This section documents the curatorial team responding to a set of interview questions.
Angelina Ang (AA) // Chia Wei Hou (WH) // Ong Theng Choo (TC)
What does ‘inquiry’ mean to you as a teacher-artist?
AA: Inquiry is about seeking information and understanding, and questioning of what is presented. An Inquiry can be de-constructive, a mind-exercise to deepen one’s knowledge and generate new ideas. Inquiry is about learning to ask meaningful questionings.
TC: As a teacher, an inquiry is a process of learning through exploration of the subject, theme, materials and media through active experimentation, questioning, reflecting, critical thinking and revising. As an artist, inquiry is a process of self-discovery through art making. This process can be meditative, experimental, cathartic and intellectual, depending on one’s state of mind and other environmental factors.
WH: Inquiry represents a kindred spirit to curiosity and imagination. Artist and teacher are both similarly driven by the same need to know truth by seeking out and finding out things. In other words, inquiry is the process of ‘making sense’ and relooking at what we often took for granted. Inquiry process as a teacher and artist is like what philosopher Maxine Greene beautifully said, ‘to see the world like a stranger’.
What goes through your mind when you had to select the works from the submissions?
WH: Many thoughts! Admiration and envy are some thoughts. I mean, how our art teachers can balance teaching and making (artworks). I think artist-teacher identities are nurtured through their commitment to making their artworks. Each artwork is a labour of love.
TC: I look out for works which are thought-provoking and prompt me to ask more questions. Very often I would be attracted to works which intrigue me in one way or another, be it the materials, the idea, the methods or the aesthetic appeal. The works should suggest possibilities of being seen or presented in many ways beside the one chosen by the artist(s). I look out for heightened, reflective awareness of the art making process (in the artwork).
AA: I agree with Theng Choo. I ask myself questions such as ‘What sort of inquiry does the work evoke? How does it engage me as a viewer? Are there any innovations in terms of materials exploration, techniques or concepts? What is the artist’s story’ I search for works that engage me as a viewer. At the same time, I look out for innovations in terms of material exploration, technique or conceptual thinking.
Why is process important to students and important for teachers to guide and teach it?
AA: Artistic processes engage both students and teachers in thinking about artistic expressions. Being aware and sensitive to different processes enables teachers to take on the role as facilitators, to be able to guide the development of artwork.
WH: Process shows the journey of discovery and inquiry. The process is fun, yet both a joy and a struggle. Most importantly, Process represents infinite imaginative possibilities. Anything is possible, with a little bit more imagination and trust in Process.
TC: Process is important to students, and it can be recorded through annotations, sketches, photographs, even video recordings. The documentation of the art making process can help students to consolidate their learning, and clarify their thoughts and concepts. Process documentation and research assignments are important in art teaching because they show the understanding and learning of the students. Like Wei Hou, I believe that a teacher’s emphasis on the importance of the artistic processes can lead students to achieve a deeper understanding of the role of art in our daily lives.
Some teachers submitted photographs of work in progress through the Open Call. Why is documentation important, and do we see this in some of the works shown?
TC: Not all incomplete works had accompanying photographs or complete descriptions. I was interested in finding the processes used for some of the unfinished works. Some finished works showed hints of the process. For submissions that did show documentation, I am happy with just looking at what had been presented in the form of photographs of mock-ups, or a series of drawings of their preliminary three-dimensional explorations.
WH: Documentation (of processes in art making) promotes and records reflexivity. Reflexivity can be seen in many works selected, whereby the artist had engaged in an intimate dialogue with the material and processes in order to arrive at such eloquent solution. Documentation (of processes in art making) promotes and records reflexivity. Reflexivity can be seen in many works selected, whereby the artist had engaged in an intimate dialogue with the material and processes in order to arrive at such eloquent solution.
Can you elaborate a little about making learning visible? How do you ‘evidence’ process for thinking, preparatory work, making and presenting?
WH: The evidence of learning are best seen as by-products of students’ struggle, questioning, and experimentation. There can be artefacts created from the trial and error of conceiving and materialising the ideas and the concepts.
TC: To add to that, ‘evidence’ can take the form of written reflection, sketches, recording of discussion points, photos of subject matter/ theme, videos, observational studies.
AA: I look at documentation by students and teachers, and that includes visual journals, photographs, note-taking, audio-video recording and students’ complete or incomplete artworks. It takes experience to know what to look out for though.
Are there challenges arising from documenting a process and rushing to complete a work?
AA: Not sure if I understood the question. But I can guess that being overly methodical in one’s documentation may cause the process to become prescriptive instead of allowing for happy accidents, where the materials speak or the ideas and concepts evolve fluidly.
WH: The constant challenge of documentation is to capture the spontaneity of the process without making it obvious and contrived
TC: As art teachers, we demand our students to document their art making processes, yet artists (including ourselves) don’t always do so. As artists make their artwork, there are moments or occasions when we are in the ‘flow of making’, and there’s simply no time and space for precise documentation. Expression and aesthetics (of the final artwork) come first. Perhaps it would be useful to consider the purposes of precise documentation. To an art teacher, documentation could be a way to ‘evident’ student learning. To an artist, however, documentation could be a way of research and knowing. When the impulse to create or artmaking is strong, documentation may need to take a step back.
does being involved in this art teacher exhibition as a curator impacted your work? how so?
AA: It opens up new opportunities for me to read up on issues that resonate with the teaching fraternity, and the different ways other colleagues interpret or express these issues. This exhibition isn’t just about showing artworks made by teachers. It is also about what teachers stand for, and how contemporary art (practice) can inform our teaching. The experience increases my reception to ambiguity in visual representation and expression.
TC: Being involved in this exhibition provided me with a wider perspective of the artistic concerns and interests of many art teachers. It gave me an interesting insight into the rich resources we have amassed as a collective. Art teachers have much to teach one another. Indeed, it is my hope that we can tap more into this rich and diverse community of art teachers. The experience of curating this exhibition will likely influence my approach to art teaching in subtle but important ways.
WH: The influence is not direct or immediate. But the curatorial idea to exhibit and celebrate the artistic Process made me want to get back to my practice!
Is there a difference between “making art” and “keeping an art practice”?
AA: “Making art” might mean the production of artworks, while ‘keeping an art practice’ can mean to learn and hone one’s skills and to come up with new ideas for art. On the other hand, as teacher-artists, “keeping an art practice” lies between the blurred boundaries of making art, teaching art and learning alongside with our students.
WH: Making art is about the final end-product. Whereas art practice denotes an on-going process and creative journey to ‘getting lost’ somewhere and to learn and inquire about the learning.
TC: Making art seems like a descriptive term with reference to a process of ‘doing’ something while keeping an art practice seems to embrace a wider definition of art making which includes all other aspects of one’s life besides ‘doing’ the art. Keeping an art practice seems to include living with art as part of one’s life, reading, breathing, looking, wondering and dreaming art.
What challenges do teachers face to keep an art practice?
AA: Time and motivation!
TC: Time and space for art making come first to mind, with many of us playing multiple roles within our family, socially and professionally. This said, if we are ‘living’ art, there are ways to keep up one’s art practice in our lives, and we need to want it and desire it strongly for things to happen, and not give excuses!
WH: More often than not, time, lack thereof, is a major challenge. Art practice takes time.
Why is keeping an art practice still important for teachers?
WH: Keeping an art practice keep the art teacher in touch with the currencies of the art world, so that when he or she teaches, the teaching will ensure authenticity and relevance to the real world situation.
TC: To put it simply, that’s how we can stay relevant and passionate in our profession.