I am preparing for my first lecture, for meeting a group of students being very dedicated and interested in art – but having no knowledge on the historic and theoretical dimensions of the subject, which is what I am going to introduce them to.

No textbooks on their curriculum …  all is going to be given in the seminars, and through students assignments throughout the year (most of these exercises will be related tho the students practical work).

We are in a situation James Elkins write very interesting and provocative on in his book “Why Art Cannot Be Taught”

Art schools in the contemporary sense did not arise until after WW2. They are marked by absence of almost all restrictions on kinds of courses that can be taught, and on a radical increase in students’ freedom to choose courses. … The result is a curiously free “learning environment”, in which students have a large say in what they will learn and when they will learn it. … In large art schools, any two students will be likely to have very different experiences of their first-year program, which is supposed to be the common foundation for further work.

SO: where should a lecturer start? I think we need some structure in all this freedom, I believe in knowledge, I will request some cognitive work. Individual creativity is not enough. the Norwegian word for art is kunst: which again is a german word meaning: skilled work, competence:

Kunst = Tätigkeit: capability, consisting of knowledge, excercise, preparation and imagination.

I think I need to go back in time, to a period before the total Wahlfreiheit, it will be my contribution to the new new: taking control, limiting the students freedom, contend that knowledge is hard work, a work the student has to be willing to take on to success – also in an art school.

Heikki Marila: Kukat XIX, 2009.

September 1. the Carnegie Art Award first prize of one million Swedish kronor, one of the world’s largest art awards, was awarded the Finnish artist Heikki Marila (b. 1966). Marila is showing an impressive series of paintings where his characteristically flowing, expressive style is channelled into contemporary versions of the symbolically-laden 17th century Dutch floral still-lifes. 

Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder, 1618

PS: I like Elkins book a lot, even if I believe him to be wrong – Art can be taught. Looking at Marilas paintings you can see that its all there:  capability, consisting of knowledge, excercise, preparation and imagination …

– being an artist … well thats something else; that is something you have to try to become every day for the rest of your life – being an artist is a process, not a position.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. LynS says:

    I hope your teaching (and the students’ learning) goes well. I’m looking forward to hearing about it via your blog.

  2. litlove says:

    What a lovely post. It used to exercise my imagination a lot with my own students – where to START? Once you’ve got something in place, some structure, some understanding, no matter how paltry, you can build on it and grow. It’s putting a few foundation stones in emptiness that seems so tricky to do. But I agree with you – these things can be taught. I often taught them, and I saw many students learn them. Yours are lucky to have a lecturer so attuned to their needs.

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