[iDC] sharing "new media" curricula/potentials
kham at uiuc.edu
Sat Jan 27 02:06:10 EST 2007
Thanks for all the posts -
I like the way this thread is re-locating the question of relevance and
fairness in the relationship of curricula to post-educational life.
Preparing students to be capable of situating themselves wisely in
relation to the models offered is more specific than a traditional
liberal-arts approach, without tying curricula to narrowly-defined job
As others have said here in different words, these concerns are
important at least because we need to be clear with students about what
they should expect from their education - not as customers, but as citizens.
The question remains about how to teach to such a goal - the question of
how or why to teach programming is directly related to curricular
attitudes towards post-educational life.
Though the focus won't be New Media, this weekend's symposium on the
Future of Art School, at USC. looks like it will speak to this. Is
anyone going who can report?
At the risk of creating too long a post, I'll include below a couple of
excerpts from the reader Frances Stark put together for that event. I've
found this little anthology to be very helpful.
The reader, entitled _Primer_, is available for free download on LuLu
here, though you have to sign up for an account first.
I'll just quote from two contributors, whose approaches seem to come
from different sides. Bailey seems to see less need for material
education, in favor of nurturing reflexivity. Verwoert instead sees in a
return to medium the potential for action, especially in light of the
art worlds' incorporation of conceptualism. Perhaps like the approach
Saul briefly described, a combination of both of these is necessary.
Apologies if this material is not new to some of you - perhaps it was
covered at 2005's New Media Education conference in NY - but it's
helpful to me, and I encourage all to check out this collection of essays.
What follows is all excerpted - apologies to the authors for the cut and
- Kevin Hamilton
First, from Stuart Bailey's "Towards a Critical Faculty" essay:
This fraying of any coherent consensus or ideology since the
Bauhaus—further confused by the tendency towards decisions of school
policy increasingly made by schools' financial/bureaucratic divisions
rather than academic ones—has resulted in a largely part-time generation
of teaching staff lacking the opportunities (time, energy, resources,
community, encouragement) to engage in theoretical or philosophical
grounding—while (as far as I can see, from my own and colleagues'
experiences) needing and wanting one. Accepting all this as given, then,
and zooming out of the specific focus on schools, how might we
effectively summarize current social conditions directly related to art
and design on which we might found a new protocol?
I think this involves being able to answer the following questions
honestly and explicitly, and with concrete justifications and examples:
Is an increasingly generalized, inherently cross-disciplinary art/design
education necessary and desirable? Why?
Is a broader encompassing of other social studies fields necessary and
desirable for art/design education? Why?
Should a curriculum be predominantly geared towards 1. questioning, 2.
fulfilling, or 3. creating … either a. social needs, or b. commercial
If the boundaries between disciplines are no longer watertight, with
attitude, practice and deconstruction as the bedrock of our field, we
need to reconsider the nature of the primary tools and skills offered to
new students...If the question of art is no longer one of producing or
reproducing a certain kind of object (and if the medium no longer sets
the terms of making—what "painting" demands, or sets out as a
problem)then a responsible, medium-based training, which always says how
to make, can't get to the question of what to make. How does one get
from assignments that can be fulfilled—color charts, a litho stone that
doesn’t fill in after x-number of prints, a weld that holds—to something
that one can claim as an artist, to something that hasn't been assigned?
Educating reflexivity—teaching students to observe their practice from
both inside and outside—offers students the
facility to interrogate their potential roles and their effects. So upon
entering the market, industry, commerce or
whatever other distinction of post-school environment, they are at least
equipped to ask whether they want to / ought to / refuse to enter into /
challenge / reject (the) existing art & design world / industry /
academia / market.
[end Bailey quote]
And with a perhaps different approach, Jan Verwoert:
[begin Verwoert quote]
It still remains to be discussed whether much of the conceptually-based
work that passes as an intervention into open critical discourse can, at
the end of the day, really count as a substantial contribution...What we
see, instead, is the rise of a new culture of art project-making that is
superﬁcial in its content, and in its form deeply entangled in the power
play of competitive curating, as these projects are primarily
commissioned to fuel the machine of the global exhibition industry and
simulate a constant productivity, which purposefully prevents everyone
involved from ever reﬂecting on what it is that they really produce.
The submersion of conceptually-based practices in the global exhibition
industry we see today, the defender of the academy’s boundaries will
continue, is in fact the outcome of a tendency Benjamin Buchloh
diagnosed early on as an inherent danger of the dematerialization of art
production and deskilling of art producers pushed through by the
Conceptual art of the late 1960s. The radical dissociation of art from
all aspects of a skilled practice within a conventional medium, Buchloh
warned, would in fact make Conceptual art all the more vulnerable to
outside forces that seek to determine the shape and meaning of the work:
'In the absence of any speciﬁcally visual qualities and due to the
manifest lack of any (artistic) manual competence as a criterion of
distinction, all the traditional criteria of aesthetic judgement—of
taste and of connoisseurship—have been programmatically voided. The
result of this is that the deﬁnition of the aesthetic becomes on the one
hand a matter of linguistic convention and on the other the function of
both a legal contract and an institutional discourse (a discourse of
power rather than taste).' Buchloh concluded that the only form of art
that could withstand co-option was a Conceptual art that engaged itself
in institutional critique and criticised the exhibition industry from
the vantage point of a distanced observer. You could, however, also come
to a different conclusion. When the working model of the ﬂexible but
deskilled conceptual producer has been established as a global norm, a
new strategy of resistance can be to reclaim traditional criteria of
medium-speciﬁc art practice and defend the academy as a site where
skills can be acquired that may strengthen the autonomy of the artist in
the face of the new set of dependencies created through the hasty
culture of project-making.
Can the Academy be a Place of Initiation Into Practices of Resistance?
But what then, the critic will hold against this, is the difference
between the strategic evaluation of the skills acquired through an
academic education which you propose and the neoconservative call for a
return to traditional standards? Can you really distinguish one from the
other? Or are you not inadvertently playing into the hands of retrograde
traditionalists when you praise the potentials of a skilled,
medium-speciﬁc practice and deny the revolutionary character and
liberating effects of the conceptual turn in the late 1960s? Yes, the
defender will agree, it is indeed essential to make it clear that the
strategic re-evaluation of the notion of skilled practice and academic
education in no way betrays the spirit of the initial liberation of art
from its conﬁnement to academic disciplines achieved by Conceptual art.
Still, it should be possible to renegotiate the concept of skills in the
spirit of the critical break with disciplinary power. In fact, Gayatri
Chakravorty Spivak seeks to do precisely this in her book 'Death of a
Discipline. In a discussion of the fate and future of the academic
discipline of comparative literature, Spivak conﬁrms her belief in the
political necessity of an undisciplined form of teaching that challenges
the literary canon of colonial modernity. At the same time, she
articulates her discomfort with the deskilling of students who receive
their literary training only on the basis of the advanced
interdisciplinary approach of cultural studies and, as a result, often
lack the basic skills of closely reading texts which students enrolled
in traditional courses do acquire. 'We have forgotten how to read with
care,' she writes. To rehabilitate the ideology of a disciplinary
academic education is not an option. Instead, the question Spivak raises
is on the basis of what method or model the skills of a discipline could
be taught in a different spirit within the horizon of
the critical philosophy of interdisciplinary education that cultural
studies stands for.
More information about the iDC