Know Brow Art
Hunting the Future in Know Brow Art by Iona Miller
HUNTING THE FUTURE
In ‘Know Brow’ Art and Ars Electronica
The Hidden Curriculum; Today’s Art and Media Technical Education;
Tomorrow’s Core Curriculum; Give Me Liberty or Give Me Art History
Iona Miller, 4/2004
“The world is but a canvas to the imagination.” ~ Henry David Thoreau
“Creativity is a type of learning process where the teacher and pupil are located in the same individual.” ~ Arthur Koestler
"Art is simply a right method of doing things. The test of the artist does not lie in the will with which he goes to work, but in the excellence of the work he produces." ~ Thomas Aquinas
“Getting swamped by new information that you have difficulty handling may predispose you to a mental disorder, but if you have high intelligence and a good working memory, you are more likely to be able to combine bits of new information in creative ways.” ~ Shelly Carson, Harvard psychologist
‘Know Brow’ art is the product of new media, ars electronica, that transcends the dichotomies of high and low brow. It implies the knowledge, attitudes and skill sets necessary to produce art with highly technical processes, but also the visionary capacity to see multiple layers of meaning through direct experience. This knowing is a discovery process, a seeking, a gnosis that cuts a path through the mindscape of the ‘now’ toward the future that remains perpetually undefined.
We commune with the past to inform our present, not just as a homage, but to gain initiation to that transtemporal way of knowing and honoring our cultural roots. Defining the ‘hidden curriculum’ makes a strong statement about the missing element in art education, and the silent blocks in the system to its fulfillment. Institutions have been just as remiss in honoring the future, the rightful place of digital fine art, as they have been in passing on the legacy of the past.
‘Know brow’ art, as a movement, encourages the active, constructivist acquisition of artistic knowledge and openness to new forms and media, as well as technical capacities. We want to inspire more than digital “factory workers” or proficient craftspeople.
We want to enable the student to make, shape or organize with a telos, a meaningful purpose that has deep psychic rootedness: one who invents, not adopts; who shapes not copys; who builds not assembles; who is capable not merely competent; who is efficacious not just efficient; who experiments not just conceptualizes. There is a bliss that comes from within one that energizes the human desire to enact, to enable, to engage, to outwork it, i.e. to transform oneself and the world (bizarre and grandiose as this may sound).
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The Hidden Curriculum in Art Education
Today’s fine arts, graphics, or multimedia artist is likely to be very technically proficient in his specialty but unlikely to have a fluent working knowledge of the history of art. Why? Because it is hardly taught taught in art school beyond simple art appreciation. Why? Because the pressures of an already highly technical and crowded curriculum leave no room.
As a by-product of neglecting the past, a general art education also does nothing to emphasize the obvious importance of the future -- new modalities, such as digital fine art, computer generated imagery, or interactive media. This attitude needs to be inculcated and reinforced in artists, curators, and directors. Artists will use more and more technology as time goes on, though traditional media will always have their aficionados. We need to be both pro- and post-active about our active experimentation: thinking, designing, doing, and reflecting.
Soon we will have Virtual Reality installations with interactive full immersion experiences and simulations that rival so-called “real life.” The next century will see electronic artistic possibilities we can’t even imagine. But is the art world, with its biases and prejudices ready to embrace such interactive art? Is its importance being reinforced anywhere in the system? Is there any historical precedent for such a quantum leap in the content and delivery of an artistic expression?
In terms of art history or appreciation, what more do we need to know than that most of the artistic genius seems to have been born in Italy? Plenty! We need to hunt the rest of the story. We need to 1). define the Hidden Curriculum, 2). Discuss how it affects learning and creativity, and the acceptance of digital art forms, 3). Describe how to find it, 4). Provide an example of how we are addressing it in the educational setting, particularly in highly technical artforms, such as new media.
Educational events are complex with many variables and dynamic changes, dependent on their context. Each educational opportunity is different whether structured or self-taught. For learning and applying any new knowledge, attitude is much more important than the knowledge itself. We must translate knowledge into practice by also changing the attitudes that motivate the learning and application of any new knowledge.
There are three types of curricula:
1). Formal, the stated, intended, and formally offered and endorsed curriculum. This is what the system offers; what we now do.
2). Informal, unscripted, mostly ad hoc, interpersonal forms of teaching and learning.
