Surprise - Relevance of Modern Art Education Questioned

Who would have thought, modern/contemporary art training institutions are having some difficulty explaining why they are relevant:

"What's the point of art school? ... As changes to the school curriculum and university funding undermine the arts education system, industry experts gather at Central Saint Martin's art school to discuss what the future holds for arts students ... Catastrophic cuts to funding, a drop in applications to university arts courses and the exclusion of the creative arts from the new EBacc performance measure mean now is a difficult time for the arts sector"

And yet I think the examples on the article page speak for themselves (and note, contrary to what you might think, these were posted in defense of contemporary art education, with not a trace of irony or apparent self-reflection).

"Nowhere Else Could I Do This for Credit", says the artist, while pondering why the 'contemporary art world' is struggling to explain why it matters

After decades of working hard to make themselves irrelevant to the public, the chickens may be coming home to roost.

But they still don't "get it": Nigel Carrington, vice-chancellor at University of the Arts, says: "Institutions should be wary of the subtle dangers of relying too greatly on the economic value of art ... The creativity that art schools promote is the single most important factor. It allows us to imagine, invent, and ultimately improve our world."

Why would 'inventing' and 'improving the world' have no economic value? This makes no sense. "Economic value" is an approximate indicator of what people want and need - and people want to improve the world around them; if you're going to position yourself as being in opposition to what people want and need, and in opposition to improving peoples' lives, then don't be surprised when people question your relevance. Even the Sistine Chapel was painted on commission.

Can you guess if this was done by a child or a professional artist? Click here for the answer.

Dr Kim Howells says: "It's the artists, the architects, the explorers and writers that matter ... Politicians and newspaper editors find this hard to understand because they arrived at their exulted positions by taking a path through the mainstream. These people have no notion of what goes on in art schools or why this matters."

So explain to us 'why this matters'. This snide anti-mainstream subculture is part of the problem. That "mainstream" they refer to, is ordinary people - society - people like you and me. When they criticize the 'mainstream', they mean you and me and all those who might otherwise want to (directly or indirectly) give their graduates jobs someday (if they were to imbue their students with useful skills and inspiration). Consider stooping to producing something "the mainstream" finds value in.

The biggest irony though in these comments though is that "modern art", at least in the art world, is now the mainstream. If you want to 'go against the mainstream', create works that reflect traditional values of embracing skill and value - that takes almost a courageous rebellion in the art world.

"Allowing myself to play around with the idea of not knowing", says Enya, with no trace of irony. (I wonder if she really is just 'playing with' the idea, though I fear to know the answer.)
To what extent is annihilation of human knowledge a useful, relevant goal?

A tiara! This art student loves art school because, quote, "Making tiaras counts as work". Are we relevant now?
But I think this artwork sums it up:

"I went back to Art School after my PhD for an MFA in Creative Writing because I wanted to empty myself of everything I had learned", says the artist. I think that's sad - I hope he rediscovers the value of  knowledge and skill - and  I hope he's just mentally clearing the way in his mind for something better.

It took us millions of years and thousands of generations of 'blood, sweat and tears' to gradually and against all odds evolve, carve out our small niche of order against the ever-threatening darkness and chaos of our fragile galactic setting and wild habitats, and little by little raise ourselves out of the mud and slowly acquire the ability and experience to develop and apply knowledge, reason, precision skill and human motivation in ways that finally meaningfully improve our lives and our potential dramatically. This should be celebrated, promoted, guided; yet I can think of little more destructive than to promote a value system that rejects human skill and achievement, and instead effectively urges us back to square one - the alternative to skill and knowledge and achievement, is allowing disorder and chaos to swallow us once more and return us to dust.

To be fair, I don't blame these art students. I think they're mostly, in a sense, victims - they're unwittingly caught up in a toxic, insular subculture (modern art / academia) with an inverted value system - a modern cancer that eats away at the soul of civilization. I suspect most of these students probably started with a desire to produce good work - the problem is that they've been taught that this is what is good, and that what is good is bad. I think there's a silent tragedy in Western-cultural art academia - the gutting of human skill and potential - bright and promising young talents come in on one end of these 'art training institutions', and on the other end, essentially "broken" individuals are churned out, re-trained to create ugly works and profess a value system that derides human skill and achievement and aesthetic beauty.

If you're an artist or art student, ask yourself: "When I'm old someday, will I be able to look back on my life's work and say, I'm proud of this? Did it improve the world and enrich peoples' lives in some small way?"

It's time for the pendulum to swing in the opposite direction again: The new 'art rebellion' against the now established and stale ho-hum institutions of "modern art", droning on with their faux-philosophies that no longer offer anything new or useful, is a return to a core value system that embraces life, vitality, civilization, aesthetics, progress, knowledge, skill, and achievement; art should unashamedly enrich the lives of ordinary people.

To end off with, here are some works of the sort that modern art education institutions look down on and discourage artists from producing - enjoy.

victor bykov

(This is a related 'follow-on' to this article: Last refuges of great art)


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