Sunday, 31 January 2016
Want Your Children to Survive The Future? Send Them to Art School
Can you imagine a world in which most jobs are obsolete?
If not, you are most likely in for a rude awakening in the coming decades of radical shifts in employment. This is particularly true for new parents propelling the next generation of workers into an adulthood that many economists and futurists predict to be the first ever “post-work” society.
Though the idea of a jobless world may seem radical, the prediction is based on the natural trajectory of ‘creative destruction’ — that classic economic principle by which established industries are decimated when made irrelevant by new technologies.
When was the last time you picked up the hot new single from your local sheet music store? Many moons ago sheet music was the music industry, with the only available means of hearing pop songs being to have a musician read and perform them. This quickly eroded with the advent of the phonograph, leading to a record industry that dominated the last century and is now itself eroding due to the explosive growth of independent online publishing.
It’s hard to justify using a massive workforce of recording engineers, media manufacturers, distributors, and talent scouts to accomplish a task that a musician can now do by herself in an afternoon with just a laptop. The same goes for the millions of skilled labor and manufacturing jobs that will soon be crumpled by 3D printing technology, the thousands of retailers whose staff and storefronts can readily be supplanted by automated delivery systems, or the dwindling hospitality and transportation industries currently being pecked away by app-based sharing services like Airbnb and Uber.
Never heard of 3D printing, ridesharing, or “post-work” theory? That’s okay; you can just Google them. In fact, thanks to Google we may now add the very concept of knowledge itself to our growing list of no-longer-scarce resources. When anyone can access the world’s greatest library from their cellphone, even the long-revered skill of knowing things loses its marketability.
The Art School Solution
Photo by Jeff White, courtesy of Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment
If preparing your kids for a world in which hard-working, knowledgeable people are unemployable frightens you then I have some good news. There is a solution, and it doesn’t involve tired, useless attempts at suppressing technology. Like most good solutions it requires a trait that is distinctly human.
I’m speaking about Creativity.
Send your kids to art school. Heavily invest time and resources into their creative literacy. Do these things and they will stand a chance at finding work and or fulfillment in a future where other human abilities become irrelevant.
Any adult reading this at the time of publication came of age in an era when parents urged children to learn a subject that would funnel straight into a specific career field. Even those parents who encouraged their children’s creative dreams did so with an addendum that we should also consider getting a degree in a practical field that “you can always fall back on if sculpture/philosophy/theater/poetry doesn’t work out”. No doubt this protective instinct was a smart one considering the reality of our youth. An arts education might promise a life of self-discovery but there has always been reasonably assured financial stability in the high-demand arenas of science, education, skilled trades, governments, etc. Surely that dynamic won’t last much longer as more and more physical and mental human tasks are commandeered by machines and software.
Photo courtesy of Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment
I don’t say this to dismiss the importance of any field of study. A world without scientists or doctors or teachers would be just as broken as a world with no artists. Without programmers and engineers the very technologies that make life efficient would quickly disappear. But with the abundance of information and tools freely accessible online to a generation of youngsters equipped with computers from toddlerhood, it’s safe to assume that those who want to maintain current technology have few obstacles in learning how to do so — No degree required. The same goes for any pragmatic skill.
The arts, however, are a polar opposite to pragmatism. Cameras have long exceeded our ability to realistically and efficiently render images, but still our love of painting remains to this day. By now we know that the value of a great painting isn’t in its accuracy at rendering a view but in the artist’s unique capacity to convey a viewpoint. Even those uninterested in “fine” art are driven to make purely aesthetic decisions on practical matters such as clothing, shelter, and transportation. Our willingness to pay extra for beautiful clothes, inviting homes, and sleek cars is motivated not by functionality but by emotionality.
Photo courtesy of Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment
It’s inherently human to want the objects in our lives to communicate feelings and ideas to us and about us. The constant searching for and assignment of meaning dwells in everyone, but the artist is the person who exercises this muscle regularly enough to control it. The person with creative literacy — a basic understanding of the mental, emotional, and sociological tools used for creative thought and communication — is able to find purpose and apply meaning to her world rather than having meaning handed down and purpose assigned to her. The painting student completes his senior thesis exhibit with a head full of many more lessons than just how to paint. He’s now equipped with an ability to see problems, connections, and solutions where others see only a blank surface. I assure you this ability is not limited to the canvas.
Photo Courtesy of Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment
I’m not saying anything new here. These qualities of a liberal arts education have been expounded by its proprietors for ages, but with major industries quickly running out of a need for worker bees it’s becoming clearer by the day that our professors were right.
