Shifter’s 20th issue, What We Can Knot draws from George Bernard Shaw’s quip “He who can, does; he who cannot, teaches.” In this issue we would like to parse out and challenge what we see to be Shaw’s false binary, and to explore the value of negotiation and collaboration as important elements both in the studio and in the classroom. To this end we have invited several individuals who are both artist and educator, to consider the active relation between art practice and teaching in their life. We have invited them to do this through a conversation or correspondence with either a mentor or a student who continues to play an intimate part in their understanding of the intertwined roles as artist and educator.
We, the editors of Shifter, like so many artists we know, substantially support our artistic practice by teaching in art colleges and universities. While we find that our engagement with students is fraught with negotiations of power, intimacy and control; debate and dissensus in the classroom rarely remains there, always and already molding our thinking and practice as artists.
Is our role as educator, as Gayatri Spivak posits, to non-coercively rearrange the desires of our students? Or is our only responsibility, as Jacques Rancière suggests, creating the conditions of possibility within which students can teach themselves?
As artists we often nd ourselves already skeptical of how institutional frameworks overdetermine our relationships with each other and our work. Certainly this distrust is carried into our relationship with students in the classroom. Whatever our intentions as educators may be, what ceaselessly continues is our negotiation with such institutional frameworks, which provide and simultaneously circumscribe our freedoms. At best it is a reciprocal formulation as student and teacher work collaboratively within and upon the architecture of institutional “givens” as a subversive means by which the teacher/student binary may loosen and transform.
The ethical considerations of a pedagogue are further ampli ed for a studio artist. The artist-educator sometimes problematically sees the student as material to be manipulated, and as a means through which to speak.
So, how may we, as teacher and student, student and teacher, artist and artist, draw a relation between these two intertwined professions? How do we conduct ourselves between such distinct fields in an effort to get more from our practice and offer even more to our students?