Friday, 10 July 2009

Back in Venice

Free Felix Gonzalez Torres posters at the last Venice Biennale.

and some bins at the Giardini...

Wednesday, 1 July 2009


I’m due to be part of an interview panel tomorrow and as a way to standardise the interview process and increase fairness, a number of fixed questions have been prepared by a member of the so called “Human Resources” department. Presumably as a consequence of this standardisation process some of the questions have become very generic and uninspiring. One of them asks the interviewees to give an example of when they motivated others - yawn! But perhaps the quality of the question is of small importance – the point of questions after all, is to elicit answers and inspiring answers can arise from even the most impoverished questions.

It stands to reason that, amongst other things, teachers are in the business of motivating students. Without motivation there’s little impetus to do anything, so clearly it’s important to be motivated and if this motivation can be instilled by teachers, all the better. But how hard is this really - because it seems to me that motivating people is actually one of the most fundamental forms of social action? Surely simply by caring and showing that we care, so long as these sentiments are welcome, we motivate people to reciprocate – to care too and to act on this caring. There is nothing new in this and it’s certainly not a particularly unique skill. Yes, some people have an ability to motivate people to a much greater degree than others and yes, it’s good to leave students feeling positive about their work and aspirations, but ultimately motivation has to come from within - to be self-motivation, especially if it is to be enduring and useful to students. This is why motivating others should only be a by-product of the work that teachers do with students rather than being an end in itself - we’re not life-coaches after all, much as it might sometimes feel as though we are. If we focus too much of our attention on motivation we risk loosing the particularity and specificity of what we have to offer and we’ll also tend to dilute or avoid altogether the more challenging or daunting lessons which are so important for the maturing artist.