Art without Market, Art without Education: Political Economy of Art
BOOK CLUB article>> Anton Vidokle’s “Art without Market, Art without Education…”
Please read (and contribute your own) responses to the article in the comments of this post below…
The crisis of higher education is not unique to the arts, or even to the humanities. However, artists in particular sit at the crux of this broken system more (or perhaps just earlier) than most people in other fields, in part because the arts have the largest debt to asset ratio. Art programs are both the most expensive college programs and offer the least (including low to non-paying) job prospects. Through both intentional choice and utter necessity, artists are seeking (and creating) new models for how to educate themselves and each other. In the following selection of articles for our second edition of BOOK CLUB, we will explore some of the problems in art education and discuss the role that alternative forms might have moving forward.
For this second article in this BOOK CLUB we will review “Art without Market, Art without Education: Political Economy of Art” by Anton Vidokle from e-Flux Journal #43 March 2013. A new post will then be published every three weeks focused on another article. For each article, Temporary contributors will initiate a discussion through the comments in the post and anyone may continue the discussion by contributing their own comments and observations on the text.
BOOK CLUB schedule
April 14: “Permission to Fail” by Barry Schwabsky from The Nation January 21, 2014
May 5: “Art without Market, Art without Education: Political Economy of Art” by Anton Vidokle from e-Flux Journal #43 March 2013
May 26: “Alternative art schools: a threat to universities?” by David Batty from The Guardian October 21, 2013
We look forward to the discussions!
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Anton Vidokle’s essay “Art Without Market, Art Without Education” succinctly addresses education from the perspective of the overall professionalization of art. In his view, MFA programs are instruments that exist primarily to benefit the educational institutions themselves – a circular scheme that offers glimmers of stable employment in the face of uncertainty in the art market. Using the framework of the “household,” Vidokle provocatively prods that “being a professional should not be the only acceptable way for us to maintain our households” and that art can and perhaps should complicate the forms of distribution and circulation of the market.
In this view, MFA programs are simply the very expensive gate artists must enter to become a professional. What once, perhaps, offered a path to employment, now lives on as an entrance to alienation. The standard path for artists seems to be set in an interminable professionalization loop: artists must do x to participate in art world y. What compels us to continue pursuing degrees is that even if it is problematic, there are no other established paths to success. Art Education in itself is not the issue here. It is, as Vidokle says, the idea of being a professional in the first place that needs further scrutiny.
His second point is intriguing because it is, in a sense, the opposite of professionalization. He discusses the merger of bohemia and business in Warhol’s factory as finding a brief balance of free play that MFA’s only hint at: “If Warhol’s Factory was an entry into art that enabled a group of people of very different backgrounds to enter a certain kind of productive modality (both within and in spite of the surrounding economy), it was a space of free play that no longer exists. Instead, what we have now are MFA programs: a standardization not even of bohemia, but only its promise.”
So art education is neither playful nor professional, merely the empty promise of both.
LEARNING TO PAINT DUCKS NOT
Perhaps the most interesting comment from the article for me was: ‘The standardization of art greatly simplifies all of these transactions [aspects of the art world]. For a few years now I have experienced a certain sense of déjà vu while walking through art fairs or biennials, a feeling that many other people have also commented on: that we have already seen all these works that are supposedly brand new.’
I can find myself agree with this statement a bit. Is it the context of the museum, the training, the manipulation of standard concepts, mere aestheticism? Or, God forbid, could it be the triumph of the autonomous nature of art – and that we are now really talking only small steps adding ‘bits’ to Art, (and that is all we can take) stuck within the confines of Art, unable to have legitimate transcendence or some replacement (as yet unfound).
Is the final ‘meaning’ of art disappointing? Or is it life we are complaining about – what right. Are we simply bearing fruit from the tree we planted.
But we get to ‘design’ our lives. Corbu painted in the morning, did architecture in the afternoon, and wrote in the evening. Each part of his life contributed some aspect – publicity, income, theory, development, etc. – the Renaissance ideal but with a created patron.
Monk Paisios said, ‘Blessed are those who managed to live in obscurity and acquired great virtues but did not acquire even a small name for themselves.’ Hard but courageous. Like art?