29 SES 04, Arts Education and the Construction of Identities
Nowadays, technological, social, and scientific innovations have significantly changed the concept of work and modified how we think, learn, and live it (Fenwick, 2001).
The pervasive diffusion of the concept of practice has changed the meaning of work that is intended now as a context within specific abilities and competencies are created, transmitted, and preserved. In the workplace studies perspective work is intended as a set of learning modalities, as a process of situated knowledge emerged through the dynamic workers’ interactions. Working means knowing and not only using some knowledge. Indeed, knowledge is not a response in the head of the humans but is “hooked into”, and linked to the material world. Practical knowledge involves humans committed in the work in a way that excludes distinctions and dichotomies among body and mind, theory and action (Leavy, 2009). Over the years, artistic practices have attracted the attention of researchers who want to investigate different ways of knowing in the professional context (Barbour, 2011; Foster, 2011; McNiff, 2007). There are several «methodological approaches identified and adopted to investigate both the professions and professional learning» (Billett, Harteis, Gruber, 2014: p. 194). Moving from the assumption that «artists have the potential to significantly contribute to the generation of new understanding, not only of artistic practice, but also to knowledge and to society in general» (Barbour, 2011: p. 86), this study, in order to engage a scientific enquiry associated with what constitutes professional work and its learning, have tried to apply the art-based research perspective to artists’ professionalism. Aspects and dimensions emerged during this reflexive research path with artists would be helpful to define new interpretative categories that might be used in professional and workplace studies. Moreover, the focus of this study is to demonstrate the need to refine the term of artist identity and professionalism, to signal the way in which artistic practices have become more complex, diverse, critically informed, and socially relevant.
This paper aims to call into question the state, the nature, and the challenges artists deal with developing their professional identity and their expertise.
Focusing and reflecting on their work, artists involved in this study offer the opportunity to shed light on three main dimensions:
- What does it mean to be an artist (in this case, a cartoonist)? What does this imply? How did artists learn to be an artist? How do they develop their professional identity?
- What is the role of experience in becoming an artist?
- What do artists act in practice? How do they learn in the circumstances of practice?
This paper focuses on what constitutes professional work for artists. The paper reports results of a qualitative study with six artists. It was aimed to understand, in the art-based perspective, the artistic profession and the related professional learning. The study, articulated in three different phases, investigated the following dimensions: • Being an artist; • Becoming an artist; • Acting as an artist; In order to assure a number of methodological possibilities within the interpretative paradigm, a phenomenological methodology was used. This methodology has been helpful to understand individual and contextual points of view as well as personal perceptions and conceptions of the main important experiences in the development of the artistic professional identity. All participants were informed of the purpose of the study, assured of anonymity and confidentiality and voluntarily consented to participate. Starting from the assumption of work as lived and embodied practice researchers have tried to analyse learning paths through artistic performance. The inquiry, conducted with 6 artists was aimed to explore, in an art-based research perspective, the artists’ ways of knowing in professional contexts. To such aim different tools have been used: • Participant’s bio outline. This instrument, in the first phase (Being an artist), gathered information on artists’ education paths and their professional careers (variables like sex, age, years of experience were also considered). A reflexive exercise (the mirrors game) was inserted here in order to help artists to consider, from a different perspective and with a different focus, their professional identity. • The artist’s diary and Stepping stones exercise were used in the second phase (Becoming an artist) in order to gather memories, experiences, critical incidents, professional accounts (but also products, portfolios, pictures, etc.) that can help both participants and researchers to reconstruct the professional identity of each artist. • Reflective sketchbook to capture moment-by-moment thoughts and reflections that unconsciously spring from improvisation or working in process and an in-deep interview focused on the analysis of an artistic performance video-recorded were used in the last phase (Acting as an artist);
Even though a restrict number of participants, some inferences about artists’ professional identity and their professionalism can be made. 1. There are substantial differences in the artists’ conceptions of “Being an artist”. This aspect emerged more clearly comparing juniors and experts’ points of views. Gender, age, specialization, and professional experience deeply affected the answers. While young artists are focused on demonstrate their competence and are more selfish, senior artists demonstrate how they perceive the role of being an artist as a form of social responsibility 2. For the dimensions “Becoming an artist” there are no substantial differences in relation to formal and traditional learning paths: both juniors and experts artists recall the same experiences and the same categories (e.g. the alignment with an explicit model and the exact reproduction; the drill and practice of a specific technique; the role of routines). Some differences emerged when the focus is on the informal learning paths: for junior artists, the internet, social and personal media have a deep impact because they modify the construct of the community of practice (Wenger, 1998) and the traditional idea that an artist can learn only by observing, participating and attending to professional practices of other experts. 3. Data relating to the third dimension “Acting as an artist” reveal a composite scenario. The performance is really perceived in different ways: senior artists are more conscious of their limits and of the quality and positive aspects of their performances. They appear more confident about the management of the time and the space of their work. Their bodies at work demonstrate a polite and sophisticated level of performance. Senior artists are aware that the memory of the body helps them during the performance and the creative production.
Barbour K. (2011). Dancing Across the Page. Chicago: The University Chicago Press. Billett, S. (2003). Sociogeneses, Activity and Ontogeny. Culture and Psychology, 9(2), 133-169. Billett, S. (2014b). Mimetic Learning at Work: Learning in the Circumstances of Practice. Dordrecht, The Nertherlands: Springer. Billett, S., Harteis, C. & Gruber, C. (2014). International Handbook on Research in Professional and Practice-based Learning. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer International. Fenwick T. (2001). Tides of change: New themes and questions in workplace learning. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 92, 3-18. Fenwick, T. (2003). Reclaiming and re-embodying experiential learning through complexity science. Studies in the Education of Adults, 35(2), 123-141. Foster, S. L. (2011). Choreographing Empathy. New York, NY: Routledge. Leavy P. (2009). Method Meets Art. Arts-Based Research Practice. New York – London: The Guilford Press. McNiff S. (2007). Art-based research. In J. G. Knowles, A. L. Cole (Eds.), Handbook of the Arts in Qualitative Research: Perspectives, Methodologies, Examples, and Issues. Thousand Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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