Drawing in the University Today – The Uses of Drawing as Research, Creativity and Pedagogy in the University of Porto

It is generally accepted that the activity of drawing creates shared circuits between active perception, cognition and creativity, thus playing a constitutive role in the production and communication of knowledge. In recent years, there has been an increased proliferation of drawing-based research, developing new approaches to integrate drawing within the curriculum of university teaching, as a means of enhancing general literacy, problem solving and discovery, alongside STEM areas (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) (Anderson, 2014, 2017; Gansterer, 2011; Tversky, 1999). However, there has been little work regarding the experiential impact of drawing in the context of Portuguese University, a work that bridges the divide between the views of artists, researchers, professors and students that use drawing as a tool of inquiry, communication and record outside of the traditional areas with which it is commonly associated.

This lack of research has produced uncertainty regarding the approaches that may be most effective for image-based methodologies in research and pedagogy.

‘Drawing in the University Today’ aim is to undertake a critical study on the use of drawing in the Faculties, laboratories and research centres of the University of Porto. Beyond the focus on art and design, the University of Porto provides a context where drawing in architecture and urbanism, civil engineering and mechanics, biology and mathematics, archaeology and geography, medicine and sports can be addressed within a within a framework that recognizes the singularities of drawing within all these territories. And by confronting its differences, we can also find its common ground.

The research is based on the survey, archive and critical analysis of the ways of using drawing as a tool of inquiry and pedagogy in contemporary university. The study was conducted on a selection made by the partners of the Departments and Research Centres collaborating in the Project. It has an editorial and exhibiting intent, as well as a pedagogical applicability in the scope of the offer of graduate training in drawing, according to the singularities of each scientific area. In an integrated way, it seeks to foster a shared research experience between artists and scientific contexts at the University of Porto, capable of developing situated processes of creative research that bring together practices, questions, knowledge and common objects.

We consider the project ‘Drawing in the University Today’ to be divided in three parts, corresponding to the sequential phases of its development. These parts are, nonetheless, mutually implied in their purposes and outcomes:

The first part consists in the survey and inventory of the different drawings used at the centres of the University of Porto, in a contextual documentation made by visual recordings and recorded interviews with the practitioners. We are aware that this research cannot be dissociated from the singular perception with which professors, researchers and students construct their experience in drawing, in relation to the knowledge being produced, and the phenomena being observed. The core of this survey is constituted by the Faculty of Fine Arts, the Faculty of Architecture, the Department of Mechanics and Civil Engineering (Faculty of Engineering), the Department of Biology and Mathematics (Faculty of Science), the Department of Archaeology and Geography (Faculty of Humanities) and the School of Criminology (Faculty of Law).

The second phase is the critical analysis of these documents, trough the publication of articles and catalogues of the exhibitions, as well as the proposal of pedagogical action that explores drawing possibilities in its singular relationships with these areas of university knowledge. The exhibition is assumed to be a reflexive strategy capable of generating comparative methods to bring categories forward in the differences and similarities of the uses of drawing in these several centres.

The third part consists in the collaboration between participant artists-researchers and the scientific and pedagogical contexts of the project, to undertake a practice-based research in drawing capable of confronting the conjectural space of art and science, addressing, in an experiential way, the speculative potentialities of both forms of knowledge.  Whether using scientific methodologies or the epistemology of science, whether inquiring into phenomena that are not restricted to a specific scientific discipline (Ribas, 2012), drawing, as arts-based research, shares a common interest with science in the phenomenological world, although they are subjected to different logics and reasoning. The purpose of these art-based projects is to problematize drawing within the University as a practice that informs and is informed by the relationship between disciplines.