By Dr Lienors Torre
As arts educators in a university context we are being asked to be curators and to effectively encourage the practice of curation within our students.
Students today have access to unlimited amounts of online information and tutorials. But what they do not normally have access to is a strong curatorial filter – one that allows them to sift through information – beyond what is currently trending.
When it comes to more traditional research practices, one can simply search online to find vast amounts of research materials (a process that might have taken months or even years in the past). But what is becoming increasingly important is that one needs to learn how to seek out information that goes much deeper than what is available in the top ranked searches, and also be able to makes sense of the huge amounts of information that is uncovered.
In non-traditional research (the creative arts), we often produce research outcomes that are material based and have a physical impact upon the world in a manner that is quite different from purely written research. But now students often research online then create digital imagery which can then be printed in textural forms to make it more concrete. They can even print off virtually produced 3D objects. Increasingly they are able to quickly produce a physical form of just about anything that they have quickly put together in digital form or even mashed together from things they have stumbled across online.
This can represent a dramatic shift in how we produce physical creative works. It used to be that it would take a lot of effort to produce a material object. Quite often you would have to first master a craft, and work continuously with a particular material. Often you were mentored and grew your own vision under that mentorship over many years. Even in traditional 2D image making, such as painting or screen-printing one would be required to master the materials and processes involved. Today, it generally takes a lot less work to produce a digital equivalent.
My own research spans two seemingly diverse areas. One is in the traditional creative arts – specifically in glass making (cast and engraved glass sculptures). And the second is in screen based digital work – specifically 3D animation. Sometimes my creative research outputs have emphasised one or the other, and in some cases I have been able to seamlessly blend these two approaches into a truly synthesised work. To do this, however, it has required a very strong consideration of both material objects and of virtual data. For myself, materiality (whether it be physical or virtual) has always provided an important starting point from which to work.
Although our students may not have the time to become masters of a particular medium or material – being able to gain at least an informed understanding of that medium and some of its subtleties and quirks will certainly help to provide a curatorial direction.
So, if I were to choose a single concept that will help to maintain our relevance in artistic research and teaching, it is that we need to advocate a solid understanding of how to be good curators.
Lienors Torre lectures in Screen and Design at Deakin University. She is currently co-writing a book on Australian Animation. She is also a practicing artist with a background in glass-making and animation whose research looks at the nexus between screen and object.