Center for Spiritual Inquiry and Integral Education

R. Michael Fisher
Artists for the Future: A Movement
by R. Michael Fisher - Saturday, April 13, 2013, 08:42 PM

The notion of "Artists for the Future: A Movement" came to me from several streams of thought today, and I think the idea is worthy of CSIIE attention, as in many ways, a lot of our faculty are artists in their own right, defining the term widely and sensitively to what is being called forth in these crises times of the 21st century. First stream of influence recently, was an awareness in my own work to begin focusing on aesthetic and art practices as liberational paths. I've been studying and reading lots in this area and using ideas and my own experiences doing aesthetic practices and art work to enhance the learning.

Secondly, I have been highly impacted by my partner's struggles in the higher education system today, especially in the state of Illinois, but it is a wider problem across the USA especially, and in many other countries. There is an incredible State-driven conservative neoliberalist ideology controlling higher education, and all the way down as the teachers are trained in those institutions and then go out and train the kids in schools. The system is becoming so overly concerned (paranoid) about "assessment" of everything to the fine-letter and scores, scores, scores, as quantitative measurements that kids are learning the important things. But the real question is, for any society (not just bureaucrats in the Dept. of Education), what is really important?

Well, my wife/partner teaches preservice art educators. The gutting of "Art Education" is a major disaster in this state and beyond, if you weren't following the real political and economic decisions being made. Art curriculum that remains in public schools systems is being dictated by the "upper" bureaucrats and coming down and in through the system, and not only are teachers in schools being made into state puppets (servants) rather than creative individuals who can be trusted in their fields of expertise, but teachers of the teachers in higher education are also having to conform to this mistrust and accountability nightmare with all its infantilization. It is totally demeaning and oppressive at all levels, and believe you me I know, as I watch what is happening in my home and what is happening with my partner daily. This is a disaster for Education in general. Artists, art educators and researchers have to fight back and I'm sure some are, but I have some ideas here of how that can take shape.

Thirdly, I've been very influenced by the Art World of late, particularly it is starting to recognize major contemporary artist as community-based and/or social activists of one kind or another and that they are bringing innovation into their work to influence politics. I envision someday their work will influence, as will the Art World in general, more and more (not less and less as is the case now) the Arts Curriculums in schools and communities everywhere. The two artists one American and one Chinese, iconic in their own right today, that have inspired me lately are Marina Abramovic (see the DVD "The Artist is Present") and Ai Weiwei (see the DVD "Never Sorry"). The jist of their work is that it is outstanding in performing the "artist of the future" motif in the real world of everyday lives and in the Art World... so, I will leave it to you to research more on them but it may be worth going first to the website ( where Abramovic presents an award ("Innovator of the Year") to Weiwei within the New York art scene, as Weiwei is identified as the most important activist artist of 2011-12. At this ceremony Abramovic labels him "the Artist of the Future" and it is so fitting, in many ways, and leads to my use of this phrase and idea as an activist movement that needs to coalesce ASAP, and I'm going to start it off today, here in brief form.

The brief of ARTISTS OF THE FUTURE campaign is that artists and the art world and culture at large has to take back the curriculum of the arts from the State-Corporate curriculum agenda that is currently being downloaded and destroying the best qualities and vision for what art is in a society. The main problem is, the curriculum agenda is a 'top-down' enterprise totally and artists, especially the greatest contemporary ones (like Abramovic or Weiwei who are now being acknowledged in the highest cultural circles of the ARTS around the world) are not being asked for "vision" that goes with a 21st century curriculum and on what it means to be an artist and learn artist's skills in art education.

This omission is totally unacceptable and must be fought tooth and claw if necessary, that is, if the State-Corporate curriculum people and policy makers in Education are not going to work with us in the art community. We will help them if they let us. We'll first, of course, have to educate them. One thing you or they can do is watch the DVD's I just mentioned to see what is powerfully moving millions of people in important aesthetic, artistic, and political ways. We have to redefine what "art" and "artist" is today, in the future, if we want art and art education and artist's roles to be in-tune with what is happening on the planet, especially the multiple crises that threaten life itself in the very near future. Abramovic, in her award presentation last year to Weiwei (who last I heard was under house arrest in Beijing) quote him: "I spend most of my effort liberating myself from being an artist to become a real human being." I would add, to become a 21st century well-educated and compassionate human being who takes action against injustices and suffering of all kinds. He asks us, in the model he represents (not that we have to copy or worship everything he does as if it doesn't need critiques, which it does, like anyone's work), to re-define art, artist, and the roles these will play in the future of societies everywhere.

I'll leave this brief at that, and ask you to dialogue with me and/or pass this message around. You'll hear more from me but it will probably be on other websites than CSIIE per se. Just for a peek, I'll tell you that I am looking at three main areas of curriculum for the 21st century (besides my fearlessness agenda), and they are the analogous streams of tension, conflict and sometimes out and out opposition, yet need to collaborate, between: (a) Indigenous and Mainstream (W.) education, (b) Art and Education, and (c) Matrixial and Phallic. All of these are avenues to inspect seriously who's curriculum it is that ought to be taught and by whom, and for what kind of vision of a world we want and for the circumstances of intervening into the worst problems of the context in which curriculum takes place.