Through his 21-year role as artistic director of Australian Dance Theatre, Professor Stewart has fused his daring choreography with elements drawn from neuroscience, physics, architecture and robotics.
Now he is expanding the possibilities of innovative artistic research collaboration as the new Professor of Creative Arts and the first director of Assemblage: the Centre for Creative Arts, at Flinders University.
“I’ve always been fascinated in science and other arenas of knowledge outside of the choreographic domain,” he says. “I’m exhilarated by alternate ways of thinking and collaborations that can assert new influences upon my own artistic processes.”
Assemblage is a new research centre designed to draw together myriad artistic and academic disciplines at Flinders University, while also encouraging external artists, researchers, industries and communities to join as partners in novel artistic ventures. It aims to forge bright ideas for research that can stimulate, measure and qualify the impact of Arts endeavours, resulting in complex, transdisciplinary knowledge creation.
“The word assemblage is fitting as it describes a space that facilitates disparate thinkers and practitioners to come together in order to try and answer complicated questions about an increasingly complex world,” says Professor Stewart.
“It's a facility which recognises that artists take concepts, data, philosophies and experience, metamorphosing them into transformative encounters that radically alter our perception and understanding of the world and our place in it.
“While we’re not creating a new physical centre, Assemblage will be drawing together the significant resources we already possess across the University. It pulls focus within the University and externally to generate interest from artists, industries, communities and supporters.”
Key project examples are taking shape in The Void, one of the largest virtual reality and motion capture labs in South Australia. Attached to the Flinders University drama unit and run by Dan Thorsland, The Void brings together filmmakers, choreographers, actors, dancers, gamers, archaeologists, medical researchers and technicians in collaborative projects. “It’s an environment where everyone is experimenting and exploring, and that brings much possibility,” says Mr Thorsland.
Such a daring embrace of uncharted artistic pursuits points to fresh possibilities about how the Arts can engage in innovative research that makes strong connection to industries, investors, practitioners and audiences.