Preface

— May

“NO, I know how to say NO, and that’s sufficient enough”
Marguerite Duras, Ah! Ernesto

The debates on knowledge economy in art institutions and particularly in art schools—until now considered as spaces of exception—have recently taken a new turn with a series of publications and reprints, articles often motivated by the same books, a new actuality of projects of schools more or less alternative and /or experimental, an annexation of  the educational issues to numerous curatorial projects… all this happening in the context of a crisis without precedence, on a very large scale, among schools themselves, the echo of which remains difficult to hear on the course of the above mentioned debates.[1]

In Europe, the application of the Bologna Process—which aims to adjust all types of the graduate teachings to the same system of evaluation— has been the catalyst of a deep crisis beyond artistic formations. A situation most profoundly related to current political orientations following which “knowledge,” be it of the culture or of education, is to be considered uniquely from an “economic” point of view.

During the year of 2009, while a new set of reforms took place, some students from the art schools in Munich and Vienna reacted by organizing a series of occupations that swarmed through numerous countries of Europe. In this issue of May, we are publishing two texts emanating from self-organized collectives that were written in the aftermath of the schools’ occupations. The identity of their members is of no matter—even though we guess they are, or were, students in the art schools they refer to. The writings accompany their experiences, practices, and discussions; bearing the trace of the struggles in the style and the intensity. What they stand for is the production of a space of reflection and exchange, and, as such, they could be a model, or rather a para-deigma: “what is shown beside,” to recall Giorgio Agamben’s terms.

The first text, “Learning to Breathe Protest,”published prior in the online magazine Variant, was widely circulated: an “account” of school occupations, it stimulated and activated the thinking of many writers. Shall we say that we hope, by proposing it in the pages of May (especially in French), that it will also instill a reflection here? A work of contextualization and self-reflection on the movements of revolt in two schools in Munich and Vienna, this militant text claims that the reforms imposed in the education are actually the last steps of a process of enhancement, extraction and capitalisation of knowledge.

The second text, “The Self, the Group and the Pimp: Two Sides of an Institution,” was written especially for May by one of the collectives that participated to the first. Introspective, ironic, disturbing, it posits against all attempts of the historicization of protestation and the collectives; the authors oscillate between self-analysis and the critique of the patriarchal institution they live in, and propose some threads of theoretical reflections, putting the emphasis on “the spontaneity and the intensity of the effective experience of analysis.”

This text follows the first and sheds some light on some of its aspects, proposing a further comprehension of the protestation from the inside, while experimenting with a collective practice of writing.

These movements of protest are what we would like to focus upon in order to begin, in this issue of May, lines of thinking about this current educational crisis and the global knowledge politics in which it is inscribed.[2]

  1. [1] Everything is just as if the famous “educational turn” in contemporary art had only ever happened in refined, pacified and disconnected spaces, following its own logic and its own institutional, historical and theoretical goals. Of course, a number of texts have dealt with the actual problem of teaching, with protests in art schools or with the emphasis now put on theory in artists’ formation; and writers such as Marion von Osten, Marina Vishmidt, Simon Sheikh or even Tom Holert have recently insisted, in ArtForum, Mute or books like Curating and the educational turn (Paul O’Neill et Mick Wilson, ed., Amsterdam: Open Editions, De Appel, 2010) on the emergency of the current moment, when schools, academies and universities are being dismantled because of so-called “reforms” which affect those who teach—artists and their assistants, curators, critics, writers, researchers—as well as those who study. Curiously enough, rarely have the latter—the students—been asked for any contribution. Besides, few of these texts, debates and talks have dealt straightforwardly with the experiences that are led today, their context, their historical grounds; the inscription of these writings in the new “knowledge economy” most of the time remains unquestioned.
  2. [2] At the same time, in France, the conjunction of decentralisation of the State cultural administrations—which are asked to change their statutes—and of the change in the diploma system—the conforming to the BA/MA system—provoked a painful and sometimes brutal reorganisation of the art schools, concerning the structure of the curriculum and the research programs as well as the evaluation methods. Still in 2009, the universities went through a major crisis, a number of teachers and students mobilizing against the “mastérisation” of the teaching diplomas and a new “law on liberties and responsibilities of universities.” In Autumn 2010, novice teachers were put in front of their pupils without any prior formation, their peer teachers being asked to take in charge their formation. 
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