Friday, July 15, 2011

Art School (Propositions for the 21st century), edited and with an introduction by Steven Henry Madoff: ISBN 978-0-262-13493-4, book report by craniv

Art School (Propositions for the 21st century), edited and with an introduction by Steven Henry Madoff: contributors Marina Abramovic, Dennis Adams, John Baldessari, Ute Meta Bauer, Daniel Birnbaum, Saskia Bos, Tania Bruguera, Luis Camnitzer, Michael Craig-Martin, Thierry de Duve, Clémentine Deliss, Charles Esche, Liam Gillick, Boris Groys, Hans Haacke, Ann Lauterbach, Ken Lum, Steven Henry Madoff, Brendan D. Moran, Ernesto Pujol, Raqs Media Collective, Charles Renfro, Jeffrey T. Schnapp, Michael Shanks, Robert Storr, Anton Vidokle. ISBN 978-0-262-13493-4, book report by craniv boyd.


 Ludwig Wittgenstein, Logic, and Language are pictures evoked in the sub-titling, via Key word, Propositions, of this collection of, letters to the book editor, Steven Henry Madoff, on the subject of Art school. Correspondence seeking to answer where do "we" come from and where does that "we" go in the current century. Stephen Henry Madoff, in his preface speaks of gauntlets being thrust downwards collectively on the floor by the individuals who authored the texts about elusive content they think "art school" should have, or methods other than art making to inculcate "art school" students with, he recluses the authors from their hasty approach due to the urgency of the subject, fine arts pedagogy, and readers may fear rash use of Occam's razor in the hands of at first glance diverse authors.


Most texts, labeled Propositions or talks, transcribed discussion by two, or more contemporary art pundits, fall into four subheadings in the opinion of me, an unreliable author: one; of personal project description cloaked as pedagogical experiment, two; overview and subjective narration of what came to pass in the development of art schools in the 20th century, three; conversations held between teaching artists who are teaching a kind of art making, people with out an occidental liberal arts education would not think of as art, four; further mythologizing and consensus building of positivist progress fables towards, which modern art academies in France, Germany, and the United States of America, were significant.  There are however moments in the book, and contributions that break the dominantly politically correct, opaque and critically committed, mold that is defiantly beastly and many-headed like a Hydra.


Ernesto Pujol's contribution, reads as if he wrote it under the influence of a blaring Barack Hussein Obama, campaign stump speech, ground up, change, democratic and all those vaguely political charged keywords are fused to content. Pujol preaches programs of what an art school student should ideally learn these days. Taking cues from Mr. Pujol's text it could be a mix of comparative literature, arts administration, and sociology, painting and drawing have been rendered obsolete, of course "relieved of their burden" by the more relevant warhorse of photography. Left out in the cold as it were from that inclusive "ground-up" blend of inter and trans-disciplinary, let us hope that this text-bloated, hands-off, anti-art, pedagogical method, which Mr. Pujol argues for, is transitional.


Anton Vidokle gives a description of one year of niche event planning and networking for the not so tragically überhip the displaced with national and private arts grant funding in Berlin, Germany, cohort. The retrospective account grant-monies funded entertainment, of the project titled Unitednationsplaza that took place some where in a temporarily appropriated building in the former Soviet Sector, is an attempt in the form of the Anthology contribution to pass off party-planning as art-school or forward thinking art academy as loose-ethereal-network model. I suspect that Vidokle seeks to borrow credibility from more established contributors in Art School (Propositions for the 21st century) for his Unitednationsplaza project, in a similar opportunistic way by his decision to locate it in reunified Berlin.


Marina Abramovic and Tanja Bruguera are teaching artists who both teach performance art, and both women have founded their own performance art schools. Bruguera an artist born in Cuba, whom at the time of the books pre-finance-crisis publication, elected to describe her geographic location extravagantly as Paris, Havana, Chicago, is of a younger generation than the much venerated MoMA retrospected performance artist with Serbian origins Abramovic, with whom she talks. Abramovic speaks of ethical responsibility when teaching. Her own performances are not limited to self-flagellating, nor self-mutilation, where endurance and presence are central objectives. In a performance art class originally billed as Raum-Koncept, in at the time culturally conservative Braunschweig,(small-town in West-Germany) she instructed students not to do as she did. Cutting oneself was for after class when her students took full responsibility. Bruguera adopts the mantle of snake oil-sales-woman, claiming she does behavior art, not performance art. Bruguera's position in this conversation strikes a chord of needy accolade attempting to impress the wizened master-practitioner, with flourish, recounting their-own, and lesser, accomplishments. That being said, the problem is with widespread public ignorance, because of lack of contact and exposure with performance art and appreciation of the origins of that art-canon, in general. Both artists address a larger issue of you say Performance Art, I think Diaghilev and the Ballet Russe. Attitudinal positions that make it onerous to hire a performance artist to teach at an art academy, Boards of Trustee's might suggest, [why don't those students not go for a dance conservatory instead?] 


Robert Storr, and Charles Renfro, are despite tangible pessimism in both of their contributions, do more in the way of identifying, what the larger western art societal trends are. Museum and Art School Houses, so the Architect Renfro, history of art academies, and what the actual task of an art academy is at all, and that curse-word of current art education Genius, in relation to artists, so the department head of Yale school of Art, and Art Historian, Storr. Lively, and thought provoking rather than, mere written form of: what me and my buddies worked on last summer and how that project is heir apparent to Bau Haus and Black Mountain College. Perhaps it is due to their taking larger responsibilities, for a buildings program or organizing a large part of the Acme of high profile European Biennial exhibition, something a tad more systemic and abstract, albeit concretely political, than balancing ones artistic career, and small scale performance art school, or master class in how to create or feel behavior art. 


The Anthology is punctuated by the highlights of modern art academy projects with a seductive black and white Architecture centerfold, and a one page preciés in neutral, innocuous, yet subtle laudatory language, commencing from the Beaux arts Paris, with stopovers inclusive of, but not limited to; Bauhaus, Black Mountain College, Ulm in West Germany, New Haven Connecticut, with final destination in Tourcoing of all places at Le Fresnoy for a crypto propagandist Status conferral of a transmission tree of MODERNISM.


If you personally do not find it entertaining to read varied experts in contemporary art express with broad range of cogency, the paradoxical sentiment of: "you can not teach art/art making today, however your career will have a leg up, and be well served, if you take our M.F.A, or pass through the Gates of our PhD in Art practice" then you should not read this book.


Yet if your soul is of a solid enough constitution, or should you be interested, even, in what "art school" academics have to say about the future of "art school" academies, at all. Then this book is for you. Perhaps reading it will provide the same déjà-vu you had, all over again, at Basel's Liste, or Miami's Basel or was it London's Freeze? 


The anthology "manages" to effectively indicate endemic moods of speculative confusion concerning booming art markets and æsthetical intelectiod maxims proving: anything goes and the auction houses take the hindmost. By craniv boyd. 

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