Saturday, 8 December 2012

Amongst Fiction

"Aha! Oho! Tracks in the dough" (for AOPH)
Uncertainty is more compelling than truth, possibility more intriguing than fact, suggestion more engrossing than accuracy and meaning more potent than information. 

Thursday, 29 November 2012


At its best, knowledge is not a catalogue of facts, but a repertoire of experiences.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

The Mirror of Judgement

Perhaps the most widespread interpretation of the role of judgement is to think of it as having its discriminative intentions focussed squarely upon the experience, thing or person being judged. Nonetheless, with every judgement also comes a significant and all too easily overlooked element of social positioning. To judge - to be in the position of exercising judgement - is an expression, demonstration and consolidation of prestige. In order to maintain prestige, judgement needs to be exercised on a regular basis. But wherever judgements are made there is also a likelihood of errors of judgement and a consequent risk that one’s professional credibility may be called into question. Therefore the more incontestable those who judge can make their judgements, the better (for them). Numerous strategies for ensuring incontestable judgements have thus evolved; from obscurantism and mysticism on the one hand to the establishment of convoluted laws, regulations and elaborate evaluative criteria on the other.

So, whilst much judgement can be seen as an attempt to exercise fine-grained intellect, discernment and critical wisdom it can also be seen as a form of social segmentation, of in-groups and out-groups, of individuals who qualify and individuals who do not, of members and outsiders, of the invited and the excluded, of those who comply and those who rebel, of those who are welcomed and those who are banished, ostracised or incarcerated, of those who evaluate and those who are evaluated.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

The Truthful Lie

It is not at all uncommon to be deceived, either by ourselves or others, and to perceive significances where there are none, to misattribute causes or build them up to such a degree that they lose all connection with their source. This is rarely a problem in art since, as a domain, art is peculiarly unpedantic. Art makes no claims to absolute truth - barely to truth at all. However, in other walks of life – politics, religion, psychoanalysis, education, philosophy, etc – this tendency towards truth - or rather the rigid adoption of assumed truth - can be, and often is, a source of great misery and conflict.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Bound to Collaborate

The history of art abounds with accounts of gifted individuals, of solitary creators, of geniuses. There are few modes of human existence that fit the mould of individualism more neatly than the idea of the solo artist lost in the pursuit of their own unique creative vision. From the depths of visionary isolation are brought forth all manner of wondrous objects to be emulated and revered by current and future generations. Much art education is founded upon this image of creative individuality and so it is rare to find instances where collective creativity is explicitly required as part of a taught curriculum. Nonetheless collaboration is a common form of art practice in the world beyond art schools – increasingly so - and therefore it is not surprising to detect a subtle pressure upon art schools to address this trend.

Across numerous fields of creative endeavour - the sciences, the arts, business and industry - group work is commonplace. Teams are formed to tackle all kind of difficulties and issues. Teams invariably achieve a great deal more than lone individuals and teams also have the added benefit of strengthening social bonds and colleagueship (though not always with positive consequences). Art schools themselves are organised and run by teams: groups of staff with collective responsibility for the day-to-day support and assessment of students. Teams dominate - indeed govern - all walks of contemporary life.

Teamwork is also increasingly seen as a “life-skill” (educational jargon for something that is frequently needed throughout life and therefore – it is felt - should be widely promoted and taught) and features on many job descriptions across a vast range of careers as a required skill (though how it can be accurately judged from an interview is one of the biggest challenges of any recruitment process).

Setting up collaborations between art students would seem to be an excellent way to encourage the development of these highly valued skills and to maximise the opportunities for both learning and creative production. In practice though, whilst it might look good on paper, obliging art students to collaborate rarely results in anything other than the most hopelessly compromised work, not to mention a lot of disgruntled individuals whose chances of future collaboration are mightily diminished. Undoubtedly the pedagogic benefits of collaboration are potentially much broader than simply the creation of artworks, but if the overriding experience is that such artificially induced collaborations are counterproductive - indeed they invariably dissuade students from future collaboration - then we might justifiably question the pedagogic value of obliging students to collaborate.

In his influential 1762 treatise The Social Contract, Jean-Jacques Rousseau  stated that man must be “forced to be free”. But collaboration, like freedom, tastes sweetest when freely chosen.