NEW MEANS AND THE TEACHING OF ARTS
MARIA BEATRIZ DE MEDEIROS
UNIVERSITY OF BRASÍLIA
A society full of technologies, diverse technologies and digital technologies redimensions our being in the world and the different areas of knowledge: physics, chemistry, ..., but also sociology, anthropology, and arts. In this society full of technologies, an education centered in performativity, performativity in the sense given by Austin (performative enunciation), in the sense retaken by Jean-François Lyotard, French philosopher recently deceased, in his book La Condition Postmoderne, 1 is no longer possible.
The term performative in Austin (philosopher of language) and retaken by Lyotard refers to efficiency, the efficiency of an enunciation, term wrongly applied to the dynamics of societies in modern, positivist discourses that comprehended societies as machines. It was the idea we had in the modern era of the dynamics of societies, institutions, power, system, finally, of humanity: those would function as machines; that is, machines in which an ‘input’ would generate a predictable ‘output’; if we reduced the ‘input’ and increased the ‘output’ of societies, we would increase their efficiency. Today we know that to understand society this way, it would have to be stable, and it is not. Society, as well as institutions, power, system (concepts that are effervescing nowadays: power, system), and finally, humanity are in continuous, unexpected and uninterrupted movement, so any prediction of an ‘output’ from an ‘input’ is impossible, for societies, institutions, and humanity do not function as machines but as active ecological systems in which a butterfly wing’s movement can generate typhoons on the other side of the world. In the same way, a new image can cause a revolution. Nowadays we can observe the clear example of the stock markets.
In the post-modern society, as Lyotard affirms, the generating processes (research) and the knowledge transmitting ones (teaching) happen through instabilities. Those instabilities are constelations in which there are some rules; however, ones in which the unexpected events are those that make possible from creativity to life on Earth. That is the conception of the Universe of Ilya Prigogine. I have gone from knowledge (generation and transmision) to the possibility of life on Earth and to the contemporary conception of the Universe for that, I have based myself in J-F Lyotard, but also in Christine Hardy from the Research Laboratory of the Psycho-physical Interactions, France, and in Ilya Prigogine – physicist, chemist, researcher, professor with diverse titles published.
The new technologies do not let us predict, in this moment, how far they will go, which social segments will be redimensioned, and in which way that redimensioning will occur. All social segments will be redimensioned. Education towards creativity, education aiming at the different fields of knowledge is the most tuned for this historical moment. The reformulation proposed here certainly refers to the teaching of arts, but its paradoxal thinking itself claims a reformulation of the educational system as a whole.
In the early Twentieth Century, in modern era, stablished knowledge, truths, were admitted, as asserted Ana Mae Tavares Barbosa in the opening of the Ninth CONFAEB (Ninth National Congress of Art-educators' Federation of Brazil, 1998). Today we are more and more conscious of the relativity of truths, of great statements, of doctrines. If we are not absolutely conscious of those relativities we need be alert to become conscious and start seeing and exerting the world with those eyes: relativity of truths.
If knowledge to be transmitted to students were stanched, static, stablished, translatable to bits and bytes; if knowledge to be transmitted to students were assertive knowledge (reusing Austin), knowledge passible of verification of its truth; if the teaching to be done were assimilable by a memory, then didactics could be commited to machines, informational machines with capacity of accumulation and ordination of data on the edge of infinity.2 The teacher would not be eliminated since it would remain to him the teaching of the manipulation of machines, the use of terminals. I refer to a teaching which solicits from students imediate and precise answers. However, we know that a better student is not the one who answers to questions more quickly but the one who questions, who develops matchless reasonings which permits rehandling of data, unprecedented casts, connections between fields of knowledge, fields of knowledge for a long time considered stanched. Would not imagination be the capacity of making new connections, articulations?
In the early Twentieth Century stablished knowledge was admitted. We know today that knowledge is in perpetual process, and that it evolves through instabilities and even that that evolution is not linear.
James Gleick, in 'Chaos. The creation of a new science' 3, asserts that "Thomas S. Kuhn (...) emptied the concept of science as ordered process of making questions and finding answers. He emphasized the contrast between the major part of what scientists do, working with legitimate problems, well comprehended within their disciplines, and the exceptional, non-orthodox work which creates revolutions". Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari also express themselves in this manner: "There are values which make novelties appear - intense, anarchic - and others which are born stablished, inferior. Only the former participate of the splendid intempestive disorder of great creations". And still James Gleick: "Frequently a revolution has an interdisciplinary character - its main discoveries come (...) from persons who venture themselves out of the ordinary limits of their specialities. The problems which preocupy those theoreticians" (author's note: those who participate of great creations) "are not considered legitimate lines of investigation".4 There James Gleick refers mainly to research. Yet also in teaching and above all in art teaching the capacity of linking fields, making connections is a required faculty: interdisciplinarity, capacity of inventing the counter-example, capacity of surmising the unspeakable, capacity of searching the paradox. 5
The new technologies, or rather the omnipresent technologies are the ones which turned visible that discontinuity in the evolution of the scientific thought. When we treat of art and technologies, of art and new means, we penetrate into hybrid knowledge. In video art, in graphic computation, in art via net of communication, what it is amazing is the mixing of those languages in a scientific -logic, mathematic, electronic- and artistic discipline, fields of knowledge which were stanched before, fields demanding "extravagant" colligations, connections, hybridizations. We can no longer refer to fields of knowledge. We shall speak of the universe of knowledge, in continuous transformation. That universe is new and necessarily demands research and teaching walking side by side.
Art mingles with logics and mathematics, but also scientists are soliciting aid from artists. 6 Art teaching revindicates reformulation, revolution, but also mathematics, physics, chemistry, history, geography, sociology, anthropology... revindicate it. We see new disciplines appearing such as, for example, ethnocenology, in the place of the ancient Theatre, medialogy, ... In that reformulation creativity and imagination become the basis and peak of teaching.
Science becomes conscious that the universe is like art: there are rules, but there is supervenience (non-controlling process)(Prigogine). Science becomes conscious that there are instabilities (J-F Lyotard). For Christine Hardy the human being, with one's various levels of consciousness (mind, psyche, and body), is like a totally interactive system, where there is necessity of tension and contradiction between those levels of consciousness to exist freedom, where there is necessity of disorder and chaos to exist creativity. Science becomes conscious that it is like art, art becomes conscious of its scientificalness. Both conscious of the necessity of becoming part of the universe.
1. Lyotard, Jean-François, La condition Postmoderne, ed. De Minuit, Paris, 1979.
2. I shall not say that informational machines are superior to human memory because the latter makes extravagant colligations if compared to the machine's memory: a sound reminds me of a smell, which reminds me of an ambient, which can make me fell pain or pleasure. And those extravagant colligations are the ones necessary to the generation of knowledge (to artistic creation) and by which the transmission of that knowledge happens in order to make possible for the student a posterior participation in that generation of knowledge.
3. Gleick, James, 'Caos. A criação de uma nova ciência'., ed. Campus, S.P., 1990, pp. 32 and 33.
5. The significant evaluation of the Serial Evaluation Program (PAS), in some way, though very timidly yet, tries to take those points into consideration.
6. Artists working with technologies are redimensioned: no more locked up geniouses, individuals, but artists-group, groups of art work and research. Group: artists, technicians and scientists working in conjoint projects. As examples we can cite today the Brazilians Eduardo Kac, Diana Domingues (UCS), Tânia Fraga (UnB), and the research group Corpos Informáticos (UnB) coordinated by me.