In fact it’s somewhat amazing that this idea was ever in question. Humanity’s highest-paid workers have always been those who as a result of their innovations created opportunity for others to work.
There’s a reason Steve Jobs became a billionaire, and it’s not because he could program computers.
Of course history is also filled with countless stories of equally creative figures lost in the systemic grind of working for the Steve Jobs’s of the world. We’ve all known brilliant people, seemingly not made for our time, whose potential was crushed by dead end jobs after their work was rejected by the film/music/publishing/anything industries. The excuse of being ahead of one’s time can no longer apply though. We live in an age where a person speaking into a webcam can collectively raise hundreds of thousands of dollars just by telling people about a good idea. The gatekeepers are gone and they are not coming back. Our only remaining obstacle can be lack of good ideas.
It’s time for a revolution in education that reflects our new reality and gives students the necessary tools to survive it. Technological advancements will always outpace the offerings of the traditional classroom, making it entirely purposeless to force memorization of knowledge that may become irrelevant before children even graduate. Instead we should hone the skill that best ensures adaptability and resourcefulness during times of constant change.
It’s time for the creative classroom.
But what about STEM?
Does this revolution require us to toss out math or science or history? Does my ideal future classroom wedge would-be physicists into an endless curriculum of figure drawing classes?
Let children pursue their own interests and they will find their way to all areas of study as part of the exploratory process. Let the child who is in love with fire trucks continue to obsess over fire trucks. With proper guidance he will soon find himself learning civics, engineering, history, physics, chemistry, sociology, economics, and everything in between — all of his questions fueled by a simple aesthetic attachment to the pretty red fire truck.
No healthy child is born without an innate sense of wonder about their world. However, this childhood compulsion to explore is a bud quickly snipped by adults conditioned to fear the unknown. The tradition of discouraging unusual questions and behavior in children is so pervasive that we have come to view those who survive with their creativity intact as having a “gift”. What is more absurd is our amazement at the correlation of great artists and mental illness, as if the battle for self-expression which artists so tenaciously endure has no causal link to their psychic well-being.
Photo Courtesy of Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment
The change that will secure your children’s safe passage through the future comes when we strip creativity of its mysterious, unearthly status. Artists are not magical geniuses. We are simply people who were either privileged enough or stubborn enough to hold onto something that every living person is “gifted” at birth. Assume that your children have limitless creative potential and begin to nurture it. Assume that your children’s ingenuity is the one true safety net available in times of rapid change. Send your kids to art school and they will have exactly what they need to become anything they might need to be.
I speak from experience.
Photo by Eric Schultz, Huntsville Times
Dustin Timbrook is an artist in Huntsvill
Friday, 29 January 2016
The reason for this is that I have had to direct my attention away from the studio and focus on writing my Master of Fine Art dissertation which had to be submitted today.
The dissertation has been a huge challenge, but I have found it to be of great value to my practice.
I chose to write about playfulness in contemporary art, and identified three ways in which play can be said to exist within art, namely: the form of the artwork; the process of making the artwork and the way in which the audience experiences the artwork.
These key aspects were the focus of three contemporary practice case studies. Comparisons and contrasts were made between sculptor Phyllida Barlow, collaborative duo Zoë Walker and Neil Bromwich, and Carsten Höller.
I identified how play relates to the artwork they make; the processes they engage in when making work and how the audience interacts with the work.
My experience of going to see their exhibitions, and in the case of Walker and Bromwich, being involved in one of their artworks informed the inquiry which was aided by an examination of secondary research.
I intend to make the dissertation available on my website at some point but, in the meanwhile, if you would like to read my dissertation, please do not hesitate to contact me.
My email address is helen.shaddock(at)yahoo.co.uk
Monday, 25 January 2016
It's all wrapped up, with step-by-step installation instructions and spare parts in case of emergency.
The exhibition runs 22 February – 19 March
'The 2016 MA & Other Post Graduates show promises to be as exciting and diverse as in previous years, with artists having been selected from 10 of the top art universities around the country. A celebration of contemporary art, this exhibition provides the public with a unique opportunity to see current work in painting, photography, design, printmaking and sculpture.'
For more information visit https://atkinsongallery.co.uk
Sunday, 24 January 2016
Raising the Bar from EJ Hill on Vimeo.
Saturday, 23 January 2016
This film tells the story of itinerant circus performers, cabaret acts and vaudeville and fairground attractions. Rarities and never-before-seen footage of fairgrounds, circus entertainment, freak shows, variety performances, music hall and seaside entertainment are chronicled from the 19th and 20th centuries. Featuring early shows that wowed the world and home movies of some of the greatest circus families.
