"We have graduates who are exhibiting at the highest international levels. We're really trying to stretch the boundaries of what people think of as art."
“If artists are well educated in a way that allows them to think critically, they have a far better chance of creating meaningful images.” That's been Nancy Barton's mandate for her students in the Department of Art and Art Professions. To make sure her students reach this goal, Barton exposes them to as much of the international art scene as she can. In an effort to foster dialogue around international art, she traveled to Korea, where she organized a symposium featuring the legendary social philosopher, Jean Baudrillard.
How was your trip to Korea?
Amazing. Media City, an international, cutting edge digital art-themed biennial, was going on at the time. I was asked to organize a symposium to go with the exhibition, so I included Mr. Baudrillard, whose work is enormously influential in Korea. It was really an incredible exchange. In fact, because of the conference, I'm considering editing a book about the intercultural implications of digital technology.
In the 1940s your father invented the Teleprompter as a memory aid for actors participating in live television. A few years back you received a School of Education Challenge Grant to research the effects of your father's invention. What did you learn?
My father invented the Teleprompter because early television had so many technical distractions for actors. My father saw the need for a memory aid. Of course, the Teleprompter went on to have all sorts of philosophical and political implications which I don't think my father ever understood. The way we perceive power through spectacular presentation is very scripted now, and I think our expectations of what a leader should be has been shaped by the notion of perfection that the Teleprompter seems to create.
What types of projects have you worked on at NYU?
I collaborated with two of our undergraduate students under the name “Blackbox”. We completed a project about mortality called, "Before I Wake," which was seen in the Department’s Rosenberg Gallery. The piece used a haunted forest setting to frame an installation which includes a bed with the universe projected on it, video projections, photographs and a soundtrack of my mother singing an area from the opera “Tosca”.
You received your BFA and MFA from CalArts. How has your west coast background influenced the direction of the program?
New York has a great international art scene, but the art schools here have always been somewhat traditional and very anti-intellectual. They never measured up to the gallery scene. It's been my mission to create a program that has its roots more in the West Coast, which has a more conceptual base.
Is the Undergraduate Program in Studio Art on track for that?
Absolutely. We now have graduates who are exhibiting at the highest international levels, as well as groundbreaking classes and interdisciplinary courses which combine intellectual theory with artistic practice. That's why it's fun for me to be here at NYU. We're really trying to stretch the boundaries of what people think of as art.