Monday, August 17, 2015

ps150519 Personal Positive Experience with Cultural Arts Technologies 

How I survived the University of Washington 

His experiences with technologies have been positive, and it is a certainty that technologies played an important role in his professional life. The experiences are the foundation for the Northwest Print Center and Cultural Arts Technology Incubator plan.

Personal Positive Experience with Cultural Arts Technology

My experiences with technologies have been almost entirely positive, and it will come as no surprise that technologies played an important role in my professional life.
My wife and I moved to California from Washington when I was 24 so I could work on my Master of Arts in printmaking. Due to our country-born-and-bred backgrounds we were perceived as different, and my art was different from that of other graduate students.
This, coupled with the strong sense of displacement that we felt at such an abrupt change in place, made it very difficult to make friends. Often I found I had nothing in common with the other students, and as a couple we felt like social outcasts.
That all changed in the spring of 1966, when I was hired by the renowned printmaker, Glen Alps, to teach at the University of Washington School Of Art. Despite my good fortune, I was still an outcast, it seemed, but I forged ahead and taught with dedication.
I worried about the possible ramifications of rumors—that I was hired not for my strengths but for my youth and pliability, as Glen needed a protégé. There was no choice to make the best of the situation. If I held out for three years, I might be promoted to Assistant Professor, gain time to avoid the draft into the Vietnam Conflict, and maybe start a family.
Without even realizing it, I started to use technology as a facilitator for printmaking in 1968, when I tried photo-etching. Furthermore, I was successful in art shows and winning a few small grants and prizes.
Technology provided a way for me build confidence as teaching printmaking came easy for me. Among faculty I began to make friends and print their art in a collaborative way which helped my social interaction, and a sense of self-value and self-worth.
I had no fellow outcasts except among students who were having difficulty reconciling their needs with the allegiance Glen Alps expected of them. I quickly developed a shared enthusiasm, not just going by the books, but also for the interpersonal connections that good teaching provided.
Of course, at the time I didn’t know the significance of the split that brought my students and I together and widened the gap with Alps. I saw my teaching and research simply as a fun game to play. When Stephen Hazel moved to Seattle, he added his enthusiasm to the technology experiments and shared his knowledge with me like a teacher.
 Printmaking and technological things that are involved in it was more than just a means to making prints to us, it became the focus of our friendships. Printmaking was the basis on which an ever-expanding social group was slowly pieced together. Daniel Smith and Keith Achepohl came. I traveled to Europe and worked briefly with Rolf Nesch, who exemplified for me the artist struggling to make new graphic art against greater powers.
When I returned from Europe, I wasn’t alone anymore. I was still low-ranking and strange in my interest in technologies like photography, film and video, so had to endure the indignity of academic bullying. But with a group of students who shared my interest such issues seemed less important; and the prizes and grants kept coming.
As we—the students and I—grew, the technology thing grew with us, and we began to expand our interests in other directions, such as performance art, music and dance. Gradually, our group evolved from being based simply around printmaking in the University’s closed-circuit studios into a campus-wide network linked by a shared interest in a wider world of new art forms.
Students graduated and some of them were immediately snapped up by young, aggressive art dealers with new galleries to stock. A group formed a co-operative studio called Triangle Studios, and I was invited to join. It wasn’t until years later that we realized the full significance of our early days, and how the technologies had aided in creating an entire social network of peers with similar beliefs.
I was often faced with censure from other faculty and passed over at promotion time. I fought back, which only worsened my relations with other faculty. Ostensibly this was due to my involvement in students affairs and my perceived battle with Alps.
I had experienced the indignity of collegial politics for most of my career and knew that playing with my own cards, as it were, was just another excuse to get picked on. I was getting a reputation nationally, and my students were doing well. This made life at the UW tolerable.
Besides, the UW was larger than the art school taken by itself. At times I felt like I had the run of the whole campus! A phone call would get me thousands of dollars worth of video and mainframe computer services. Engineers were there to help me with anything I needed, and more grants came to me than I can remember.
If anything, technology helped with the bullying and faculty censure, and with my former students I developed a strong group identity that lasted for years.  Well along in my career I still maintained contact with most of the members of this group. Needless to say, I continued to develop ways to use technology as an artistic and cultural tool despite the potential risk they posed my university job.
Eventually, I could no longer tolerate the demeaning nature of the art school—the ways the faculty manipulated the code of ethics, the out-of-date curriculum, and using students as hostages in their internecine shenanigans.
During my nineteen years, I met thousands of students, visiting professors and off-campus artists and made countless acquaintances, rivals, and friends, and while we all have different life experiences, I’ve found that many artists have similar stories.
Technology, instead of having an alienating influence in art, contemporary technological cultural arts have been an inclusive experience, allowing me to make friends, bridge gaps, and meet new people outside my circle.
Instead of making me feel like a loner and a weirdo like my affinity for things mechanical and my country-boy mien, technology for culture helped me to create a positive self-identity, helped me develop a much-needed sense of self-confidence during the difficult early years of teaching at the UW.

Monday, August 3, 2015

es150803 Paraphrasing Rifkin 

If I had told my UW colleagues 30 years ago, in 1985 when I walked away that, by 2015, one-third of the human race would be communicating with one another in huge global networks of hundreds of millions of people simply exchanging audio, video, and text on a device in the palm of their hands, and that the combined knowledge of the world would be accessible there, that any single individual could post a new idea, introduce a product, or pass a thought to a potential billion people simultaneously, and that the cost of doing so would be nearly free, they would have shaken your head in disbelief.

As it was, they would not speak to me, let alone listen. All the things I forecast, even as early as 1972, are now reality. This has come to pass, and with benefits that a teacher can continue teaching after he has passed away, and students, too, can live in the virtual, virtuous world of the teacher.

For example, Maury Pepin was a student of mine, and he passed in 2004, too young. Yet it happens that I have a print he made, and his family may still own a print I made and which Maury bought when he was a student at the UW. Maury, in my memory, was inclined to science and engineering, and helped me to add another element to my game, Emeralda.

See his page at

The first paragraph above is my paraphrasing of Jeremy Rifkin's article in Huffington Post.