13 December 2008

A Creative Book for Creative Thinkers

Education Subject Center
Advanced Learning and Teaching in Educati
onThe Higher Education Academy

From book review posted at http://escalate.ac.uk/4791
12 December 2008

by Olivia Sagan
University of the Arts, London

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

A resounding theme is that interdisciplinarity is a hallmark of our networked, cyber times, with information, knowledge and practice leaking sometimes uncontrollably across boundaries, sometimes wonderfully and creatively: ‘It is apparent that new ways for educating artists for the future will be found in a global fabric woven with colourful threads from all fields of human endeavour’ (p. 12). Important words for those concerned that our Higher Arts Education institutions may sometimes reflect preciousness about disciplines and their boundaries, not to mention an ethnocentricity regarding creative endeavour.

A further, urgent viewpoint expressed by Giglotti, and one which can too easily be overlooked and marginalised, is that of sustaining a social and environmental conscience in our creative work, and the sheer shock of learning about global impacts of our use and abuse of resources. Giglotti cautions us on ‘the suppression and destruction of non-human creativity – organic, ecological and biological – and the corrosive effects of that destruction on sustained human activity.’ (p. 63). Once more, intense questions and complex reasoning, which, once the reader is into the sometimes less than smooth flow of the book, begin to feel mind-broadening and powerful.

This is a creative book for creative thinkers – particularly those with a passion for technological advances: ‘What should education in a networked age look like?’ (p. 95) – including their use, non-use or abuse in the field of creative arts. But it is also a book which rather elegantly, at times, attempts to show how creative endeavour can, could, and should, wise up to the beauty, creativity and shared impulses of, for example, maths and physics. As Sonvilla-Weiss asks: Can both art and science learn from each other, and, if so, at what and for what?’ (p. 104).

This book embodies a perhaps very human urge to learn across disciplines, and explore the border conflicts of their interface. Inevitably, this is difficult. Inevitably, the language reflects this. But persevere, because like all learning of value, it’s worth the occasional or even regular discomfort… in the end.

01 October 2008

Inspiration by the Bucket-load

Enlightening Times
August 2008

Book Review
Educating Artists for the Future, edited by Mel Alexenberg

by Jade Ashcroft

This is the first book, to my knowledge, which considers the future of our Arts and Media Culture in the wake of the explosion of digital and technological Arts with such depth and rich diversity of content.From the point of view of an Esoteric Artist out in the field, the different subjects discussed herein have given me considerable food for thought, as well as insight and knowledge into disciplines that I had not previously encountered.

The reoccurring theme of Scientific research based Art and Technology is examined in great detail and with energetic enthusiasm, neatly interspersed with personal experiences from each author, dissecting and describing activities and projects in their chosen field.Subjects such as “Syncretism”, “Afferent and Efferent Education” and “Transgenic Art” are terms with which I was unfamiliar, but were explained by each Author with eloquence and coherence. I particularly enjoyed the chapter “New Media Art as an embodiment of the Tao”, “Multi-cellular creatures with sensors, joints and a neural network, living in a simulated environment”, would have been categorized as Science in my understanding, and therefore separate from Art and Artists, prior to reading this fascinating book.

I would highly recommend that anyone who intends to produce images of a symbolic nature read the chapter about “Media Literacy: Reading and Writing Images in a Digital Age”. The different levels of meaning in Art and Photography, discussed in the narrative, explores the successful production of meaningful, thought provoking and powerful imagery.

The links between Science and Art, severed so long ago, have not only reunited into a collective but are mutating into new and exciting dimensions. For Artists/Teachers/Researchers, and anyone interested in expanding their knowledge of post digital media Educating Artists for the Future: Learning at the Intersections of Art, Science, Technology and Culture is the perfect companion for navigation.

Delving into the different sections of this text reveals a wealth of information regarding proposed and already successful course structures in Art and Technology. From cross-cultural and multi disciplined perspectives, the pathway is illuminated resulting in omni-directional destinations.

You are guaranteed to find inspiration by the bucket-load whether you are an artist, designer, tutor, or student of Multimedia and the Arts.

16 September 2008

Energy Bursting Out of Every Page

From review in
Network, issue 05, 2008

by Adam Brown, Course Leader, BAs Photography and Media and Photography and Video at University College for the Creative Arts, Maidstone, UK:
Book: The Future of Art in a Digital Age:
From Hellenistic to Hebraic Consciousness
Author: Mel Alexenberg

Alexenberg’s book attempts to open up perspectives on the understanding of contemporary digital and relational art practices based on their coherence with Jewish heritage, theology and philosophy. It both underscores the importance of the Jewish contribution to developments in contemporary artistic practice, and traces the intricacies of that relationship through a thorough and wide ranging meditation on form, religious observance, and context.

Alexenberg’s insights into this relationship draw on a wide range of scholarship and an encyclopedic knowledge of the contribution of Jewish artists and cultural producers to Western cultural development. It is necessary to explore what is specifically Jewish about the development of contemporary art, as the turmoil of the twentieth century places Jewish writers, artists and émigrés at the heart of global experience in which cultural paradigms were violently overturned. By tracing his own journeys– artistic, spiritual and pedagogic - Alexenberg explores the specific practices, texts and ideas of the Jewish faith in depth and constructs a narrative that attempts to explain how they influenced Western art production, in the context of a global audience.

