The Conundrum of the Academic
University, or rather, tertiary education (counting two years at TAFE and this as my third year in my degree I've been in the tertiary education system for 5 years, which is only one year off the full primary and secondary education timeframes), has provided me more chance for self-reflection and the formation life views than did the oppression of the education and teaching system of the primary and secondary.
There is a certain freedom within the tertiary. Being an equal to the teachers, having a say, not putting up with the bullies and the idiots of the class room, being free to leave a class when you want/need to. Being your own person.
And yet as the year draws hastily to a close and I feel the grip of uni slipping on me, I realize that it is an illusion, a farce set up by the powers that be so that rather than having expectations of ourselves, we have expectations placed on us so that in order to truly form our own style, our own ways of being, our own creative methods, we have to endure years of unsatisfying results until we can finally create what we want to create.
On voicing my opinions to my mother she pointed out that my views were not unlike a story in a book entitled The Getting Of Wisdom, which I am yet to read-but mother told me that it is about a talented, vibrant young girl who is full of life and energy. Then one day she is sent to boarding school where her spirit, her inner-self, her talent and vibrancy is suppressed by the authorities of the school. The girl gives in and acquiesces to the wishes of the system, yet on her graduation day, she runs from the school, skipping away and tossing her hat into the air, showing that she has retained who she is deep inside, despite the oppression of the system. She has worked out how to both be herself, and satisfy the expectations of others.
I applaud this story, however there is one critical commonality missing from the premise. The girl was not in a tertiary education system, studying a course designed to encourage creativity.
All throughout the year, the students in my course are told that "We (the lecturers) want to see the film you want to make.", and yet, if the film we want to make doesn't adhere to a set of guidelines, or doesn't try to "do something different", then during screenings students are criticized and encouraged to change their film to suit the lecturer's vision. I have seen it happen where a student will show their film in three different screenings, with three different lecturers, and receive three different sets of criteria for what the film "could" be.
Some lecturer's are more logical about this situation than others, and regard the student's vision with respect and at times even affection, merely saying what the student could do to assist that student in achieving his/her vision. However there are many lecturers who just seem to quote Frank from Father of the Bride:
"Oh it's nice, it's very nice, we change it all though."
Now on hearing all this you may wonder "Why is this an academic's conundrum?". Purely because of this simple fact that I became aware of through my 5 years in the education system.
Creativity is burdened with the false superiority of the educated artist.
Frequently I have seen those who either can't see or outright refuse to acknowledge the artistic worth in a creative work, purely because it doesn't adhere to a set of guidelines or some kind of theory outlined by some "genius", critic or academic way back when. And yet, the same geniuses, critics and academics will criticize a work that "doesn't do anything new". The creative world is one where knowledge is a waste - where success is dictated by those who spent their times waist-deep in books rather than face-caked with sleep from their eyes observing, thinking and learning by doing.
I've learned a lot in my course, and I love theoretical studies. But I rarely try to apply it to my work. The path of the artist is much like the path of the martial artist as outlined in a simple quote by Jet Li in the film The Forbidden Kingdom:
"Learn it all, then forget it all. Find the way, then make your own way."
I am interested in artistic theory and find the academic and historic study interesting. But when it comes to the practical application of such things, I leave it in the books and I carve my own art from my own feelings. If I want to do a work inspired by a theory then that's fine, new experience is new experience. But ultimately the work is mine, and if it doesn't work for me then I will do it my way.
To anyone who wants to study something creative in your tertiary education, that's fine. I understand that want and university is a great platform for learning history and theory, and even some great techniques which may improve and influence your creative process. However, be forewarned. You will constantly have things to change, and at times you may need to scrap your work and start all over again. You will be constantly at odds with lecturers and you will be continuously forced into a box.
I urge you, for the sake of your creative soul, don't fight. Do what the system dictates, and in all your spare time, rebel. In your spare time read your books, do your homework and while you create do what your feelings, your mind and your heart dictate you have to do, and while you do it think of the people at uni. They can't box you in at home.
For an alternative method of learning your art, it's simple. Do it. The creative peoples in the world are blessed in that what we can achieve is dampened only by our passion and pro activity. I believe I'd have learned more about film in the last three years if I'd spent those three years making films rather than studying them. Someone who is truly passionate about something does/thinks about that thing all the time. They spend their time either making, doing or studying it. With the internet we can easily learn anything we set our minds to, so there's no reason that we should feel the need to enroll and adhere to the criteria of creative degrees when we can do exactly what we'd do there, and learn it all from the internet which is accessible all the time, and from books which are easily pirated or borrowed from a library.
If you're a creative person, create. Create and learn from that creation, and if you want deeper knowledge or a starting point of study then go to uni and study your creative passion. But always, always fight against it where you can, and retain your inner most self.
Now I don't claim for this to be a universal truth. Indeed some of the best film makers in the world have learned their craft at university. However, I feel that at the time there was more freedom for experimentation, as during this period of time, the boundaries of what film could do was still a young idea and barely formed. If the academic system works for you, then great. That's a really good thing and you should cherish it. For those like me where you find the hypocrisy of it unbearable, just remember. Rebel in your spare time, those who would box you in can never take away your creative desires and needs.