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<nettime> Teaching Art within the interdisciplinary framework of Visual
Juan Mart?n Prada on Mon, 20 Dec 2004 02:01:25 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Teaching Art within the interdisciplinary framework of Visual Studies


By Juan Mart?n Prada

Today the ontological dimension of an image appears to substitute the 
realities and intentions for which the image was used as a reference or 
medium.  We might also refer to this process as the progressive independence 
of the world of representations, towards which meaning and knowledge 
migrate. To a certain extent the visual has become a thought and is no 
longer its mere result, medium or language. Its performance, however, can be 
nothing more than swept along, the maximum outcome of the rashness of 
illusory plenitude and convulsion, a result of the fascination it produces.

All of this undoubtedly activates the social role of artistic creation, 
making it the key to artistic criticism. Image production, which is inherent 
to it, would probably be the only thing capable of weakening the fixation of 
rashness with a world built on images. A kind of reflective production where 
visual potential opposes the establishment of a relationship of mere 
instantaneousness; in other words, total coincidence with the world as a 
consequence of an absence of thinking about this "excess" of meaning on 
which it is constructed. Hence, priority consideration must be given to 
establishing a transformation of the principles on which teaching the 
artistic practices of visual production is regulated, and not so much from 
the perspective traditionally assigned to the values of the poetic 
production of art, but as the political and social potential claimed today 
as its own.

Thus, if the compendium of visual operations that conforms the universe of 
beautification seems to have been constituted as power itself through an 
imaginary sophistication, as a self-producing system that in turn produces 
the social entity, it is precisely the task of artistic creation to place 
albeit momentary restraint on this certain unawareness of the complex 
fabrication moved and produced by it, from a pretended plenitude of meaning 
that creates its own logic as the logic of the world, by following the logic 
of desire from which it originates.

Consequently, research into procedural techniques and skills, or 
phenomenological and operational aspects of visual production experience, 
maximum effort and priority guidance in many methodological directives in 
art teaching at universities today is losing the significance enjoyed years 
ago, the time spent in less essential efforts being reclaimed by the 
research pretensions of the contextual impurity of artistic performance and 
its political, semiotic and social impregnations.

Contemplating the new teaching of art within the interdisciplinary framework 
of Visual Studies would especially result in the prior re-localisation of 
artistic practices by dissolving the difference between cultural and 
political procedures, strategies and aims.
Reforming and modernising the teaching of visual production, a scarcely 
considered but certainly crucial goal within the constitution of a new 
framework of higher education in Europe, must aim to promote a centripetal 
movement against the centrifugal pressure that art has managed to project 
towards the outward appearance of the social sphere, where the likelihood of 
a committed action is neutralised.

New curricular proposals, therefore, cannot but be contemplated by focussing 
on the positions most committed to analysing the relationships between 
power, the linguistic system and cultural practices; in other words, the way 
in which the controlled systematisation of language and knowledge takes 
place. This bond alone will facilitate a progressive end to the 
consideration of art as mere entertainment, an additional or secondary, or 
even marginal, system of stimulating the logic of spectacle or 
unsatisfactory symbolic mediation of society's myth-like and Utopian 

The action of "dismantling existing communication codes by recombining some 
of their elements in structures that can be used to generate new images of 
the world", proposed by Victor Burgin as the exclusive artistic activity of 
today would probably require the most urgent development. Yet, we should not 
confuse the activity called for here with the practice of unmasking the 
falsity present in social frameworks, which should certainly be inherent to 
political actions, but an activity that acts upon the systems of which it is 
comprised. In the event of a need for any unmasking, it is not the unmasking 
of a concrete truth after a false concealment, but of the ways in which the 
latter has been administered and produced.

Both criticism of the image systems corresponding to power and meaning and 
the self-criticism of works of art as a fundamental aspect of a specific 
tradition, subjected to a concrete set of expectations should be considered 
as key factors for this pedagogical re-orientation.

Doubtless, the weight of new image technologies must be given significant 
consideration when planning new teaching proposals within the field of 
visual production practices. Indeed, the new curricular proposals for 
teaching the visual arts contemplate as an initial premise the acceptance of 
the fact that artistic practice is the best means to integrating technology 
into social practice. This would avoid it being exclusively restricted to 
utilitarianism or consumerism, thereby enabling the confirmation of the true 
social dimension of a technology or medium, by promoting specific forms of 
technical and social interaction within it.

In any event, we must not forget that this entire set of proposals should be 
based on the demand for ever increasing efforts to integrate different 
qualifications and university curricular syllabuses (those that are in any 
way linked to one or other of the visual production practices), in 
accordance with a new social context in which there are no longer any 
impregnable disciplinary distinctions. Surely, the process of European 
convergence in university matters with the project for the creation of the 
European Space for Further Education begun by the Declaration of the 
Sorbonne in 1998 is an ideal and perhaps unrepeatable moment for putting 
some of these reforms into practice. 

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