Editorial – RT62

Artists reflect on their education

The articles on training in dance, sound art, theatre, film (animation), performance and new media art in our education feature are based on interviews with artists who graduated in the last 3 to 7 years. Already some of the courses they completed have changed substantially, others not. However, discrete new media art and especially sound art courses had barely begun in this period. It’s not surprising then to find that the articles about sound art and new media art are largely about visual art school experiences.

That a considerable number of new media and sound artists have emerged from art schools says something about the way in the 1990s those schools were responding to and even initiating changes in the art world around them. For that reason, these articles should be read in conjunction with the spirited appraisal by Su Baker (Head, School of Art, Victorian College of the Arts) of students and their relationships with art schools. Given the assumptions of some critics that students are being duped and that Australian art is therefore in a sorry state, it’s heartening to read former students reflecting on the many advantages, challenges and occasional conflicts in their training. Access to equipment, the importance of theory and multidisciplinary skilling, the significance of mentoring (formal or informal) and the introductions to invaluable networks all rate highly in their assessment of their education.

What is also regarded highly is a certain flexibility, the need sometimes for the student artist to change direction and for courses to be responsive. A number of the interviewed artists found their professional careers by circuitous means or sudden shifts of interest. Some worry that in the age of the pragmatic approach “targeting and attempting to second guess ‘industry’ may perhaps backfire, producing a glut of artists doing what is already being done, instead of producing artists who can provide new ideas and ways of thinking” (p34).

There is a difference between training students in terms of industry and the university entering a relationship with industry. In her article on music education, Helen Lancaster, while appreciating the career opportunities that are expanding beyond performance and composition for graduates, writes that “there is still little evidence of effective collaboration between institutions and industries. Few universities take seriously their potential to assist graduate placement.” She also reports that, unlike their UK counterparts “Australian institutions are not required to maintain a long-term professional profile of their graduates—and they don’t.” What she does applaud in a number of courses is “the trend toward collaborative practice offer[ing] access to a wider range of opportunities, encouraging students to become responsible for their own learning, a positive quality for musicians who must build their own careers.” It is that sense of independence which is most often felt when the artists in this edition reflect on the impact of their education. One factor that might have a negative impact in this respect is the problem growing around teacher-student ratios.

The arts, ecologically

My thanks to those of you who responded to my article on the problematic relationship between the ABC and the arts community and, more particularly, on developing a new way of thinking about the arts, one not predicated on the prevailing business model. There’ll be more about this in RealTime 63 with a report on the forthcoming seminar “Culture and creativity in Australia: the role of arts and cultural organisations in innovation in the arts.” This is to be held on August 27 at the University of Technology Sydney and is organised by UTS (Writing Centre and Transforming Cultures Centre) and Currency House.

Innovation and the arts

RealTime 63 will focus on innovation in new media arts and hybrid performance. The term ‘innovation’ is increasingly deployed as a claim for significance, it’s a common criterion for arts funding and part of the justification for the arts-science-industry nexus. What does innovation mean, when does it happen, in what kind of work and who are the innovators?

RealTime-BEAP

A RealTime writing team will be responding to the exhibitions and conferences in the 2004 Biennial of Electronic Arts Perth, September 7-12. Log on to our website for daily coverage of the event. KG

RealTime issue #62 Aug-Sept 2004 pg. 3

© Keith Gallasch; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 August 2004