PhD Dissertation “Educating Artists Beyond Digital: Understanding network art & learning as contemporary pedagogy”

In this research I examine the notion of ‘network’ in art, learning, and teaching by examining the practices of seven contemporary artists who also teach in universities.

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Educating Artists Beyond Digital: Understanding Network Art and Relational Learning as Contemporary Pedagogy


This dissertation is offered at a time when there is renewed interest in the conceptual overlaps between contemporary art and discussions about pedagogy, along with a desire to provide alternative ways of learning through different forms of pedagogy. Understanding art today often requires a shift away from the art object to the encounter with the work. For example, this

Screenshot of research field notes from my blog

research study aligns itself with the notion that network art is a type of art not based on objects, nor digital instruments alone, but on the relationships and processes that occur between the multiple components and individuals that contribute to the work.

Artists today work in relational and networked ways in which digital media exists as one part of a larger complex process. Art educators have called for an approach to the post-secondary pedagogical model that responds more to the multidisciplinary practices of contemporary artists and current cultural production. I suggest that a network understanding of both art and learning, drawn from the practices of contemporary artists and complexity thinking, can lead to new ways of rearticulating and understanding pedagogical practices.

In this research study I examine the practices of seven contemporary network artists who teach in post-secondary art programs. Through a reflexive methodology of active interviews and narrative inquiry, I inquire into the ways that these multidisciplinary and network artists make art and approach pedagogy. I am interested in how these modes of art production might impact ways of teaching and learning. Based on data collected during interviews, online correspondence, and examination of artworks, I observed three main thematic connections between the participants’ art and teaching practices: dialogical, collaborative, and performative. I suggest that these characteristics are related to notions of network within art and learning. I argue that network art, when looked at through the lens of pedagogy, can potentially be understood as relational learning, or performative learning. I end by suggesting further research into the idea of knowledge being something that becomes performative within our situational experiences.

Citation: May, H. (2013). Education artists beyond digital: Understanding network art and relational learning as contemporary pedagogy. PhD dissertation. University of British Columbia.

Below: Click to enlarge Table of Contents for an overview of the research



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