Rebecca Heaton on Art and Design Education

Investigating cognition in the creative arts.

By

To curate

What does it mean to curate? Can art, thought, cognition, concepts, learning and lived experiences all be curated? Is it the curation of these facets, in ones experience as an artist teacher, that leads to knowledge generation? I ask myself these questions after a day exploring the concept of curation with Katie Boyce from the Alfred East Gallery and artist teachers from Northampton University. img_0026

From a theoretical perspective curating means to organise concepts and actively take on the role of curator (Macdonald, 2009), I contextualise this as an artist teacher to mean the designer of your own thoughts and outputs. The role of the curator involves researching, exhibition design, selection and a responsibility to communicate thought (Haas, 2003). The curator makes links between thoughts, concepts, art and cultural contexts (Acord, 2010). So as I see it, we are all curators and creators of our own cognition, as a creator we generate thought and knowledge . As a curator we design and own the paths we formulate. I offer insight into how I managed the role of curator and creator today. 

Curating: I formulated thought today through the exposure to new and unexpected experiences whilst making connections to prior experiences I had encountered. Whilst listening to Katie and the artist teachers discussing how exhibitions were organised at the Alfred East Gallery in Kettering, I began to connect threads of thought from a number of recent experiences I have had myself as an artist teacher. These threads interconnected to help me build knowledge.

For example, Katie shared how the recent exhibition, hosted by the Alfred East Gallery, Collection Connections (see images below) used links between the range of artists on show to map out relationships, histories and personal stories. The links were portrayed visually using colours to generate maps, in a similar way to the London tube map, it was this notion of mapping that connected with me. I reflected that I had recently posted on this blog about cognitive links and theoretical webs and theorised through my doctoral writing that experiencing and reflecting on intercultural, interdisciplinary (Bresler, 2016) and multi-directional (Stanley, 2015) pathways was one strategy which led artist teachers to generate knowledge. The value of interdisciplinary and intercultural arts based research was also reinforced in a seminar by Professor Pam Burnard @Pam Burnard I attended at Homerton College Cambridge University on Tuesday 22nd November 2016. This experience again connected with the metaphorical web of cognitive curation I was generating in my own mind to connect, consolidate and curate my own learning to ultimately build knowledge. Through the  process of connecting I had been actively curating cognition because I had been making links, as Acord (2010) stated between thoughts, concepts, art experiences and cultural contexts. 

screen-shot-2016-11-29-at-21-40-30 img_0022

Creating: As creators artist teachers can take responsibility for generating thought and knowledge. In todays experience I did this in a number of ways, I was open to the art experience I encountered influencing my own and students learning, I took a risk to invite another to assist in the pedagogical structure of the course I had designed and was willing to reflect on the experience and apply reflexivity (Grushka, 2005) to this reflection, through this blog, to identify how the learning pathways I generated led to the creation of thought. As a result todays experience impacted my own development as an artist, teacher and researcher because I learnt more about the process of curation, questioned my own pedagogy and have identified how as a researcher I curate cognition within the lived artist teacher experience I encountered today. After all “The arts move us to see what is hidden or tacit to ourselves” (Burnard et al, 2014, p.101). 

References:

Acord, S. (2010). Beyond the head: The practical work of curating contemporary art. Journal of Qualitative Sociology, 33, 447-467.

Bresler, L. (2016). Interdisciplinary, intercultural travels: mapping a spectrum of research(er) experiences. In Burnard, P. Mackinlay, E. and Powell, K. (eds) The Routledge International Handbook of Intercultural Arts Research. Chapter 29. Abingdon: Routledge.

Burnard, P. Holliday, C. Jasilek, S. Nikolova, A. (2014). Artists and higher education partnerships: A living enquiry. Education Journal, 4.3, 98-105. 

