Neoliberalism and the politics of professional practice in fine art education

Kenning, Dean (2017) Neoliberalism and the politics of professional practice in fine art education. In: We Need to Talk About This : illusion of separation between us; 06 May 2017, London, U.K.. (Unpublished)


'Professional Practice' is an increasingly significant component of university curricula in the UK. The use of debt to create an explicit link between higher educational study and individual future income has put the onus on universities to meet 'customer expectations' in this regard, whilst the publishing of employment and earnings outcomes for recent graduates has further incentivised competing universities to improve their relative standing in order to appear more attractive to potential students and, increasingly, their parents. But the fact that the study of fine art is fed by beliefs and desires which contradict the financial justification given for full fees should make us wary of the growing business rhetoric which has come to infiltrate course curricula for the ostensible benefit of students. In particular the ebullient, positivistic language of ‘enterprise’, often seems incongruous when set alongside art’s capacities for ‘negativity’ – those forms of critical questioning, difficulty, doubt, resistance and paradox, so central to the teaching of fine art. I will ask what a critical professional practice in fine art might look like; one which questions and challenges the sorts of individualistic, competitive, strategic behaviours encouraged not only by neoliberal educational policy but by much of the contemporary art system itself.

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