Empty Formalism of Education

In an earlier post I implied that university training has not improved contemporary art. Robert Hullot-Kentor reminds me of how profoundly hostile to art the university is:

“Ideas make us think; we think ideas. They are what are urgent in our minds—contrary to the mindset of colleges and universities which are proudest claiming that they teach how to do it, how to think, how to write, how to read and end up leaving the students cold, in debt, stupidified and hating what they’ve done in those years in classrooms, being prepared mostly for bad jobs—and unable even to follow the news  in something more than a tabloid.”

Couldn’t express better the emptiness of the claim so frequently made in education that the content of one’s thought or writing doesn’t matter, that there is only a skill to be taught. This is connected with the way that art in the university is emptied out by bureaucracy. All institutions are agnostic with respect to art—all languages, styles, positions, stances and manners have to be treated equally, which spreads the illusion that they actually are all equal, and hence equally pointless. The educative power of art itself, as described in an earlier post, is utterly negated in favor of bureaucratic forms. This has some relevance to abstraction, because there is a fine distinction to be made between the ideas that art has, and those that possess it.

Piet Mondrian, Composition C (no.III), with Red, Yellow and Blue 1935

Piet Mondrian, Composition C (no.III), with Red, Yellow and Blue 1935

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One Response to Empty Formalism of Education

  1. Gregg Simpson says:

    Now the art history is written before the art is made. THEORY has utterly occluded the real reason for making art. The Canada Council states that our work must be socially engaged, whatever that means. What it may mean is we are expected to make government-funded protest art.

    When universities, in the mid-70s, started thinking only of aggrandizing faculty members and their work plus that of their star pupils, we got to a place where art historians were making the art. Those not in gown, but in town, were rejected.

    Universities were supposed to study the work of independent artists, not dictate and facilitate certain trends at the expense of others who reject the sterility of their ideas.

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