Dean Kenning

Peter Lewis

Simon O’Sullivan



A communiqué from the non-art schools within - David Burrows

News from the wastelands, a picture of the aftermath, the art schools you know and love do not exist. The art schools that produced the prize winners, the ‘ones to watch’, the national treasures, they were wiped out long ago by an enemy within; they were eradicated by the non-art school that could be found inside all art schools.

How to make art schools useful to the general economy? That was the question that signaled the beginning of the end. While some fought tooth and nail to challenge the idea that art schools were a breeding ground for parasites, others did not. They embraced the idea. They closed their minds completely to the idea of competition. They refused to be more original and creative than anyone else.  (In truth, they thought creativity was for mindless robots.) They dug in. They cultivated a filthy negativity. They affirmed things that made no sense. But then the cultivation of such things was always the point of art schools, even until the very end.

Great efforts where made by former artists turned managers to convince all that art could and should be a force for economic and social benefit. They failed. Although the former artists turned managers worked tirelessly to transform art schools into lean, efficient training centers for the creative industries, they never managed to eradicate those troublesome louses that burrowed into corners of studios and whispered, ‘the (new) building is shit, that nearly all the staff are white, that it was foolish to dream of being a star, that students should choose who is employed in art schools, that you should be able to knock a nail in the wall without filling in a fucking form, etc’. These parasites thrived and multiplied. Bred by traditions that imagined something different, they proved harder to get rid of than rats.

For the parasites were not fools, they realized why art education had become a deadly enterprise. They realized that they were being trained (professionalized) to take their place in an organized economy (precarious work being the outcome for most). They took the words of Nick Land to heart who said: ‘You have to understand that organization involves subordinating low level units to some higher level functional program. In the most extreme cases, like in biological organisms, every cell is de-functionalized, turned off, except for that one specialized function that it is allocated by the organic totality. And hence the preponderant part of its potential is deactivated in the interests of some higher-level unity. That’s why the more organized things get, the less interesting their behavior becomes – “interesting” simply meaning here how freely they explore a range of possible behaviors, or how “nomadic” they are.’ The parasites resolved to refuse higher-level functioning programs. But wasn’t that always the point of art schools? To no longer subordinate cells to a higher-level functional program.

How though, how did it happen? What triggered the destruction of art schools from within? It was art that did it, a plague carried by those wretched parasites who held that, since the 1960s at least, art was an expanded field of practice with little concern for boundaries of specialist knowledge or hierarchies – the point of art schools was to produce encounters with affective or thought-forcing displays - that was the business of art schools – and whether anyone recognized such displays as art was academic. One day this idea got out of hand. The arguments of the former artists turned managers were no match for a tradition that switched on every potential function of each and every cell. The parasites did not miss the irony of this, after all art was the product that art schools in the UK were trying to sell to the world for 9 - 15K plus a year. Art schools echoed with the slogan: be a breeding cell, parasitical on bodies that oppose it but with a germinal function too! For a long time, art schools existed in name only until a new generation declared the time of the non-art school was immanent, yes the school of non-standard practice was immanent, which was, after all, always the potential of art schools.

What are our schools of non-art or non-standard practice like? While dancing, science, cooking and philosophy among other epistemes are all valued, at the core of our new institutions is ‘art-knowledge’ - defined as knowledge of materials, media, performance, gesture, process and mediation, and knowledge of how meaning, sensation, abstraction and thought can be produced, captured and presented. Art knowledge engenders new presentations and assemblages of sense and sensation (diagrams of a kind), presentations free of the curse of aesthetic judgment and didacticism that blighted art schools from their inception.

Non-art schools, like art schools of old, are still connected to ‘an umbilical chord of gold’ but non-art schools understand that it is not the feeble stream of gold trickling down the placenta that is the problem but the dysfunctional and hierarchical organizations of life that need attending too. Many think non-art schools have a role to play in this critique of everyday life but even so, non-art schools still incubate and host parasites, and probably always will.