3). Hidden curriculum, a set of influences that operate at the level of organizational structure and culture. It can perpetuate bias, create confusion with mixed messages, idealize the normative, foster relative cynicism, and create inconsistency between education and reality.
We should care about the implicit programming of our art students regarding the later discrepancy, especially as it relates to art history, because we want to: 1) communicate consistency between objectives and outcomes; 2) optimize the learning environment; 3) and, inform the process of curricular reform while documenting the outcome for efficient use of resources.
Where do students learn the things we don’t teach them, both enriching and stultifying? Where do they learn the culture of the college, university, business, organization or profession? Where do students learn other than in organized environments?
What is encouraged and discouraged or disparaged in the academic and media school setting? Art, as perhaps no other discipline, is molded by a magnetic draw from the future. It calls to the artist crying out for manifestation, often a precursor of things to come in society in general. Some artists can intuitively sense the ‘next’ moment, the next milestone of art history. Some of them become it, while others toil in obscurity.
The art education system revolves around policy decisions, student admissions, faculty recruitment and its evaluation, recognition/awards, tenure/promotion, grant awards, faculty bonuses/raises, distribution of space, institutional slang or ‘jargon’, and resource allocation. That leaves little time or incentive for funding the emotional side of artistic enrichment, which feeds creativity and creates lifelong learners and those who learn by doing, by experimenting with new forms and media.
We need to be willing and able to step back and assess just what messages are being created by and within the very structures we have developed and are responsible for. Once we find the areas that are blocking the total educational process, we can 1). Do nothing. 2). Change our practices, procedures, environments, rules, etc. 3). Start over from scratch. 4). Or, embrace the Hidden Curriculum, becoming aware of outdated attitudes and prejudices that limit our palettes.
In the world of art, this hidden curriculum is embedded in the entire history of art and all that it can tell us about fostering (and discouraging) the creative process. The Academies have always been resistant to new modalities and struggled actively against them, refusing to even show work that did not conform. Academic art is a term applied to any kind of art that stresses the use of accepted rules for technique and form organization. It represents the exact opposite of the creative approach, which results in a vital, individualistic style of expression.
The old guard in all institutions has a vested interest they jealously guard. Change and revolution for them means their reign has come to an end, so they are resistant to new ideas, including the authenticity of new media such as ars electronica.
Today’s Art and Media Technical Education
We can examine the full range of influences, restructure the learning environment instead of just modifying the curricula, create opportunities for reflection, seek non-traditional students and teachers, focusing on the teachers in addition to the students. The three areas affected by the hidden curriculum are attitudes, knowledge, and skills. All directly affect execution, beginning with inspiration and passion informed by a deep understanding of the artistic heritage, and crowned by state-of-the-art technical virtuosity.
We should try to define what we are changing, why we are changing it, and with what intended outcome, anticipating and modifying unintended consequences. For example, an unforeseen consequence of the electronic art revolution is a generation of technically proficient but uninspired practitioners and amateurs. It seems anyone with a Photoshop program can now consider himself or herself “an artist,” but then it is not necessarily for them to say. There is art that hangs on the refrigerator and art that hangs in the Louvre.
The hidden curriculum affects teaching and learning; it can be identified and addressed in your own educational environment. Institutions have a responsibility to facilitate students not only in critical thinking skills and artistic technique, but in the ability to be self normative and self reflecting, to be aware of the distinctions between self and the roles one occupies in the realm of art, and how structural factors, social situations and cultural contexts affect their work.
Tomorrow’s Core Curriculum
The whole culture of art is due for a revolution in electronic arts; it has already begun. Content refers to the sensory, subjective, psychological, or emotional properties we feel in a work of art, as opposed to our perception of its descriptive aspects alone. The content of art, the expression, essential meaning, significance, or aesthetic value of a work of art, may remain the same, but the means of execution and delivery will shortly be unbound.
Culture is a set of learned ways of thinking and acting that characterizes a decision-making human group. A progressive curriculum should include core values of lifelong learning, not so much in the content of formal lectures, but as a recognized and cultivated core facet of the artistic personality, fostering changes from the inside out.
If the system is flawed, the system should be examined and overhauled. We need to teach aesthetics (a compound of the philosophy, psychology, and sociology of art having to do with the nature of beauty and its relation to human beings) and motivation as inspiration flows forth from there.
