Vol. 8 no. 2 / December 2014 / Special Issue on Art Practice as Research at University

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Special Issue Articles

A Vision for Opportunity: A case for contemporary fine art research

Ruth Bianco

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This paper offers a critical perspective having been lecturing in art across the various levels in architecture. The paper knits together aspects of the application of artistic practice within this context. It argues for academic recognition, autonomy, which is the aspiration of the Visual Arts Department, and the understanding needed for an artistic research culture in the contemporary fine arts to establish esteem alongside other fields of research in higher education. This stems from the dichotomy between fine art serving its own specialism, direction and prowess versus art serving other domains. The paper infers reciprocal co-existence whilst upholding that academic autonomy should lead and provoke the best in fine art practice. It reflects upon the appropriate research criteria integral to practice-based fine art research, suggesting more flexible ‘futurefocused’ terms suited to artistic provocation. Finally, the paper contests notions of interdisciplinarity within liberal contemporary trends of fine art education.

Researching Art and Design through Practice: A critical engagement with context

Vince Briffa

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The paper discusses the structure of the Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Digital Arts degree at the University of Malta, with particular focus on the converging methodologies of art and design research which reflect contemporary art and design production. Through discussing two students’ works, it comments on the expectations of current academic art and design research.

Towards a Practice-Led Research and Teaching & Learning Environment: A Case for Maltese Cultural Studies

John Grech

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This paper makes a case for the introduction of cultural studies at the University of Malta as part of a concerted effort towards the foundation of a specialised creative cultural pedagogical programme aimed at producing a rigorous range of taught and research objectives including a sharp focus on practice-led critical cultural research. The argument is based on a dual impulse embedded in cultural studies which produces intellectual work that is both a research practice in itself as well as an imperative to situate that work in practical everyday culture. Alongside creative and artistic practice, cultural studies, it is shown, has legitimate dealings in both the academy where it participates in scholarly discourses concerning the production of culture as well as dealing in the world beyond the University where, in everyday life, cultural studies researchers participate directly in the production and transformation of culture. Thus as a practice, cultural studies participates in both the spheres of everyday life through the production of culture as well as in the academy through the production of knowledge. It is this dual imperative which gives cultural studies its peculiarly critical edge, for this demands that knowledge engages directly with daily cultural practice to reveal the interconnection between politics, culture and knowledge production. Thus cultural studies may be regarded as both a form of production in the formation of daily life, albeit with a heightened sense of intellectual rigour, as much as it is a discursive scholarly activity conducted in the academy. It is this combinative and yet practical approach to research and teaching outputs and outcomes that gives cultural studies a crucial and potentially pivotal role in the formation of a creative contemporary practice-led research curriculum at the University.


The Intellect of Art

Giuseppe Schembri Bonaci

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This paper discusses a fundamental question concerning not only the relationship between artistic technique and academic research but what role this relationship plays, if at all, during a period of genocides and a radical evolution towards a complete dehumanisation of mankind’s existence.

The essay’s corresponding sub-text deals with the iconic debate between Adorno and Benjamin around the character of the contemporary art scene during the fundamental and seemingly irreversible establishment of a consumerist-fetishistic society. The essay thus calls for a re-qualification of methods of artistic research and a re-definition of art academia taking into account a novel situation in which techne has become poiesis in a period of apocalyptic tragedy.

One of the central theses of the essay concerns the inability of philosophy and its corresponding conceptual language to articulate and to dig into the very meaning of a work of art, let alone the meaning and analysis of art history through art praxis. This reflects a deep paradox if one understands that art itself has today transformed itself into philosophy. We are therefore encountering a philosophy of man which cannot articulate its own meaning

Avoiding “a Kind of Physics”: Arts-Based Educational Research

Raphael Vella

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This article studies the viability and significance of artsbased methods in the context of educational research at the Faculty of Education at the University of Malta. It contextualises the field in its cultural and institutional settings, describing some of the challenges that arts-based methods of research have faced. It compares these creative methodologies to more empirical research methods that are generally associated with the field of education, illustrating the innovative combination of the role of the artist with that of the educational researcher by referring to two arts-based dissertations submitted by Masters students at the Faculty of Education. Finally, it argues that the value of arts-based educational research is located in its attachment to the actual experience of making art and the transformative capacities and specificity of art itself.


MUŻA – Rethinking National Art Museums and the Values of Community Curation

Sandro Debono

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This commentary concerns the guiding principles of the MUŻA Project, the new national art museum project for Malta. It presents a broad overview of the project’s guiding vision and the process, known as community curation, by which this is being implemented and consolidated. The commentary also refers to the in-built education-friendly characteristics of the project and its non-formal education potential. The project is still evolving and this commentary is intended to be read as a stock-take of a process that will become more and more articulated over time as it continues to evolve and develop.

(Re-)Narrating the Gigantic : Limits, Possibilities and Pedagogies

Bernard Cauchi

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In this essay, I will be recollecting and engaging with significant bits and pieces of the ubiquitous ‘globalization’ hegemonic narrative, analyzing its key features, its spatial and temporal underpinnings, the events which brought it and the changes it brought about, mainly in relation to the nation-state. In a second moment, mirroring the first take on the dominant narrative, I shall go through an ‘imaginary’ re-narration of the globalization story, a story of the others, made up of resistances, struggles, movements, re-focusing on the relationship between globalization and education in the process.


The construction of the Citizen and the ‘Other’ in Schools: An Analysis of Social Studies Curricula and Textbooks used in State Schools

Gilbert John Zahra

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One aim of schooling, as the role of the nation-state, is the creation of the citizen (Dewey, 2006). However, no citizen can be created without the creation of the ‘other’ (Ahmad, 2009; Sultana, 2008; Mason, 2007). In this essay I ask ‘who is the Maltese citizen, as the selected ambassador of the culture that propels this society, and who are his/her ‘others’?’ I seek to answer these questions by looking at the state’s syllabi and books used in Social Studies in Maltese primary schools and argue how Maltese are given a monolithic identity marked by them being Christian and European. This process is inevitably violent upon the ‘other’ who lives with (or amongst) the Maltese in a context where Huntington’s (1993) “doomsday image” (Brasted, 1997, p. 8) is becoming increasingly relevant.


Otherness and Mothers of Children with Disability

Kim Dimech

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This paper addresses the way disability is lived and constructed by mothers of children with disability as recounted in their narratives. It focuses specifically on the mothers’ relationships with their family members and society after the disability diagnosis of their child. ‘Otherness’ is a crucial theme in this paper. In fact, the paper explores the narratives with a view to exposing processes of ‘othering’. It shows that the way we tend to organise lives around particular norms restricts and pushes people with disabilities and their mothers to the margins. This paper also provides insights into my own sense of otherness since I wrote it while pregnant.

Book Reviews

Papantuono M., Portelli, C. & Gibson, P. (2014). Winning without fighting: A teacher’s handbook for effective solutions for social, emotional and behavioural difficulties in students. Malta University Publishing. ISBN 978-99909-44-66-2, Pg 275.

Carmel Cefai

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There is no abstract available for this article.

Alayan, S., Rohde, A. & Dhouib, S. (2012). The Politics of Education Reform in the Middle East: Self and Other in Textbooks and Curricula. New York: Berghahn Books. ISBN 978-0-85745-460-7, Pg 275

Maria Brown

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There is no abstract available for this article.