Here is an overview of our thoughts from the last two meetings, as we formulated them in response to the Hornsey demands. The Hornsey manifesto was used more like a structure for us to investigate how the demands of the past have been fulfilled or not today, and if so whether they are actually what these students had envisioned (or not). How such radicalism got appropriated today, and what can we learn from it. Most importantly: What are our own positions and demands today? I’m posting this to all, so that you can all catch up and join the discussion, opening up the debate further. But also because we are currently working on our own manifesto and some people wanted to have a better context of what has happened so far before they respond themselves.
Next meeting will be on Tuesday 24th of June from 18:00-20:00, at the ICA’s Studio.
Please bring along your own input (in any form, i.e a thought, a text or a sentence, a recording, something visual or performative etc) next time, as we will be working on finalising our ‘manifesto’ together.
Also next time we are going to talk about organising our public event, probably scheduled some time in October. So please do come along if you are interested in taking part in that. The format is still very open. So, here is a sum up:
- Elimination of entrance qualifications: apart from the class barrier that Hornsey students referred to here, we also argued against homogenisation and standardisation of personalities: we talked about how community work and art therapy work exactly in the opposite way-and the recent phenomenon of new classifications for mental disorders, i.e a person who is anti-systemic is now considered to have a mental disorder)
- Replacement of the old linear structures with a new ‘network’ one: Hornsey students may have envisioned this new structure as a kind of horizontal, non-hierarchical and inter-disciplinary one, but unfortunately it seems to us that this idea has already been co-opted to fit the operational demands of neoliberal knowledge economies. We talked about college’s multi-use spaces that basically don’t do anything. Coming out of inter-disciplinary studies and not knowing anything in depth. But also and by extension , the idea of a flexible free-labourer, a freelance artist-entrepreneur that needs to be educated in ‘transferable skills’ for the sake of the new aesthetic trope or market trend, and how different that is to what they had envisioned in ’68. We asked: What if being part of a collective was a criterion for access to university?
- There is no reason why an artist or designer should be fluent with a pen: we came up with: ‘you should at least be able to explain WHY you do what you do?’
- Role of THEORY: We discussed how relational art’s value resides on its ’relationality’ and ability to make connections-which is what theory and curating provides-but is also learning ‘how to play the game of culture’.
- INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY: we discussed about the ‘academicisation’ of the arts through technology, and the contemporary information control economy, where the student now needs to basically be an ‘editor’ of information, while at the same time never really being able to situate oneself in their own context. We talked about information technology and how it is supposed to be a process of ‘democratisation’ while at the same time its democratic structures do not have a democratic base. We talked about TIME. And we talked about the interpersonal, dialogue and true real-life experiences versus virtual ones. We talked about our role as cultural workers, and whether it is only limited to representation issues or also to do with organising. How did we use to organise before the internet?
- Art history: we talked about criticality and education, and kind of concluded that one should first try and understand history first before being taught how to counteract it, if one has a potential for actively participating in history and not only being a spectator.
- Working as a group: is the structure or the motive keeping us together? again the question of WHY do you do what you do? came up. Is it an authentic choice, or an illusory one. What about unconscious articulations of needs and desires? If the avant-garde seeks to shock and provoke as a strategy against its own legitimation by academia or institution, and if there is no visible avant-garde nowadays then perhaps the key for maintaining a critical practice is to also play with this mediation.
- Assessment: ‘You don’t need a priest anymore, as education is nowadays a self-taught congregation’. Where emancipatory pedagogy projects have already been appropriated, in order to create more flexible neoliberal ‘knowledge workers’. Transforming self-organising, collective learning, dialogical practices etc into ‘good for business’ models. We talked about business terms like: competitive, creative, free, brain-storming, self-promotion, network, management, curation etc and their effects when used in the arts.
- The ridiculous climate of frustration: To act instead of re-act. Can you organise another model whilst being part of the existing one or do we imagine a completely different structure, outside?
- FEES: After lengthy discussions about money, we thought that the introduction of fees and wage relations results in an increase of our subjugation to the system, and by extension a limitation to our ways of resisting, to the point where any kind of reaction, gets subsumed by the overall apathy.
- The present APATHY in schools: We talked about the general pressurised lifestyle of precarity-and concepts like alienation, commodification, fetish, autonomy. The importance of being able to make your own choices according to your needs.
- Elimination of distinction between vocational-diploma courses: YOU ARE NOT A LOAN! Can art schools be the ones that create social change? Can we create spaces within the schools where people can simply get together and talk? Talking as a medium of agency.
- RESEARCH: when art and art practice turns into academic knowledge versus education for critical consciousness. The potential for art to enunciate alternative social and political forms. Can we imagine ‘research’ as a pedagogy project where we learn about democracy from exercising it? ‘What community are you talking about?’