There is something magical about talking with one’s hands. We can say, feel, and learn through touch in ways which are not audible in other forms of language. Nothing is more powerful than the ability to manipulate the material world, and the union of one’s internal and external realities. To effectively express an idea is the most essential ability of the human condition.
Too often manifestos are overwritten and under-executed. Words without language are devoid of meaning. We tend to put more emphasis on learning words, instead of language itself. Language is comprised of patterns. Patterns are not facts, nor are they material, but they can be seen, touched, heard, felt. Dynamic in nature, they can only be understood. I don’t teach Art, I teach making and doing as a way of understanding. My pedagogy is rooted in something I refer to as pattern language; a form of meta-cognition derived from components of philosophy, sociology, and theoretical computer science which involves learning how to autonomously make patterns out of patterns themselves. The process of pattern language is similar to the scientific method, but instead of having a finite conclusion, it is a cycle which builds upon itself. There are five main components to pattern language:
Observation: Simply looking at things, whether it be the focus of expression, or the media in which it is to be expressed, examining the aesthetic qualities of objects, learning to see things objectively for what they are rather than what one’s prior knowledge tells them it is. Decomposition: Nothing new has ever been created nor will ever be created; expression is an amalgamation of things and ideas which already exist. Students learn to see objects as the parts instead of a whole, and discover how they work together. This picking apart of things, changing their state, destroying them in essence, helps students eliminating the taboo of failure through play. Selection: Viewing a schema or system as a function of its inputs and outputs, as opposed to its inner workings, and selecting the most dynamic components of the decomposition process to produce an algorithm. Composition: Creating an expression of an algorithm. Execution: Activating the expression of the algorithm in a way which creates an experience, and a new problem to be solved.
While each of the main five components are distinct, their order is specific to the problem being solved, and the author of the solution. They are not mutually exclusive, meaning that one or all can occur at the same time simultaneously through the same act of making, layered on top of each other. Mastery does not involve reaching an arbitrary benchmark of technical skill, but proficiency of a student’s thought process is determined by how they may apply it to different contexts, how they can use the algorithm which they express.
It is important that students use tactile media in expression, both traditional 2-D and 3-D fine art media, found object assemblage, and analog studies of the digital world. Students should learn in the context of the physical things which surround them, and be exposed to the possibilities of form and function of those objects to assert connections to the past by strengthening links to the present, and blurring the line between art and artifact.
Beauty is often confused with vanity. To be beautiful, is to be pure, to be true. The study of Aesthetics is the study of truth, and the interconnection of truth to the rational world of ethics and morality. Learning patterns of visual literacy enables us to use making and doing as a vehicle for empathy, socialization, self-worth, and belonging. Students should learn to work independently, but more importantly collaboratively. Autonomy is not capable in isolation. Collaboration teaches students the power of compromise and compassion. Education is a messy collaborative feat. In the words of Joseph Beuyes, “To be a teacher is my greatest work of art.” I see my work as an educator as an ongoing collaborative performance, installation, artist residency, and social experiment. I view education as an artistic medium itself. It is as much a way for me to learn my own patterns of cognition as it is to teach it to others.