By definition ‘Student’ is any person who studies , investigates or examines thoughtfully.[i] It can not be denied that these are some activities that the Artist is always engaged in. In the evolution of academic model of teaching, in art school context from Academy to Bauhaus and now post-Bauhaus, the emphasis and assumptions have gradually changed. The Academy’s emphasis on the classification of fine art according to métier was replaced by the notion of medium in modern art and Bauhaus.[ii] The idea of métier entailed the limitation of artistic activity within the pre-existing traditions and historically established definitions of art where as the concept of ‘medium’ was based on questioning those very conventions. Thierry De Duve argues in his essay ‘When Form has become attitude’ that in a post-modern scenario ‘the teaching of art no longer rests on an aesthetic commitment to the specificity of the medium’[iii]as he claims that in a post-modern scenario the centrality of métier and medium has been replaced by ‘practice’. The term practice alters the understanding of artistic activity as the emphasis is placed on the larger social context rather that the technicalities behind the artistic production. From such information it might seem that the central concern in art school teaching has been gradually shifting from nurturing ‘talent’ to catalyzing ‘creativity’ where the marker of talent is based on the excellence in imitation and in case of creativity it is excellence in invention.
From my personal experience I feel that instead of pigeonholing into mutually exclusive binaries of student vs artist an inclusive model might prove to be more effective where the basic emphasis is on ‘learning’ and ‘gaining knowledge’ through consistent ‘attempts’ in individual artistic contexts devoid of concerns such as success or failure either through imitation, invention or any means necessary.
In graduate school the role of the teacher should be primarily guiding the student to become self-conscious of their practice and help them recognize their artistic voice by enhancing their sense of aesthetic judgment and critical ability. In the realm of cognitive psychology the criteria of creativity is defined as –
1.The product of thought has novelty and value for the thinker or for the culture.
2. The thinking is unconventional in modifying or rejecting previous ideas.
3. The thinking requires high motivation reflected in persistence and intensity.
4. The problem solved was initially vague and ill defined, so as to require reformulation [iv]
Thus uniqueness, value, motivation, reformulation also become significant in the qualitative evaluation of a learner’s artistic practice in graduate school. However it should be mentioned in this connection the postmodern critical theories and intellectual tools such as semiotic approach has altered the way uniqueness was conceived in modernism. Hence, considering the extremely diverse ( both theoretically and technically ) nature of contemporary art which thrives on further hybridization of hybrid entities one can not but agree with de Duve’s claim that attitude has replaced creativity in today’s learning environment.[v] Hence, the excellence of the teacher can be judged on the ability to recognize, acknowledge and magnify the aesthetic attitude of the learner.
In an undergraduate environment the initiation to art (as in the Bauhaus model of Grundkurs) by getting familiar to pre-existing conventions through strategic survey of historical conventions still seems to be relevant as without the recognition of the existing conventions it is not possible to challenge them. At the same time creativity, experimentation and innovation should also be encouraged being simultaneously cautious about the fact at an early stage of art education complete freedom from any strategic boundaries and limitations for the sake of innovation comes with the danger of boundless escapism, which can ultimately jeopardize the central concern – that is learning, gaining and growing as an art practitioner. In the undergraduate scenario achieving knowledge and specialized mastery quickly and efficiently not only enables creativity but also allows additional time for its development.
[ii] Kocur, Zoya, and Simon Leung. “When form has become attitude – and beyond.” In Theory in contemporary art since 1985. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub., 2005. 25.
[iii] Ibid, 30.
[iv] Sternberg, Robert J.. “Creativity and talent as learning.” In The Nature of creativity: contemporary psychological perspectives. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988. 341.
[v] Kocur, Zoya, and Simon Leung. “When form has become attitude – and beyond.” In Theory in contemporary art since 1985. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub., 2005. 28.