Daniel Marchwinski - Some in one place
As the practice of the Fine Arts has shifted from technical prowess, to imaginative creation, to charged expression, to deliberate conceptual articulation, to the exploration/exploitation of dynamic logic, arts education practices must now give way to more subtle and layered forms of teaching; the instructor must use mêtis to teach mêtis.
...Mêtis is a type of intelligence and thought… it implies a complex but very coherent body of mental attitudes and intellectual behavior which combine flair, wisdom, forethought, subtlety of mind, deception, resourcefulness, vigilance, opportunism, various skills, and experience acquired over the years. It is applied to situations which are transient, shifting, disconcerting and ambiguous, situations which do not lend themselves to precise measurement, exact calculation, or rigorous logic.1
Mêtis involves knowing when to assume agency, and when to abandon it. It requires accepting circumstances and occasionally disregarding analytic rationality. Like a contemporary arts practice, the nature of mêtis is fluid, media-less, and -- most of all – exploratory. As an arts instructor, ultimately, the challenge is to develop relatable strategies to teach that from which a clear premeditated strategy is often absent. It is to provide knowledgeable counsel and a deliberate series of articulated efforts by which to encourage each student to come to his or her own place of understanding. In an arts practice, these efforts take the form of short exercises, individual and group discussions, pointedly constrained projects, and wide open explorations. These efforts are all supported by an underlying focus on learning new techniques in making, best practices, and possibilities. Within these frameworks, technical abilities can be explored while simultaneously integrating an overarching structure for the osmotic introduction of a contemporary practice, a practice based upon questioning and criticality, guided by the freedom of mêtis.
This structure is enacted upon a groundwork of individuality. Each student creates work for their own reasons, and most students at the undergraduate level have never critically examined their own creative impulses. By setting clear creative objectives that allow for each student to integrate his or her own interests with each project, the student can form an intimate cognitive understanding of the creative process rooted in their well used -- but not yet critically explored -- creative experience. To facilitate this understanding, the instructor must be able to listen, empathize, and question the student in order to simultaneously form an understanding of the student’s motivations, as well as to develop the student’s comprehension of their own instinctive practice. Once a student begins to understand their personal motivations, this becomes a point of departure from which a new sense of criticality can emerge. It introduces the base questions of “Why?” and “How?” into a subject matter that they “know” but do not understand. The instructor must set an example for the student by being open-minded and relatable, never discouraging a specific mode of exploration, but rather, consistently and intelligently question each step of the process. Students must be guided in multiple abeyant directions through the use of discussions and sources varied in scope and manifestation. From these vantage points the student can learn how to find their own questions and potential answers.
This is the task of an arts instructor; to pass on the skills of self motivated exploration through research, cognition, and praxis -- an exploration that is dynamic and full of surprises that become questions, that become answers that become questions.
1 Detienne, Marcel and Jean-Pierre Vernant. Cunning Intelligence in Greek Culture and Society. Trans. Janet Lloyd. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1991, p. 3.