teaching

I teach art as an adventure in interdisciplinary discovery, in search of compelling, elegant ways to execute ideas. I prompt my students to think critically about their art and not to limit themselves by their skills or to allow their work to be driven by medium. With respect to this ideal, I strive to answer every ambitious project proposal with a “Yes! Let us figure out how to do this.”

I enjoy immensely working one-on-one with students; I closely monitor and address their frustrations and obstacles, and celebrate their successes. When a student seeks guidance on the “best” method of fabrication, I often suggest experimentation: “Let's try a few different ways together, and see what works.” Acquisition of material knowledge, whether the material is tangible or not, thrives on trial and error. I have students hack apart a computer mouse and remap its functionality into sculpture, thereby encouraging my pupils to think critically about their medium of expression. The projector and projected surface, the white walls and pedestal, the computer monitor and web browser frame: all these aspects affect the semiotics of a finished work. How, then, will students treat each and every surface?

I endeavor to make my course materials come alive. In teaching object-oriented programming concepts, I have each student play-act the functions. Walk into my introductory Max/MSP/Jitter workshop, and there will be a room of students screaming random numbers and words, tapping each other on the shoulder, jumping and spinning around in organized chaos. The kinesthetic methods of learning that art professors rely on in teaching sculpture and mixed media installation are invaluable in teaching intangible material as well.

Collaboration is also vital to learning. I have students share code with each other, credit each other, and build on each other's work. I share personal successes and failures from my own collaborative art projects. My efficacy as an instructor stems from my example, the dedication and academic rigor that I exhibit in my own creative endeavors and research.

I expose students to many unique strategies of critique so that they may conceptualize their art-making from different angles. I developed one form of critique favored by students by combining psychology of timing concepts with a theatre exercise. This approach prompts students to impulsively call out their thoughts from the initial moment they engage an interactive sculpture or installation. I record and timestamp their comments. The class then revisits their reactions transcribed against a timeline. Along with their assessments of the artwork's ability to elicit behaviors and emotions, they now see when the artist/sculpture has established an effective relationship with the participant, and for how long. From unconventional critiques to blog posts, I diversify the means of student participation in my courses. I strive to keep technofatigue at bay and ensure that students are not afraid during crucial moments of their journey.

My multidisciplinary approach allows for the broad exposure and critical dialogue necessary for developing material knowledge, non-linear sensibilities, visual and interactive literacy. I count on inventive methods of presentation and encourage critical thinking to sustain interest and perseverance in the student's studio. It is a balance of the strategies above that I hope will instill in my art students the curiosity and creative innovation to continue their adventure well beyond the conclusion of the course.

"technofatigue," Simon Penny, 1993: "It is that weariness I feel when I spend more time dealing with technical problems at the expense of the aesthetic and cultural aspects of my art work."