Learning to Unlearn

When I first heard the phrase “learning to unlearn” I was immediately thinking what on earth. Why would we want to unlearn? Where can the benefit on unlearning things? However, it turns out there are lots of benefits. Driving is an easy one – we learn bad habits, become lazy, stop checking mirrors not long after passing our tests and it only takes one accident to make people think I need to go back to my standard of driving when I passed my test. This is unlearning. It is unlearning bad habits.

Something crucial that I took away from one of our lectures from Professor John Baldacchino on “Learning, Education and schooling” today was that we constantly drill many things into children that they are losing their individual personality and their ability to interpret things differently or as Professor John put it – we are teaching children to think to a standardised model. I began to question why we teach children to be this way. Professor John compare this to art and when we go into an art gallery as a child we are told what to see in a painting. We are told what the painting must be. Why can’t we allow children to use their imagination of what a picture may be?

My former flat mate and fantastic artist drew a picture for one of her briefing which I have included underneath. I will not immediately include the briefing or title of the picture and allow you to imagine what this picture might represent.

hair

I am sure there are many ideas of what this picture could mean or represent. This picture is a self- portrait. Although when I think of the word self-portrait I assume it means a picture of the artists face and what they look like. To me (and I also assume many other people would think this as well), that is also standardised thinking, it is what I have been taught or told the word self-portrait means. On the other hand, Claire has done exactly what we spoke about in our lecture today. Claire has unlearnt what she has been told a self-portrait is. She has not gone away and spent hours perfecting a drawing of her face. She has taken a new meaning to self-portrait. The drawing itself and Claire’s thought process behind the drawing has inspired me to stop being so conformist and thinking everything for face value.

Claire has taken her briefing to do a self-portrait and instead taking into account the factor in her life that make Claire, Claire as an individual. Claire (who I am not going to attach a picture of yet – I will let you imagine and take as much as you can from her drawing just now) believes that the thing that make her an individual and what she has convey in the drawing is her ginger hair and her love of tea. She has incorporated two big things her life and used this to show herself in a self-portrait. This to me shows Claire as a person and not just by the way she looks.

On my first year professional practice I had done an art lesson on portraits. The art lesson wasn’t just to get the children to draw pictures of their peers. There was a message behind the lesson after getting to know my class. When I was planning for my lesson – I shared it on facebook for others on the course which I captioned “In an attempt to inspire my class that art can be for everyone and there is no wrong answer in art, my wonderful flat mates” (yes one being Claire) “and I (one art student, one English student and one teaching student) have drawn portraits… to show them there is always a range in abilities in art like any subject so we shouldn’t be disheartened. I have a range of abilities in my portraits to show them… and a range of abilities in acrostics… to try and show them we all have our own talents but we should always at least give it a shot, like my very willing flat mates have” who have also agreed to let me put them into my blog!

portrait 1 portrait 2 portrait 3

All of the portraits that were drawn by my flat mates, my class and myself were of course from the standardisation of thinking a portrait had to be of another person’s looks. In fact so standardised that the portrait only included their face not even a portrait of what the person looks like from head to toe.

If I were to do this lesson again, after reflecting on what I have learnt about standardised thinking and learning to unlearn. I would more than likely do a series of lessons: firstly getting them to do the same exercise again with the “standard portrait”; then have a brain storm of what else we think portrait could mean; and then have them create a portrait without anything to do with the person or their own face/look and see how differently we can show a portrait of someone.

 

(Big thank you once again to my willing flat mates for letting me including their personal art into my blog and lessons!)