Every arts educator knows, uses, and produces them: the assignments that are seemingly simple but challenge students and participants to the max. In daily life, wicked arts assignments are informally passed on to other arts teachers or artists, or live on in the form of memories and creative artefacts of students and participants. Localized in the grey area between the explicit and the hidden curriculum, these valuable pieces of curriculum embody both the formal demands of curricula and the norms, values and belief systems of today’s arts educators.
Although we hypothesized that there should be an abundance of wicked arts assignments—tried and tested in all kinds of contexts—we wondered why they were so hard to find. This, in turn, sparked our idea of collecting the intangible gems of arts education and to introduce them to many. Not long after, we sent out a worldwide online call for challenging arts assignments. Arts teachers and artists submitted over five hundred of them—confirming our suspicions that they are productive educational designers.
But then began the daunting task of selecting assignments for our book. In a selection committee, we chose nearly one hundred of the most bold, unusual, contrary, funny, poetical, and socially committed ones. Moreover, through the selection process, we could compile those assignments that could reflect what we believe to be a contemporary arts education. Most of the arts assignments we chose are not restricted to a single medium or discipline. Instead, they encourage cross-disciplinary working and thinking. Also, they represent themes and ways of working recognized in contemporary arts and popular culture, from remix to engagement, from artistic intervention to hacking. The assignments are playful too, but can go against the grain just as much, touch on risky endeavours or invite intense introspection. They offer ways to learn about the arts, ourselves, and the world. Lastly, the selection process made clear that wicked arts assignments can be carried out in various contexts: from primary schools to higher education, from home to the (online) community, and from Bogotá to Istanbul.
The final result of the selection process lies in your hands: Wicked Arts Assignments reveals the arts educators’ hidden oeuvre of arts assignments from different regions around the world. It has developed into a book that can be divided into two parts. The first part provides a theoretical perspective on the phenomenon of arts assignments and consists of two chapters and five interviews. In the first chapter, ‘Scores, Instructions, Prompts and Briefs: The Assignment as an Artwork’, an artistic perspective is given on the arts assignment. It follows the historical developments of assignments and instructions in the arts and education, how they are framed as conceptual artworks and used to stimulate democratic ‘do it yourself’-practices.
In the second chapter, ‘Bridging Contradictions: the Design of Wicked Arts Assignments’, an educational perspective is taken. It explores how wicked arts assignments can be designed and guided by arts teachers and artists. The five interviews reflect the views of contemporary scholars in arts and education on the arts assignment: Jorge Lucero (USA), Nina Paim (Brazil), Erik Schrooten (Belgium), Stephanie Springgay (Canada), and Pavèl van Houten (the Netherlands). Teaching and working in different contexts, their voices provide insight into contemporary arts and educational practices.
The second part of the book consists of the actual wicked arts assignments. Every assignment is accompanied by a short explanation, and one or more images of participants’ results, related work of the author, or inspirational resources. To offer the reader a form of navigation, we clustered the assignments into twelve themes, such as ‘Narrate’, ‘Hack’, ‘Make Some Noise’, and ‘Go Public’. The very last section in this book we have named ‘Too Wicked to Handle’. This selection is of assignments that were too unrealistic or too ‘outrageous’ to be carried out, or the assignments had not been ‘tried and tested’, but were still worthwhile as a wicked source of inspiration.
Lastly, we thank all arts educators for their generosity—for offering us a peek behind the scenes of their contemporary arts education and for opening up their practice for all. Moreover, we truly hope this book is not seen as an endpoint but as a starting point for (re)designing arts assignments. We invite you to live the wicked.