Development, research, concentration and creativity

November 3, 2014

Sofía: You suggest reviewing four essential terms: professional development, research-based practice, project iteration, and aesthetic strategies. If we change the word “aesthetic” to “creative”— i.e., “creative strategies”—these four terms could define education in almost any field. What school doesn’t promote development, research, concentration and creativity? And yet, in arts education, these terms seem to be used in opposition to their application in other disciplines. I think that if art can teach us something, it would be precisely through these contradictions.

Some thoughts on these terms: development, in the profession of any artist, in many cases implies de-professionalization, daring to make mistakes, and in turn sticking to a present problem and developing resistances, rather than making developments in order to immediately move forward. What art teaches is that development as such is neither linear nor progressive. Research is always at the base, but only in the arts (and perhaps philosophy) can it be both the beginning and end result. Research as art expands the field and allows us to play with the artificial limits between disciplines. Time and again, persistence in repeating similar forms emulates the work of the scientist; in the arts, it concretely emphasizes the importance of context and the possibility of creating multiple meanings. Something can never be the same twice.

As for creativity, I agree with Pablo Helguera’s comment in one of CPPS’s earlier debates, "Who and what is Arts Education for?” moderated by Luis Camnitzer, insofar as I also think there is a significant difference between creative activity and artistic creation, and only by being self-reflexive can creativity lead to art. That is, the distinction lies between creativity operating more as a critical tool versus creativity as the enactment of subjective expression.

Fortunately, learning through the arts is not limited to the classroom. One can learn from other artists without them being teachers in a formal sense. For example, I think that the legacy of Michael Asher, one of the most important American arts educators, can be found not only in his famous "Post-Studio" sessions, but also in his artwork. Learning in this example is thus not just for a handful of students but for the public that encounters Asher’s practice. From his work, I’ve learned that the most important thing is to assume the consequences of our actions—to recognize and share the position we as artists occupy whenever and wherever we are and whoever we are or claim to be.