The curriculum is out there

Renton, Lucy and Flint, Dr. Rob (2010) The curriculum is out there. In: HEARTH: Le 11e congrès biennal d'ELIA (European League of Institutes of the Arts); 26 - 30 Oct 2010, Nantes, France.


A presentation of slides with accompanying notes, in the Fine Art section of the conference. Renton and Flint then led the panel discussion with the audience for all related presentations. "…the mechanisms of contemporary art, rather than the results, could be a field of academic knowledge... Instead of studying works and canons, we would study processes and strategies” (Elkins 2007) The expansion of networked sources of information, entertainment and educational content is forcing the University to redefine its role. No longer the privileged source of information held for, and accessed by, the elite few admitted within, the institution now has to define itself as other than the repository of content, since content is everywhere. The discipline of Fine Art is uniquely positioned to provide a pedagogical model for this change. Why? - Because the discipline is formed by a practice which is led from outside the institution itself. Perpetually mutating, self-critical and non-teleological, the practices of art in the present century have willfully sought to evade incorporation into purposeful (and therefore ideological) systems of meaning production. A concise history of art practices since the last century shows a development from the creation of artworks for a pre-existing context (the collection, the gallery, the museum) toward a closer critical examination of the context itself. Increasingly, the artist engages in the production of concepts rather than objects, even when objects are being produced. This has necessitated a change in the older model of the studio as training, via emulation and mimicry, in the requirements of a sub-discipline or pathway (painting, sculpture, etc) towards a model which is social, largely self-determined, but consisting of experiences which foster independent critical practice. Amid the current discussions of qualification in terms of equivalence, this paper urges us to maintain focus on the student experience as something distinct from, and not reducible to, a certificate. Using instances from the 'open curriculum' or non-pathway model of Fine Art learning and teaching at English art schools including Nottingham Trent University, and case study projects supported by the Higher Education Academy Art Design and Media Subject Centre, this paper shows how professional practice ‘outside’ may be delivered as curriculum content, and how student employability is enhanced by independence, rather than technical skills. While UK HE faces massive cuts, and existing funds are directed towards ‘STEM’ (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) subjects, this paper argues unfashionably against the Skills agenda for a non-teleological art education that emphasises the experience of education over the qualification, and the context of production over its content.

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