More than passive, active or experimental learning, our ethos should be attitudinal and aspirational, as well as inspirational. We want deliberate, participative, effective artificers, not simply dreamers or designers. Intentionality combines all three with good personal business sense. Practical knowledge leads to deliberation, disclosure, collaboration, implementation.
To produce well-rounded artists, not just conventional craftspeople, a holistic educational system might include the following critical design dimensions: inner/outer; left/right brain; horizontal/vertical; intentional/futures; small/big picture; design/enactional; efficacious; performative (Wildman, 2003). We need to provide the tools for constantly reformulating both our Personal Achievement Plans and Business Achievement Plans, as both are essential to artistic success in today’s competitive markets, especially in the area of intense active experimentation.
1. Lifestyle: [inner/outer balance dimension] (intension--vertical, consciousness; extension, breadth, application) Bringing the Personal Achievement Plan and Business Achievement Plan together.
2. Self-Awareness: Knowing what is inside oneself, i.e. who you are and what makes you pump. Authenticity, calling, integrity, and ethicality. Personal Achievement Plan. [Living from ones Core].
3. Worldliness: Knowing what is out there. Sophisticated or cosmopolitan understanding of the diverse world we live in both empirically, what is out there, as well as ecologically and morally; how we should then live Political savvy. Here one’s integrity and system ethicality come into play, as key priorities for action. Macrostructural awareness. Art is always political, but some is moreso. [Living for Gaia’s core]
4. Self-Systems Balance: allowing for agency while recognizing the huge influence of structures and institutionalized processes; comprehending what is within our domain to change and what is dictated by the system, (maintaining the 20/80 balance). There are characteristic ways art is produced, acquired, displayed, exhibited, recognized, and honored.
5. Pragmatism: Business focus. Self doing/artificing a Project/Enterprise focus (extension). Business Achievement Plan. Communicative action. In this dimension, it is the customer that is being produced (museum, patron, dealer, gallery, collector, audience, etc.). The dealer system is a means of sale and distribution usually from galleries. Prestigious international dealers contract artists and provide salaries in exchange for promotion and exhibitions. Its main effect is to provide art to wealthy collectors and public galleries, however a side effect is to keep artists and general public apart, and raise prices.
6. Design: for pragmatic shaping of functionality, e.g., potter rather than sculpturer (concept->design->enactment->learning->concept). This same pattern can be enacted within the art career arc time and again to redesign the career. Design is a framework or scheme of construction on which artists base the nature of their total work. In a broader sense, design may be considered synonymous with the term form.
7. Balance: between and respect for analysis and synthesis, part and pattern, Yin and Yang [Left Brain/Right Brain dimension]
8. Creativity: true originality, even if only in your original business.
9. Innovation: (organizational innovation process, continuous improvement) including social analysis, synthesis, and innovation based on complex feedback from the environment.
10. Capability focused: Attitudes, skills, knowledge; competence plus values; experience, creativity and citizenship in the art community and at large. Includes affective and effective, i.e. emotional intelligence within artificer intelligence.
11. Performative: active experimenter. Enactment capability dimension, not abstract conceptualisers, reflective observers or concrete experiencers.
12. Telos: i.e. awareness of the link between present action and the big picture, in particular, the future which is drawing us forward. Teleology relates to the study of ultimate causes/ends/designs/intent immanent in action in nature/society or of actions in relation to their ends or utility.
13. Philosophical: links to discourse of phenomenology as it relates to perception, art, image formation and production; esoteric and exoteric dimensions.
14. Poietic: productive, formative: (1) poetic; imaginative. (2) performative; intentionality a step away from self formative, i.e. autopoiesis from hermeneutics and chaos theory, self organizing also linked to fructified and efficaciousness.
15. Pangogical: artificer-learning interfaces Androgogical and Pedagogical without destroying either. Both self-teaching and formal education are encouraged. Learning happens in the complex environment.
16. Artifactual: An element of utility. The artifact may be useful in day to day life though not used that way, yet the artifact is more than technically correct or even well designed; it is imbued with wisdom. Efficacy is ‘sureness to produce’ the desired final effect. This means integration of process from the final end i.e., the user not producer. Interface integration maximizes design from the point of view of the final user and thus requires waste reduction or elimination; interactive art.
17. Informal: or third sector focused, without excluding private and public but transformative of this conventional dichotomy, i.e. art that is intimate or private yet still recognizable, rather than only idiosyncratic. Art not created for solely narcissistic (self-indulgent) or commercial purposes, but with individual as well as societal value.
