Category Archive 'Art Schools'

20 Jun 2012

Today’s Art Schools Teaching Anti-Art

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Damien Hirst, Crematorium [a giant ashtray filled with cigarette butts and packets], Tate Gallery, London

“‘Charles,’ said Cordelia, ‘Modern Art is all bosh, isn’t it?’
“‘Great bosh.’

–Brideshead Revisited

Not all Modern Art is bosh really, but an ever-increasing percentage certainly is. How did it come to this? Jacob Willer, in an absolutely brilliant essay in Standpoint magazine, explains how the ideology of Romantic Rousseauianism has transformed the art schools and, along with them, most artists’ abilities and goals. Today, nobody learns to draw or paint at Art School. When you mess up a print, the instructor applauds your spontaneous expression and awards your blunder top marks.

[T]he brochure of one prestigious art school reads:

    The course… encourages you to test the boundaries of drawing practice… You will be asked to explore drawing as an end in itself as well as a means for exploring other modes of art practice such as sculpture, installation, performance and film … the course offers a distinct approach to drawing fine art practice.

“Test the boundaries of drawing” means to do anything but drawing. Exploring drawing “as a means for exploring other modes of art practice such as sculpture, installation, performance and film” really means dissolving drawing into everything else, and calling everything else drawing, until drawing has been redefined, and defined out of existence — till it can mean pins and strings and bus-rides. A “distinct approach to drawing” indeed, but sadly, it is “distinct” in many art schools today.

My head of painting did writing, albeit on canvas, and the head of sculpture did performances which he sometimes filmed. I remember a fellow student once “testing the boundaries” of painting, and no doubt using it to “explore other modes of art practice”, by hanging a torn blank canvas on the wall through which protruded a pink plastic vibrating penis. I found it impossible not to laugh as we were gathered to contemplate this “piece” and the head of the school pronounced that it had a certain pathos. But, comedy aside, note that paint was nowhere involved, although this was the painting term. The violated canvas was judged a sufficient reference to the accoutrements of painting, and irreverent enough to be passed as “painting” — and four full weeks’ painting at that.

Hat tip to Bird Dog via Karen L. Myers.


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