“Advances in digital and networked technologies mean that more young people are participating today in the production and sharing of culture and knowledge than in any time in human history.”
“Artists help us see ourselves. They stand at the precipice of the present and look into it.” It was with this mindset that Steinhardt Assistant Professor David Darts threw himself into curating Conflux, an international art and technology festival that promotes the intellectual and artistic investigation of everyday urban life though emerging artistic, technological and social practices. The event featured three days of lectures, performances, workshops, and exhibitions from over 150 public space scholars and artists, and included a virtual golf game played in the streets of NYC, a human-scale chess game spanning 10 city blocks, and an iPhone drumming circle held in a local park.
Darts teaches in the art education program and serves as associate director of the Steinhartd’s MA Studio Art Summer in Venice, Italy. Darts approaches his teaching with the same curatorial eye he uses for Conflux by challenging his students to experiment, take risks, and push boundaries with their work. He also encourages his students to place themselves and their artworks directly in dialogue with the community. “Introducing young people to the methods of public-space artists and art activists can be a powerful way of modeling and inspiring artful forms of civic engagement.”
A native of Vancouver, Canada, Darts' educational background combines studies in English literature, fine arts, curriculum studies, and art education. His research focuses on the convergences between education, contemporary art and media, technology, and democracy. His Creative Tools for Critical Times (CT4CT) is a web-based research project and repository of artistic works that exist at the intersection of contemporary culture, critical theory, and civic engagement. The site serves as a research tool and archive of contemporary artists and artworks.
Darts believes technology is profoundly transforming cultural practices and lowering the barriers to artistic production and collaboration. “Advances in digital and networked technologies mean that more young people are participating today in the production and sharing of culture and knowledge than in any time in human history,” he said. While he sees this as a positive development, his research also reveals a growing rift between the lives of contemporary young people and the culture inside schools. “Educators will be increasingly pressed to find ways to integrate young peoples' experiences and cultural practices outside of school with instruction within the classroom.”
Darts is currently writing a book whose working title is “Hacking School,” where he will explore the lessons that teachers and schools can learn from amateur artists, electronics enthusiasts, DIYers, and other “makers” of contemporary culture. “Schools are no longer the primary site for teaching and learning in our society. We can learn a great deal about intrinsic motivation and learning by studying and participating in the communities of practice that are springing up all over the world,” he said.