notes for the ‘A’ course: an inquiry
28 March 2010
The 2D Pathway at CSM
The new course
Inductions – studio, technical, contextual.
The 2D pathway is organised a cluster of pictorial media that are in general painting, photography and print. Stage 1 of the course is where the initial orientation in the pathway takes place, stage 2 is structured in terms of the student developing their own project that is consolidated in stage 3, both in the studio and through the dissertation. In all 3 stages of the course students from all pathways are taught by the Historical and Theoretical Studies department. Cross-pathway events take place throughout the course particularly in stages 1 and 2. The new course that will be launched for the next academic year will see transformations in many areas of the course especially in the cross pathway components but also in the way historical and theoretical content will be delivered. The present delivery of stage 1 of the 2D pathway has been developed over the last 2 academic years in preparation both for this new course and also for the move to the new Kings Cross site in 2011. Thus the essence of the basic delivery of the 2D will carry over into the new course.
The first term is structure around a number of distinct ‘inductions’. These are not just technical inductions but involve crossovers between studio teaching, technical support and contextual delivery. The first of these is photography, basic digital imaging and introductions into different types and qualities of digital output. The second event is a workshop about drawing, collage and techniques of projection and transcription. The third is about supports and grounds addressing the basic objecthood and apparatus of painterly, collaged or photographic objects. What is important here is these interventions constitute an axis of the autographic and the reprographic.
At the end of the first term the students are selected to participate in one of six workshops each of which is led by a studio tutor. These are autographic painting, reprographic painting, photography, silkscreen, digital media and collage media. Each workshop tutor gives a contextual/theoretical lecture that all stage 1 2D students attend. The intention here is to orientate the student to a specific set of questions and practices as a base from which to acquire a material understanding which will help them establish the parameters of their own evolving practice and within which experimentation can take place. As in before the aim is to establish a relation between the studio, technical resources and discourses of practice.
The axes of the autographic (the ‘unmediated’ mark) and the reprographic (the transcribed image) map directly onto print media such as etching and silkscreen and translate within photography in terms of analogue and digital. The autographic/reprographic can similarly be applied to softwares such as Photoshop and Illustrator.
Composition and structure.
The aim here is that these axes provide a basis for understanding and engaging with the aggregations of pictorial regimes. In many ways this is a response to an historical challenge when the notion of ‘composition’ was thrown into question by Minimalism provoking a crisis in painterly practices that came to a head in the 1990s.
Mixture, juxtaposition, distribution, appropriation and aggregation are terms that qualify what composition has come to materially mean in pictorial practices. Collage, décollage and montage conjoining with painterly rhetoric as material operations in structuring pictorial practices within a heterogeneous field. Rancière’s idea of ‘parataxis’ an ontology grounded in montage, layering and sequence and where one world is behind another is one way of figuring the contrast with practices that foreground primary forms and strong gestalt effects.
The BA fine art course is currently examining its relationship to the studio and to technical resources as these will change radically with the move to Kings Cross where, for example, physical computing and rapid prototyping will be available as technical areas open to all students. In 2D the question is how to orientate traditional print and photographic media with digital forms, structuring them within a process stream where technologies exist side by side, distinguished only by the fact each technology has its specific qualities and that the combination of different modes of technology gives rise to new possibilities. Well known examples of this is how medium and large format photography negatives are scanned to achieve high-end digital hard copy. Silkscreen and etching now routinely uses digital media to generate the acetates used in its photo outputs. These relationships can be seen as ‘hybrid’ forms and the next few years are going to see an explosion of possibilities that it is the responsibility of art schools to both participate in and develop.
A concrete example of this is the proposition of situating, at Kings Cross, laser cutters (which have the capacity to etch into materials) near relief presses. A further challenge is to integrate non-lens based imaging technologies i.e. 3D scanners, within fine art process streams. The outputs here can become 2D images, 3D objects or 4D montages. The important thing with such media is the paradigm shift that is taking place especially in terms of how these different layers of mediation of ‘worlds’ are raising ontological questions, especially in terms of ideas of primary experience, objectivity and how this translates in to information and data. In preparation for Kings Cross with aim to orientate fine art at CSM to a more ambitious digital field the course has been working with Professor Peter Cornwell’s LED screen and digital cinema. This has enabled us to learn how such technologies can be integrated into the course. We have inducted all of our stage 1, cross pathway, into this technology and have run workshops involving 20 students.
The ‘A’ course
There is a disciplinary, in some ways carceral aspect to the ‘A’ course. The ‘A’ course is famous for its construction of ‘situations’ as pedagogic structures, the locked room being perhaps the most notorious example. There are two points to be made about this. The first is that concerns that the ‘A’ course shared with Minimalism and its development into conceptual, and particularly in relationship to the work of Robert Morris, I think opens it, perhaps ironically, to the key critique of Minimalism in the form of Michael Frieds essay of 1967 ‘Art and Objecthood’. Even if the simulation of power relations through disciplinary forms were thought of as positive arguably the mode of their use on the ‘A’ course would be in need of rethinking in contemporary terms. Deleuze in his essay, Postscripts on the Societies of Control brought into question Foucault’s identification of the disciplinary structures of enclosure as being nostalgic and that a more appropriate description would be of the societies of control. They do not operate in terms of the disciplinary model of time frames within a closed system, instead there is free fall through a number of internment’s indexed and coded in different ways. As Deleuze says - “The old monetary mole is the animal of the spaces of enclosure, but the serpent is that of the societies of control. We have passed from one animal to the other..”
Cezanne, phenomenology the reductive (as opposed to the heterogeneous). I would first of all remark that is interesting that a sculpture course referenced the work of a painter. Peter Kardia’s reference to Cezanne in terms of movement or motor sensations seems highly selective in it’s exclusion of the logic played through in Cubism and even Matisse, especially in relation to his cut-outs. However the proximity of Matisse and Picasso to Henry Moore and Anthony Caro possibly precluded the plastic possibilities and the ontological questions raised by collage and decoupage being part of the ’A’ course’s ethos. The empirical and ‘objective’ ethos of the ‘A’ course appears from today’s vantage as being from a very particular cultural and historical moment.
Contextual and historical material was suppressed in the ‘A’ course probably in response to the ‘B’ course’s relationship to Greenberg and the idea of a canon, which students aspired to and invariably imitated. In contemporary terms the critical aspect of pedagogy invariably comprise the reflection upon a range of theoretical and contextual sources including the work of artists, historically and in contemporary terms. The idea that the critical and conceptual formation of artists will privilege solely material from philosophy, the natural and social sciences precludes what the work of artist entails, that it is, in itself, a critical practice with its specific literature and discourses that overlaps with those from other fields.
The ‘A’ course’s deployment of team teaching, the seminar, and the lecture were its major innovations. Bringing these structures to the centre of art education as compliments to the regime of the studio in turn brought art education into direct proximity with the university (in short which was the logic of the Coldstream report).