Participating artists: Miren Doiz, Simon Merrifield, Redmond Entwistle, Steven Cottingham, and contributions by UCA students.
Curated by Emma Braso
Grades, student-teacher ratios, employability rates, league tables, student satisfaction surveys, retention capacities, research outputs, fees and debt. We are all aware that a “data culture” dominates formal education, and that numbers define our relation to teaching institutions. Although this is a reality that permeates the entire educational system, nowhere can the tensions provoked by this model be more clearly felt than in art education. In the book Teaching Art in the Neoliberal Realm, Pascal Gielen & Paul De Bruyne argue that neoliberalism practices a “fundamentalism of measurability,” and that, as a result, what “cannot be measured will be more difficult to legitimize or honour.” Art education—which values uncertainty more than certainty, failure as well as success, unproductivity rather than simply efficiency—is, therefore, finding itself under scrutiny.
Despite this problematic situation, it might also be possible to consider how the age of metrics can contribute to art education. According to a well-established narrative around the “art school,” these greatly-missed environments were ideal spaces for learning and making art: students were left alone to do (or not do) their thing; conversation, disagreement, and even confrontation were encouraged; and the relation with teachers was not mediated by a service economy. From a different perspective, however, these relatively “macho” institutions were, to a great extent, unaware, unable, or unwilling to respond to the difficulties that many of their community members experienced. The age of metrics is, despite its numerous evils, also the time of student-centred learning (including its egalitarian agenda), of the student support services (raising awareness about learning difficulties like dyslexia), and of accountability.
The present curatorial initiative tries to explore how we teach and learn art in the present day through the proposals of a series of agents with multiple identities: artists, architects, researchers, peer-groups, students, and teachers. Art Education in the Age of Metrics is not an exhibition about “alternative” educational models or that tries to substitute current infrastructures with new ones, but an invitation to consider the pros and cons of the current paradigm of art education. After Despite Efficiency: Labour (2014) and Agency without Intention (2015), this project constitutes the third episode in a series dedicated to investigate current aesthetic, social, and economic forms of organization in neoliberal times at the Herbert Read Gallery, UCA, Canterbury.
Simon Merrifield presents a specially commissioned performance, Out of the Bubble, concerning the notion of employment after graduation. Simon will also be producing a digital work using Instagram updates, plus a live feed from other social media about his job life beyond academia throughout the duration of the show.
Miren Doiz has created a new work in collaboration with UCA students. For this site-specific installation they have used recycled objects and materials, as well as words and numbers that reflect the employment of metrics to rank art courses around the country.
Redmond Entwistle’s film Walk-Through (2012), set in the California Institute of the Arts (Los Angeles), focuses on the post-studio classes conducted by Michael Asher. The film juxtaposes archive material with the reflections of the students who took part in those conversation-led courses.
Steven Cottingham can be heard talking to a computer program that emulates a Rogerian psychotherapist (person-centered talk therapy) restructuring answers into questions and thus stimulating lines of conversation in his video Conversations with Eliza (2011). In the context of the exhibition, Eliza represents a threatening future for art education: a computer able to take on the role of the art teacher.