Cristóbal Martínez creates knowledge by creating art


Erik Ketcherside

Image: Video still from “A Very Long Line,” courtesy of Postcommodity

When the Whitney Biennial, the eminent showcase of American contemporary art, opens in New York on March 17, it will include a video work by the interdisciplinary arts collective Postcommodity. One of the collective’s members is not only an artist, but a postdoctoral scholar at the Center for the Art and Science of Teaching at ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.

Cristobal MartinezCristóbal Martínez is a research fellow in the area of digital media and learning, where he hopes to advance what he calls “an indigenous knowledge systems approach” to STEAM teaching and learning. He says, “My focus is to advance pedagogies in ways that are adaptable and culturally sensible across diverse populations. I combine arts practice, digital design, critical media literacies, cultural studies and learning sciences research to create place-based education theories and curricula for formal and informal learning spaces.”

Martínez says the work continues research he began In in collaboration with an Arizona Native American community to develop culturally responsive digital media and learning for American Indian youth. In 2014, Martínez was an assistant to Bryan Brayboy, a professor in ASU’s School of Social Transformation. Their E2 Textiles Project — “E2” for ethno-electronic — combined and expressed indigenous culture with digital electronics. During that project, Braboy said, “Martinez and (researcher and affiliate faculty member Kristin) Searle spend around 40 minutes a day with young people teaching them what it is to be a native person. What does it mean for these students to learn about their culture and native language? You get to do this and still be an O’odham or Piipaash.”

Martínez earned bachelor’s degrees in studio art and painting; a master’s degree in media arts and sciences; and a PhD in rhetoric, composition and linguistics, all from ASU. Soon after completing the PhD he was offered a unique postdoctoral fellowship, a joint appointment at Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College and the ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. Intersections between those disciplines — education and media arts — are key to his research, Martínez says. “It isn't possible to advance digital media and learning, especially within the frameworks of indigenous self-determination, without the ongoing making, testing and remaking of media theories. Those are the theories on which I base new visions for what I believe is important knowledge to teach and advance. By making art I am able to determine what I believe is valuable, as well as how I might go about teaching this knowledge. My arts practice is as much a learning sciences media lab as it is an opportunity for me to express what's on my mind and in my heart.”

Read more about Postcommodity at the Whitney Biennial.