Our first seminar set us the task of scrutinising a variety of approaches to art college education. In some ways it seems a very recursive subject matter to be tackling on our first meeting.
We explored John Baldessari’s rather alienating teaching approach of sending his students instructions to write ‘I will not make any more boring art’ all over the walls of the gallery. Actually, this was Baldessari’s response to a [possibly] stagnating painting convention which he found particularly alienating. Interesting that he destroyed all his paintings and resorted to text instead.
The problem is: if every moment is a pivotal opportunity to reform completely, how do you avoid the fear of the next approaching artwork?
We also explored Paul Theck’s teaching notes- a lengthy list of questions that he recommends each student asks him/herself in order to contextualise the work being produced. These range from ‘Do you use deodorant?’ to ‘how many sheets of toilet paper do you use in a day?’ or such-like. Interesting. Yes, I believe it is important to be aware of the contexts which have a baring on your perspective, especially if you are going to make use of yourself as a channeling tool or create work from a personal point of view.
This exercise probably helps to develop empathy too. Another skill that can often be important when working as an artist. However, at the end of his text he goes on to say:
‘Remember, I’m going to mark you, it’s my great pleasure to reward real effort, it’s my great pleasure to punish stupidity, laziness and insincerity.’
This really gives the whole text a dated feel. It renders the rest of the text less useful. Rooting out weakness and punishing stupidity seems to be a bit of an odd idea in general these days.
The need to punish art students seemed to rear its head more than once throughout the discussion. It seems that this was fairly normal practice at one time in art schools. Perhaps the tutors felt alienated by the education they received and therefore continued the cycle of punishment.