Thursday, 21 January 2016
Today I met with the five other students from Newcastle University that have been selected to present work. After discussing some practical issues with Neil and Zoe, we tested out some ideas in relation to my proposal. This work is performance based, and involves multiple performers. It was great to have a group of people willing to work with me to try out different ideas. I am excited about working in this way with each other to help foster a supportive critical network, and am looking forward to our session next week.
Here we are making different balancing poses in pairs.
Wednesday, 20 January 2016
Darbyshire’s work critically examines the language of design, sculpture and our relationship to lived environments. The artist explores the concept of collecting, not only in terms of an institutional critique, but also the way we amass objects for the home, shop or office and what these objects say about us. These ideas are explored in Darbyshire’s work that gives the exhibition its title, An Exhibition for Modern Living (2011). A highlight of British Art Show 7, this work is inspired by the landmark 1949 exhibition of the same name at the Detroit Institute of Arts. The 1949 exhibition collected the best of modern ‘design for living’ in the context of the rapidly changing society of post-Second World War America. The show set an example of how design could be made available for the masses and achieved legendary status due to the site-specific custom room installations. At Manchester Art Gallery, Darbyshire will present a contemporary equivalent that is somewhat more anxious than the 1949 exhibition, presenting an environment packed with objects varying from valuable collectors’ pieces and handmade sculptures to readily available high street items. The work succinctly questions the political and economic agendas that inform our taste and value judgements today.
While the work An Exhibition for Modern Living examines the nature of how and why individuals collect, Oak Effect (2012) addresses how museums and galleries acquire artworks. For this piece, Darbyshire displays original wooden objects in a room made from contemporary pieces of flat-pack furniture. The artist has re-worked this installation with curators and conservators at the gallery to present a diverse range of hand-made artefacts fashioned from natural wood from the city’s collections, challenging us to think about the provenance and display of our collections in a very different way.
More recently, Darbyshire has begun to explore industrial prototyping and 3D digital printing to create sculptures using pristine white polystyrene for his Bureau series (2014). The artist has subsequently built on this research and techniques developed to recreate classical and contemporary sculptural forms from layers of hand-cut, multi-coloured polycarbonate as part of a series entitled CAPTCHA. Two sculptures have been created specifically for the exhibition as part of this series, which will be positioned in Manchester Art Gallery’s impressive Doric entrance hall.Doryphoros and Dyson will take the place of traditional bronze and marble figurative sculpture on either side of the grand stone staircase, set against the backdrop of casts from the Parthenon frieze given by George IV to decorate Manchester’s very own temple to culture."
Sunday, 17 January 2016
Meticulous structures made from food wrappers, plastic carrier bags, shoelaces, locks, mop handles, takeaway trays, mesh bags and wooden blocks all, in some way, refer back to the human essentials of food, shelter and clothing. Highlighting the overlooked, never allowing the visitor to lose sight of what the pieces are made of, and how they are put together, Wurtz’s works succeed in channelling the many possibilities of these everyday materials."
Prior to visiting this exhibition I was not familiar with the work of B.Wurtz, and somehow this made the exhibition even more enjoyable. However, I must admit that, feeling a bit frustrated, I couldn't help thinking "if only I had done that!"
Despite the serious, considered and formal quality of the work, Wurtz uses materials in a playful manner, altering their function, and changing the context in which they usually are found.
Wurtz executes his ideas with rigour and commitment. In order for this work to have the impact that it does, it was important that he filled the space and used such a range of aluminium trays. It is through the mass that we appreciate the uniqueness of each individual item.
Ordinary objects and materials are given significance through their formal compositions.
Balance - Fragility - Precision - Instability - Elegance
Thursday, 14 January 2016
Having been told to plan for 20% or 40% cuts, the arts are breathing a collective sigh of relief after the chancellor George Osborne’s Spending Review and Autumn Statement on Wednesday.
Had a 40% cut been implemented, Arts Council England’s budget would have been decimated to just £186m, compared to £453m in the final year of the Labour government and £325m at the end of the coalition.
In an unexpected move, Arts Council England were not only spared but promised a modest increase in cash (£10million per annum). National galleries and museums will also see increased budgets and free entry will be protected.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport will still receive cuts of 20% to be targeted at its core administration budget (yet to be specified) and further cuts to local authority budgets of £6.1bn by 2019-20 will complicate matters.
If Arts Council England and National Portfolio Organisations have come out relatively unscathed, the picture is not so rosy for those at the bottom of the food chain.
