Is ‘Art School’ Still an Oxymoron?

“As art school students we have found that getting an art education may be the very art we are in the business of mastering.” (p. 120) In our meta-creative article “(Self-)Confrontation: Making a Pleonasm out of Art School” (Performance Research: On Radical Education, 2016), Vojtěch Novák and I strove to conceive of higher art learning as artistic expression both through and beyond the frameworks of arts-based learning and arts-based research: “Are we making art out of that that is a priori modelled upon art – as if in a pleonastic fashion? Calling art school an oxymoron may in this day and age seem paradoxical. Art school may no longer be semantically incompatible, the question no longer being whether art is unteachable, or for that matter un-learnable.” (p. 120)

Looking at the particular mode of art education of which we, the authors, were users and whose main educational aim is a way of thinking about one’s creative process: (self-)confrontation, we confronted it and applied such (self-)confrontational thinking to other modes of higher art education also perhaps on the verge of artistic practice. The question, then, was how – in regard to postdisciplinary conceptions of creativity – our activity started to both appertain to the possible practice of an ‘educational turn’ in meta-art (as formulated by Adrian Piper) and present one of the various and at times antonymous instances of what might be called an ‘artistic turn’ in art education.

“Confronting ourselves and others with the idea of making art out of art learning – all the while taking such confrontations to be the very putting of the idea into practice – has elicited truth as far as truth means conflicted feelings. How we are dependent on others – in both talking the talk and walking the walk – should perhaps be substantiated at first by not only what we will now introduce as this text’s first premise but how the introduction of such a premise is itself an example of our dependence on others: it has been hard for us to wrap our heads around how ‘every work of art is the linguistic foundation of itself, the discussion of its own poetic system’, that is, according to serial thought as clarified by Umberto Eco (1989: 246) – and, by the way, as ‘left unelaborated’ (Nowak 1999: 178) by Jan Mukařovský in the vein of a meta-aesthetic function. Following suit, additional premises introduce mutual interdependency between learning just how theoretically possible (or flawed) our artistic endeavour is and simultaneously finding our own practice (or practice-based research).” (p. 120)