09 November 2015

The Future of Art in a Postdigital Age: From Hellenistic to Hebraic Consciousness (Intellect Books/University of Chicago Press)

"A wonderful and important book." - Dr. Ron Burnett, President, Emily Carr University of Art and Design, Vancouver

"Addresses the rarely asked question: How does the 'media magic' communicate content?" - Professor Otto Piene, Director Emeritus, MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies, Cambridge

In The Future of Art in a Postdigital Age, artist and educator Mel Alexenberg offers a vision of a postdigital future that reveals a paradigm shift from the Hellenistic to the Hebraic roots of western culture.  The author surveys new art forms emerging fro a postdigital age that addresses the humanization of digital technologies.  He ventures beyond the digital to explore postdigital perspectives rising from creative encounters among art, science, technology, and human consciousness.  The interrelationships between these perspectives demonstrate the confluence between postdigital art and the dynamic, open-ended Jewish structure of consciousness. Alexenberg's pioneering artwork -- a fusion of spiritual  and technological realms -- exemplifies the theoretical thesis of this investigation into interactive and collaborative forms that imaginatively envisage the vast potential of art in a post digital future.
Publisher's text from the book's back cover (Intellect Books/University of Chicago Press)

Praise for the book
“In his book, Mel Alexenberg navigates his artistic insight amid the labyrinthian complexities, explosions, and revolutions of the past forty years of art, tracing his way amid questions of science and religion, technology and environment, education, culture, and cosmos. Everyone will find his book full of new vantage points and vistas, fresh insights that give a uniquely personal history of artistic time that indeed points to new and open futures.” – Prof. Lowry Burgess, Dean and Distinguished Fellow of the Studio for Creative Inquiry, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA

“This is a wonderful and important book. The author links the history of art to the important role played by various forms of thinking in the Jewish tradition and connects that to the emerging culture of digital expression. Brilliant insights and new ways of seeing make this a must-read for anyone interested in the intellectual history of images in the 21st century.” – Dr. Ron Burnett, author of How Images Think (MIT Press), President of Emily Carr University of Art and Design, Vancouver, Canada

“The author succeeds in opening a unique channel to the universe of present and future art in a highly original and inspiring way. His connection between ancient concepts (Judaism) and the present digital age will force us to thoroughly rethink our ideas about art, society and technology. This book is evidence that Golem is alive!” – Prof. Michael Bielicky, Professor and Head of the Department of InfoArt/Digital Media, Hochschule fur Gestaltung /ZKM Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe, Germany

“Mel Alexenberg, a very sophisticated artist and scholar of much experience in the complex playing field of art-science-technology, addresses the rarely asked question: How does the ‘media magic’ communicate content?” – Prof. Otto Piene, Professor Emeritus and Director, MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA

“Opens new vistas in the attempts to reconcile the newest developments in digital art and postmodern critical perspectives with the ancient concerns of the arts with the spiritual. It offers fresh perspectives in how we can learn from Greek and Jewish thought to understand the present era.” – Prof. Stephen Wilson, author of Information Arts: Intersections of Art, Science, and Technology (MIT Press) and Professor of Conceptual and Information Arts at San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA, USA

“This book is simply a must-read analysis for anyone interested in where we and the visual arts are going in our future. Alexenberg has provided us with powerful new lenses to allow us to ‘see’ how postmodern art movements and classical Judaic traditions compliment and fructify one another as the visual arts are now enlarging and adding a spiritual dimension to our lives in the digital era.” – Dr. Moshe Dror, co-author of Futurizing the Jews (Praeger), President of World Network of Religious Futurists and Israel Coordinator of World Future Society

“This Hebraic-postmodern quest is for a dialogue midway on Jacob’s ladder where man and God, artist and society, and artwork and viewer/participant engage in ongoing commentary.” – Dr. Randall Rhodes, Professor and Chairman, Department of Visual Art, Frostburg State University, Maryland, USA

“This book is amazing, so deep and insightful and full of sweet revelations at each turn of the page! It rocks the world and brings some desperately needed light.” – Dr. David Lazerson, author of Sharing Turf (Ballard), Inductee at the National Teachers Hall of Fame, USA

“Like the Torah itself that Alexenberg refers to regularly, the book is complex. He writes in a lively, engaging style […] I found it informative, optimistic, and spiritually refreshing.” – Prof. Rob Harle, Leonardo: Journal of the International Society for the Arts, Sciences and Technology

“Alexenberg offers special insights into the postmodern nature of the Talmud’s biblical consciousness as an open-ended living system. His argument is that the new paradigm of art must be of a structural and dynamic nature. Here, he quotes Allan Kaprow in urging a more ‘lifelike art.’ This has profound implications for art education.” – Dr. Jerome Hausman, Arts and Activities

“If Jacques Derrida had not preceded him, Alexenberg would be the Jewish Marshall McLuhan […] Alexenberg’s art and scholarship represents some of the most innovative work being made in both the Jewish and non-Jewish art worlds.” – Menachem Wecker, Forward

“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.” – Dr. Vince Dzeikan, New Media & Society

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.

