet there is a danger that disciplines remain in silos, slowing down problem solving, and in the most extreme cases, fostering ‘turf wars’ between disciplines.

Interdisciplinary means that novel solutions are created by combining expertise across disciplines. The best analysis of this that I have read is Moti Nassini‘s paper ‘Ten Cheers for Interdisciplinarity

Roland Barthes noted:

Interdisciplinary studies, of which we hear so much, do not confront already constituted discipline … In order to do interdisciplinary work it is not enough to take a “subject” (a theme) and to arrange two or three sciences around it. Interdisciplinary study consists in creating a new object, which belongs to no one’.  (The Rustle of Language, pg 72)

Nissani argues that interdisciplinary knowledge and research are important because:

  1. Creativity often requires interdisciplinary knowledge.
  2. Immigrants often make important contributions to their new field.
  3. Disciplinarians often commit errors which can be best detected by people familiar with two or more disciplines.
  4. Some worthwhile topics of research fall in the interstices among the traditional disciplines.
  5. Many intellectual, social, and practical problems require interdisciplinary approaches.
  6. Interdisciplinary knowledge and research serve to remind us of the unity-of-knowledge ideal.
  7. Interdisciplinarians enjoy greater flexibility in their research.
  8. More so than narrow disciplinarians, interdisciplinarians often treat themselves to the intellectual equivalent of traveling in new lands.
  9. Interdisciplinarians may help breach communication gaps in the modern academy, thereby helping to mobilize its enormous intellectual resources in the cause of greater social rationality and justice.
  10. By bridging fragmented disciplines, interdisciplinarians might play a role in the defense of academic freedom.

And he goes on to say:

‘Compartmentalization, besides lack of education, is the enemy; an enemy that can only be conquered through holistic scholarship and education’

An example that Nassani gives is most appropriate to photography.

‘Foreign observers like Herodotus, de Tocqueville, or Margaret Mead sometimes see cultural aspects which are invisible to the natives. The natives live and breathe their customs; the perceptive foreigner doesn’t. The same goes for the history of ideas: outsiders are less prone to ignore anomalies and to resist new conceptual frameworks.

An outsider’s perspective, then, is particularly valuable at times of crisis. Such times are common’.

A photographer should be able to ‘see’ beyond the vision of ‘insiders’. But does that make photography by definition ‘interdisciplinary? I do not think so.

Photography impacts so many disciplines – science, history, anthropology, ecology, art, cultural studies, business and so on … maybe even all disciplines, today. That is multidisciplinary.

But to be truly interdisciplinary, new ground needs to be created.

I’ll explore that in other articles.


Barthes, Roland. 1989. The Rustle of Language. Berkeley: University of California Press. Available at: https://monoskop.org/images/8/8a/Barthes_Roland_The_Rustle_of_Language_1989.pdf. (Accessed 11/02/2019).

Nissani, Moti. 1997. Ten Cheers for Interdisciplinarity: The Case for Interdisciplinary Knowledge and Research in The Social Science Journal, Volume 34, Number 2, pages 201-216. Copyright © 1997 by JAI Press Inc.