like an impressive strategy to absorb the surplus labour that will inevitably be created by the current recession. The problem is, there is no Keynesian mechanism yet in place to ensure the working class a proportionally greater stake in higher education. The wealth of the past decade has not trickled down to the higher education sector as far as art is concerned, but you can bet the pain will certainly be felt there quickly and sharply. If the most realistic expectation for prospective art and design students today is to become part of the socalled creative industries, then I would like to see the evidence that shows that in three to four years’ time there will be a significant enough demand for those graduates to justify the scope of change envisioned by GLAD. We all know that the distilling industry is recession-proof; it remains to be seen if the creative industries are too. Why don’t the deans just admit that they are scared of art and design going down the tubes and that this is their best effort to save it? The institutions of contemporary art are certainly a part of the creative industries, at least from the point of view of the accountant’s balance sheet. Yet bear in mind that the total turnover for art worldwide is no larger than the GNP of Iceland. And haven’t you read that book about why artists are poor? Wake up! Don’t confuse the ideological power of art to engage the fancy of those in a position to mobilise vast resources with the actual power of art to generate wealth. The art market is holding its breath right now, waiting to see if fine art is indeed as recession-proof as Coors Lite. It remains to be seen if fine art, in the short term, will outperform the stock market, property, precious metals, oil and commodities. If it doesn’t, capital will flee. And even if blue chip art maintains its spectacular price levels, not all art will benefit in turn. Contemporary art is especially vulnerable to changes in demand because at the low end of the price scale it is driven by entry level buyers; you know, the people who make money in the stock market, who work for banks, hedge funds, investment houses, or own small businesses. If the coming economic downturn leads to a culling of galleries specialising in new art, and if the loss of tax revenues leads to a decrease in public funding for the arts, and if a contraction in art in higher education leads to less money for ‘practice-led’ research or ‘critical practices’ in art, then who or what will support contemporary art? In New York, during the recession of the late1980s/early-1990s, the word on the street was ‘stay alive till 1995’. Will the economic bump of the 2012 Olympics be large enough to save contemporary art, or art education? Will anyone outside London benefit? Can we afford to wait and see? Is the rhetorical question the last refuge of the powerless and defeated? ❚
1. Dan Bloom, ‘Art and design degrees “need overhaul”: art and design students should be taught business skills and a variety of related subjects, say academic panel.’ TheGuardian, August 26, 2008.
MICHAEL CORRIS professor of fine art, Sheffield Hallam University and University of Wales, Newport.
■ The fourth way In exhibitions and biennales in recent years there has been a move towards including quasi-educational projects – not as add-ons but as an integral part of artistic production. By default this has exposed even more clearly the fact that today we encounter an art school system that generally does not reflect the potential of cultural practice. There are exceptions, but these remain locked into certain standard models and remain frustrating at a structural level. Education in relation to artistic practice is a parallel zone of obligations, structures and projections. Things have shifted beyond the notion that every major exhibition should have its own developed parallel programme towards a situation where educational structure has been developed as a semi-autonomous project in its own right. For at least 15 years the notion that artists need to have an individual space, to be taught by older artists and to produce degree exhibitions as a necessary step into a broader community of singular practitioners has been insufficient to describe the increasing complexity and non-resolvability of the art context. The unitednationsplaza project that originated in Berlin as a corollary to the abandoned Manifesta 6 is a specific example. Instigated and organised by Anton Vidokle in collaboration with Boris Groys, Martha Rosler, Walid Raad, Jalal Toufic, Nikolaus Hirsch, Natascha Sadr Haghighian, Tirdad Zolghadr and myself, the project functioned as a free school in the centre of Berlin for one year. This was followed by a version in Mexico City and a mutant form known as thenightschool at the New Museum in New York which, because it was subject to certain institutional tensions and requirements, was less successful. Unitednationsplaza, when it worked well, produced discussions and disagreement with an open door policy. The structure was not intended to be a place for all activities. It welcomed theorists, curators and artists. The project occupied the open space that has emerged between traditional models of art education and the supposedly smooth transition into operating as a fully functional artistic persona. Many of those involved were not artists. The project is not over: it had some potential in its commitment to the notion of a free school with no formal obligations on any side. It had no concrete moment of summation but a great deal of presentation. The key to this, as with other projects like it, was the sense that it is necessary for artists and theorists now to present their ideas to a set of participants unrestricted by the pragmatism of the university or academy structure; a situation where a group of people could come together and explicate various positions rather than always providing a commentary alongside an obligation to produce. In the past, revised models of education were often predicated upon the notion of the takeover or the
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