THOUGHTS ON EDUCATION

One of the characteristics that sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom is our capacity for creativity. 

Like all qualities, positive or negative, practice makes perfect and yet we live in a world that increasingly values utility more than creativity. When I say “utility” I refer to very short term utility that serves the immediate material needs of state and industry, for as anyone who has studied history knows there is perhaps no greater contribution to the quality of life on Earth than those events/activities/situations which result from human creativity. Among the most potent of these is Art in its multitude of forms. The history books of every country in the world are basically made up of references and descriptions of wars, scientific discoveries (put to good and bad uses) and art. I leave you to judge which of these areas (alone or combined with another) unequivocally helps us to reach a higher plane of personal consciousness, of dignity and of fulfillment. Our answer to this question says a great deal about our education, and our upbringing, which brings me to the question of education. 

In my view it is time we woke up to the fundamental importance of stimulating creative endeavour in schools at an early age and of continuing to do so throughout the formal educational process. This initiative should be targeting the development of creativity in the service of personal expression as well as in the service of group projects. It should be as unrestricted in subject matter as possible and optimize conceptual exploration of process. The objective is not to subvert the more utilitarian goals of contemporary education (a necessary, if not ideal pursuit on a planet in which 8 billion people must co-exist), but to temper them with the culture inherent in less material vectors of investigation that stimulate our capacity to find original solutions rather than simply learning to follow well-worn and increasingly ineffective paths. The collective benefits are obvious. On an individual level the result is a higher quality of personal life and higher self-awareness and self-esteem.  

What could possibly be more utilitarian than this?

THOUGHTS ON EDUCATIONAL REFORM

In most of the world, education stresses the importance of conformity, prioritizes memory work and reinforces notions linked to strict obedience and hierarchy. It is often consciously, or unconsciously, racist and culturally biased. Art and creative concerns in general play a very small role if any and free-spirited, analytical thinking is often frowned upon as a form of potential instability.

Does this sound like a methodology destined to bring the greatest good for the greatest number? Sounds to me like a formula for a mediocre majority. We have been on this path for decades. It isn’t slavery, but it isn’t freedom either. It is a grey no man’s land somewhere in the middle, not good enough to make sacrifices to maintain and not bad enough to revolt against. Is numbness the best we can do?

THOUGHTS ON THE CREATIVE PROCESS

The notions of beauty and design have very little to do with what is essential in art. Art is not a product. It is a process. In the visual arts, it does not conform to design or architectural imperatives. 

It is an independent being, a subversive agitator in a world dedicated to outdated concepts of beauty and pleasure preoccupied with the material side of life. Art is a terrorist that confronts our natural tendency to conform with insolent arrogance and disdain…and rightfully so. 

Sustainable innovative advances are impossible in an environment dominated by the desire to please others.

THOUGHTS ON PHOTOGRAPHY

If photography continues to be a slave to representations of what we see, its subjectivity systematically relegated to emotional or intellectual interpretations of this representation, it will render itself impotent as a form of expression. 

THOUGHTS ON COLOUR

Colour is more than a parameter in photography . It is a powerful language in its own right as it is in other visual arts. Failure to understand its importance is more than an omission; it is an admission of ignorance.

THOUGHTS ON RESPECT

It is not understanding or intelligence that counts. It is respect. However, respect must be merited and implies a desire to go beyond who we are. 

This apparently complicates things considerably.

THOUGHTS ON THE NOTION OF "NICE"

I don't like the word "nice" or its connotations. It is a subversive notion whose purpose is to produce false harmony and a false sense of well-being. I am not normally overtly political, but it seems to me that "nice" is a bourgeois platitude that has been universalized. I prefer conflict and tension any day. 

They at least are real sensations. 

We know we are alive.

THOUGHTS ON INTERFERENCE

Life is a question managing interference. Interference is what separates our plans from what actually happens. It helps define our existence and the quality of our lives often depends on how well we manage and adapt to it. It can take multiple forms and is indispensable to the learning process. 

For if we learn only what we choose to learn, we limit ourselves to the boundaries of our intimate personal identity and the operational framework it is capable of generating on its own. 

It is unexpected interference that takes us into uncharted waters and obliges us to rise to occasions we couldn’t even imagine beforehand.

THOUGHTS ON PHOTOGRAPHY

We are imperfect in every possible way. Photography’s most important contribution to understanding the world around us may come from its ability to explore imperfection in a broadminded conceptual manner, celebrating its power to inspire and exposing its potential for raw cruelty. 

I do not speak here of that traditional form of expression known as photojournalism, but of other more intangible and abstract excursions into the darkness of imperfection. The degree to which photography is open to such investigation and the extent to which it accepts other forms of expression (video, audio and performance) as partners in an ever-growing interactive environment may very well define its future relevance.

THOUGHTS ON THE NATURE OF THINGS

There is perhaps nothing more beautiful than the natural alliance of profound generosity and informed intelligence. This powerful association lends itself to the development of active and productive forms of social and private compassion and a free and open spirit of exploration that together are capable of improving the quality of life for far more people than any form of religious or political dogma ever could.

 

THOUGHTS ON THE UNKNOWN

Travelling uncharted waters often provides answers to questions as yet unformulated. It constitutes invaluable research for currently undefined endeavours, providing data whose relevance will be revealed at some future date.

It is the very definition of adventure.

THOUGHTS ON THINKING

Thinking too little and thinking too much are both counterproductive. Finding the right dose is always difficult amidst the confusion of contemporary life.

Thinking based on inadequate information and thinking based on a surplus of irrelevant or erroneous information are both potentially dangerous and widespread worldwide.

Not thinking, but acting, is almost always an adventure albeit a risky one for all concerned. From childhood to adolescence such behavior is often the norm although recently adults of all ages seem to be increasingly drawn to this methodology.

Where exactly does his leave us?

It seems to me that we do not devote enough pedagogical energy to teaching people how to think. School systems and programs appear to concentrate on having students memorize rather than analyze. Programs based on memorization facilitate imitation at best, manipulation at worst. This is true in mainstream general education as well as in the arts.

Is it that the power structure is afraid of the independence that sound, educated analytical thinking ensures?

THOUGHTS ON INDIVISIBILITY

The unique importance of some notions is directly linked to their indivisibility.

The presence or absence of qualities such as genuine courage often depends on such considerations. 

Indivisibility presents us with the need to choose sides - to be among those who choose to bend (sometimes demonstrating humiliating flexibility) or those who risk breaking or at least cracking in some fundamental way.

It is often more immediately productive to be of the former type, particularly on an individual level, but often on a social level as well. Compromise is the essence of diplomacy. Unfortunately I cannot resist the romantic and symbolic importance of the latter brittle variety, particularly when speaking of long-term individual and social considerations. Productive social progress often depends on strong symbols, often on the determination and the dedicated, educated inflexibility of one person. Both groups may be useful depending on our perspective, but my position is clear, I prefer to be among those who risk breaking.