This session… Provides a brief summary of the development of ‘art school’ as an institution, primarily in the UK, up to the 1960’s, as well as a brief discussion of the inclusion of ‘visual culture’ in UK art school curriculum after the Cultural Turn; Looks at how art school’s histories and ways of seeing have contributed to specific forms of cultural production, challenged and/or contributing to dominant and/or oppressive ideologies; Asks how work and ideas rootedin art school contexts can contribute to the production of particular ontological outlooks about what it means to have an art ‘practice’, but also how they can challenge the way people perceive and understand the world.
The 19th Century: The Rise of Art and Design Civic and national pride; Artisan work, arts, crafts and design highly valued; Establishment of the Royal College of Art in 1837 in South Kensington, London; Establishment of Goldsmith’s in 1891, for: "the promotion of technical skill, knowledge, health and general well-being among men and women of the industrial, working and artisan classes."
The 19th Century: The Rise of Art, Craft and Design The Great Exhibition of 1851 held in London; Later, the collections from the GE were established as the Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington. With the rise of the artisan class, these exhibitions/museums provided the best and ‘highest’ examples art and design from around the world, in order that Britain could compete in an increasingly global marketplace. Increasing technological change and teleological ideas about ‘civilisation’ are beginning to take root.
Art School UK: ‘Art schools’ were founded in towns across the UK on the model of the value of arts and crafts work. Burslem School of Art, the Potteries.
Bauhaus: 20th CenturyArt School in Germany "Let us create a new guild of craftsmen without the class-distinctions that raise an arrogant barrier between craftsman and artist!"
The Bauhaus "Students at the Bauhaus took a six-month preliminary course that involved painting and elementary experiments with form, before graduating to three years of workshop training by two masters: one artist, one craftsman. They studied architecture in theory and in practice, working on the actual construction of buildings. … Bauhaus students were in day-to-day contact with some of the most important practicing artists and designers of the time…. The Bauhaus was the beginning of the art school as an alternative way of life ”. -Fiona McCarthy Lyonel Feininger, Cathedral, woodcut, Cover of 1st program of BauhausApril 1919.
The Postwar Period: Why jump to the ‘50s? Emerging from an austere age during which two World Wars were fought; Art schools attracted a mix of working and upper class students; Beatnik culture.
America: Fluxus ‘[Jackson] Pollock… left us at the point where we must become preoccupied with and even dazzled by the space and objects of our everyday life, either our bodies, clothes, rooms, or, if need be, the vastness of 42nd Street. Not satisfied with the suggestion through paint of our other senses, we shall utilise the specific substances of sight, sound, movements, people, odors, touch.’ -Allan Kaprow
‘Young artists of today need no longer say, ‘I am a painter’ or ‘a poet’ or ‘a dancer’. They are simply ‘artists’. All of life will be open to them. They will discover out of ordinary things the meaning of ordinariness. They will not try to make them extraordinary but will only state their real meaning. But out of nothing they will devise the extraordinary and then maybe nothingness as well. People will be delighted or horrified, critics will be confused or amused, but these, I am certain, will be the alchemies of the 1960s’. -Allan Kaprow.
Art School UK:‘Don’t try to be an Old Master. Paint what you know.’
1960’s: Pop, fashion, music The rise of ‘young fashion’; The teenager; Pop music; Consumerism.
Goldsmith’s, RCA’s mix of disciplines catered to new consumer tastes; Fashion, sculpture, graphic design and ‘multidisciplinarity’; Students making work for ‘each other’; British ‘pop’ aesthetic. Mary Quant
Art School Mix-up (challenging epistemologies) This ‘mix up’ of students, disciplines and studio space raises interesting ontological and epistemological questions about boundaries between art practices that were, especially in the Modernist period, unchallenged.
What is Ontology? The nature of ‘being’, ‘existence’ or ‘reality’; The ‘lie of the land’- what is ‘out there’ to know; Shaped by the culture you live in, your background, your subjectivities. Parmenides meditates on the existence of ontologies….
What is epistemology? The study of knowledge; Examines the scope and limits of knowledge, as defined by one’s ontological position; How do I know what I know? How is knowledge acquired?
Reflexivity and Praxis There is an ongoing exchange between our actions, and the circumstances that shape them as well asvice versa. Understanding and recognising this dynamic process is to begin to reflexively understand how we act and what we do. Praxis establishes that theory informs practice, and vice versa. Karl Marx 1818-1883 Marx felt that the point of the existence of philosophy and theory is to understand how they inform action.
1968 ‘Nixon, the dustbin of history awaits you’ A year of political unrest, usually popularly associated with France, during which both student and general strikes (not necessarily directly linked) brought down the right wing government of Charles De Gaulle.
1968 in Context Students and young people viewed the De Gaulle government as oppressive and unconcerned with their concerns and futures; High unemployment amongst workers in france; Heigtened political tension in other countries (civil rights, the Vietnam Crisis, The Cold War, and so on).
1968 Around the World… Assasination of Martin Luther King in the USA; Students in Mexico City were fired upon during a demonstration; Worker’s movements and students in some Central American countries united to improve conditions; Student protests in Poland against the restriction of free speech. Picture showing the aftermath of riots related to Martin Luther King’s assassination.
1968: The Hornsey Sit-In Dissatisfaction with the withdrawal of funds from the student union, and the institutionalisation of art education more generally; Students held a sit in in protest.
Legacies of 1968 In some art schools during the 1970’s, especially in Europe, ‘quantification’ of art degrees was abolished. Students passed or failed their work, and feedback from tutors became more qualitative in nature.
Drawing on theorists from the ‘Frankfurt School’ group of scholars from the Mid 20th Century, theorists began to apply serious theoretical attention to cultural products, including ‘art’ and design.
Art School Post-1968: The Rise of Cultural Studies With the rise of ‘Postmodern’ ways of thinking and the Cultural Turn, scholars in philosophy, politics and history began to value the study of ‘everyday’ life and mass culture. ‘
Visual Studies and Art School… Has an immediate relationship with the studio; Doesn’t canonise art; Focuses as much on practices, processes and their contexts as the ‘finished product’; Emphasises the relationship between theory and practice (praxis).