2010-11: Mick Wilson - The Educational Turn

Mick Wilson.

Inför Regionalt konstpedagogiskt forum den 7 februari 2011 fick vi en intervju med rektorn, konstnären och författaren Mick Wilson från Irland. Han har tillsammans med sin kollega Paul O'Neill varit redaktör för boken The Curating and the Educational Turn, där de diskuterar senare års konstpedagogiska modeller.

Who are you and what do you work with?

- I am a Dublin-based art educator, writer and artist currently working on research development across the arts in Ireland and Europe, with a particular concern for issues of public culture, critical practice and the contestation of dominant rhetorics of creativity, economic instrumentalism and education-as-training. My primary concerns are with the interaction of critical thinking and critical practice across culture and education.

- I am Dean of an experimental graduate school called 'GradCAM' established in February 2008 in Ireland which works with musicians, artists, curators, critics, designers, policy analysts, educators and others to try and grow new kinds of critical interdisciplinary educational, research and cultural practice.

Could you tell us something about the book, The Curating and the Educational Turn?

- This book, which my colleague Dr. Paul O'Neill and I co-edited, was an attempt to focus a debate around the proliferation of educational models as the means, form, content and operational mode of a wide range of curatorial and art practices in recent years. The book seeks to open up a debate on the turn to educational models and paradigms while acknowledging the heterogeneity of the practices under discussion.

- The book is not an exhaustive account of the issues, but a broad introduction of multiple perspectives, many of which contest the very attempt to name something as 'the educational turn'. The project is not about curatorial education or training programmes, but about the variety of works, programmes and projects that adopt education as their modus operandi.

- The book has had a very mixed critical reception with some people positive, and some negative about the project. This is a good sign I think that we are starting the right kind of conversation.

How would you define "the educational turn”?

- In the book we used the term "educational turn" as a way of talking about how "educational formats, methods, programmes, models, terms, processes and procedures have become pervasive in the praxes of both curating and the production of contemporary art and in their attendant critical frameworks". This is "not simply to propose that curatorial projects have increasingly adopted education as a theme" but it is, rather, to assert that curating and art production "increasingly operates directly as an expanded educational praxis."

- Many writers in the book are very critical of the term and challenge its use in this way. This is an important issue in the book - who gets to construct the terms of our debates in cultural practice? How? Why? What for?

How will "the educational turn” influence the arts?

- There is no inevitable line of development here. Many participants and originators of the projects described or named within the Curating and the Educational Turn book have a specific concern with social, political and cultural agency and critical transformation. They are not primarily engaged in a conversation of art-about-art or art-changing-art, although they often manifest a high degree of self-consciousness about the operational and institutional dynamics of contemporary art systems.

- Their concerns are more typically with the construction and contestation of our worlds. They are of course also attendant upon the forms and practices of the art world system, but also of the formal and informal educational systems, and they are for the most part critical of the status quo and the dominant tendencies in both domains - although not uniformly so.

- Some of the criticisms developed within the volume also point to the presence of an educational imperative within contemporary media culture which serves as a counter claim against the transformative and critical agendas claimed by various artists, curators and writers for their own practices.

- Our aspiration was to frame a debate in a manner that allowed some salient features of contemporary experimental and critical cultural practice to be interrogated without becoming thereby fixed as a dead and empty stylistic or formalist convention. My own personal concern was to argue that critical practice and critical thinking in education was being realised more by cultural workers, artists, curators, educators and so on, working outside the academy. I see this as a strong criticism of my own role as an educator, and one that I and my colleagues need to take seriously. But I don't see this as necessarily of the same importance for many practitioners involved, whose concerns lie elsewhere.

- Of course, none of us gets to exhaustively or exclusively decide the terms of reception and engagement with what we do. We - even us teachers who like our authority very much, although we like also to claim egalitarian agendas - are not "masters" of our worlds. With this recognition, the possibility of agency is also born.

You are very welcome to Gothenburg in February! Have you ever been here before?

- Thank you. I am something of a fan of Gothenburg, and have visited several times. In August 2010 I spent some time on the islands in the southern archipelago as a guest of Kerstin Bergendal and Cai-Ulrich von Platen. This western city reminds me of Galway, a western city in Ireland, because of the islands, the great food and the relaxed convivial social life. University cities are always good places to visit and stay.

- I am curious though to find out more about the suburbs and the different social and ethnic experiences of the city, because as a visitor one ends up with such a limited touristic view of spaces of consumption and display.

- I was amazed to see the liveliness of the public library during the culture night programme. This is an amazing resource and really such an interesting example of a public culture institution - a public library that functions as a public space as well as a private reading space. I am interested in the urban planning layers in the city that suggest a highly considered and cared for, but possibly very controlled, space. But also I assume there are spaces where something else is happening that is somehow excluded or beneath the radar of the urbanist's gaze.

- My colleague and friend in Helsinki, Jan Kaila, who taught here for many years, has told me a little about the history of the city also in terms of cultural and political developments in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. There is so much for me to learn, and I am hoping that I will get a chance to meet new people to tell me more.

Fakta

Namn: Mick Wilson
Bor: Dublin, Irland
Ålder: 45 år
Yrke: Rektor, författare, konstnär
Kontakt: Mick Wilsons hemsida

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