Vice President’s Welcome: X-Gen to Next-Gen

By Clive Barstow

Welcome to the final edition of NiTRO for 2017. It has been such a busy and turbulent year for many of us involved at all levels of arts education in Australia, and particularly for our institutional leaders many of who have spent the year juggling budgets and stretching their moral and ethical boundaries to protect the arts for our future students and communities.

To this end, we are focusing this edition on the next generation of artists - asking questions about how we are preparing them for a world that is changing so rapidly and in front of our very eyes. We are pondering the big questions about how we adapt to the unknown, what is timeless and sacrosanct in our Academy and how artists and designers will contribute to a world where the march toward mechanisation will provoke more serious and immediate questions about what it really means to be human.

Throughout the year NiTRO has developed an archive of thematic discussions that all, in their own way, contribute to the central issues surrounding the here and now, often giving context to our arguments by reflecting on the then.  The tomorrow of course is more speculative, but what we do know is that our future will inevitably be interspersed with those eternal moments that test our abilities to convince everyone of the true and lasting value of the arts. Some things will never change!

Rather than imagining a dystopian future of homogenised and unrecognisable voids of techno-nothingness, it could be that our future mechanised world will force a profound revisioning of our shared cultural values that elevates creativity, empathy and those unique human traits of unpredictability and irrationality that only our poets, musicians, artists and social designers are able to fully articulate. What cannot be simulated by an algorithmic equation might well influence our pedagogy and research direction to the extent that the speculative nature of arts practice will once again be remembered as a marker of its time.

For this to happen the responsibility lies with us to make sure that our future artists and graduates are suitably skilled to lead and to advocate for the core principles that should remain time-less as the rest of our values are put into question. It is with great pleasure therefore that this issue of NiTRO gives voice to our most recent and talented teachers, researchers, graduates and to our “next-gen journo’s” from Deakin University. I think our future is in safe and beautifully unpredictable hands.