What is art when it comes to academia?

from _Art Ops_ (2015) #1.

Today’s last first day of class was Arts Based Research. It’s a methodology that uses art to collect data, or analyze data, or present data. From what I’ve read so far, it seems like a very useful way for me to better understand how to work with video games in an academic setting that better fits them.

I already have some ideas I want to run past my professor to see if they would work for some of the projects we have in class. I’m still thinking through the actual logistics and the question I would use with them, but I have thoughts. Perhaps I’ll ask the various online communities to share a knitting pattern that relates to lesson learned from video games. Or their tattoo designs inspired by video games and their reasoning for creating permanent pieces of them. I have lots of ideas….

But tonight I also noticed a thing, and it’s been bothering me since class. There seemed to be a general feel that essays and written texts that enters classrooms are not art. And not just that they are not art, but the class seemed to conclude that they cannot be art because they are texts produced for other purposes.

Now, I’ll grant that most of the essays produced for formal classroom settings are not aesthetically pleasing and generally produced under duress.  But to categorically dismiss many textual documents because they are not in the category of art that fits the default assumption seems limiting to me in ways that I feel like rebellious art shouldn’t be.

I know my reaction grows solidly from my preferred art form of writing and the years that I felt I was not artistic at all, yet I still feel it holds.

I suspect that part of the off-handed dismissal also has some connection to the tendency to minimize the history of the various forms of writing that work together to create the current curricular elements. We forget that most of the curriculum began as stories that people wanted to share and quite a few of them were popular among a broad swath of the population. I wonder if we kept this in the forefront when approaching literature, specifically, we would remember that the material itself is art and hold on to the play in education.

Part of our conversation also focused on the fun of education and how the strict conformity that grew under No Child Left Behind. The critique that we continually touched upon was that there was no freedom under NCLB and that fun was despised. I went through K-12 in the years before NCLB, and I wonder sometimes if part of why the fun left the classroom was because we all have forgotten to look for it.

As I move into my dissertation, which is intentionally focused on something discounted as merely a game, I am invested in this idea of play.