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Creative meets critical

Creative meets critical

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The Srishti school of New Humanities and Design hopes to question dominant thinking

The Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology has expanded its scope and vision with the School of New Humanities and Design. The world, as it is today, demands dynamic change makers and good politics in the abstract is hardly enough. The school endeavours to train its students to see and understand the world better, where the creative and critical constantly encounter each other.

The dean Deepta Sateesh and co-dean Vivek Dhareshwar speak about this just born dream.

 

 

 

 

What led to the setting up of this school?

Founder-Director of Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Dr. Geetha Narayanan, as an educator has a conception of art and design as a larger learning environment and field of practice, with liberal arts central to it at all levels. With this in mind, she has a larger vision for Srishti in the space of higher education – having set up a successful and creative art and design institute made her think about the need to expand into a university structure, extending Srishti’s learning and pedagogy to other fields, including media, science, law, planning, policy studies, humanities, etc., with programmes at the undergraduate, post-graduate and doctoral levels housed in six schools – School of New Humanities and Design, School of Media Arts & Science, School of Design, Business and Technology, School of Law, Environment and Planning, School of Foundation and Preparatory Studies, and the School of Continuing and Open Professional Education.

In today’s neoliberal regime, very little space is left for us to question the dominant thinking. Older universities are left to decay in conventionality and others turn education into businesses. Education as a common good does not seem to figure in anyone’s agenda. In this ecosystem, it is imperative to create a space that is open and expansive, for critical thinking and creative practices that can generate new thought and new knowledge rather than borrow an existing and problematic understanding of the world around us. The School of New Humanities and Design, at Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology, offers such a space that brings together criticality and imagination to challenge the dominant thinking.

The claim is that the programme offered by your institute “goes beyond” existing courses. Can you explain?

The vision for the School of New Humanities and Design is to combine art and design practices with theory to develop a unique approach to the study of humanities. We believe that a whole new sensibility, a new theoretical and practical orientation to the social and natural world are needed to understand the articulation of cultural differences, emergent social and political formations, creative practices and also new conflicts and contestations over identities, traditions and institutions. Our goal is to actively rethink the traditional humanities disciplines to enable students to develop the skill to interpret, theorize and intervene, and engage with the complexities of a fully globalized culture unfolding before us. The traditional form in which the humanities were taught had generally sub-ordinated practice to theory, creative expression to critical reflection, doing to thinking – thus instituting false hierarchies between different forms of knowledge. By contrast, the new humanities seeks to construct inquiring spaces that overturn those hierarchies to create new models of creative and critical learning.

Do you see any change in the reception for a liberal arts education programme? Who are its takers?

We do see a change. While older Liberal Arts were facing hostilities (with Chandrababu Naidu during his early years as “CEO of Andhra Pradesh” wanting to shut down history departments), they were not able to offer anything different to students, marginalized themselves. We believe that today’s citizen needs to be equipped with a renewed understanding that is dynamic and complex, keeping up with change and contentious issues. This Simultaneously, with the expanding art world, emergence of not just Biennale, but new opportunities that are being generated by creative entrepreneurs and industries, there is a need for a new education space that will respond to and shape creative thinking and practice.

While on the one hand courses such as these -- arts and humanities -- change the way we look at the world, isn’t it also true that such courses are often the privilege of the upwardly mobile?

Your question is important as it is one that we asked ourselves when imagining the programme. The Postgraduate Programme in the Arts is far from it – in fact it has been designed to make available and accessible other ways of seeing, and knowledge systems. Revealing them requires a certain sensitivity to work with the digital as well as analog, and a sensibility towards unraveling the visual, the experienced and the embodied. Our programme in that sense is about cognitive justice – not to differentiate by socio-economic categories, or accept the predominant but to privilege multiple cognitive systems and local subjugated practices as offering alternative ways of knowing.

You have very interesting course designs. How did you go about planning for these? Was it based on a survey or some kind of a study?

The courses at the School of New Humanities and Design are definitely not based on any surveys, but came from critical questions and research areas emerging within Srishti. Planning is a bottom-up collaborative process at Srishti, and is interdisciplinary bringing together multiple faculty from across diverse fields and expertise – social scientists, artists, designers, scientists, linguists, educators, geographers, etc. Design is crucial to the planning process to generate new curriculum that is learner-centered, driven by extensive capabilities that the student can acquire across a complex choice-based navigation system.

Institutes that offer higher education courses should not only be disseminators of knowledge but also producers of knowledge. Do you feel the same?

In the School of New Humanities and Design, our vision is to continually produce new ideas, methodologies and knowledge, not to borrow and deliver existing ones. As part of our endeavour to elevate and encourage knowledge production, we have begun a Colloquium Series and Writing Seminar, as well as a ‘New Ground of Humanities and Design’ Workshop series. These are spaces for faculty to share their practices, theorize from them and challenge the conventional. Along with this, Srishti’s Interlude and Interim semester, artists-in-residence and our international conferences and networks enable us to push for new ideas and challenges in the art world and design practices.

How does one escape the danger of knowledge becoming institute-centric? For instance, suppose one were to ask a student who Kumar Gandharv is or Baba Amte, one often draws a blank. How do we make our curriculum include the world around us too?

Our students have an active learning environment and a curriculum that demands of them to go out into the world, such as: explorations and dialogues in Shanthiniketan for the Tagore-Gandhi Conference; immersive experiences in the Western Ghats for a studio on challenging boundaries; Public History enables people to understand and valorize their own past, and so on.

The Kabir Project housed at Srishti has a deep and extensive connection with artists, musicians and other practitioners in Rajasthan and Kutch.

Our pedagogical structure requires students to step outside and bring new ways of seeing, making, knowing and engaging back into the studio and seminar. The curriculum at the School of New Humanities and Design is driven by the world around us – the seen and the unseen.

source : www.thehindu.com

 


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