The practices of making, studying, and teaching art have inextricably intertwined histories. Art schools and art education programmes have always heavily relied on the practical knowledge of artists. Historically, a system of apprenticeships, guilds, and writings, such as Giorgio Vasari ‘Vite’ (1550) and the ‘Schilder-boeck’ by Karel Van Mander (1604), precedes our contemporary art educational programmes in Europe. But outside of the European context, too, the influence of artists studying with various people in various places is undeniable when looking at any historic or contemporary art collection. It is therefore not surprising that the idea of education—and more abstractly, the tenets of learning—has in turn inspired artistic (and often critical) practices itself.
An iconic example of this concept is the work of Joseph Beuys. In his oeuvre, the line between where his work as a teacher ends and his practice as an artist begins is often hard to define. His famous quote from 1969 illustrates this perfectly: “To be a teacher is my greatest work of art”. For Beuys, the focus is not necessarily the transference of knowledge or skills, but the simultaneous exploration of the boundaries and possibilities of art and education. The subject of critical, artist-led pedagogy has been discussed at length in many texts and publications.
Here, the goal is not to further this theoretical discourse as such, but to explore the practice of collaboration in three projects set up by artists. The core proposition of ‘The Artist as Educator’ is to contextualise the educational process as an art practice. What implications do we face when an art practice is in and of itself educational?
This project includes three artists: British filmmaker Seecum Cheung, Rotterdam based collective Creave Studio (Roberto Romello and Romy Zhang) and Portuguese artist Priscila Fernandes.
Download here the digital publication of this project, designed by Studio Janne Beldman
In the framework of ‘The Artist as Educator’, Creave Studio (Roberto Romello and Romy Zhang) initiated a mapping of how ‘study’ takes place in non-institutionalized contexts. Not at a school or in a museum, but around the kitchen table or near a local basketball court, for example. Teaming up with three artists and seven resident-creators, and the people within their environment, they explored different locations in Rotterdam-South. Their conversations are captured in Sotoe, an audio-visual text. Sotoe will be shown within the neighbourhood as well as at Boijmans Hillevliet.
Creave Studio is a production studio for artistic and collaborative research run by Roberto Romello and Romy Zhang. They focus on societal and political topics within the urban context of Rotterdam. This Fall, Creave Studio hosted a release of their second paper, ‘Children of Immigrants’ (2021) at Mono Rotterdam. Furthermore, Creave Studio produces work for Concrete Blossom, The Niteshop, and others. With special thanks to Gabriel Freitas, Kimberly Dias, George, Edwin, Gina, Zouhair, Sarah, Nathan, Megan and Roland.
In Working in Progress, Seecum Cheung explores the medium of photography and film from a position of learning. In collaboration with Fabienne Hendriks, Cheung created a programme for young artists to learn professional documentary audio and video techniques and capture the lives of five shopkeepers at the Beijerlandselaan, a street in Rotterdam-South. This shopping street is a site dedicated for gentrification, which directly affects the people who live and work in this part of the city. Working as one multidisciplinary team, the goal was to simultaneously learn from one another and capture a part of life in Rotterdam-South. During a two-month process, perspectives, ideas, techniques, and art works were discussed to learn from one another and to inform the final audio-visual images.
Seecum Cheung is a filmmaker and teacher at the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam. Her films include Interview with Lennart (2016), The Dutch Window (2017), and Inequalities of BAME Patients Cancer Care Study, NHS England (2018–19). A recent project called Eviction in Shenzhen (2019–ongoing), revolves around the changes in Hubei, Shenzen, the city where her father was born.
Priscila Fernandes traces parallel narratives in an alternative Boijmans collection guide. In Idleness’ Owl, she places herself in the mind of the artist, the artwork, the person, or the place depicted in an artwork. By imagining the inner and (somewhat) fictional lives of the artworks and their makers, she invites the audience to do the same. In her 2014 publication The Book of Aesthetic Education of the Modern School (a.k.a ¿Y EL ARTE?) she imagined what would have been the art education programme of La Escuela Moderna (Barcelona 1901-1909). For ‘The Artist as Educator’, Fernandes is extending this approach by including associative connections in order to find different narratives in relation to the museum collection.
Priscila Fernandes is a Portuguese artist based in Rotterdam. Together with Edward Clydesdale Thomson, she is the Head of Department of BEAR (Base for Experiment Art and Research), the BA Fine Arts programme at ArtEZ University of the Arts, Arnhem.