Grushka, K. (2005). Artists as reflective self‐learners and cultural communicators: an exploration of the qualitative aesthetic dimension of knowing self through reflective practice in art‐making. Reflective Practice: International and Multidisciplinary Perspectives, 6.3, 353-366. doi: 10.1080/14623940500220111

Haas, J. (2003). The changing role of the curator. Anthropology, New Series, No. 36, Curators, Collections, and Contexts: Anthropology at the Field Museum, 1893-2002, 237-242. Retrieved from: http://www.jstor.org/stable/29782683?seq=1&sid=21105716830753&uid=2134&uid=5910784&uid=2&uid=2129&uid=31173&uid=377736371&uid=3738032&uid=70&uid=3&uid=67#page_scan_tab_contents

MacDonald. C. (2009). Issues in curating contemporary art and performance. Contemporary Theatre Review, 19.2, 242-243. Retrieved from: http://www-tandfonline-com.ezproxy.northampton.ac.uk/doi/abs/10.1080/10486800902809651#.VLfiXFp4-RI

Stanley, P. (2015). Writing the PhD Journey(s): An Autoethnography of Zine-Writing, Angst, Embodiment, and Backpacker travels. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography. 44.2, 143-168.

By

Cognition in a digital artefact

In response to the workshop discussed in the recent post How does art speak to enable cognition? in which a group of trainee teachers discussed the meaning of aesthetic discourse in art education, I have created a Sway to respond to it. The Sway, which is a digital artefact, draws together fundamental thoughts from my own, students and academics perspectives on the term. In this post I will attempt to discuss how creating this digital artefact has engendered thinking around cognition. Aesthetic Discourse Sway

Digital artefacts as art forms:

As an art teacher what constitutes an art form can be a controversial issue, What is art? is an age old question which many educators have deliberated (Duncum and Bracey, 2001; Hickman, 2005; Fleming, 2012; Edwards 2014). In short the academics referred to here summarise art as a concept generated in the minds of people, that adapts over time and communicates meaning or expresses creative skill. If I relate this to the Sway created here one could suggest it is a creative form of expression in which I have shared the opinions of others, it is generated through the compilation of others ideas critically addressed in relation to my own. It is a tool of the present time, capturing multi-media content and expresses creative licence through the presentation of visual and textual forms. However, is it really art?

As Hickman and I address in The Sage Handbook of Curriculum Pedagogy and Assessment (2016), in our Chapter on Visual Art (Pages 343-358) the benefits of digital art tools are that creators can experience the cultures of others, generate new knowledge relevant to the time and diversify their practice building interdisciplinary bridges. These comments still resonate with my own practice, the digital tool Sway has enabled me to develop my own learning through engagement with a new tool, the beauty being that the tool is relevant to me as artist, teacher and researcher. I can visually present content with aesthetic control, as a teacher I can use the artefact as an interactive presentation device and as a researcher I have been able to gain feedback from those I share the outcomes of the work with. Of course this can also be achieved through more traditional artistic forms but digital artefacts can be edited multiple times with ease, shared socially in a quick time frame and can capture global commentary from others on the same platform within the same program.

Cognitive development through the creation of a digital artefact:

This particular digital artefact developed my cognition in the following ways, firstly it encouraged risk taking, I was reluctant albeit a little excited to create a piece of art on a digital program I had not encountered before. However, it was not without its small frustrations, although intuitive in terms of colour schemes I initially felt frustrated that I could not move objects around the screen with ease to reposition them in what I deemed to be more aesthetically pleasing way to the artist eye. This dilemma, enabled me to further understand how I think when engaging in art making (Sternberg and Sternberg, 2012). I intuitively expect to be able to maintain control over my own aesthetic output and when restricted build frustration. I became more consciously aware here of my own practice (Eisner, 2002) as an artist and a learner. In terms of cultural meaning (Efland, 2002) my awareness of digital presentation tools grew. I became equipped with a new tool to use in my own teaching, I like how the digital facility can bring in social media of our time, although I did not use the facility to embed tweets I can appreciate how this could be useful when presenting to my own students in future. I could generate discussion and set tasks that are relevant to live discussions taking place on social platforms, a new direction for university based academia, this tool alone will transform the way I teach. The tool also captures the movements of my mind (Sullivan 2005) particularly in relation to the format of the artwork, it utilises a scrolling technique similar to that on a blog page, allowing my thoughts to be organised and edited as they develop using multiple formats of transcognitive expression.

