Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Divide - The Ivory Tower

Kyoorius invited a few illustrators / artists / imagemakers from all over India to respond to this year's Kyoorius Designyatra's theme of "THE DIVIDE". We were asked to examine and illustrate the issues dividing the creative output of the industry like
The Digital Divide
The Cultural Divide
The Education Divide
The Communication vs Art Divide
The We vs Them Divide
And on and on and on

The illustration had to evolve from an angle at 17 degrees from the central axis.

I chose to illustrate The Divide within Education.

While doing my research, I came across two extraordinary articles on this subject.
The first one was this superb, thought provoking essay by David Orr titled What is Education For? where he examines the myths about ‘education’ and makes the reader think and think again about whether education in itself is good at all or whether we have created a monster which alienates us from that which matters most – our environment around us. The essay is eight pages but made a riveting read which left me shaken. I spent days thinking about what he had written and I kept returning to the essay again and again.

The second is a Guardian piece on Designer Thomas Heatherwick, his thoughts, his work and what makes him tick. He too encountered frustrations in the education system which he describes as ‘sliced up ghettos of thought’. His efforts to bring about integration of various disciplines in his own design, has led unsurprisingly to comparisons with Leonardo da Vinci.

I distilled my thoughts from the writings linked above into the paragraph below and then created my illustration around it:

Whether we are using our knowledge of design to build a nuclear reactor, a house or a chair, we use it to control our planet and its resources to feed our endless wants thereby creating an alarming and ever increasing divide between our natural environment and ourselves. How much longer can we afford to live in the ivory tower of our assumed knowledge? We have to rethink design education to redesign ourselves so that we can integrate and live well within our planet’s finite resources.

The challenge was to avoid the yin yang, black white, opposites ‘look’ for the theme which would have resulted in a cliché. I also wanted to integrate the 17 degree angle into the concept rather than have a sharp line delineating a ‘divide’within the picture (which would have yet again created a cliché). The result is the picture above – The foreboding Ivory Tower rising away from the landscape, its wall dividing itself from the rest of the environment. However there is ‘hope’ as a viewer pointed out, symbolized in the stars and the slit window.

ps: I have to add a very important point here - The organizers Kyoorius are paying each one of us contributors a very decent and dignified sum of money for our illustration contribution to The Divide theme. There is none of the 'oh, do it for free, think of the publicity it will fetch your work...etc etc' tired excuses.
It is so heartening to have my work valued and my time compensated for.


Kashmira said...

Wow! Now that is a lot of deep thinking! Makes a lot of sense. I love your illustration.

Did they explain why the 17 degree angle?

little pink cakes said...

Indeed, much to think about... and sadly it feels as if most of it is today even more true than 20 years ago.

Your illustration is wonderful and well-thought-out. I love it!

Rod MacGregor said...

I love this illustration, however I see the landscape as enchanting/mysterious rather than bleak. I enjoy the education theory and can't help agree with some of the philosophy that it generates.

pRiyA said...

Thank you Kash. I think the 17 degree angle is a design prop around which we create our illustration.

Thank you too little pink cakes. Yes, I agree with you, each day the alarm bells seem to ring louder with regards to our environment.

Thank you Rod. If you see the landscape as enchanting and mysterious (with which I agree), why not indeed? That too results in a good interpretation for the illustration.

The Colour Palette said...

Hi Priya, the David Orr article is a fantastic read. Kalyani'S post on DBN fb took me to your post and I must say, I will have to re-read it many times. It has truely shaken my head too. I am yet to read the second one. And I am also curious to know why the 17 degree angle. Sunayana

Sophie Munns said...

Loved this post Priya... your wonderful drawing and all that thinking around it... the articles you chose... I know that David Orr one, remember it being excellent from some time ago...... and Heatherwick ... since he designed that brilliant Seed pavilion for China I have been smitten!
Bravo ... being paid properly is important!

pRiyA said...

thanks a lot sophie :)

Aarthi said...


Anonymous said...

Glad you are back Priya! Very thought provoking post - in the very competitive world, we forget that education is also meant to stimulate one's creativity - to think beyond and step into the unknown. Yes, we are all in an ivory tower and we force the next generation to also follow us into the same.


Excellent work, pRiyA! You are a very talented artist !

pRiyA said...

Thank you for your comments all of you :)

mansuetude said...

We would talk about this in the college. Even in the same department, professors are distanced by theoretical specializations. You would think it would be the opposite.

But your image brings a hope, with the stars and the bottom of the tower seems in the hands of a wind, as if the tower is built by Nature and she can open it to the elements you depict so beautifully, when she chooses, to let the inside out and the outside in... to mingle and harmonize.

your work is mystery making!

mizu designs said...

Priya, this is amazing! Both the illustration and the post. I've tweeted it over on my academic twitter account so hopefully a few folk from there will pop by and take a look.

Za faran said...

First, let me write how much I liked your painting. I liked that tilting tower, the blue sky (it reminded me of Van Gogh skies!) with a tinge of the unknown. I do think that it is the power wielding or rather the power hungry who try to create 'divides' to suit their own ends. Glad to see your wonderful effort to address the issue!

Anonymous said...

my 2 cents - it is a universal phenomenon that education creates "divide", which we all know - should not, infact if the organizers would have themed it as " what education should be doing " ( for eg: the vedic form of education which the british erased in the 18th century )" - it would be a great education itself, if that was mean and well worth the time of illustrators - Again just my 2 cents

anrosh , the twenty

pRiyA said...

Yes Mansuetude, it seems to me that the more ‘educated’ you are (in your specialized field) the more distanced you become from reality. Every now and then there are panels and discussions to revamp the education system here but my God you should see the hot air generated. Nothing much else happens.
Thank you Kylie
Thank you Za faran. Yes I agree. A lot of Ivory Towerism is due to the need for power.
Anrosh: the theme was ‘The Divide’. We could address any divisive issue with our illustrations.