Beyt El Hekma’, The House of Wisdom: The Legacy of Arabic Science, Interdisciplinarity and Contemporary Art Practice


The Arab-Islamic Empire historically evidences interdisciplinary approaches to knowledge production and scholarship. This was realised with vast success during a period of intellectual expansion, religious tolerance and philosophical inquiry known as the Golden Age. One of the greatest innovations of this knowledge-based economy was the interdisciplinary approach to knowledge-production, which informs innovative approaches to contemporary art practice and scholarship today. The medieval Arab scholars were the greatest of their epoch and the Arab Empire the most intellectually advanced, culturally and globally influential society of its time. “The House of Wisdom” (Arabic “beyt Al-hekma”) was established during the Abbasid dynasty as an intellectual hub that would see the Medieval Arabs go on to create original scholarship across the sciences, the arts, philosophy, astronomy and medicine. This would be the birthplace of interdisciplinary methodologies evident in the works Al Khawarizmi and Ibn Al Haytham. As a visual artist working across the mediums of experimental photography and installation-based digital practices, interdisciplinarity is vital in informing contemporary creative practices. My practice-based research converges philosophy, physics and technology to create work that augments, disrupts, and challenges our conceptions of time. My research highlights the unique capacity of art to expand knowledge domains by engaging interdisciplinary approaches informed by the historical tradition of interdisciplinarity in Arabic scholarship. The success historically exemplified by this interdisciplinary approach is a testament to the scope of the emergent creative and conceptual knowledge-production that is possible when new modalities of discovery are employed to inform and innovate contemporary knowledge domains.

Author Information
Suzi Elhafez, University of Melbourne, Australia

Paper Information
Conference: IICAHDubai2017
Stream: Arts - Visual Arts Practices

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Posted by James Alexander Gordon