Academic journal article Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education

Examining Art and Technology: Determining Why Craft-Making Is Fundamental to Outdoor Education

Academic journal article Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education

Examining Art and Technology: Determining Why Craft-Making Is Fundamental to Outdoor Education

Article excerpt


In this paper, I discuss issues concerning the understanding of the world that pedagogical practices of visual art and technology raise. The intent is to challenge interpretations that experiences of visual art and mediated technology can promote a sense of inseparability between concepts of human and more-than-human awareness. The praxis of environmental education encourages an understanding of oneself as nature instead of separate, apart, in control and therefore able to exploit materials of the land. The praxis of outdoor education emphasises that knowing becomes embodied through action. I argue that neither the practices of visual artists nor the unquestioned use of technology in the field of outdoor education promotes a sense of oneness with the land. This paper begins by discussing one of Ghandi's strategies for social reform and then relates Morris Berman's ideas on creativity to the product and processes associated with visual art and technology education. The conclusion draws upon ways craft-making can encourage environmental well-being through the 'inseparability' of the mind/body, aesthetic/function perception of the world.


Ghandi's outlook on the Arts

In examining the writings of one of the world's most influential promoters of social change through non-violent means, it is interesting to note that Ghandi promoted neither the arts nor technological innovation. When asked what hope he saw in using the arts as a vehicle for social change, he tactfully replied to the superficial outcome that art processes produce: he understood that a person's actions best represent their inner thoughts and relationship with the world in comparison to a representation.

   Student: "How is it that many intelligent
   and eminent men, who love and admire
   you, hold that you ruled out of the
   scheme of national regeneration, all
   considerations of Art?"

   Gandhi: "There are two aspects, the
   outward and the inward.... The outward
   has no meaning to me at all except in so
   far as it helps the inward.... The outward
   forms have value only in so far as they are
   the expression of the inner spirit of man
   [sic] ... I know that many call themselves
   artist in whose works there is absolutely
   no trace of the soul's upward urge.... All
   true Art must help the soul to realize
   its inner self. In my own case I find that
   I can do entirely without external forms
   in my soul's realization. I can claim,
   therefore, that there is truly sufficient Art
   in my life, though you might not see what
   you call works of Art about me. My room
   may have blank walls; and I may even
   dispense with the roof, so that I may gaze
   out upon the starry heavens overhead
   that stretch in an unending expanse of
   beauty. What conscious Art of man can
   give me the scene that opens before me
   when I look up to the sky above with all
   its shining stars?" (cited in Desai, 1956,
   pp. 173-174)

Ghandi emphasises connecting directly with the beauty of the world instead of through mediated images. He questions how any human representation can surpass nature's beauty. He thought children should be trained to see beauty directly in nature in order to fulfill their aesthetic needs. Ghandi was known for following the production of made items back to their original source in order to develop a deep understanding of the processes that inform people's inner thoughts and to determine actions that support positive social and environmental change (Homer, 1956, p. 229). Such examination encourages asking if the resulting items warrant the initial destruction of nature and if the masses of people benefit by the chosen processes of production. Ghandi (1970) outlines the way "the intellect ands its expression in action by the body" (p. 560) and that an "all-round economy" is learned while completing a handicraft (p. 96). He used handicrafts as a central pivot in his educational ideas. …

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