Content Area 3: Today’s world

Today’s world is an opportunity for students to learn about art and culture in their everyday lives through four sections of focus; Artists: Theory and Thinking, Artists: Processes and Media, Art as Social Commentary or Commentator and Art and the Environment. For the written component students will study all sections of focus in Today’s world as part of their learning. However, students should understand that to varying degrees, all four sections are interconnected and should be referred to, where relevant, when studying the other sections. This will give students the opportunity to experience, appreciate and study examples of art and culture that exists in their everyday lives, which can support their creative thinking, making and reflective processes. Today’s world will also draw and build on the range of knowledge, skills and understanding that students will achieve through their engagement in the three strands of Research, Create and Respond.

Today’s world aims to foster and nurture the skills of critical literacy and contextual inquiry to decode, decipher and make meaning from a range of art-led experiences that students can study locally, nationally, internationally or virtually. There are many possible approaches to this, including, students engaging with art in the public domain, such as visiting local or national galleries/museums, engaging with the built/natural environment, visiting an artist in their studio or interventions by the art world within the school, such as artists in the classroom projects.

It should also be noted that Content Area 3, Today’s world, should not be seen in isolation and students need to be made aware that links can be formed with Content Areas 1 and 2, Europe and the wider world and Ireland and its place in the wider world.

The four sections of focus are as follows:

Artists: Theory and thinking  

This section of focus will give students the opportunity to explore and learn about why the artist* makes their work, how they approach it and what happens to their work when it is completed. Students will gain an understanding of the artist’s rationale behind the work they create for an audience, patron, space or location. Students will also learn how an artist’s work can reflect their identity or the identity of others; that it can be a form of self-expression; that it can capture a personal journey; that it can give a voice to an artist, people, place, their story and history.

In using the Visual Studies Framework alongside their own, independent research, students will be enabled to discover common points of reference within the thinking and reasoning of the artists they study. From here, students can be encouraged to explore and develop ideas and responses that shape their own individual creativity and artistic voice. 

*The term artist should be taken to include those who create work through fine art, design and craft in a range of traditional, contemporary, new and/or digital media. See also the footnote concerning recognised artists.

Artists: Processes and media  

This section of focus encourages students to learn about the choices and use of materials and media (physical and/or digital) that are made by artists throughout history. Students will also learn how an artist’s identity can, at times, become synonymous with their choice of media or processes they use. This can be achieved by, for example, classroom visits through programmes that support the artist working directly within the school, students visiting an artist’s studio or students exploring galleries/museums.

Using the Visual Studies Framework offers students the opportunity to explore the many processes, areas of practice, techniques and media that artists work with. These practices can call for a mix of diverse materials, sources and cultural references to stimulate and inform the creation of works. Viewing and responding to such an artist’s work may also support students in identifying parallel themes or approaches in the development of their own artistic processes and practice.

Art as Social Commentary or Commentator  

This section of focus will engage the students in exploring how artists create an awareness and understanding of the social, cultural, political and economic structures that affect today’s societies. Artists, past and present have used art to critically examine and articulate their concerns over issues of importance as well as make sense of the world through visual means and image making. The themes and concepts that artists devise and engage with can be powerful and often have broad social and global importance.

Using the Visual Studies Framework, students will explore this more thoroughly. They will learn how art can inspire activism and bring about change in how we see ourselves within connected communities. Art can go beyond physical spaces and engage an audience in communal debate, discussion, participation and action, and the idea and action can, in itself, be the art.

Art and the environment  

This section of focus recognises the importance of the environment to artists and how it can be a primary source for inspiration and use as a medium in its own right. It also acknowledges that students are surrounded by their own local environment, which can be a source of inspiration. Art and the environment includes a range of artistic practices encompassing both historical depictions and traditional approaches to nature in art. More recent developments have seen environmental artwork that addresses social and political issues, which can include the use of the environment itself as the medium and/or the message. How an artist uses or responds to an environment reflects how they are often sensitive to questions such as the preservation of built heritage, cultural lives of people in the community, ecology and nature, etc. and recognise its importance to themes of identity.

Using the Visual Studies Framework, the environment can be explored as a resource which sees artists often elaborate on the unique characteristics peculiar to that environment and enhance or comment on it in some way.  Architecture, Land Art and the landscape itself, Street Art, Public Art, Environmental Design, urban/rural design, issues and ideas around Education for Sustainable Development, Consumer/Product Design, Interior Design, and even Online Environments are among many of the rich sources for visual research and study in this section of focus.