March 8-26, 2012
Aalto University, Helsinki, Finland
In the spring of 2012, Jan van Boeckel taught the course An
Ecology of Mind, Bateson and the Arts to a group of students at Aalto
University in the fields of architecture, art education and fine arts.
At the first session, Nora Bateson, the youngest daughter of Gregory
Bateson, was present too. The same evening she showed her film An
Ecology of Mind in the Media Factory of Aalto University.
the course description:
student level, max 25 students, minimum 8; open to all students of Aalto
The sessions are 30 hours in total, 2 sessions per week, 5 ECTS
Bateson's influence is wide (e.g. on Guattari/Deleuze and Lakoff/Johnson).
The students will receive a comprehensive introduction to both primary and
secondary literature (and film) on Bateson. Specific to this course is a
focus on Bateson's view of aesthetics and its relevance to visual studies
and art education. Bateson's work was profoundly interdisciplinary and is
of relevance to many different fields. At present his work has not been
dealt with in a systematic way in any of the courses that i am aware of.
The course would be a meeting place of students interested in ecology,
philosophy, aesthetics, as well as systems thinking and epistemology.
As preparation to the sessions, participants read the assigned literature
for that day; the course syllabus will contain excerpts from the following
books: Gregory Bateson: Steps to an Ecology of Mind, 2000 (ca. 50
pages) Gregory Bateson: Mind and Nature, 2002 (ca. 50 pages) Peter
Harries-Jones: A Recursive Vision: Ecological Understanding and Gregory
Bateson, 1995 (ca. 50 pages) Optional additional literature: Gregory
Bateson and Mary Catherine Bateson: Angels Fear: Towards an
Epistemology of the Sacred, 1987 David Lipset: Gregory Bateson: The
Legacy of a Scientist, 1982.
The students will acquire basic and key knowledge of the seminal work of
philosopher-biologist-anthropologist Gregory Bateson, and his importance
for understanding questions pertaining to humans' and
ecology/nature/biology. The skills the students develop or deepen are
studying a range of literature sources, partaking in group discussions and
making a group presentation and presenting a well-articulated academic
essay in English.
Nora Bateson in discussion with Finnish students.
Nora Bateson and Jan van
Comments from students:
"The ecologic approach to art attracted me to attend the course. I also
wanted to deepen my knowledge of ecology and the relations between art and
science. The course met my expectations; it really focused on Bateson’s
thinking and at the same time put it into larger context.
The films were great! It was amazing to have Nora there with us in the
first session. The course works well and I really hope there is
possibility to arrange it again. Maybe it would be nice to have examples
of some art pieces and to discuss them in the context of Bateson’s
thinking. It could be offered to bioart students from department of
art.Thank you for the course! It really gave me new perspectives to think
"What attracted you to attending
this course was its interesting name: Ecology of Mind. I was also
attracted by Bateson’s philosophy that deals with questions that are
fundamental for the artmaking and art education, such as meta-patterns,
beauty, ethics and aesthetics, the relationships between the science and
art, human and environment, culture and nature, systems theory,
transdiciplinary learning, etc. I expected much and got out more than I
expected in a such a short period of time.
The teaching was very appropriate, holistic and high standard. The
discussions were interesting and the atmosphere in the class was open for
a dialogue and discussions. There could have been more contributions from
us, the students. Perhaps the group could have been bigger and more
diverse: ecologists, antropologists, environmental scientists...
Once the key concepts were opened the reading was not that difficult.
It was unforgettable to have Nora Bateson opening the first course
session. The film was great opening to the topic as well. Nora and the
film brought Bateson as a person closer to us and clarified some of the
very complex ideas and concepts. The learning process became more intimate
and personal since we had ”met” Gregory through Nora and the film. Really
an amazing and unique oportunity.
A huge thank you for the moving and inspiring course. Hope there will be
many more to come."
Image from a workshop, entitled The
Pattern That Connects. Heli Mäkinen co-organized this small symposium
in June 2012, inspired by Bateson's work. Scientists, artists, poets and
others engaged with the issue of Truth in the landscapes of mind