NiTRO Creative Matters

Perspectives on creative arts in higher education

The telescope and the mirror

Welcome to edition 37 of NiTRO in which we discuss issues of collaboration, ethics and authorship. We are proud to co-edit this edition with the Australian Film Television and Radio School, one of our valued member institutions and hopefully the first of many co-edited issues with our growing network of partner organisations.

By Professor Clive Barstow

Welcome to edition 37 of NiTRO in which we discuss issues of collaboration, ethics and authorship. We are proud to co-edit this edition with the Australian Film Television and Radio School, one of our valued member institutions and hopefully the first of many co-edited issues with our growing network of partner organisations.

Recent tragic events in Afghanistan, natural disasters in Haiti and Europe, and the growing concerns globally with the increase of infections with the Delta variant remind us of the power of storytelling if only to keep us connected to the world, a world in which we now feel increasingly powerless. We produce stories that can unlock our hidden histories, and ones that constantly re-connect us to offer new ideas to inspire and stimulate our collective imagination to think of a future less dystopian, where the positive human condition wins out, stories to offer us hope and clarity at a time when all feels lost.

Within the power of the story we also carry a tremendous responsibility as educators to ensure we hold firm to our ethical obligations with each other and with our planet. Our new narratives will no doubt reflect this epochal moment of change when our norms are being reset, where the politics of narration are being constantly manipulated, where the growing influence of social media continues to blur the boundaries of fact and fiction and where our individual and cultural identities are being disrupted and re-imagined.

As educators, it is a time to re-look at our curriculum well beyond a decolonisation agenda that has been necessitated by our particular histories here in Australia. Now we must look beyond our shores as issues surrounding authenticity, ethical storytelling and othering have become a collective responsibility in education at all levels and particularly within the arts. Often when we engage in transcultural dialogue and collaboration, we start to examine not only a distant culture from afar but perhaps more importantly our own cultural heritage, through a reflexive process that is often more revealing about ourselves than that of others. By what we reveal through the telescope and through the mirror, we make sense of who we are as individuals and as collective communities.

Artists and educators hold a powerful and influencing voice and one with a global reach, so what better time to have healthy and open dialogue around how we can improve our modus operandi at this very opportune moment in time. Advances in technology, due in part to the problems that have faced us during the pandemic, offer wonderful opportunities for creative collaboration across diverse and distant communities that enable us to self-reflect on our educational values and responsibilities within a broader cultural and geographical context. We are proud on this occasion to work with the AFTRS to uncover the many complexities of storytelling in our institutions and in our communities. I give particular thanks to Dr. Alejandra Canales and Susan Danta for the great work they have done in compiling this wonderful edition of NiTRO.

On a broader front, so much is happening and so quickly at present due to the ongoing problems with lockdowns, dwindling international students and with the cumulative impacts on mental health. It is clear now that the situation will last much longer than we first imagined and as a result will have severe implications for the arts and our institutions, as unfortunately the arts have always been a soft target for rationalisation. While all of us involved in the arts value its contribution to society, we have to accept that not everyone does, therefore it is more important now than ever before to advocate for the arts with a single and powerful voice. The DDCA continues this mission and will focus on our present and future strategies at our online forum on the 28th and 29th October, run virtually in conjunction with ACUADS. The schedule for this important and timely forum will be released soon so I invite our members to pass on this invitation to your appropriate heads of centres and schools so that we can share our discussions more widely.

I hope you are all keeping well and that you enjoy this bumper edition of NiTRO.

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