We can prioritize this project sufficiently with a ‘statement of intent.’ Communicative action is about achieving through deliberation common criteria and meaning with which to direct actions in those regards. The aspects of communicative action include:
*Freedom of thought and expression that comes from moral autonomy, including nonhierarchical, non domination, communicative competency, transparency, integrity (internal constitution) and ethics (external constitution)
*Generalisable or universal applicability not just for an elite through applying the tests: “what is good for the goose and, “Do unto others.”
*Shared priority clarity.
*Individually, collectively, and organizationally role modeling the sort of world we seek to artifice.
*So in this sense, artificing a progressive curriculum includes a component of CART, Communicative Action Research Team, i.e. concept through design and deliberation to action.
We can remember that art is basically a communicative action, designed to convey (or enact) our subjective vision to another’s perceptions. There are virtually infinite ways of doing so for those whose imaginations are unbound. It was not through the search for safe or comfortable art that a work such as “A Starry Night” came about.
Give Me Liberty, or Give Me Art History
A Short Course in the Digital Revolution
Art is the most fundamental activity that characterizes modern man. Knowledge of the rich history of art adds depth to our perception, heightens awareness, and provides a sense of our place in the world. It is the foundation on which to build a relationship to the panoply of iconography, symbolism, and archetypes that art draws from continually. Art is a discipline of consciousness, whose ecology is to recycle itself.
The Postmodern era ushered in a hodge-podge of styles harking back to bygone eras. Postmodernism began in the 1970's, when the dominant styles of art - Minimalism and Conceptualism - seemed to no longer fit in a world struggling with a myriad of social problems. As a result, a plurality of styles developed. Some Post-modernists forcefully expressed a desire to do away with art that seemed to have no meaningful content, and began to turn back to figurative art and the establishment of meaning.
Other Post-modernists attempted to extend modern art in new ways by appropriating earlier styles, which they modified. Due to the sheer variety of sources and styles it is difficult to catergorize Post-modern artists with the same ease of earlier styles or movements. The post Postmodern era saw the development of new media, such as digital fine art, digital animation, multimedia, holography, computer generated imagery (CGI), interactive gaming, even virtual reality, etc., with styles all their own.
Computer enhanced images are produced with a stage of manipulation in digital language using computer software. It can be applied to other media, such as photographs or scans of traditional media, or 3-D objects. This awesome technology is used by photographers, filmmakers, the advertising industry, web designers, graphic designers and increasingly available to fine artists.
Museum quality prints can be made by the enhanced giclee or other processes. (Giclee; literally means little squirt in French. It is the latest digital printing technique enabling "print on demand". Originally it was a term used by Iris printers but rapidly became the generic term for top quality digital prints using archival quality inks on heavy weight paper or canvas.)
Suddenly, the entire history of art became fodder for a raw-image-hungry medium that gobbled up, digested, and spat out a pot pourri of historical, fantastic, and futuristic iconography in the digital vernacular. Rapid cut clips are the visual equivalent of ‘sound bites.’ We see the familiar old images, here a Michelangelo reference, a Van Gogh homage, or a Duchamp pun -- but they have become virtually meaningless in the new context, a fractal blur.
There is nothing new under the sun, the saying goes. In art, it means there is rarely anything truly innovative, and that most imagery is a rehash of previous work, in which the statement was perhaps more succinctly embodied. Virtually any work can be considered derivative or deconstructed by its critics. The exceptions are works of genius, milestones in the history of art. They foresee the future, hunting it down in the forest of kaleidoscopic potential creations.
To ignore or fail to meaningfully incorporate the broad and delicate strokes of the arc of art’s evolution over the centuries means impoverishment of the spirit. One’s artistic soul remains starved for the lavish feast that is still spread before us, so close yet so far away. Knowledge of art history, experience of historic art, helps develop conceptual perception...creative vision that derives from the imagination.
Each and every artist needs to claim this legacy anew, whether in the academic setting or on his own. The visionary gift is an activity of the soul that draws not only on the collective unconscious, but also on collective consciousness on what has gone before. How else can we hunt the future but with our vision?
As educators, we need to instill a love of art in students, not merely technical prowess, so that the technical media do not dictate the creation through mere programming. The world is full of hacks in every profession who know their craft but lack that vital spark of originality, of boldness. Artifice and artistry are different qualities. Exercise of talent is a different faculty from imagination, let alone genius.
