Is There Art in School?

November 3, 2014

Exercises are some of the most important fundamentals of the Programa de Artistas, which has existed since 2009 at the Universidad Di Tella and which I direct.

We have three focuses in art education: production and discussion of works, reading and theoretical discussion, and immersion in a variety of exercises that are framed in so-called "studios."  These "studios" are spaces in which we can develop true pedagogical research, mixing the two most consolidated methodologies of current art education: the discursive, heir of conceptualism, and the technical, heir of the academy. With the studios and their exercises, the aim is to research the open space between those two strains; they provide a space concerned with thought in action, ideas in materials, and bodily reflection.

The studios, with their exercises, are therefore spaces that are truly essayistic. Professors propose methods of making based on their own interests and discoveries (what they know), but also according to their own intuition about the imminence of new sensible possibilities (what they don't know). Participants have to give themselves over to this proposal and de-personalize in a very significant way. Exercises require humility and uncertainty, they are about learning to follow someone else on a road that leads to an unknown and about unraveling sensibilities one didn't know beforehand. These exercises are, on the one hand, proposals of simulation (learning as performance) and, on the other, of improvisation (there is no project or plan on behalf of the participants, only reaction and stimuli). They're obviously not easy.

Here, rhythm is everything.  There is an idea of speed that is very different from the one in project-based education.

Each exercise implies a theory of art and a phenomenology; for instance, Diego Bianchi proposes exercises of concentration and improvisation that go against the usual idea of a project, Eduardo Navarro provokes situations of strong perceptual and social estrangement in which the absurd can be thought, Mónica Giron designs modes of speaking about art that are based on the collective construction of the gaze, and Andrés di Tella combines research and note-taking processes as if the works were notebooks.  These are just a few examples and there are obviously many more.

Finally, the concept of exercise has an interstitial, instead of an instrumental, character, which gives it its potential.  It aims for change but it is an act in itself. Is there art in school? If there is any, it certainly escapes us and doesn't remain registered, but it is there in a particular and intimate moment of those exercises.