Art in Academia

Where is art?

These days, we can ask any discipline to locate itself, and the search can quickly get lost, splitting into thousands of destinations. And if we ask multiple disciplines to pick the topics of the day, they often end up on the same page. You can find the applications and references of many studies throughout every profession. Entryways into different fields are multiplied thanks to the Internet and the increase in free time (though we seem to think we have less time in our busy lives, microwaves and Netflix have saved us). Secrets are unveiled because of ideas like open source collaboration, an approach that encourages people to share knowledge. Specialists are talking to each other. We are in the age of interactive communities. Columbia University is simply a small part of this phenomenon. Our intellectual curiosities plunge into so many pools. Architectural structures on this campus are a series of wide-open mouths into every discipline. The campus is laid out to convey the proximity and ease of such interactions.

I take pride in teaching art on such a campus, because I am one of those scholars who has too many parties in my head. Columbia makes us tipsy in a good way, with brain party drinks. It allows me to see art inside out.

Inside the art world, art is a mixture of other disciplines. Media, concepts, morals, stakes, and everything else vary so greatly from one artist to another that I am constantly surprised all of us can be bunched up under the same category. As a confirmation of the variety within the art world, I see art everywhere when I step out of my profession hoping for an ‘objective’ view. But art pervades the world. It affects everybody: it may look like an Apple computer, it may sound like a letter of persuasion between politicians. People are striving to find creative solutions, even in the fields that seem to be least associated with art. With a varied level of awareness, people use the magic of art as a way of thinking and a way of execution. It is no longer a particular class you take. It may be a small fraction of a student’s academic life, but whatever tiny amount, how common it is for a student to relate to art somehow! Art is part of every cocktail at Columbia. It slips into your lives, sometimes without looking like itself. Knowing how inclusive my study is, I am not surprised to see it bleeding into many systems of students’ lives.

As I teach an art course at this academic institution, I take joy in witnessing and participating in the win-win dialogues between art and X, with X representing any other discipline that a student may study. The back and forth dialogue between art and X is so evident that you may just delve into Sculpture I and figure out your true area of interest through the assignments. I believe this interdependency is productive for the future ways of working within any field. You need an extra perspective to succeed in X, and it has to be spicy and attractive—a different look, a different mode of thinking, and a different dimension in which you can freely examine facts—the attraction lies inside the grace of how we do things. Art as it is taught in a big academic institution is a perfect platform for experimentation, where you can talk about anything from A to Z. And if you ever end up inside the art world in the future, you must have X to stabilize yourself within the tumult of what’s fashionable.

Teaching art, as well as studying art, is far more enriching at an academic institution where every other context is conveniently in reach within. As we train ourselves to incorporate art into X and X into art, we become more in sync with the world’s outlook on interactive communities. Good luck to me. Good luck to you.


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