Artistic drive comes from a love affair with the imaginal, the procreative urge to externalize and manifest one’s vision, to embody meaning, to express the authentic self. It comes in a rapid-fire series of emotional impulses which we act upon with intentionality, yet open to the intrusion on our will of the creative process. It is not only the history of art, but also the passion of that journey that should be conveyed.
We live fully immersed in a stream of imagery, originating both internally and externally. Images come in from the outside through the senses, and are also produced autonomously from the unconscious as an ongoing visual narrative, often metaphorical in nature, of our experience. In fact, this imaginal dimension is our experience. Everything we perceive of ourselves, others and world is filtered through it. Those images we seek to express are born within it and emerge from it through the creative process.
Art helps us remember who we were, truly are, and who we will become both individually and as a society. Information is infused by resonance through direct experience, evoking creative ideas, feelings, and motivated behavior. Interactive art functions in a similar way as dynamic experience.
It unpredictably seduces and surprises, shattering pre-existent notions. Each image emerges from the creative context that links all events, real and imaginal, the underlying destructured phenomenal field, the meaningful void of the transcendent imagination.
Art, like science, is a vocation or calling, a path toward truth and self-realization, for both maker and spectator. Revolutionary art and visionary physics are both investigations into the nature of reality, and the organization of our perceptions. Gauguin said, “There are only two kinds of artists -- revolutionaries and plagiarists.”
Revolutionary work marks a transition in a civilization’s worldview. The digital revolution marked such a transition. Arguably, today the marriage of art and science is embodied in new media: digital and electronic arts. Highly technical media have made new images possible through programs that render images virtually as fast as we can think them up. But it requires a lifelong learning curve that is daunting and unrelenting. It requires we continuously update our skill and knowledge base to realize our creative dreams.
Independent of either high or low brow dichotomies, ‘Know Brow’ art doesn’t value art history to create an artificial hierarchy of works that are intrinsically better than others, but to maintain the thread of continuity that informs the world of imagery. We commune with the past to inform our present. It is not to contrive a homage to an older reference, but to gain initiation into the visceral and experiential state from which it was created. Direct experience of that imaginal reality that is the essence of knowing, a gnosis.
The artist who recognizes upon reflection the influence of the past in his own works perceives a level of meaning that may not be obvious to the casual spectator. This level of metanarrative has everything to do with the vast panoply of art history.
Historical art can inspire and give us impressions that morph in our own deep subconscious taking on the geist of the present. It is intrinsic in the moment of conception that a work of art, that elemental vision will be brought forth in the chosen medium, in a symphony of attitudes, skills, and knowledge.
Planned or unplanned, a work embodies the meaningful moment even if comes from a fortunate technical ‘accident’. The intentionality to create is always there when we interface with our cyber allies. Often any resemblance to past historical works is discovered upon reflection rather than during the inspirational or execution phase, which is likely to be spontaneous and somewhat unconscious.
The electronic arts are so complex that today’s digital fine artist or filmmaker is almost as much of a scientist as an artist. Still, it is incumbent on him or her to maintain a deep root in art, not just mining the archive of historical imagery for base material. This will only become more so as digital rendering programs take over much of the drudgery of execution.
Experimentation with new compositional programs can yield surprising results moving artists into heretofore-unexplored territories in their work. Still, even new media’s novel appearance can echo the iconography, moods and textures of past eras and their styles. It is the same in fashion where looks and eras are recycled deliberately but interpreted in today’s fabrics and cuts. It all depends on how you accessorize it.
Innovation requires more than sampling and restyling. It requires a personal archaeology that means digging up that unique portion of our human depths that wants to come to birth through you, that which comes to be through a conspiracy of necessity and coalescence.
One must commit to the image and let it speak for itself in the now, with little or no thought to the past or future. When one opens to the moment, to the process, a flow emerges. Serendipity and synchronicities require fluidity of imagination, an inner eye for what could be important to incorporate, as well as fluency in technical procedures.
Style emerges as the result of habitually reiterating creative choices and recycling favored elements. The same ideas roll around over and over, evolving into variations on a theme. Some artists stake their career on this rather uncourageous course instead of evolving further. It may be less a desire to maintain commerciality or please their public than simply lack of fresh inspiration. That inspiration can be rekindled by immersion in new exciting fields of imagery, new mindscapes, new places, new media, great art.