My name is Jan van Boeckel. I am an artist-educator, anthropologist and film-maker. Currently, I am professor in art education at the Estonian Academy of Arts in Tallinn. Previously, I was program director in design theory at the Iceland Academy of the Arts in Reykjavik.
Together with others, I established the international research group on arts-based environmental education at Aalto University, School of Arts, Design and Architecture in Helsinki. In 2013, I presented my doctoral thesis, At the Heart of Art and Earth: An Exploration of Practices in Arts-Based Environmental Education (third print, Feb. 2017). Since 2007, I am member of the International Eco-Art Network.
Areas of interest and concern to me are the world-views and environmental philosophies of indigenous peoples. Together with film-making group ReRun Productions, I produced a series of documentaries on this theme, as well as films on philosophers such as Jacques Ellul and Arne Naess, who provide a critical analysis of the Western way of life. These films include, among others: The Earth is Crying (1987), It’s Killing the Clouds (1992), The Betrayal by Technology (1992), and The Call of the Mountain (1997).
In the early 2000s, I lived with my family in Hällefors, deep in the forests of central Sweden, where I was an art teacher to both children and adults, and consultant on international cultural projects. From 2004 to 2006, I was head of communications at the Netherlands Centre for Indigenous Peoples in Amsterdam.
On basis of my inspiration by indigenous cultures, my own engagement in artmaking and teaching, and the experience of living close to wilderness in Sweden, my interest has moved to art as a mode to connect with what David Abram aptly called “the more-than-human-world.” One of my research interests is the tension between trying to open the senses whilst coping with the enormity of the current ecological crisis – an issue all the more pressing when engaging in arts-based environmental education activities with young people.
I am council member of the Hardanger Academy for Peace, Development and Environment in Jondal, Norway. I am also content editor for the forthcoming online project OpenAirPhilosophy which will make the writings of Norwegian ecophilosophers Arne Naess, Sigmund Kvaløy Setreng and Peter Wessel Zapffe available to a broad international audience. I have regularly taught at Schumacher College and the Centre for Environment and Development Studies in Uppsala, Sweden. Presently, I act as guest editor-in-chief for the new issue of the Arts and Teaching Journal, Artizein, which will thematize the triad of art, education, and the natural environment. On an ongoing basis, I participate in and contribute to sessions of ArtEZ International Research school (AIR) in Arnhem, the Netherlands, on artistic research.
In the summer of 2017, I will teach new wildpainting courses, in July on the Island of Gotland (Sweden), in August in Spreewald Biosphere Reserve in Germany, and, for the 4th year in a row, in Bize-Minervois, France, in September. A special course will take place in June, In Vincent van Gogh’s Footsteps, in Arles, France.
An interview with me can be accessed at the website of the Estonian Academy of Arts (conducted in the autumn of 2015). Two earlier interviews, in Dutch – one in the daily newspaper Trouw (2013) and the other as part of the book Hoor de Zon (2012) – can be read here.