I have altered my plans to visit Ewha Womens University by deferring the invitation to March 2011. The university had requested me to accommodate a longer time schedule so I have complied with offering a duration of two and a half months; and with my existing schedule, March 2011 to May 2011 are the months that appear to suit both parties as of now. I am slightly concerned however that two of my students from the collective will be having their final displays in June 2011, but Surendran like a true warrior partner(!) has promised vigilant overseeing and monitoring of all needs, that span from emotional well being to health matters and a whole lot of other non related art stuff too; but which are vital to these student's worlds and their well being.
Two of my students are just back from a cultural trip to Italy and with the jet lag still heavy on their eyelids, I have marched them back into their studio routine where the rigours of the program begin once again with no concession or let up. I had a short and interesting conversation this morning over the phone where I was posed the question of why such uninteresting art is being produced by most art colleges today. I think that the onus of blame lies within certain connected territories : 1) The teaching at art colleges is of very poor quality; and teaching institutions do not position the rigours of discipline to mould and shape the learning process, that can marry skill and intellect to deliver visual articulation of genuine substance. 2) I do not observe the self motivation amongst students that is required to target excellence. The apathy that prevails and the complacency to accept the ordinary as being sufficient, is a truly shocking reality to encounter. 3) The overt or subtle invasions at art colleges, of agencies with political agendas that use cultural territories to destabilise secularity, has created a compromised position of authority within the teaching fraternity and has given mediocre students a convenient shoulder to shoot from.
Teaching must hold great passion and be a space that is not corrupted by any narrowness or conservatism of thinking. Teaching is also not confined to the walls of an institution alone nor are lessons to learn only from prescriptive quarters either. Yesterday for example, I showed the art work of my 11 year old adopted granddaughter Aditi to the students of the collective, because it possessed an articulation of a conceptual idea more cohesively than a student twice her age.
It is good to be strict and demanding from adult art students and insist upon accountability. From self presentation, to verbal articulation, to research and information, to studio practice, to the presentation of a finished product, to methodology and management of professional and personal spaces, to finance and self governance, to travel and exposure...........all this and much much more is the territory that I will engage with, with a student.
Most of my students shed copious tears of self pity from time to time. The tissue boxes are plenty in my house, but my instincts are never wrong. Each of them finally stand tall. Confident, commanding of their abilities, and emotionally and intellectually well rounded. That's what goes into a days teaching.