What if the art school was…

This year at the end of the first semester of my 2nd BA, I have suggested my jury an unconventional practice in studying art,

what if I keep studying in the art department , stay very much engaged with the classes, practices and the larger body of education and the school and DO NOT PRESENT a body of work until the end? Just one work at the end of my engagement with the school? OR what IF I take 5 years to spend in the school not 3 years as pre-designed? What if I am an artist who will present only 5 or 2 works all her life? Why isn`t this possible in an art school?”

I study in Autonomous Design/art department, inwhich we are encouraged to go beyond limits as much as possible and be autonomous, be our own-selves, vision. Everything in the department is aiming to create a frame where autonomy is possible. However there is, as it should be naturally, a conflict between what the school wants to be and what it is. The school has to fit in a certain frame as a governmental institution. Teaching, making art, designing cannot be ripped from its tentacles of convention, market, society, state. However this doesn`t mean that it cannot try and expand. Luckily, KASK is one of few places I have ever seen which is very open and enthusiastic to explore its borders and expand them. In a way that is what they are trying to teach us, if you name the school process we have as teaching. In a way it is the set limit that we are hoped to reach. In this perspective, I have resisted the demands of curriculum and evaluation process. The jury system of evaluation or conventional tendency of exhibition oriented creating, transform “ creation” to “production”. In a school where we develop practices, different ways of social & political engagement, ways of looking at space, forms, light, sound and mind in a ideally autonomous way, Our development is sized by a constant expectation of product. To note, this expectation is not completely intended. However, to my observation, it is mostly derived from the relationship between units in school (teacher-student, department- institution, institution- education system) and an internalized understanding of how things should be. For example when I say the deadline of a jury or exhibition moment, disturbs my process of searching, experimenting and confronting me with an audience involuntarily, it forces me to define my process pre-maturely , manipulates the creation process with the expectation of the eye of another which immediately navigates the tendency of autonomy and authenticity towards connecting, satisfying, reproducing, translating, structuring. At this point, I accepted the arguments on autonomy and authenticity, even if these concepts mean anything or not but I demand at least to explore this for my own. I have problematisized this issue because I have observed and learned that it’s not a personal problem at all.It is shared by many art/design students in the school, in the country and all around the world.  Moreover not only by students but also  by artists, creatively engaged people who are practicing. That the practice of art and artists have intensely became an extension of an economical and social understanding that it can`t be a phenomena on its own. When I ask what if I present a work when it is ready and not before because of a school calendar, I am told – but when you become an artist ( is this an identity you become when a diploma stamp issued) or go face the real world (  lets assume that I am 19 year old who has never been engaged with what`s assumed as real world. Still, is school a dream matrix or a non-place?) you`ll be asked to present works with dead-lines, for gallerias, art events. ( Are galleries and art events the only destination for someone the practice art in a world that is full of billions of variations. Besides how anyone can be so confident about what the next decade will be like? And what if I never claim to be an artist or what I call art-producer?) .  AND when I present a possibility of a practice that doesn`t necessarily fit in the what is expected, I am required to explain, articulate, be definite of what my practice would be. There are no place for ambiguity, unknown, not knowing or being without knowing. Otherwise my proposition is dismissed for it has not been verbally justified perfectly. Are those already existing methods, practices are perfectly justified, despite their obvious struggles? They are not supposed to be justified because they are normalized. Within the surface of looking out for “new’, “different”, “free”, “expressive”, ‘individual” and all the other concepts modern art stands for, there is a conservative blockage, that serves to keep up producing and re-producing.

What is most upsetting that each time this topic surfaced is that it didn`t only provoked a lot of unintended aggression but also demonstrated a lack of imagination about how things could be. ( Here I `d like to say I don`t believe I have a superior imagination but I just want to acknowledge the absence of it) A friend who was in attendance listening to our conversation, which happened during the master project of Elli Vassalou, said “ I wish I noted every time someone  said the system . “  It was granted that system had certain unchangeable dynamics and methods and when my proposal could not be identified, justified or defined within the system, it sounded completely ambiguous, impossible, un-needed and dismissed. The energy people poured in to prove this point rather than thinking of possibilities, has surprised me each time . It spoke for itself. Why was there so much resistance to the idea? Even though discussing it in a philosophical manner, the questions targeted my personal story, reasons, and motives. Even though I repeated my motivation to problematize it ( that it was shared by many) , It was lost  in communication. I told my personal story to become vulnerable , to open up to the other and invite them in solve an possible issue.  I could present it conceptually but that was not the concept of the Lunch.  I was a performer in someone else`s frame with my own story. I could defend it in a well-articulated manner but I believed a refined discourse, conclusive arguments, dehumanizing the saying of experience is only another way of getting stuck in the given frame and reproducing the system. I wanted to bring up questioning , a possibility of an unknown process to explore something that is unknown to me. The Master project of Lunch was/is : creating a conceptual eating moment around a table where the stories of inclusion/exclusion, our perspective, vulnerability and experience towards the educational system and think in common for possible proposals for the school we want  to be shared .By this way we would become vulnerable observers of each other and ourselves. It was meant to create a moment of togetherness where a proposal to certain global crises we all live might be shared. The dismissive attempt towards  the problem I purposed demonstrated how this fails. There were a lot of information in this failure:  all the points of fear, guilt, how the exclusion is functioning… The lines of political correctness in which things are listened and approved neutrally also passively and what happens when we step out of that borders. And the moment of activation which was to dismiss a proposal that suggested we were already buried in an economical thinking, pretentiousness, and  unable to acknowledge the moment when we exclude people, problems, vulnerabilities even while we are trying to do otherwise. Ant the moment of passifying when I got too exposed to too many people at once, couldn`t keep the trace of all their demands, overwhelmed and most strikingly how many other people on the table remained silent, unable to share their point of view even though they strongly disagreed with the dismissal and sympathized with my problem.Or  trying to justify the regression by my imperfect way of talking, or difficulty of accepting certain concepts due to certain realities. So we never reached to my intended point where we could discuss  hypothetical solutions to this education problem and practice of art.

Instead I was repeatedly told about the merits of the school, even that I was lucky to be there. Insulting and degrading my proposition, that is what I felt. I told them it was my one year of experience in the school that brought me to a point to re-design my own practice of school. Proudly. And it was the merits of the school that make me feel it is a responsibility an opportunity to address this problem. Because if not here, where?

2 thoughts on “What if the art school was…

  1. Pingback: Lunch #1 reflections – syntrofi

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