Jan van Boeckel is an artist-educator, anthropologist and film-maker. Currently, he is professor in art education at the Estonian Academy of Arts in Tallinn. Previously, Jan was program director in design theory at the Iceland Academy of the Arts in Reykjavik. Jan has regularly taught at Schumacher College in Dartington, the UK; University College of Southeast Norway in Notodden; and at CEMUS, the Centre for Environment and Development Studies in Uppsala, Sweden.
Together with others, Jan established the international research group on arts-based environmental education at Aalto University, School of Arts, Design and Architecture in Helsinki. In 2013, he presented his doctoral thesis, At the Heart of Art and Earth: An Exploration of Practices in Arts-Based Environmental Education (3rd print, Feb. 2017). Since 2007, Jan is member of the International Eco-Art Network.
Areas of interest and concern to Jan van Boeckel are the world-views and environmental philosophies of indigenous peoples. Together with film-making group ReRun Productions, he 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 Western industrial society. 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, Jan lived with his family in Hällefors, deep in the forests of central Sweden, where he was an art teacher to both children and adults, and consultant on international cultural projects. From 2004 to 2006, he was head of communications at the Netherlands Centre for Indigenous Peoples in Amsterdam.
On basis of his inspiration by indigenous cultures, his own engagement in artmaking and teaching, and the experience of living close to wilderness in Sweden, Jan’s interest has moved to art as a mode to connect with what David Abram aptly called ‘the more-than-human-world.’ One of his 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 practising arts-based environmental education with young people.
Presently, Jan van Boeckel is 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. For a special issue of Arts and Teaching Journal Artizein, Jan was guest editor-in-chief. The theme of the edition (2017) was the triad of art, education, and the natural environment. On an ongoing basis, Jan van Boeckel participates in and contributes to sessions on artistic research of the ArtEZ International Research school (AIR) in Arnhem, the Netherlands.
In the summer of 2017, Jan taught a wildpainting course on the island of Gotland (Sweden) and he was artist-in-residence at Gjendebu lodge in Jotunheimen National Park in Norway, where he also ran wildpainting workshops. For 2018, there are five Wildpainting courses scheduled so far:
- Layers in the Landscape – Making Art on the Scottish Isle of Skye, with environmental artist Caroline Dear;
- WildPainting, WildSounding in Somerset, the UK, together with musician and philosopher David Rothenberg;
- Painting with All the Senses in Bize-Minervois, France;
- Painting in the Big Wide Open on the Swedish island of Öland; and
- Bridging our Distance from Beauty – Making Art in the Wild, together with expressive arts therapist and educator Annika Göran-Rodell, in Hällefors, Sweden.
In the spring of 2018, Jan van Boeckel will – together with Jeroen Lutters of ArtEZ – present a lecture entitled Fostering Agility through Art at the Radical Relevances conference in Espoo, Finland (25-27 April). The following month he will be one of the presenters at the 2-day ClimateExistence conference in Uppsala, Sweden (7-9 May).
An interview with Jan van Boeckel 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.