Art Education Congress

I have to give a talk in Athens on friday. Here is the abstract I sent. For a paper to be written on the plane (well, the notes to be reassembled and rearranged again and again, as ever rewritten in the hours leading up to the talk…). Its for the European Art Education Congress.

On the relation between art and theory

John Hutnyk (Reader in Cultural Studies, GoldsmithsCollege)

I work at GoldsmithsCollege where there are two competing agendas reshaping the nature of University (art) teaching. My work has been in part a political exercise to explore these contradictions. On the one hand there is great interest in practical and engaged research, or art-research/research-practice, as a series of interventions and interruptions interweaving both practice and theory, or relating both productivity and research not as opposed but simultaneously cross-referential and co-constituted with one another.

On the other hand there is an increasingly bureaucratised, compartmentalised and accounting-ified regime of documentation and forms which hinders all creative theoretical exchange and reduces teaching and creativity to drawing-by-numbers.

Art has become commercialised and instrumentalized to an astonishing degree both in terms of consumption and as practice (examples: Tate Modern and the tourist economy; Banks and mining industry sponsorship of artists; the branding of Goldsmiths as cool brand Art College).

The commercialisation of teaching is also well advanced; the teaching factory and its ‘improving’ functions are more and more instrumentalized and industrialised as a part of a general trend (examples: fee paying programmes to earn export revenue; productivity gains, increased class sizes, degraded facilities; reduction of teaching to ‘technique’, not pedagogy).

This instrumentalization is common to our total social world – everything, even our conversations, becomes a calculus, and a resource. The same logic infects children’s fantasy novels right through to the global war of terror – our ‘model’ way to understand these things is too often merely profit and loss. We now even draw up such tables to evaluate the most esoteric of our practices. Heidegger’s notion of Enframing, and Adorno’s notion of the Culture Industry suggest we need more than a revaluation of Art teaching, rather a fundamental rethink of the relation of theory to practice, and of intellect to production.