Embodying the discourse - developing multimodal formats for teaching theory in art schools

The Society for Artistic Research (SAR) sent out a call for members to express their interest in Artist Pedagogy Research in order to set up a working group around the theme. The response was so overwhelming that different sub groups were formed. One of the sub groups was proposed and is now run by the Lectoraat Film. Under the heading ‘embodying the discourse – developing multimodal formats for teaching theory in art schools’, a group of around 15 artist-researchers from different countries (in Europe, Israel, America, Canada and Mexico) have now begun to design a joint research project on this theme. 

The disciplinary divide, stemming from the positivist ideas on education has led to a lasting divorce between vocational and academic education in an institutional sense and the separation between practice and theory. As pedagogues working within the framework of Higher Arts Education, we continuously face the problem of adjusting theoretical curricula to the requirements of practice-based training trajectories of our students.

Their everyday experience is increasingly dominated by images and sounds, and audio-visual production often substitutes textual sources as their daily mode of learning, communication and exchange (social media, TikTok, memes). A common concept is that individuals differ in how they learn and that there are various forms of intelligence, including bodily-kinesthetic, linguistic, or visual thinking.  As research shows (Grandin, T., Visual Thinking) visual thinkers constitute a far greater proportion of the population than previously believed, and these numbers are growing due to the changing competencies related to the everyday use of audiovisual digital media.

As cinematic, audio-visual media practices become the go-to form of expression, we observe a natural bottom-up resurgence of the multimodal approach, which tries to bridge the chasm between conceptual and practical thinking by recognizing the role of pictures, gestures, sounds, shapes, body movements, rhythms, or object manipulation in the process of knowledge creation.

Cognitively speaking, ‘visual’ and ‘verbal’ are used to occupy opposite ends of the thinking spectrum, but research and our pedagogical practice prove that they not only coexist in everyone’s mind but some of the best creative thinking is achieved when the two interact. Regarding the media that constitute our practices as sources of unique epistemologies, we cannot simply tap into the rich pedagogical tradition of academia (which is rooted in verbal/linguistic paradigm) but need to develop modes of combining relevant knowledge (philosophical, theoretical, scientifical) with the multimodal, interactive and embodied assignments in order to teach our students how to apply it in their own professional practice (making it more innovative, daring and reflexive).



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