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July 15, 2021

Office Hours: Danny Giles: Piet Zwart Institute

Art & Education

Danny Giles, Study After Mythic Being, 2019.

“Observing Power: Imagery and Agency,” class by Danny Giles, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, 2019.

Danny Giles, Keepsake, 2019. Steel chain, cotton rope, mirror, LED light, light bulb, faux plant, toy gun, hair extensions, plaster, cement, resin, charcoal, acrylic paint, and spray paint.

Rope-making workshop, Ox-Bow School of Art, 2017.

Danny Giles, Untitled (White Picture), 2019. Charcoal, graphite, and gel medium on paper.

Office Hours is a new questionnaire series that gathers insights from those who teach artists. In response to 10 prompts, educators reflect on the discourses and approaches that animate their teaching, share their visions for the future of art education, and offer advice for students navigating the field of contemporary art.

Office Hours: Danny Giles: Piet Zwart Institute

1. Why did you decide to go into teaching?
My earliest role models were my public school art teachers, and later studying art in Chicago, my instructors left lasting impressions on me as well. From them, I learned to think about being an artist in an expansive profession and teaching as a platform to deepen my practice; continuing to grow and learn along with my students.

2. What drew you to your school and what is your teaching philosophy?
I arrived at my position as Course Director at the Piet Zwart Institute after relocating to the Netherlands, where I followed my partner, who was participating in the de Appel Curatorial Programme. At that time, I had been working as Academic Director at Ox-Bow School of Art and Artists’ Residency. My teaching philosophy holds critical theoretical practice alongside making and material embodiments to open a space where we can learn from the overlaps of thinking and making. I try to locate this productive overlap when choosing readings for discussion, and I think about how students can in some ways build the lesson with me. I was drawn to the Piet Zwart Institute Master of Fine Arts because it is a unique program where this kind of listening and more personalized education can happen.

3. What theory and art history do you consider most essential for your students? What artist or artwork do you refer to most often?
The most important theory for young artists now is the work being made by thinkers and artists who fall outside of the traditional white, male, and Eurocentric canons that we are all so familiar with. I believe that reading and looking at these people will give young artists the most useful tools and insights for growing and evolving into the future. I get the sense that we are moving through the end of many old paradigms and systems that have defined our world for a long time, and I’m excited to learn new ways of understanding this new world with my students. I love teaching theory through artists who also write and do other kinds of work, like Adrian Piper, Robert Smithson, and Arthur Jafa, to name a few favorites.

4. How do you navigate generational or cultural differences between you and your students?
I think that differences between me and my students most often create spaces for mutual curiosity and learning. I have been lucky to teach at very international art schools where I’m spending a couple of years learning from students who are from places I have never been to or know little about. This is one of my favorite parts of teaching.

Read more of Danny Giles’s Office Hours on School Watch.

School Watch presents critical perspectives on art and academia. Featured profiles, surveys, and dialogues consider education in fine art, curating, and critical theory, as well as the ideas and conditions that influence practice.

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