References:

Duncum, P. and Bracey, P. (2001). On Knowing: Art and Visual Culture. Christchurch: Canterbury University Press.

Edwards, J. (2014). Teaching Primary Art. Harlow: Pearson.

Eisner, E. (2002). The arts and the creation of mind. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Efland, A. (2002). Art and cognition. New York: Teachers College Press.

Fleming, M. (2012). The Arts in Education. Abington: Routledge.

Hickman, R. (2005). What is art? Bristol: Intellect.

Hickman, R. and Heaton, R. (2016). Visual Art. The SAGE Handbook of Curriculum, Pedagogy and Assessment. London: SAGE

Sternberg, R. Sternberg, K. (2012) Cognition. (6th ed.) Canada: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

 

By

A theoretical web

The metaphor of a web has been used by many artists. Roman Ondak used it to document those involved in performance art; each name offering a new story, Tomas Saraceno’s elastic rope installation, Galaxies Forming, intends to model how environmental, social and mental spaces collide and Jim Campbell created a web of lights at the Hayward Light Show to document exploding views of moving images (See examples below). What interests me here is the use of the same metaphor to interpret diverse artistic disciplines. When attending an EdD session at Cambridge University, hosted by Karen Littleton, yesterday evening concerning the use of theory in academic writing visualising a web enabled me to make connections in my own thinking. I felt like this was the moment I accessed my own cognition, if I related this to Suillivan’s (2005) notion of connectionism I was using the metaphor of a web to make links in my thinking. Whilst engaging in the session I also quickly began sketching ideas for installation based artwork portraying a web like structure, on reflection what I believe I was doing here was using Suillivan’s (2005) transcognitive notion of thinking in a medium to embed my own thoughts around theory in my doctoral study within my own cognition.

27_saraceno

Galaxies Forming along Filaments, like Droplads along the Strands of a Spider’s Web. 2009 Installation, elastic ropes Tomas Saraceno

_fullscreen__Campbell

Jim Campbell Exploded View (Commuters), 2011 (detail); © the artist. Image courtesy Sarah Christianson.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So what was it about the session that led me to this epiphany? Karen Littleton discussed how when writing research we need to think about how we mobilise theory, what comes to the foreground and what sits in the background? This resonated, with my thoughts around art, what does the artist choose to showcase? Why? With academic writing judged on ones contribution to knowledge it is important to identify where your theory is addressed and how this links throughout your writing, is this the same in arts based research? In writing, ways to achieve this could be through the exemplification of ideas, or by creating a golden thread of theory throughout.

Karen also identified the importance of using a theoretical lens to articulate ideas, this statement encouraged me to think about the different lenses and voices I would use to tell the research stories I am generating both artistically and in writing. Due to having a range of stories to tell the cognitive web I was visually creating in my mind and on paper began to grow. Not only are there different stories in my research there are different voices in which they can be told, creating another three dimensional component to the theoretical, cognitive and visual web I began formulating. Even within first person narrative and the pronoun (I) there can be emotional or academic responses which would portray thoughts from different lights (Davies, 2012). Within voices, as with theory being shared in research, a reader writer relationship becomes apparent. Just as an artist audience relationship is created when an artwork is interacted with, like with the artist’s works above. The web becomes an emotional, social and theoretical entity, something I would like to depict in my next artistic creation to help articulate further the cognitive connections between voices, stories and theories being shared in my academic practice.

From this theory in research session I take away a number of new thoughts to progress my academic studies:

  1. It is important to step back from your research, look at it from different angles and use different lenses to interpret the theories within it.
  2. To keep your research tight, use theory to connect it together, but keep it focused, remember the golden thread.
  3. That there can be different theoretical systems that may be illuminated as the work evolves.
  4. Most importantly to construct a theoretical dialogue.

