Who talks about art today?

documenta 12 magazines, Zehar

Who talks about art today?-Daniel García Andujar

When we considered organising a debate on the teaching of art, on the one hand we wanted to include the “educational memory” built up at Arteleku which, like a “rolling stone”, seemed to us to be “alive” and, on the other, we wished to open up a discussion on the current teaching of art (music, architecture, and so on), based on the comments and accounts of people with experience in official and non-official education who have worked together with Arteleku and/or Zehar.

By taking an analysis of the various educational practices and experiences that we have been familiar with as a starting point and, as we are aware of how important education is becoming in modern societies, we decided to issue a call for contributions and raise a series of questions that would help us to discover and disseminate the ideas that the agents involved in teaching art are working on:

1. To what extent have the socio-economic, political and technological changes of the last few decades influenced the visual arts?
2. It seems to be accepted that the audio-visualisation of society has led to a shift in the teaching of the visual arts and that cultural studies has been the educational proposal on which the most far-reaching consensus has been reached over the last few years. But how can we relate theoretical learning with the context that we live in, and with what some have called “situated practice”?
3. How do you organise the production of knowledge and shared experience as far as your own educational practice is concerned?

1. Information and communication technology, and the consequences of globalisation have unquestionably had a transforming influence, dismantling old ways of thinking and operating. There can be no doubt that this represents a reformulation of the processes of production, transmission and appropriation of symbolic goods, which forces us to re-examine the models of construction of subjectivity and social organisation. We can see a clear break in the linear guidelines of experimentation of time and space, as well as concepts such as authorship or intellectual and industrial property. We are witnessing a re-examination of individual and collective identities, based on the new multicultural context and the context of diversity, resulting in a crisis in the classical systems of representation and the model of cultural reproduction associated with the nation-state. In effect, the development of “new technologies” has given us the capacity to formulate things in a different way, offering new media for the production processes and systems of different cultural goods and services, and the ways in which information is distributed and transmitted. We have seen a change in certain processes of collective working and learning, with the emergence of a kind of meritocratic hierarchy based on individual effort working for the collective good and person-to-person relations which are helping create one of the greatest collective areas for exchange, innovation and creation ever seen in the history of humankind, outside the sphere of the public institutions. We are seeing processes of structural change and fundamental transformation that are irremediably moulding social action, human experience and—inevitably— influencing the individual and collective working process of artists, as has happened in practically all fields of our society. Here, education is no exception.

2. I am no expert in subjects related to formal education; I have personally never studied at university nor have I received a specific formal education in visual arts; as a result I am quite sceptical about these educational contexts. Right now, I find it quite hard—to say the least—to speak about an entirely autonomous cultural sector. But this is unquestionably one of the great unknowns that needs to be resolved. For most analysts, digital contexts will form the educational environment of the near future, however suitable or unsuitable they may be, precisely because of the clear preference younger generations are showing for such environments. Solving this problem will involve, precisely, resolving a difficult dichotomy: the generations of “analog adults” seek to impose a way of life, an education system, a hierarchical system, institutions and standards of coexistence which the “digital natives”, the new generations, cannot understand. The adaptation of the educational sector (and here we could be talking about broader sectors of society) to these new uses and customs, challenges and transformations poses a challenge both for the educator and for the various institutions involved. It is a challenge we need to face up to if we are to facilitate the development of a new concept of art education, with an infrastructure of research developed through an innovative and enterprising attitude for an intangible labour force, highlighting the emergence of producers of new educational tools which are currently far removed from the traditional educational world. It is a challenge which is not without its own paradoxes and even contradictions. The paradox consists of building new strategies to promote cultural and technological initiatives which have an increasingly diffuse framework of representation. The contradiction is of a cultural process which is necessarily slow to change, contrasting with a frenzied pace of technological and social development. It will be increasingly difficult to accept the concept of the permanent, of the physical, the presential or the particular, and more probably, the concept of hybrid and temporary zones. Education in the visual arts must offer alternatives for action; it must open spaces of confrontation and criticism; it must avoid a hidebound vision of the art world, with a one-dimensional, instrumentalised and remote-controlled conception of the world around us.

3. For me, artistic practice and the processes involved in generating knowledge are very closely entwined with processes of information transmission, as part of a single collective cultural process. A tremendously complex world like the one which now faces us, but intensely connected, requires complex procedures of collaboration and education in the collective concept. Our society, economy and culture are built on interests, values, institutions and systems of representation which generally limit creativity, confiscate and manipulate the artist’s work and divert its energy towards sterile confrontation and discouragement. Interested in highlighting these configurations of power, art practice must establish mechanisms of social relationship that help guarantee its long term impact and allow its discourse to be transferred beyond the restricted confines of the art public and the institution itself. It cannot simply restrict itself to airing the great questions of the human and the divine (or to obeying purely aesthetic or market-based strategies); instead it must commit itself to a social and political process that seeks to change the rules of the game, by discovering methods of work and collaboration—often in combination with other individuals or social groups—to demand that long-awaited change. That change must begin with a redefinition of the artist’s role in society, and even within his or her specific circumstances. I believe this process has to be communicated and shared and as a result I do not understand the idea of an artistic practice whose formal aspects can be distinguished from supposedly educational ones. The original concept must form part of a single idea of whole, where the workshop and the public exhibition are part of a single goal. The artist’s working space is in turn a set of spaces, not necessarily physical or joined, where he or she works, investigates, celebrates, listens, visits, consults and exchanges, meets and/or argues as part of a complex system. A process prevails which breaks down the classical concept of artistic education, ushering in another concept which is processual, analytical, informative, critical and activist in a reality and a logic which respond to the situation we now live in. An open experience where we share, learn or contribute, where the idea of open social space and collective experience is possible, with a special emphasis on that horizontal idea of exchange, collaboration and de-hierarchalised experience.

Access to information is fundamental for generating knowledge.

Daniel García Andújar is the creator of Technologies To The People®, http://www.irational.org/tttp/primera.html and projects such as e-barcelona.org ; e-valencia.org ; e.sevilla.org

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