17 September 2015

Educating Artists for the Future: Learning at the Intersections of Art, Science, Technology and Culture (Intellect Books/University of Chicago Press)


From review by Julia Gaimster
International Journal of Education through Art
vol. 5, no. 1, 2009, pp. 95-96.

 

This is a timely book that sets out to explore alternative ways of educating artists in an interdisciplinary, networked, global future. The book is organized into sections around the themes ‘Beyond the Digital’, ‘Networked Times’, ‘Polycultural Perspectives’, ‘Reflective Inquiry’, and ‘Emergent Praxis’.
 

The central thesis of the book is that, in an increasingly networked world and global society, we face new challenges in how we educate artists and this often leads us into new disciplines and ways of understanding. It also argues that the convergence of disparate fields and concepts can lead to enhanced creativity and innovations.
 

In ‘Beyond the Digital’ the authors suggest that we have gone beyond the purely technical and are moving into an area where digital technology and biology are starting to create new dynamics and possibilities that have the power to transform our world.

Networked Times’ explores the relationships between physical and virtual spaces; it examines the notion of complexity and the culture of digital networking and the impact this may have on the way we deliver curriculum.
 

For me perhaps the most intriguing section of the book was ‘Polycultural Perspectives’. Here the authors draw upon their own cultural backgrounds from countries such as India, china and Turkey. We are asked to look at artistic practice through a series of different cultural filters including Taoism and Buddhism.
 

In ‘Reflective Inquiry’ writers who describe their biographical journeys highlight how they came by liuck, design or coincidence to be engaged in their current practice. They come from remarkably diverse backgrounds and cultures, adding a richness of perspective to the book that will appeal to a broad global audience.
 

The final section ‘Emergent Praxis’ describes approaches to teaching that embody the interdisciplinary approach promoted by the book. The central message of this section is that students need to be exposed to a wide range of disciplines and concepts in order to fully engage with contemporary art practice.
 

The book contains a good balance between theory and practice, and describes approaches and projects undertaken in a range of contexts from the classroom to the laboratory and onto the street. It is well written.
 

It inspires us to further our understanding of what it is to be an artist in a future where the boundaries between the technological, the biological, the cultural and spiritual are increasingly fluid.

Book review in Studies in Art Education, July 2009
by Dr. Rita L. Irwin, Professor of Art Education and Curriculum Studies and Associate Dean of Teacher Education, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada.
 
Educating Artists for the Future: Learning at the Intersections of Art, Science, Technology and Culture is a rare find. Editor Mel Alexenberg has done a remarkable job of bringing together outstanding artist/educators who are grappling with issues related to technology, ecology, creativity, agency, identity and community. Each individual author provides rich written descriptions of projects they have undertaken, the conceptual underpinnings that frame their work, and the implications of their practices for art education in informal and formal learning contexts. I am certain that readers reviewing this book will feel a profound sense of collectivity knowing we are at the edge of transforming the world in which we live.
 
The volume is divided into the following five sections book-ended with an introduction and epilogue by the editor: Beyond the Digital, Networked Times, Polycultural Perspectives, Reflective Inquiry, and Emergent Praxis. Each section has four chapters making this 22 chapter book an extensive array of ideas from authors representing Brazil, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, India, Israel, South Korea, Switzerland, Turkey, UK and USA. Its international character alone makes this book a must read for educators wanting to understand the arts and education at a global level.
 
Readers wishing to be inspired will be able to take away clear understandings of how education is shifting from an information-age to a conceptual age, how creativity (as we have known it) is shifting from a focus on the individual to a focus on networks, and how intersections between and among art, science, technology and culture are richly laden with social, biological, spiritual, political, and aesthetic aspects that portray the in-between generative spaces for enhanced possibilities.
 
Although Alexenberg describes his own journey in learning according to several themes, his ability to integrate high-concept (creating art that recognizes opportunities, narratives, and unrelated ideas into an original design) and high-touch abilities (using one’s abilities to understand the human condition while stretching one’s ability in the pursuit of meaning) in his own work, and throughout the entire book, brings his themes to the forefront. For instance, learning through awesome immersion, learning through interdisciplinary imagination, learning through cybersomatic interactivity, learning through polycultural collaboration, learning through ecological perspectives, learning through responsive compassion, and learning through holistic integration, to name a few, draw out his ability to inspire excitement for embracing our changing worlds. These themes are not limited to his experiences. Instead, they reflect the range of learning experiences portrayed by all of the authors.
 
There is something deeply enlightening about reading new books in our field that illustrate truly international responses to changes in contemporary art, educational practices, and indeed, research across the arts and education.
 
I highly recommend it for teacher education and fine arts education classes in higher education.
   
From review by Olivia Sagan, ESCalate

Once more, intense questions and complex reasoning, which . . . begin to feel mind-broadening and powerful. . . . This is a creative book for creative thinkers--particularly those with a passion for technological advances. . . .This book embodies a perhaps very human urge to learn across disciplines, and explore the border conflicts of their interface.