In terms of my own cognition, I feel this session has been prolific in aiding the organisation of my own thought both for artistic and articulative purposes. I hope through this reflection I have articulated how I became aware of my own cognitive connections when thinking about theory use in academic research.

References:

Sullivan, G. (2005, 2010). Art practice as research. (1st and 2nd eds.). London: SAGE

Davies, P. (2012). ‘Me’, ‘Me’, ‘Me’: The Use of the First Person in Academic Writing and Some Reflections on Subjective Analyses of Personal Experiences. Sociology 46(4) 744–752. 

 

 

 

By

Miro: Eastfield Primary School and The University of Northampton in partnership

Joan Miro, Figures at Night Guided by the Phosphorescent Tracks of Snails, 1940Joan Miro, Morning Star, 1940

Using one artists work to stimulate creative education can lead to innovative and inspiring outcomes. Working in collaboration with Eastfield Academy Nursery on project Miro I am becoming aware of the impact of collaboration on creative learning opportunities and the need to allow children the autonomy to personalise their own learning. Exploring one artists work in depth enables you to go on a learning journey with your pupils, you can find out and research new opportunties  across all areas of education, sharing the learning experience. This concept of journeys has inspired a creative week exploring Miro where Eastfield Academy and The University of Northampton are collaborating and allowing the Nursery children to immerse themselves in Miro. The outcomes are unknown and the creative journey will be shared with parents at the end of the week. Really exciting ideas have been developed just through staff collaboration around the idea, here is a short selection of activities that will be on offer:

The use of iPads to document Miro journeys- Nursery children as video directors

Meeting Miro

Exploration of journeys through Miro’s paintings

Creative activities inspired by fantasy spaces using Miro works as a stimulus- Miro dance, drawing and installation

Action painting- rolling, bouncing, dropping and twisting balls in paint to create movement in art

The collection of found objects to create sculptures exploring shape, form, tone and colour in the work of Miro

Explore project Miro and this blog for updates on our outcomes!

By

Tate Modern: Language, Learning and Litchenstein

Sometimes we can underestimate the power of art to promote dialogue and language development. After a thought provoking day at the Tate Modern Art and Language Workshop, working with the enthusiastic multimedia artist Emma Hart my understanding of the power of art to provoke words has spiralled. The relationship between thought, words, art and interpretation is compelling; without a doubt exploring contemporary art with children could influence literary development and fuel enthusiasm and creativity.

Here are some great activities experienced on the day that you could use to engage children with works of art: the value being to make the work encountered accessible for all and to give pupils a voice!

Before and After Thoughts…

Observe the work encountered. What piece of work did the artist make prior to this one? How? Why?

What came next? Can you draw it, act it, explain it?

Word Worm…

As a group create a line encompassing the work. Each person says one word to create a sentence about the work… what meaning is evoked? Word play and power evoke your imagination.

Verb or Verbalising…

Explore how the artwork makes you feel on viewing. In pairs observe the artwork, one person writes down the verbs the other partner is vocalising to describe how they are feeling in the space. Remember to vocalise verbs that you are feeling/ encountering- trembling, questioning, sweating rather than those about the artwork. Look inwards- art may have the ability to evoke a response in us. Explore language: adjectives, similes, metaphors  and have fun!

Emma Hart and the Tate team really inspired the way that I will approach my own teaching uniting art and language highlighting how important social collaboration is in this process; so thank you also to all participants who took part and have changed my thinking.

Whaam! 1963 by Roy Lichtenstein 1923-1997

Another highlight was the Roy Litchenstein exhibition, a must see! I was blown away by the diversity and quantity of the work he created, famed for his pop art the exhibition really brought to light the vast influences from advertising (again showcasing the power of word play), movements such as Art Deco and the work of a whole range of influential artists- was Litchenstein inspired or making a statement about their testimonials? The viewer can decide….

 

Skip to toolbar