Alexenberg describes the shift from a Hellenistic to a Hebraic consciousness as one which moves from fixed outcomes, passive reception, and the importance of objects, to fluidity, intertextuality and the primacy of relationships and practice over form. Broadly put, modernism was Hellenistic, postmodernism is Hebraic. To demonstrate this point, Alexenberg applies Kabbalistic textual analysis to both biblical sources and postmodern ideas. The Talmudic principle that every biblical verse has seventy readings provides a way to ground postmodern notions of multiple readings in a long standing tradition of textual practices which take no single reading of any text as definitive. This is a key idea, which Derrida also explores in his writings on Edmond Jabès, making similar claims for the importance of understanding the centrality of a diasporic, global, textually complex Jewish identity to contemporary thinking.

Drawing on a huge range of sources, from Roy Ascott to Arthur Danto, Talmudic scholars to Irit Rogoff, Alexenberg reveals himself as a voracious reader, and a prolific producer, and his energy bursts out of every page. In the early pages, he quotes Thorleif Borman’s contrast between the ‘static, peaceful and moderate’ Greek and a ‘dynamic, vigorous, passionate and action centered’ Hebraic consciousness. This book was written in the latter spirit.

31 August 2008

Dialogic Art in a Digital World

אמנות דיאלוגית בעולם דיגטלי
ארבע מסות על יהדות ואמנות בת זמננו, ירושלים: בית רובען מס
Dialogic Art in a Digital World: Four Essays on Judaism and Contemporary Art, (Jerusalem: Rubin Mass House, 2008).

A Hebrew version of my book:
The Future of Art in a Digital Age: From Hellenistic to Hebraic Consciousness (Intellect Books/University of Chicago Press, 2006, paperback 2008).

08 June 2008

An Engaging Text

New Media & Society
2008, vol. 10, pp. 357-360.

The Future of Art in a Digital Age: From Hellenistic to Hebraic Consciousness
(Intellect Books/University of Chicago Press, 2006,
paperback edition 2008)

From book review by Dr. Vince Dzekkan,
Monash University, Australia

Early in Mel Alexenberg’s The Future of Art in a Digital Age, the reader encounters a passage that describes the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright and Frank Gehry, reflected in their respective Guggenheim Museums, as expressions of form giving shape to content. The author goes on to describe the prevalence of the spiral form, traversing natural and symbolic readings identified with the Jewish cultural tradition (referring to biblical writings found in the Torah, Kabbalah and Sephirot). This fusion of perspectives, drawn from Hebraic cultural and religious sources is, in itself, an indication of a familiar and repeated pattern that operates throughout the remainder of this engaging text.

The book’s central theme establishes the ‘contemporary confluence of Hebraic consciousness and postmodern art in a digital age’ (p. 9).This premise builds out from Alexenberg’s perception that the transition from modernism to technologically-mediated postmodernism represents a paradigm shift which can be understood by recognizing parallels between each ‘-ism’s’ contrasting allegiance with Hellenistic versus Hebraic cultural perspectives. Alexenberg’s distinction between analogue and digital creative processes develops (spirals out) from this dichotomy. For example, postmodernism – like the Hebraic worldview – is dynamic, action-centred and based upon lived experience, whereas the values of modernism – which acts as the culmination of two centuries of western or Hellenistic influence – are primarily expressed in static, passive object form.

Alexenberg summarizes this perceived relationship, noting that ‘Hebraic consciousness shares with postmodernism a dynamic, creative, playful consciousness that promotes the interplay between multiple perspectives and alternating viewpoints from inside and outside’ (p. 13).This observation is built into the book’s structure, with chapters dedicated to ‘outside’ perspectives offered by semiotics and morphological approaches to the analysis of art forms that are complemented by ‘insider’ perspectives linked directly to the author’s Jewish heritage. These sections present ‘Kabbalistic’ and ‘Halakhic’ perspectives as background to discussion of the author/artist’s own creative investigations, which respond directly to the production of art in a digital age.

Alexenberg’s dynamic interplay of insider/outsider methodologies and exploration of the multiple relationships that exist between, art, technology, and culture today is the highlight of this text. His combination of practice-based outcomes with scholarly negotiation of the topic presents a distinctive character to this research.

23 January 2008

2 New Books for Spring 2008

Educating Artists for the Future:
Learning at the Intersections of Art, Science, Technology, and Culture

Mel Alexenberg, editor

In Educating Artists for the Future, some of the world’s most innovative thinkers about higher education in the arts offer fresh directions for educating artists and designers for a post-digital future. A group of artists, researchers, and teachers from a dozen countries here redefine art at the interdisciplinary interface where scientific inquiry and new technologies shape aesthetic values. This volume offers groundbreaking guidelines for art educators, demonstrating how the interplay between digital and cultural systems calls for alternative pedagogical strategies that encourage student-centered interactive learning.

Intellect Books/University of Chicago Press
ISBN: 978-1-84150-191-8 (ISBN-10: 1-84150-191-3)

For book contents, click on Educating Artists for the Future under Previous Posts on the right column of this blog.

Dialogic Art in a Digital World:
Four Essays on Judaism and Contemporary Art
אמנות דיאלוגית בעולם דיגטלי: ארבע מסות על יהדות ואמנות בת זמננו
by M. Alexenberg מנחם אלכסנברג

A Hebrew version of The Future of Art in a Digital Age published in Jerusalem by Rubin Mass.