It’s that time of year again – graduation shows and marking, warm champagne toasts and the cold reality of the real world looming (cue salty tears) – so seems appropriate to share this thoughtful article written by Greg French for i-D online concerning the ongoing role of technology in art school education. French is one of my ex-students from the FCP course at CSM (a very good student, I must add, whose final year project was Vanguard, a rather luxurious publication celebrating fashion on film; it featured Guy Bourdin, Nick Knight, Jonathan Faiers, Remi Blumenfeld and Theo Mass).
I am also adding the unedited original interview with questions posed by French.
We certainly live in shifting times. In 1972 Alice Cooper observed ‘No more pencils, no more books’…yet today there are more and more experiments being played out to get children off digital devices during school and home life. The future of art school education is undoubtedly bright (just take a look at this years crop of graduates from the RCA Fashion School), but perhaps it’s just not orange…or apple.
INTERVIEW – 31.05.15
GF: Do you think using tools such as virtual classrooms or Skype can widen the cultural net of people that people meet through their education – and how important is that diversity within creative education?
IRW: It is hugely important that students are exposed to as many original thinkers as possible during their education. These people should be from all areas of life, working in wide-ranging disciplines, some focussed and tailored to chosen areas of specialism alongside those from disparate parts of the creative arts/industries. When it is not possible for guests to actually attend class in person it follows to use the internet to provide some kind of virtual dialogue. This obviously widens the opportunity for conversation and exchange of ideas with practitioners from all around the globe. However, I believe, where possible, first hand interaction is always preferred.
GF: Having both studied and taught within an art school, can you ever see the potential for the hands on approach of learning being replicated by digital means?
IRW: The art school experience is just that, an experience. It is not simply about learning. The art school process should offer opportunity for challenge, self-discovery, experimentation, discourse, soul searching, mistake making and, most crucially, humanity. It is often messy.
GF: If we look at education as a business, do you think schools are purposefully failing to acknowledge the impact of digital education to maintain higher tuition fees/footfall? Or is i
IRW: I am extremely uncomfortable with the commodification of education. There are no absolutes or predictable outcomes. It is not a production line. While fees have now sadly become the norm, students do not buy an education, they pay for the opportunity to be educated. The experience is individual. Educational establishments package specialisms to varying degrees and can offer expert access, guidance, nurture and wisdom.
GF: Do you see online education acting as a threat to the quantity and quality of teachers needed at art schools?
IRW: I do not believe that online education can replicate the nuance of the face-to-face experience. I would hope that the powers that be would not wish to replace one for the other, even if it might appear financially prudent. I am already dismayed that certain art schools demand application portfolios to only be presented digitally. This seems totally illogical given the nature of creativity; how students individually present and package their work can offer as much an insight into their world as the work itself. It is telling that many educational establishments now refuse to accept inspirational imagery gleaned from the Internet.
GF: How would you like to see both the digital and the physical working harmoniously in the future?
GF: Can fashion ever be taught solely online?
IRW: While you can learn about fashion via the Internet you will never begin to gain the experience and understanding of the endless possibilities offered by the wonderful elastic world of fashion or discover where your future might lie…
*Image shows detail from movie poster by Reynold Brown, 1958.