This paper is written by Rikke Lund Heinsen, researcher and teacher at The Danish National School of Performing Arts. It was first presented at a conference in Copenhagen back in 2014.
This is an updated version from February 18.
At the island Holmen in Copenhagen some of the most expensive educational institutions in Denmark are placed. Art schools with different disciplines, art forms, languages and processes. But also schools with similar circumstances, narratives and challenges: Seeing themselves as the ‘worlds best school’ and being forced to create the ‘worlds best actors, directors, architects, designers, filmakers....’. The schools have to form students who can contribute to the artistic fields, change direction and be employable. Yet the schools are part of various artistic fields that they also have to connect to, challenge and be ahead of.
One of the schools is The Danish National School of Performing Arts where I am a teacher and are searcher since 2009. At this school two types of ‘lighting’ are shed at the students from the very first day: A spotlight when they are picked as ‘the one’ from a great number of peoples having applied. And a set of down lights when they have to be able to work in interdependent processes. Gergen has taught us about relational thinking and participation, but there is still a heavy tradition and a number of dominating stories about talent and creativity as mainly centred within the individual.
Knowing about these circumstances – and also realizing that my ‘diagnose’ is not an objective truth – I started together with a colleague to develop Reflection Labs back in 2010, mainly for instructor and scenographer students. Why? We wanted to create new learning spaces in order to ‘stretch’ reflection competences through reflection methods. We were eager to find ways to create generative learning so that the students would see the world, themselves and each other in new shapes and colours and reflect upon their artistic development. We curated the laboratories as mediators – but we did not manage, as much as we had hoped, to build bridges between the Reflection Labs and the artistic processes that the students were engaged in. We reorganized meaning in some sense for a lot of students but we did not help reorganizing the artistic processes.
Many years later I am still at the school trying to rebuild and deconstruct our first ideas into a new field: Entrepreneurship! The school still has circumstances, narratives and challenges towork with – but something is different: There is a longing for change in working with, sharing and creating group creativity in new ways. One of my main issues in my research is to try to connect this longing into the field of Entrepreneurship - understood in the widest sense of the term: To be innovative, opportunity oriented, value creating agents of change in various ways.
This thought does not only demands new courses and curriculums. It demands new learning spaces where both students and teachers dare to create and curate new instable and uncertain processes and dare to investigate in new circumstances for performance creativity.Therefore I am curious whether entrepreneurship and the role of the mediators could frame new ways of working artistically in an art school where group creativity is a part of the DNA but has to be ‘disturbed’ to be developed.
To start a journey of development
In May 2014 I finished the first step of the project ‘Artistic Entrepreneurship at The Danish National School of Performing Arts’. The outcome was the ‘cooking book’ ‘Artistic Entrepreneurship at The Danish National School of Performing Arts – a guide to teachers, students and leaders’ (it is written only in Danish), and it was written as a contribution to the development and integration of artistic entrepreneurship at the school.
The purpose has been to inspire people who are interested in artistic entrepreneurship as a field of competences. Talking about competences I approach the term as defined by the Danish researcher in learning, Knud Illeris: Competences are something that people develop in regards to what they are working on and interested in. It has to do with being able to act inrelation to certain known, unknown and unpredictable situations. It is skills you have obtained and that are prerequisites for being able to act in new, complex situations (Illeris,2011). I have chosen the cooking book as a metaphor because it is possible to dig intodifferent ‘food groups’ and ‘ingredients’ and to get inspiration for new ways of ‘cooking’ in your teaching, planning of courses or strategic work. The material is based on entrepreneurship as a social, co-creating and relational competence and relate to theories and thoughts from social constructionism, linguistic philosophy, narrative thinking and modern learning theories (Gergen, Bateson, Wenger, Lave, Bruner, Holmgren, Illeris).
Artistic entrepreneurship – a field of possibilities
In the field of higher education in Denmark there has been a boom in research and initiatives, which have looked upon the term ‘entrepreneurship’ as an area of competences, a didactic field, an area of empiric research and a teaching field as a part of a curriculum.
Some of the interesting thoughts that I have come across in my research are the questions of how to understand the term ‘possibilities’ as a central issue in entrepreneurship. There is a certain tradition of looking upon the entrepreneur as someone who has a special ability or ‘flair’ for seeing or predicting possibilities waiting to be discovered and used. This view is called a position of discovery. Another view is called a position of creation. This optic considers processes of entrepreneurship as co-creating processes and the entrepreneur is seen as a creator of new realities. Possibilities are created through interdependent acts of social participation and not within the individual.
If we follow this path it opens a wider function and description of entrepreneurship as notonly an economic term but also a term embracing community and collectives. It gives us a chance to develop the field within the educational area focusing not only on the ‘classical’ skills such as planning and strategy but also on competences such as co-creation, iterative processes, interaction and self-efficacy (Korsgaard, Trane and Blenker 2009, Bandura 1997, Bager, Blenker, Rasmussen mfl, 2010).
