InSEA 2017 Doctoral Research Award

International Society for Education Through Art ( InSEA)



Heidi Marie May

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I am completely thrilled to accept the 2017 InSEA Doctoral Award. My dissertation was completed in October 2013, near the beginning of the allowable timeframe for applying for this award; thus, this award comes at a time when I am able to reflect with hindsight. I feel especially grateful to have had such an amazing supervisor (Dr. Rita L. Irwin) and committee (Dr. Donal O’Donoghue and Dr. Teresa Dobson). Receiving this award has encouraged me to continue to publish, share and expand on the knowledge generated from my doctoral research.

My dissertation examines the notion of ‘network’ in art, learning, and teaching by examining the practices of seven contemporary artists who work with relational practices and digital media, and who also teach in universities. This research aligns itself with the notion…

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Beyond the Televisual

There’s a feature article on Rhizome this week that does a great job of extending ideas I wrote about in 2001 to contemporary artists working in response to current internet/network culture. Ten years ago I was making and exploring art video that challenged our relationships to television and media culture, particularly the impact of televisual experiences on our psychological being. The article “Life Feed: Webcams, Art, and People” by Brian Droitcour provides an interesting overview of current artworks that explore psychological aspects of our personal relationships with the world wide web. The author acknowledges the history of video art — Vito Acconci’s Centers (1971); Richard Serra’s Boomerang (1974) — and Rosalind Krauss’s writing on the “aesthetics of narcissism” in relation to current work by Marisa Olson, Ryder Ripps, Guthrie Lonergan, and Petra Cortright in advance of a current exhibition by Jeremy Bailey and Antoine Catala.

click for article >

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Fight the Power with Open Source

A few months ago I did a presentation at the CAA New York 2011 conference as part of the New Media Caucus panel: Fighting the Power – Open Source, Free Software, and Critical Digital Practices. My co-presenter Jody Baker and I were recently invited to do an encore for a symposium on online learning at Emily Carr University of Art and Design. It was great to be able to share our ideas and to listen to other presentations by fellow faculty and guest presenter from UBC, Brian Lamb (whom I always enjoy listening to). Here’s the slideshow from our presentation, followed by an abstract of our talk.
* slideshow includes some video clips, so use the play slider to move through it

Processing Digital: Opening up to a Space of Emergence in Art Pedagogy, by Heidi May and Jody Baker, presented at CAA New York 2011

Networked art practices share conceptual overlaps with current discussions about pedagogy, particularly those that encourage interactive and collaborative methods of meaning-making in response to contemporary digital culture. Decentralized processes of learning, which exist in participatory artworks and nonhierarchal art education, are embraced by the open source movement. In this paper, we argue that open source software can be used to demonstrate a quest for knowledge that is not representational but rather performative-based – a temporal epistemology that is about critical inquiry of media and the ongoing discovery of creative ways of interacting with, and remixing, our reality. This paper incorporates the above ideas into a proposal for a team-taught digital studio/theory course that explores the “remix” phenomenon, operating online and utilizing open source media. Drawing upon previous online teaching experience, the pedagogical intentions and anticipations for this course will be discussed.

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Education that Reflects the Current Cultural Aesthetic Experience

May, H. (2011). Shifting the Curriculum: Decentralization in the Art Education Experience. Art Education, 64(3), 33-41. Copyright, National Art Education Association (NAEA) 2011.

This article examines the decentralized approach to art curriculum from a pedagogical point of view, acknowledging advantages and disadvantages for art educators, and its contribution to a curriculum that captures the current cultural aesthetic experience. By referring to research in art education and writings of curriculum theorists, I argue for an application of decentralized approaches to teaching visual art in contemporary learning environments, with emphasis on instigating critical thinking within classroom critiques of student artwork. The following topics are addressed: the connection between decentralized curriculum and complexity thinking, the significance of dialogical exchange between teacher and students, the concept of emergent knowledge, and the noted desire for flexible curricular models in art education. I conclude by providing accounts of collaborative learning within university studio art courses that occur in online environments, with the intent of provoking thought for art education at all levels. Throughout, I describe a theoretical framework for understanding decentralized curriculum as I argue for a contemporary art pedagogy that is reflective of contemporary life.


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How do contemporary artists help us understand the sociocultural shift that is our network culture?

What might our network society learn from a multidisciplinary way of thinking about one’s engagement with art?

Many contemporary artists need to financially support their practices by teaching at colleges and universities, this has become a fact of life. The act of teaching for some, however, becomes an engaging process that perhaps (intentionally or unintentionally) informs the production/dissemination/reception process of their art practices. Those whom consistently make a career of juggling a creative practice and teaching can be referred to as “artist-educators” – a hyphenated term that can be understood from a couple of different perspectives: 1) the individual primarily identifies as an artist, followed by (and maybe merged with) the role of teacher; 2) their students take on the role of  soon-to-be artists of the future, thus they are educators of artists.

