This collective interview took place on December 1, 2021, as part of the workshop “Who is the mediator?” within a series of online seminars on the topic of Time for Cultural Mediation? organized by the Ural Industrial Biennial of Contemporary Art together with the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art and with the support of the Swiss Arts Council pro helvetia.
The participants of the workshop were invited to give their answers to selected questions of the interview and to discuss and, if necessary, modify them. The answers were collected on an online platform. Some of the participants would like to be quoted, others not.
The result of these discussions, and especially the answers, do not speak in one voice, as they usually do in “The Art Educator’s Talk” interviews. They do not show one position, but a temporary collective of the workshop. The voices complement each other, contradict each other, take a position, ask questions back.In other words, they are in conversation, which all readers of this blog are now invited to read, documenting here as a snapshot in December 2021 the positions of art mediators in Russia.
A big thanks goes to Alina Belishkina for the idea of the collective interview, as well as for moderating the workshop and the translation. A big thanks also to Daria Malikova for the invitation – as well as to the participants for their contribution.
What is your understanding of art education?
… it opens opportunities and creates structures that facilitate learning things that are outside of the usual field of experience.
— Vlad Nezabudkin
… it is a capitalist tool that allows the wealthy ruling classes to keep the mechanisms of influence in their hands
… it is a way of introducing people to cultural and intellectual heritage, which makes encounters with their own unique selves possible and stimulates self-understanding and reflection.
… it is the creation of knowledge through the visual arts.
I would divide art education into professional and that for which I have not found a better word than “mass”. Professional art education allows you to learn specific knowledges and skills. “Mass” used to be more about the “enlightenment” function/potential. The term “visual literacy” describes the ability to construct meanings from images, to interpret and create messages oneself in the language of art. But besides visual literacy, art education seems to include a lot more layers of meanings, which question conditions of art production and functioning in the society.
… is dialogue and exploration. It is a process of group and individual exploration/research/investigation. And it is a space of a dialogue where the multilevel communication can happen.
… is an instrument of reflection. So the participants and an art mediator can get the insights about themselves, about people in the group and about the world they live in. Because contemporary art is a mirror of modernity and also you can see your own reflection in this mirror.
Why mediate (contemporary) art? Why educate people about (contemporary) art?
Contemporary art is incomprehensible. Especially for people who are used to figurative art. It seems to many, that the artist is making fun of them. The mediator explains this art and shows how you can interact with it.
As for me, to mediate any kind of art is to provoke a discussion and, therefore, ideas. It helps see from a different angle and open new meanings, but most importantly get more familiar with yourself (and people around you as well, of course). Why educate? So to know the context, enrich the vision , see the connections and communication between the artworks.
— Rada Brakhman
Why does contemporary art exist anyway? Wouldn’t we be better off without it?
To what extent can art education and art mediation open up a new sphere of action?
Art education and mediation can open up several fields of activity. For example, accompanying visitors to an exhibition or starting up a conversation about the work they see. People often need this, but do not find the appropriate company. Sometimes it is a way for people to explore who they themselves are, or to expand their world. Mediators can provide psychological and social support.
Aesthetics is really something, which follows the ethics. I think that contemporary art should evolve in fundamental interconnection with the ethics and art education should thus have a social impact while discussing societal and ethical issues.
Is there a specific method or strategy you currently with with?
I am currently working with the methods of practical philosophy — Socratic dialogue and hermeneutical analysis. I also like interactive questioning techniques, where questions are more important than answers. In addition, I use various art practices, such as writing, storytelling, documentary drama.
— Oxana Vinokurova
I am interested in investigating digital tools and the opportunities/ restrictions online formats bring to us.
Which questions would you like to ask an art educator?
Is an art educator happy with her or his working conditions, her or his rights and salary? Doesn’t she or he feel somewhat inferior in comparison to her or his colleagues curators?
How does mediator navigate the constant flux of meanings and interpretation we all are surrounded by these days? How does she develop her unique position and finds the (support) structures to reply on?
How do you imagine the future of art education?
Art education just like any other education simply must change. At a minimum, it should become a social elevator for those who received it and not only for those who were already privileged from the beginning.
I think that there are at least some challenges for art education. On the one hand, academic or scientific skills are less expected from the artists than creativity and imaginative ways of thinking and hence such things are rarely being taught. On the other hand, young artists working with digital and new media art are in need of systematic knowledges in, for example, AI technologies, science art, NFT and so on. And there are not many places that can answer this need.
What’s more, a lot of people seem to want to study art both in practice and in theory (make art and study art history, for example) for the sake of pleasure only and don’t regard it as their potential occupation. In my opinion, since motivation of such people differs from that of the art students, their needs must be addressed via different teaching methodologies.
Merging boundaries between art education and different practices and fields: social work, consulting, art making, psychology, entertainment.
Answers by: Tatyana, Xeniya, Rada Brakhman, Vlad Nezabudkin, Oxana Vinokurova, participants of the workshop on Dec 1st 2021.
Interview by: Gila Kolb, Alina Belishkina, Daria Malikova