The connection between entrepreneurial research and artistic entrepreneurship
If we try to connect the mentioned thoughts and research to artistic entrepreneurship at an art school I have chosen to see artistic entrepreneurship as a field of possibilities where the student:
• Expands her repertoire of creating new arts pieces, products and events
• Expands her possibilities to co-create and join communities of practice
• Develops new languages and methods within the field of entrepreneurship
• Expands her possibilities to create value in various ways
• Expands her methods of reflection and competences to contextualize her experiences
This leads to the following proposition of a definition of artistic entrepreneurship:
Artistic entrepreneurship is focused on empowering the students in their ability to been trepreneurial so that they – based on their performative skills - can expand the field of professional possibilities, build a sustainable working life and create values in many ways. (Lund Heinsen, 2014)
To teach is to curate
In defining a field of competences within the area of artistic entrepreneurship at an art school, we can open different doors for new - or more likely – redefined ways of teaching, learning and creating generative acts. It also gives the possibility to frame creative activity for the community of practice that includes both students and teachers.
At my school there has been a tradition of apprenticeship combined with theoretic viewpoints and learning orientated didactics, which mean having focus on the students processes, activities and relations (Bager, mfl. 2010, 2013). There is also a tradition of situated learning (Lave, Wenger, 2003) giving the students a community of practice to grow within. By participating in many theatre productions we increase the possibility of engaging students so that they find their learning meaningful. But what have we NOT discovered? Which aspectsare we blind towards? How can we develop and unfold the learning spaces and different processes in my proposed optic of artistic entrepreneurship and maybe create new conditions for future artistic group creativity?
The redefined ways of teaching, learning and creating are connected to a change in paradigms and positions for the teacher – at least it is a place to start because as a teacher you have the opportunity to start changing your own learning space by changing your own position. You have the power to decide to ACT differently and you can commit yourself to dare to make newsmall steps within your own space. In my work, unfolding the area of artistic entrepreneurship, I found a certain openness and possibility in placing myself in new positions and roles in order to strengthen the active learning processes that artistic entrepreneurship could contain. The interesting thing is to start by using the language as a ‘disturbance’ and a toolbox of unknown or forgotten words of how to be a teacher. I found that it was possible to work with seeing myself as:
- Organizer of the students learning processes
- Facilitator of the students learning processes
- Trainer and coach with regards to the students learning processes
- Curator or mediator for the students group creativities
- ‘Question poser’ in respect to the students artistic processes
- ‘Question trainer’ in order to strengthen the students abilities to ask questions
- Reflection partner in order to help the students to conceptualize their experiences
The different positions create different learning spaces and open up a huge amount of various ways for the group. These teaching positions are – as I have experienced it so far – connected to social participation. They contain the possibility to see each other as learners (Lave, 2012)and to let disturbance and uncertainty in the room be the driver in finding new solutions together. Or to share secrets and experiences in a larger scale than normal! Especially within the field of entrepreneurial thinking (and the position of creation) it is meaningful to experiment with the learning space and the teaching position. To make the students see each other as competent professional fellows (Bager, Blenker, Rasmussen and Trane, 2010) and to open up spaces for generative acts and learning, could be the most significant criteria for the mediator or the curator. This is also important in order to expand the abilities and competences to create new pieces of art or events (Senge, 1999).
The power of teaching networks
What does it take to replace or redefine you as a teacher with the purpose of using the field of artistic entrepreneurship as a frame for creating new ways of generative acts and new ways of working artistically?
The following views could be interesting to bear in mind before answering this question:
1. Teaching entrepreneurial competences can be seen as a link between discipline,process and personal style. It gives all the participants a possibility to use their competences, skills and knowledge in new combinations and to develop the ability ofself-reflection.
2. There is a possibility to shift from being in your safe zone of knowledge and competences as a teacher - being in front to show the way - to a more emerging place where you as a teacher is behind framing or curating the process.
3. We can create a powerful learning environment through a curious interest in each other’s methods and teaching positions and by ‘disturbing’ the apprenticeship when it gets too introvert and is blocking for new thoughts and development.
To create strong teaching networks with diverse competences is a way to be brave in the quest for creating and cultivating new circumstances for group creativity in an art school. Ifyou want to redefine yourself in a new field of competences and you have an interest in new terms such as artistic entrepreneurship, it makes sense to be connected to a network of other learners.
My hope is that by seeing artistic entrepreneurship as an important and integrated part of a modern performance school and by exploring the position of creation while we look upon entrepreneurship as a creation of new realities, maybe we can cultivate an environment for mediators and curators who are willing to ‘stretch’ themselves, to be unstable, uncertain and keen to expand the field TOGETHER with the students. Mediators or curators who are solidly placed in their different disciplines but who are always curious to enter the field of interdisciplinarity. Learners who are more interested in the interdependent acts and the generative acts than the act of the individual and the talent.
We have a wonderful possibility and an obligation to seek for and reinvent meaning and artistic experience as an art school with new structures developing (bachelor, master, third circle). We need to make new narratives and disrupt routines! We need mediators and curators!
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