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.