27 April 2015

From Future of Art to Photograph God

PHOTOGRAPH GOD: CREATING A SPIRITUAL BLOG OF YOUR LIFE extends the theoretical explorations of Alexenberg's Future of Art in a Postdigital Age: From Hellensitic to Hebraic Consciousness book in a "how to do" book for the general reader. 

It is an adventuresome book that develops conceptual and practical tools for creatively photographing God as divine light reflected from every facet of life.   It teaches how to weave these photos of God into a blog that draws on the wisdom of kabbalah in a networked world to craft a vibrant dialogue between the blogger’s story and the biblical narrative.  An exemplary spiritual blog http://bibleblogyourlife.blogspot.com demonstrates innovative ways to enhance the photos with text for dissemination worldwide through the blogosphere and Twitterverse. 

See the book's blog at: http://photographgod.com

Praise for the Book
Photograph God: Creating a Spiritual Blog of Your Life is a wonderful sequel to The Future of Art in a Postdigital Age: From Hellenistic to Hebraic Consciousness.  Both offer special insights into the postmodern nature of biblical consciousness as an open-ended living system." – Dr. Jerome J. Hausman, author of Arts and the Schools, former Professor, School of the Art Institute of Chicago 

“Mel Alexenberg offers a scintillating experiment in creativity. His work is an invitation to deepen your spiritual sensibilities as you extend your imagination.” - Jan Phillips, author of God Is at Eye Level: Photography as a Healing Art 
“One of art’s most complete and compelling integrations of the sacred and profane. It reads like a swift and soulful breeze.” - Dr. Shaun McNiff, author of Earth Angels: Engaging the Sacred in Everyday Things, University Professor, Lesley University, Cambridge

“Thinks brilliantly outside the box.  It crisscrosses disciplines, from science and technology to philosophy and mysticism to art as both historical and creative phenomena. This is one of those books that other thinkers will wish they had somehow thought about how to write, and to which readers of diverse sorts will simply respond by saying: wow!” - Dr. Ori Z. Soltes, author of Tradition and Transformation, Professorial Lecturer, Georgetown University 

“Photograph God strikes a balance between Kabbalah and contemporary culture. It is literate, wise, and easily accessible.” - Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, author of God Was in This Place & I, i Did Not Know: Finding Self, Spirituality and Ultimate Meaning and Kabbalah: A Love Story   

“There are many parallels in Christian thought and deed that should allow this excellent book to resonate with many people of faith.” - Bob Weil, co-author of The Art of iPhone Photography

"Photograph God gives us an amazing perspective on our own existence, especially in the age of interconnected iPhone culture." - Prof. Michael Bielicky, Head of Department of Digital Media/Postdigital Narratives, University of Art and Design/ZKM Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe 

“A mystical computer program for spiritual seeing.” - Rabbi Dr. Shimon Cowen, Director, Institute for Judaism and Civilization, Australia

"In an original way, Prof. Alexenberg invites us to connect the networked world of Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Instagram, WhatsApp and Blogspot, with the concept of the unseen God." - Dr. Yael Eylat Van-Essen, author of Digital Culture: Virtuality, Society and Information, teaches at Tel Aviv University and Holon Institute of Technology, Israel

"Alexenberg proposes that text and image - something as simple as photos taken with a smartphone, and multiplied in their resonance by the Internet - can be a consciousness raising tool" - Peter Samis, Associate Curator, Interpretation, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art  

"I can feel your joy, warmth and good humor in your images." - Julie DuBose, author of Effortless Beauty: Photography as an Expression of Eye, Mind and Heart

"The book's wonderful synthesis between spirituality and technology, heaven and earth, is exciting and thought-provoking. Photograph God is a practical demonstration of Solomon's wisdom: 'Acknowledge God in all your paths'" - Rabbi Chanan Morrison, author of Gold from the Land of Israel