While many artists, who are largely self-employed and low-paid, will be celebrating the u-turn on changes to tax-credits, concerns about the introduction of Universal Credit remain. In a joint statement released ahead of the spending review, the Scottish Artists Union (SAU) and Artists’ Union England (AUE) said: “We believe that the stringent enforcement conditions of Universal Credit will result in far greater hardship and debt for artists and makers in receipt of top-up benefits.”
The new conditions include a minimum level of assumed earnings based on hours worked and the minimum wage.Claimants are also required to submit monthly accounts, which is inconsistent with the variable frequency of artists’ paid work opportunities and the often lump-sum nature of their payments.
The deterioration of creative education in schools is another concern for the sector. While Osborne promised increased funding to attract new teachers, this will be largely aimed at STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) to help implement plans for an English Baccalaureate (EBacc).
The EBacc requires pupils to study a minimum of seven GCSEs, but includes no creative subjects; risking art, dance, design, drama, music and other creative subjects disappearing from children’s education altogether. The Bacc for the future campaign aims to challenge plans for the EBacc, which risks eroding access to the arts for young people, increasing inequality of opportunity when it comes to experiencing culture and further diminishing entryways to working in the arts.
For those just embarking on their careers, changes to student loan repayments and housing benefit caps will add to the difficulties faced by artists when trying to establish their practices.
All of this will negatively impact on the lack of diversity that already characterises the arts. The findings of the recent Panic!survey into social mobility in the sector confirmed that class, gender and ethnicity still have a major influence on a person’s ability to enter, progress and succeed in the arts.
The survey revealed that it is becoming increasingly difficult for those without other means of financial support to break into the sector, with young people from less well-off backgrounds being at a particular disadvantage. This inequality inevitably results in the production of cultural forms that are mainly reflective of a small, and privileged, spectrum of human experience. The majority of people remain excluded both from arts production and consumption.
Greet with caution
So although on the face of it positive for the top rung of the arts, Osborne’s announcement should be greeted with caution. Not least because it has been based on a dramatic reassessment of economic forecasts by the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR), which landed Osborne a windfall of £27billion in time for his announcements.
His proposed budget allows no room for error on predictions wildly different to those made just five months ago. From an organisation without a great success rate in accurate forecasts this throws considerable doubt on the deliverability of Osborne’s promises.
However, it is good news that the chancellor acknowledged the economic benefits that the arts bring to Britain, commenting that a quarter of a £1trillion added to the economy from a £1billion investment was ‘not a bad return’. He went as far to say that “deep cuts in the small budget of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport are a false economy” – a point the sector has been arguing since 2010.
It is important that the sector now galvanises around these remarks, not just to hold Osborne to account in the event of adjustments to this budget impacting on the arts, but to begin to make bolder demands for increased funding. The Show Culture Some Love campaign supports the case for greater investment in arts and culture. Its main aims are to campaign for an end to the cuts in arts budgets caused by the pro-austerity policies of the current government and to make the case for increased investment.
Paying Artists campaign
The Paying Artists campaign aims to secure payment for artists who exhibit in publicly-funded galleries. We believe paying artists for the work they do will mean that, in years to come, we’ll still be able to access quality art that reflects the broadest possible spectrum of human experience.
Whether you’re an artist, curator, gallery visitor, art student, policy maker or run a gallery, sign up to the campaign. You can join the debate by following @AIR_artists and using the hashtag #payingartists.
SAU / AUE on Universal Credit
A campaign has been launched by Scottish and English artists’ unions, with the aim of helping freelance and self-employed workers who will be affected by changes to the taxation and benefits system through the introduction of Universal Credit.
Supporters of the campaign can get involved by doing a number of things. This includes: downloading the campaign statement and forwarding to local MPs; arranging a meeting with your MP; and asking your MP to take the issue to the Department for Work & Pensions.
Bacc for the future
The Bacc for the future campaign aims to challenge the implementation of the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) which currently includes no creative subjects and is expected to be undertaken by at least 90% of pupils.
As an individual, you can support the campaign by signing the petition and spread the word by telling your colleagues, friends and family as well as through social media using the hash tag #baccforthefuture.
Show Culture Some Love
The Show Culture Some Love campaign believes there is a powerful case against austerity and supports the case for greater investment in arts and culture.
You can support the campaign and their 6 pledges by liking the facebook page and inviting your friends to join, as well as following them on twitter.
Monday, 11 January 2016
|Jilly, Karen, Helen and Niki|
After briefly meeting choreographer Martin Joyce, dancers Alex and Emma, and the Creative Learning Producer, Laura, we spent the morning doing various exercises with Laura.