Generally speaking, artists today work across and in-between multiple disciplines and rarely refer to themselves as situated within one particular expressive medium, hence the descriptive terms multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary. Contradictory to this sense of openness are the still narrow disciplinary structures of many art departments and institutions. Yet, within these medium-defined disciplines, perhaps the educational experience exceeds the disciplinary boundaries because of the artist-educators? What kinds of pedagogical limitations and challenges do these multidisciplinary artists experience? In what ways do their personal art practices impact how and what they teach? In what ways does their teaching impact what and how they make art about?

I am particularly interested in the practices of multidisciplinary and network artists that engage with critical aspects of digital technologies. How do these artist-educators approach the use of digital media in art curriculum and pedagogy?


Nathaniel Stern, USA

Jon Thomson, UK

Alison Craighead, UK

Mark Amerika, USA

Jessica Westbrook, USA

M. Simon Levin, CAN

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Data as Medium (or Being-With Data)

Recently I participated in a panel at the College Art Association conference in New York in which “data” was discussed as another medium for artistic exploration:

“As the art being made has dematerialized and the world around us is increasingly information based, using data as another medium for artistic exploration seems not only possible but culturally necessary. The same tools used by corporations and governments to track our interests, desires, locations, and personal information can and are being exploited by artists to criticize, explore, and find poetic moments within the stream of data. This panel explores current approaches being used by artists working with data but with an eye to the past and culture. Since the available data sources range widely from weather patterns to stockmarket trends to GPS locations and possible output spans all types of new and traditional media, this panel does not hone in one a specific issue but works as a survey connecting conceptual and critical points within this practice.”
CHAIR:  Jeff Thompson, University of Nebraska, Lincoln

> “Data and Its Expression,” George Legrady, University of California, Santa Barbara
> “From Kandinsky to the Database (Point, Line, Plane: Variable, Array, Table),” Brian Evans, University of Alabama
> “Web as Index and Archive,” Penelope Umbrico, Bard College and School of Visual Arts
> “Art that Decodes: Making Sense of Data Process,” Heidi  May, Emily Carr University of Art and Design, and University of British Columbia

Thomson & Craighead, London Wall, 2010

In response to the session’s description, I found that each of our presentations approached the topic from different angles, which seemed appropriate and very fitting for my own arguments. I chose to focus not on data as an artistic tool or medium per se, but rather on art that broadens our understanding of the notion of data through various means and media – perhaps by instigating questions about the data that makes up the work and/or our relations with data in contemporary culture. In some instances, the artists I discussed (including Ingrid Koenig, Aymeric Mansoux, Jon Thomson & Alison Craighead, Lucy Kimbell, Julie Andreyev, etc.) may not be all that interested in examining the precise nature of the data they use in their work, but more interested in creating questions about the data. By incorporating a self-reflexive tone into my presentation, I intended to extend this line of inquiry towards “data” and to ideally broaden our interpretation to include the spaces and relations that exist around the numbers and codes, similar to current writings in which I examine the notion of “network” as something we exist with rather than a separate entity . Once again, I am inspired by the philosophical writings of Jean-Luc Nancy (being-with) and Ted Aoki, fascinated by a verb-based understanding of our existence over a noun-oriented understanding of the world we live with.

Aymeric Mansoux and Marloes de Valk, hello process!, 2008

I must admit, however, that much of my theories involving data have merely been carried over from my doctoral research surrounding notions of network in art (both historical and contemporary), thus this paper was experimental in that I was curious if similar knowledge could be applied in each area when looking at contemporary art. Since I am arguing for art that acknowledges a more broad (and at times relational) understanding of data, I felt it necessary to show a wide range of artworks — those that materialize, transform, and perhaps highlight our relationships with/in data. Unfortunately, a twenty minute presentation only allowed for me to hopefully emphasize these larger ideas with the artworks (including drawing, painting, print-based, video installation, screen works, etc.) functioning as examples that depended on one another in order to illustrate my points. My presentation lacked specific analysis of each of the artworks, in terms of them being ideal examples of these larger theories I argue for, and was just the beginning of a larger conversation. For instance, having returned from New York I discovered the work of Zach Gage, which could perhaps be applied to these ideas I am writing about, maybe serving as a stronger example. What I have felt to be most interesting is how these artworks each touch on different aspects of what I am writing about, therefore I don’t feel one or two examples can effectively demonstrate what I am thinking. Instead what is most interesting to me is the ideas that emerge in and between these different artworks and how, when the discussion is centered around these questions of defining data, they can incite new understandings of network culture (maybe data itself) when experienced in the context of the other works. The longer paper written for this presentation is also something that needs more time and development, and could be aided by critical dialogue with others…

(above) desktop documentation of personal interaction with – Personas (2008) by Aaron Zinman

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Can Blogs be Art?

This is not a rhetorical question – what do you think?
Read this for more info >

ok…self-promotion > +


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The Postmedia Perspective

I am currently contemplating this amazing piece of writing:

A [postmedia] world in which it no longer makes sense to distinguish, as Bourriaud did in 1998, and as the paradigm implicit in the term New Media Art does, between art which uses computers and art which doesn’t; a world in which on the other hand it increasingly makes sense to distinguish between art that acknowledges the advent of the information society and art that retreats to positions typical of the industrial era we are moving out of.

– Domenico Quaranta (2010). Media, New Media, Postmedia

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