When we try to connect art to education, the first question that comes into our minds is that “is it even possible to teach Art?” This is because unlike mathematical, solvable questions, art seems to have no definite answer since the interpretation differs among people. Indeed, the artistic talent seems inherited rather than something that can be learned. From this perspective, a doubt arises, why we have art subjects at SNU if it cannot be taught. However, after interviewing Ralph Sander who is the professor at Sculptor department at SNU, we could get rid of curiosity and frustration. From Sander’s philosophy in his teaching, art education is not there to make someone become an artist but rather act as a guidance for future artists. As a teacher, supervisor, and one of the members of team project, Ralph shows the directions for students to become Artists.
Q: Is it possible to teach and learn art?
R: Yes. Although I cannot teach somebody to become an artist, I can show the way. Indeed I think it is very important to have education because people going into this field without preparation will have many difficulties. In other words, if somebody comes “blue eyed” as we call, there is always limitation of what they can do. I am not saying that you cannot become an artist without education, but if you do get one, you can go far beyond the scope. The point I absolutely reject is to give somebody an idea. I ask students to bring up an idea, not giving them ideas. By giving students open tasks, they can work on individual development. If somebody comes to me with frustration, saying that they have no idea, I can drag out their interest and idea which already exist within them. There is nobody without ideas, nobody without desires, and nobody without feelings. It is just they need to be waken up, and that is what I can do as a teacher. I can show how to realize an idea and the way to develop them, and help them find the right form and expression for the idea.
Q: What is your philosophy in teaching?
R: I distinguish freshman from seniors. Freedom is not for the freshman because they need guidance, my view and my experience. It does not mean that they are forced to do something, but it is just they need direction. Take vocabulary as an example. The same word may mean different for you and my task is to show students how the word can be used in different contexts. In class, I try to work together with them; in other words, we develop things together. I do not see myself standing in front of class like a lecturer, but much more like a team member of the group doing an experiment with them.
Q: Have you found any differences between European and Korean students?
R: Even within Europe, approaches to art education differs from east to west. For example, in UK, the students are not so much interested in working on objects, but rather in thinking, talking, concepts, gesture, and so on. However, Korean students gave me a very positive impression that they work very hard with clear concepts. They are able to think, articulate what they are doing, and that is what I want to achieve.
Q: Any comments to students?
R: Ok. There is one thing I want to mention. Students should think or should follow their instinct, and should not just believe in what they see at the moment. Think in a longer term, observe things very carefully, and be absolutely freely independent. This is the time. Don’t be afraid.
Q: What does art mean to you?
R: There are lots of answers you know but a very simple answer is “art is what an artist does.” Also, it could be interpreted in another way that a piece of art might be or should be always is an illustration of an idea. In my perspective, art is another form language to express ideas, feelings and concepts. In some cases, art is much stronger than language because one image can illustrate a very complicated context while evoking feeling, memories, and new concepts at the same time.
Q: How does creativity work in Art?
There is a strong connection between art and creativity. For the word ‘creativity’, I am convinced that it is involved in most professions. For instance, a good businessman or even a banker needs to be very creative. The direction where creativity goes at the moment may differ, but the concept of creativity applies to all kinds of fields. Consistent with Joseph Boys’ idea that “everybody is artist,” it does not mean everyone is literally artist. It rather means everybody is potentially artist in their own subject area.
Q: exhibition at MOA
R: it’s a part of project I started some years ago called “world saving machine”. This is actually my reaction to this ever upcoming fear produced from the media. For many years, new catastrophe such as terrorism and climate change which you have to feel guilty about come up. This is a psychological mechanism. Now there is economic crisis, in this case, I do not feel guilty (laugh). So, I started to construct ironic yet deeply serious machine which I call “world saving machine”. I was interested and still interested very much in the possibility of applying forces and power to art. In this case, I used solar energy to produce two machines. First, the solar energy machine produces ice. The energy of sun is used to substitute ice to make ice. The whole machine looks like something from out of space. The second one which I presented last year in Philadelphia is the device that involves carbon dioxide, a very complicate machine but a very simple function. I am fascinated by these images, forms, shapes, and so on. And I created this machine, you know. When I saw MOA building for the first time, I have observed that many empty spaces through lots of floors were only used to bring light inside of the building but not for exhibition. So I decide to use this space with my machine. There will be something like solar panels on the roof and a small café on the first floor. The sun gives the energy like a pack of batteries and this makes the ice crasher machine run. When ice is produced, the ice will fall down about ten meters and hopefully a small iceberg occurs. So, it becomes possible for you to have summer snow in the MOA. That’s the idea. It is evidence that we could change something if only we want an try. It may not be that good economically, maybe it’s much better to stay as art. But, I like to show ways and the possibilities.
written by: Emily Hong