She took us to the Ancient Greek Collection and we viewed the specific vessel that would be the main focus of our dance.
One of the first group activities was for one of us to stand in the middle of a circle and make a pose. Then one of the other participants had to make three changes to the pose that they thought would make. We repeated this so everyone got a turn at making the changes and being in the middle.
Another exercise was to work in pairs, and mirror each others actions. We were not allowed to speak to the each other to say who was leading, and so had to watch closely. At times it was very difficult to work out who was leading and who was following.
Thinking about the vessel in the collection, we had to think of words to describe how it looked, felt, tasted and smelled. We then devised short dance routines that in relation to these words.
|Evidence of me dancing!|
We then went back to the dance room to discuss words that summed up the vessel, and then, in pairs, developed a sequence consisting of 3 static poses and transitions between them. Throughout the sequence we had to maintain some form of physical connection to each other.
The day ended with the dancers doing the full dance to the members of the public.
The whole day was a totally unique experience and it made me appreciate the collection in a way I would otherwise have not been able to.
Thank you ladies!
Friday, 8 January 2016
From London’s looping Orbit slide to a giant Czech mountain ride, art is becoming a theme park for the selfie generation
"I went sliding on a mountain in the holidays. In mud. My family and I set out for a gentle Christmas walk in Wales that became an unplanned mudbath after we climbed a rocky riverbed in search of fossils and ended up stranded and soaking on a steep mountainside. We were trying to pull ourselves up by tree trunks but kept sliding down again and again as the sun started to set.
A new attraction in the Czech Republic offers a similar experience – but one that is planned and safely designed and won’t leave you covered in mud. The Dolní Morava Skywalk on the Králický Sněžník mountain includes a giant slide that’s clearly inspired by the artist Carsten Höller. Not only can you see spectacular vistas of the surrounding peaks while making your way nervously along a glass-bottomed skywalk, but you can slide in the sky.
If in doubt, install an art slide. From the Czech mountains to Stratford, slides are now defined as both fun and cultural. Art is turning into play, and play now seen as a noble cultural goal for adults as well as children.
But the rise of the art slide (last summer also saw Höller’s creations turn the South Bank into a funfair) shows how some of our deepest cultural values are changing. High art has always been an introspective affair, from looking silently at paintings in a museum to sitting quietly to listen to a symphony. It is about contemplation and absorption. Two people can read the same book and talk about it afterwards, but the act of reading will still be a solitary experience.
Today, we seem to fear such solitude. Art slides are typical of the age of oversharing. It’s not enough to look quietly at art. We need to slide on it, climb over it or talk to it, then share selfies of the experience with as many online friends as possible. The privacy or shared tranquility of artistic contemplation is being trashed by an age that can’t stand being alone.
Going into nature for real, or sitting in the Rothko room at Tate Modern, are the kinds of cultural adventures that take us to new planes and new places. They can be shared, but mustn’t be overshared. When all our most intense experiences are reduced to art slides and skywalk selfies, I’d rather be lost in the woods."
Tuesday, 5 January 2016
"Considering universal themes of life, death, love and spirituality, Viola gives tangible visual form to abstract psychological and metaphysical experiences. He explores facets of the human condition and holds a stark and intimate mirror to our strength, fragility, and the impulses and inevitabilities that unite us. The eight works installed in the Underground Gallery continue Viola’s investigations of the unseeable, the unknowable, and the place between birth and death."
The exhibition features new and old work, and is dominated by works involving water.
As with The Trial, other works have an element of duality, for example, The Innocents (2007) consists of one screen showing a figure moving away from the camera, and the other showing a figure moving towards the camera. As the figure walks into the cascade of water, the image turns from its grainy black and white state into high definition colour. Similarly, as the figure moves out of the water, the image quality reverses.
It is hard not to be impressed with the immensely clear and rich footage within all of the works. Man Searching for Immortality / Woman Searching for Eternity (2013) is a life-sized video diptych of the naked elderly man and woman projected onto two separate slabs of black granite that are leant against the wall of the gallery. This is video as sculpture. The detail is immaculate, with every wrinkle visible. Viola deals with the content with honesty, and in no way do the performers seem unnatural or staged.
It is rare that I visit an exhibition consisting purely of video installations, yet alone that I am captivated by each and every one of them enough to watch each for its full duration. Bill Viola's exhibition at Yorkshire Sculpture Park is the exception to the rule, and I enjoyed every minute of it.
Sunday, 3 January 2016