September 19, 2014

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8.15 am. Last night’s incoming emails were either deleted, forwarded, or (together with submissions of postgraduate texts) met with a response. At 9.00 am, I settled to begin the next Art/Sound lecture, one which, on this occasion, had started life as a symposium paper for The Courtauld Institute of Art’s ‘The Listening Art Historian’ fora. No shame in that. I firmly believe that teaching should be research led. All students, irrespective of level of study, have a right to hear ideas that are in the process of evolution, and material that has yet to be published.  Universities are not super-secondary schools; they are professional communities whose currency is thought (pure and applied, old and radically new) of the most elevated kind. An academic’s role is to not only impart knowledge and skills but also challenge complacency, support new ways of thinking and acting, and insist that its members take intelligent risks. One cannot be original without first being reckless.

Let me take up that rather vacuous mantra which is mindlessly mouthed by Universities UK:  ‘the quality of student experience’ (which in my books should have more to do with the essential character of the experience than its degree of ‘excellence’ (another word that has been void of meaning)). Students should be pulled up to the level of the subject, rather than the other way round, and made to struggle uncomfortably out of their depths. Students can no more learn well than swim properly if they’re always buoyed by the rubber ring of perpetual, on-hand assistance from tutors when things go wrong. As an undergraduate, I knew that tutors cared for my education because they afforded me the right to suffer alone for a period.

By noon, I’d completed the, now, 14th lecture of the module and made ready to prepare number 15 after lunch. Back at the School, most of the Masters exhibitors’ works were either on the walls or aspiring upwards:

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12.30 pm. A ‘research consultation’ meeting with a colleague at Le Figaro’s (which serves the nicest bangers, mash, and mushy peas in Aberystwyth). We both have an inordinate passion for sound and twiddly things, and a youthfulness of vision that belies our years. So much energy is expended in finding funding gaps, and constructing projects that meet grant award criteria that are themselves ill fit to accommodate the ‘fine art way’. But, these days, one must fight against the system and the odds to stand any chance of winning anything. It’s only those who persevere that get the prize. We rose from the table with resolve. Among my determinations were the following: Don’t engage any project that:

  • isn’t interesting to me
  • doesn’t arise from a personal passion and my sense of inward necessity
  • isn’t worthwhile in and of itself
  • isn’t fun at some level
  • doesn’t push me beyond the bounds of my own competence
  • cannot be rationally integrated with what I’ve already done
  • has an outcome which is obvious from the outset
  • fulfils someone else’s agenda only
  • is utilitarian, either primarily or solely
  • is ‘impact’ led.

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On returning home, I revised and repackaged another lecture for the Art/Sound module that had been given at The Courtauld Institute of Art originally. The remainder of the afternoon was set aside for research administration: chiefly writing emails to collaborating colleagues and institutions on matters related to immediate and concluding projects, and to new ones appearing above the horizon.

An evening off.

 

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