My teaching is framed by the tacit relationship between making, thinking and being. This relationship is neither linear or cyclic, but rather a scattered back-forth / up-down cognitive process, that deepens through the simultaneous handling of materials and critical thinking. Any one part of this process can be broken down to contain all the other parts – it is ‘holographic’ in the sense that a holographic plate can be broken down to smaller parts and still made to project the entire 3-dimensional image, albeit in coarser resolution.
To put it another way, the parts contain the whole, and as the parts coalesce, the whole becomes more highly resolved. So, I believe that students need a foundational core, defined by assignments that are technical and expressive (never separated from each other), and with critical and analytic guidance that identifies connections between form and content. I design introductory-level courses around projects that consolidate technical skills while challenging students to establish conceptual links between the personal and the global. As students progress to upper-level courses, I strive to establish a clear understanding of how the creative and expressive endeavor informs and conditions the philosophical and social space. With that, art students should constantly be casting around in a broad field of references and disciplines. Much of my teaching has actively sought out and designed curricula with biologists, chemists, computer scientists, political scientists and psychologists. Across this spectrum, I not only guide students through carefully selected examples of work, readings, and reflections, but also suggest a variety of analytical, critical and discursive practices.
At all levels, I expect students to engage in class discussions, group critiques and write papers and essays. Graduate students should arrive in a program with a strong desire to work independently but engage deeply in discussions about the creative endeavor, philosophic questions and how to locate themselves in the world both through and beyond academe. Graduate students should be, as I mentioned earlier, more highly resolved, but also more porous: able to agilely absorb and process experience and situations, assume over-views, and all the while sustain an intentional and productive practice. I strongly believe that these approaches prepare students for a responsibly engaged presence in their broader communities.
Regardless of level, I believe in teaching by example, and most of all, out of respect for the community of students and colleagues. I think of the academic community, and especially of each student, as a precious archaeological site. Each of these contains untold and unknown treasures and potential, and I enter that space with care; helping sift and separate the significant from the mortar and detritus, piecing together structures, arriving at new understandings, demonstrating the process and inculcating discipline – all the while damaging nothing.
Pradip Malde, 2017
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