Experiments in Art Making as Art Educational Method
In 2019 Chung-Ang University professor Gustav Hellberg, together with professor Silas Fong, initiated an exhibition exchange project between a selection of leading international universities. The idea was to create a project where students, who are showing extra talent and engagement, would be be given the opportunity to reach out and develop their skills. It was also meant to create an opportunity for the students to prepare an international network foundation.
The project's foundation idea was to select students who would work closely together with selected faculty members over a designated time. The leading question behind the project is whether if it is possible to combine art making with art teaching. Another aim is trying to break hierarchical educational structures, a study in who is teaching and who is learning. The project itself will further undergo an extended research work, with an intention to look into and discuss different ways of art teaching and create a platform for experiments in art education.
Each participating school chooses one or two faculty members as well as one or two students, who will work together as pairs or a group in the making of an art project to be presented at an exhibition organised by a hosting institution.
Participating institutions will host one edition each. The exhibition presented at the end of each project should be created ins such way it can attract an audience outside the institution. The exhibition event can be connected with workshops, conferences and seminars.
Chung-Ang University hosted the first project in Seoul, which ended with an exhibition at the Kunsthalle Platform-L in October 2019. Participating art colleges were: Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, Chung-Ang University, CAU, Seoul, Parsons School of Design, New York and Zurich University of the Arts, ZHdK, Zurich.
Due to the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020 the project was postponed. Zurich University of the Arts will host the 2nd Make in October 2023.
Introduction to the 2019 Event in Seoul
Make presents artworks made by established artist, who also work as art educators, and students. The works are made in an experimental setting, where the experienced artist work together with the less experienced. Make’s foundation could be understood as an academic experimentation. Its primary goal is to test different creative methods. An audience will be introduced to the process of art making at the same time as it will get a glance at what future artists are working with.
An anthology of essays, dealing with the process of making and collaborating across generational and hierarchical boundaries, is in the planning. The book will is documentary as well as catalogue of the final artworks. Parallell to the exhibition there will be public seminars and round table discussion about different approaches on art education.
In 1971 John Baldessari presented his, now iconic video work, I am Making Art. The video shows the artist standing in front of the video camera making random gestures with his arms and hands. Each time he makes a new gesture he utters: “I am making art”. It is debatable if this work was made with irony or if merely was a work that followed those theories of the late sixties and early seventies that started to define institutional theories of art*. At least I am Making Art could be considered a play with a conception that art is what the artist makes. In Baldessari’s work he is the artist and as an artist he makes art. A parallel interpretation is that his work is a celebration of art making. John Baldessari’s art constantly tends to present educational elements. His practice as both artist and teacher are tightly interwoven. It is not always the case when artists also work as educators, as the majority try to separate the two activities.
Making art and who is entitled to make art will probably be debated as long as we care for art. The art world is complex and it contains important elements that allows evasive attitudes to avoid clear cut definitions on what art is and maybe more what is good art. Art education is one of the most important gateways to the art world and thus art educational institutions operate as guarantors in making of artist. With Make – Experiments in Art Making we are trying to look at this segment of the art world. An art educational institution is a meeting point for people who want to become artists and those who are already part of it. The wannabe artists are looking for knowledge and invitations to the art world’s higher stratas, which is assumed to be bestowed by the already privileged and experienced. There are different approaches to deliver desired and required enlightenment. We are trying out collaboration as method. What happens when an established artist work closely together with non established and lesser experienced one? There are many obstacles, such as teacher-student roles and hierarchies. Some positive outcomes ought to come out of such collaborations too, what are they?
The above described collaboration between faculty of different art teaching institutions is, as described, quite pragmatic. It is a construction to create the foundation for a laboratory exercise. It also creates a testbed for collaboration in art making and another to explore if such a practice can create a beneficial situation for teaching and learning art (making). At this stage we have reached a situation where we know nothing about what direction or directions the project is going. We launched the project with very few rules. The only rules provided was that one faculty was to work together with a student in a joint project. Deadlines for the project’s ending as well as the project essays was set. The goal was to exhibit the results in a group-show, present documentation and project essay in an anthology.
To many people, academics and researchers this project is nothing but shambles of loose ends. Many would feel terrified with the prospect of being thrown out into such a chaotic and unstructured situation. To artists most would probably agree that this is what their everyday situation looks like.
The worst that can happen with Make – Experiments in Art Making is that it doesn’t discover anything new or interesting that could revolutionary art, art making or art teaching/learning. The participators will definitely learn something, if it just to admit that this time they might not have changed the world much. Certain is that all participators will have learnt something. That something we can analyse. We have to. If nothing else Make will have made us make something. That activity is crucial for art production. That’s where a project like this will make a difference. If we want art to be something more than just the copying of successful formulas we have to constantly and actively make art.
Gustav Hellberg, London, 9 September 2019
*Arthur Danto’s 1964 essay The Artworld might be the academic start of this notion, followed a decade later by George Dickie’s essay Defining Art, 1969.