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NEW-MEDIA-CURATING  May 2010

NEW-MEDIA-CURATING May 2010

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Subject:

Re: hello

From:

Tom Holert <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Tom Holert <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 24 May 2010 18:52:10 +0100

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Dear all,

As much as I would like to understand the various proposals made with relation to the alleged educational/pedagogical turn in contemporary art (curating, teaching, ‘producing’ etc.), this “turn” should be less of an occasion to confessing one’s own entanglement in educational processes and institutional politics that have led to differing degrees of formalization and format-alization, or to presenting one’s ambivalent stance towards the peculiar push and pull experiences that are engendered by a critical stance vis-à-vis the disciplining forces that govern the institution of art. Instead, I sense the necessity of exploring the specifics of the current “shift” which, I think, is to be considered in the very context of Edgar’s “crisis as default backdrop from and within which to work”; the delusion of the Bologna process, the budget cuts due to the financial collapses, the re-discovery of authoritarianism and bureaucracy in neoliberal administration etc. have sat the stage. This exploration should be based from the start on the predicament that it is pursued by more or less active proponents of (art) education as well as ‘production’ and its current reconfigurations and dispersions. For a certain critical awareness of the There-is-no-outside-of-the-institution/the ISAs-A priori may be expected from participants in this debate. 

The socially and culturally expanded education (mentioned by David at the beginning) and the increasing spill-overs of pedagogy in the art field are tendencies which are closely intertwined with the systemic production of uncertainty and insecurity in the frameworks of neoliberal governmentality and the more specific need to compensate for the de-skilling (i.e. re-skilling) in contemporary art c. since the inception of the neo-avantgarde. The normativity of the lifelong learning (LL) conceit doesn’t need much legitimation as every citizen in the neoliberal West and beyond has been instructed early on to stay interested in increasing her/his knowledge and skills; the LL paradigm, introduced in the 1950s by cold war ideologues of the ‘knowledge industry’ such as UC Berkeley’s Clark Kerr, counted on the national economy’s demand for a workforce that constantly updates itself in terms of human and intellectual capital. 

I’d argue that the current educational turns are effectuated, more or less directly, by organization and knowledge management to optimize the development and usability of human capital. While Tate Modern and similar sites of public-corporate cultural neo-education are buying advice from managerial consulting firms to improve their economical performance, the more ‘alternative’ urge to transform traditional institutions of archive and display, of education and interpretation into networked spaces of knowledge production and the distributed academy of LL follows a comparable logic, a subjectivizing logic of capitalizing on the command/desire to push the limits of each individual’s cultural competence.  

To speak of the educational “as an embryonic force, a kind of prerequisite, which enables the emergence of and adaptation to practices of knowledge production and dissemination” (Axel), is the less deterministic version of the idea of an underlying (or all-encompassing) logic of LL which entails the administrative and industrial logistics and technologies of education that has become so blatantly dominant. 

At the same time, and quite fittingly, digital communication has enormously enhanced the speed in which ‘advanced’ models and programs of education are becoming critically outmoded. The very reflexivity and criticality - intensified by an increased exchange between practitioners e.g. on mailing lists such as this one –, and that has led to the expansion of ideas and concepts of reconfiguring the production of and encounter with art, from participation to collaboration, also entails the ongoing contestation of every ‘fresh’ proposal to re-structure the field. Time not only is an issue when it comes to the temporariness of “performed dissent” (Edgar) or the precariousness of project-based teaching, learning and research; it also figures as an important factor regarding the ever-shortened life-time of commonly accepted models of going about the acquisition and transmission of knowledge, as well as of modes of un-knowing or of the “refinement of ignorance” (Shudda Sengupta, with a hint to theories of mathematics, during last Thursday’s discussion on “knowledge production” at MMK in Frankfurt).

As much as I understand that strong and justified claims for interdisciplinarity or transdisciplinarity, such as Maria’s, are far from being supported (or even demanded) everywhere, at different institutional localities (and while rather old-school ideas of how knowledge and education are supposed to be ordered, keep flourishing across the entire spectrum), I would nevertheless suggest to strategically and polemically widen the gap between the rhetoric of education/research policy that advises the use of interdisciplinary/collaborative modalities on the one hand and the (micro) politics of the “productive matrix” (Edgar) of educational dissent – a dissent which angrily and inappropriately appropriate the once disappropriated concepts of empowerment through education. 

All best,  
Tom

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