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Epistêmê, technê and poïesis visualisations of evolution and extinction in Queensland flora

posted on 11.12.2017, 00:00 by Anita Milroy
Experimental intra-disciplinary praxis forms the basis of this research, specifically bridging the domains of art-science and utilising innovative imaging technologies. The research addresses the following questions: In what ways, if any, can the outcomes of a practice-based visual arts researcher significantly contribute to the development and communication of knowledges in scientific practice? And conversely: In what ways, if any, can scientific research practices significantly contribute to the development and communication of knowledges in artistic practice? Significance is measured through contributions to knowledge including, but not limited to, the development of: new concepts, methodologies, inventions and understandings. Over a period of four years, the researcher, a professional practising artist, documents and creates intra-actively with scientific practitioners in the fields of fine art, palaeontology and physics. This emergent inquiry results in outcomes significant to both art and science domains as it provides a critical examination of each discipline’s standard research practices and knowledge making paradigms. It subsequently proposes a paradigm shift, as a direct result of working collaboratively within disciplines and sparked by creative and innovative methods of knowledge production. In responding to the questions posed, the researcher applies a Bohrian philosophy of physics and this is strongly influenced by Karen Barad’s interpretation of it. Quantum theory provides a rich source for rethinking knowledge creation in both artistic and scientific domains. It also suggests the application of a diffractive, rather than reflective, methodology as the research investigates Bohr’s notion that we are a part of that nature we seek to understand. The art-science experimental procedures and outcomes are additionally theorised by integrating and supplementing them with ideas about agency, epistemology, ontology, and praxis from theorists such as Donna Haraway, Estelle Barrett, Barbara Bolt, Andrew Pickering and Bruno Latour. This thesis comprises visual and textual components inspired by the researcher’s scholarly engagement with the palaeobotanic type collection at the Queensland Museum. For the first time ever, the exhibited visual outcomes utilise and interpret type collection data using state-of-the-art imaging technologies from the Imaging and Medical Beamline (IMBL) at the Australian Synchrotron. The thesis exhibition, Aletheia, provides visualisations of seeds and fruits at a previously unseen evolutionary stage because the technique proposed by the researcher non-destructively reveals detailed internal morphologies and key taxonomic features of previously unclassifiable fossils. The significance of the research outcomes to date, for communicating in visually creative and innovative ways, to share new artistic and scientific knowledges across and through disciplines and the wider global community have already been recognised through the research being extended beyond the current candidature period. A competitive, collaborative proposal for future work, scanning at ANSTO’s advanced DINGO neutron beamline at the Lucas Heights facility has been accepted. This technology provides capability for neutron scanning, a complementary technique to the synchrotron x-ray radiation of the IMBL. It is anticipated that the ongoing work will continue to provide a platform for synergistic national and international intra-disciplinary research linkages. Documentation of the culminating exhibition, which was held in April 2016, together with evidence of other significant exhibitions, international collaborative artefactual outcomes, and published articles is presented for examination for the award of Doctor of Philosophy.



Central Queensland University

Additional Rights

This thesis may be freely copied and distributed for private use and study, however , no part of this thesis or the information contained therein may be included in or referred to in publication without prior written permission of the author and/or any reference fully acknowledged.

Open Access


Era Eligible



Dr Ashley Holmes ; Professor Donna Lee Brien ; Dr Andrew Rozefelds

Thesis Type

Doctoral Thesis