Friday, November 16, 2007

What we learn

Via DO, What I Learned in Art School (Is it Design Thinking?)

"In art school, I learned:
  • How to champion and defend my ideas.
  • How to distinguish between personal and professional critique.
  • How to respectfully and constructively critique my peers. How to attack the ideas of my colleagues and still have drinks with them that same night (and maybe even sleep with them — hey, it is art school)
  • How to test drive a hundred different ideas through sketching, cobbling, and envisioning them, before finally settling on which one to go ahead and build.
  • How to tell when I am done a project that could just as easily be improved endlessly.
  • How to tell when an idea that is precious to me is actually holding me back. And then to feel good about throwing it away.
  • How to have the confidence to present my ideas in public without fearing that they will be stolen. And how to take it in stride when they inevitably are.
  • How to distinguish between taste, technical skill, and empirical efficiency.
  • How to detect bullshit, and to avoid generating it myself (note that not all art school grads learn this).
  • How to go the extra mile to make something high-quality.
  • How to recognize talent in my peers.
  • How to collaborate with my colleagues effectively to reach a common goal.
  • How to be deeply competitive without being a dick.
  • How to make something new just for the sake of being new.
  • How to build off of, and give credit to, the ideas of my predecessors both contemporary and in history.
  • How to save ideas that I’m not ready for and keep them for future use (usually in sketchbooks).
  • How to start all over again from the beginning.
  • How to teach all of the above."

Despite my skepticism that anyone is that well-adjusted, what a great list! I'm going to show it to my students and ask them if they see any overlap with what they're learning as non-artists and non-designers. I think it would be fun to come up with my own list too, so stay tuned for that.

In the meantime, what are some of the important things you learned in school? Are they similar to, or different from, things you've learned on the job?

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Friday, August 17, 2007

Connecting anthropology & art

I was working on my paper for the CJC special issue on wireless technologies and mobile practices when my friend (and exceptional research artist*) Kevin Hamilton sent me a link to a workshop held earlier this year at Manchester Metropolitan University called Connecting Art & Anthropology.

Because I'm writing about connections between critical cultural studies and art in the development of pervasive computing and locative media, I was excited to see Amanda Ravetz draw out some of the affinities and discomforts between two practices dedicated to defining culture:

"A consistent issue for contemporary art practice has involved negotiating the borders between ‘life’ and ‘art’ that originated in part from Kant’s idea of a distinct realm of aesthetic human judgement. Anthropologists on the other hand are trained to approach each aspect of sociality in relation to a wider context. The western conception of art – as something transcendent and external to everyday life – is understood by anthropology as socially and historically contingent. However, the line that separates these two positions is neither stable nor neutral... "

Even closer to my interests, Pavel Büchler hints at "particular issues for the recent forms of artistic practice that seek a close critical participation in the social, for the validation of their results, for their sense of purpose, integrity and legitimacy, for the ways in which they conceptualise and reflect on their own condition and so on" - and perfectly sums up my own academic concerns about art:

"When anthropologists are interested in art, they are interested in what art can make of life. When they ask ‘What is art?’, they want to know what life is - or, more accurately, how life is lived, experienced and expressed. And when they enquire about what it is that artists do, they want to find out how their diverse creative pursuits are shaped by the specific cultural and social relations and practices which, at any given moment, make both art and life what they are."

And as if that's not enough, the Connecting Art & Anthropology website contains all the documentation for how 14 workshop participants responded to this intriguing brief.

Anyway - good stuff and lots to mull over as I continue writing!

* To learn why I prefer the term "research artist" to "artist researcher" you'll have to wait for the paper.

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