Thursday, May 11, 2006

art and the alma mater

Maiden Voyage opens next thursday 18th Maay at 6pm
At a new space in slurry callled GAFFA
Adddie is 330 crown street
sho goes from may 19-30
GAFFA is open MONDAYS TOO! - It's open 7 days a week: 12-5ish

names of emerging artists are aidan li, bridie lander, melinda young, karin findeis, kim robson, mike turner, damien butler, madeleine bod, ben frost, rosary coloma, loren keir

Now i've got that out of the way - i thought'd i'd stiick my 2 cents worth into the NAS saga.

My interests in this - are that I'm an ex-studnet and ex-life model of NAS, and have a love hate relationship with th place. the other interest I have at the moment is in art education, and what types of art schools can foster/stifle/promote communities and creativity.

when the NAS vs COFa shitfight really blew up late last year I weighed in with the rant below.

I dunno if it says anything, but it's kind of amusing in a bleary eyed boozy kind of way.

Last week Friends of the National Art School sent me an email asking me to reply to 3 questions:
1. why did you go to NAS?
2. what was the highight of your time at NAS?
3. what do you think of the merger with COFA?

Here's what I sent back

Q1: I chose NAS - partly because there was no HECS and
I already had a huge debt. I had also gone around to
all the other art schools - and something about NAS
just felt right. I stayed because I loved the people.
I had friends at COFA and they were having a great
time as well - but NAS felt smaller and more
non-threatening. I could spend all day writing
manifestos and planning performances and doing really
weird installations based on walking around the block
on a particular day and finding bits of garbage and
feel like I was a rebel. I still feel that learning is
a complicated process which is more about having the
right people at the right time than any formal course

Q2: where do I start? Castle mountain (1 week painting camp at wiseman's ferry) was definitely a
highlight and it is a damn shame that these cheap
crazy week long 24 hours per day
painting/cooking/canoeing/drinking fests don't happen
anymore. Bill Pratts desert tours (student organised 3 weeks in a minibus for $400 art tours) were also just
incredible and Ian B's trip to central france changed
my life. doing "bob" (student newspaper) was frustrating but really fun -
especially the elvis edition and it was even funnier
when damien nugent started up a rival student
newspaper coz he thought that "bob's" production
values were too grungy. And then there was the
courtie, and scraping up coins to get one last
guinness at the end of the night. so many romantic
sodden soliloquies about art and life, and so many
hangovers. It was worth every single one.

Q3: I think both institutions are amazing for entirely
different reasons. Part of me regrets having never
gone to COFA for postgraduate work because people do
fantastic stuff there -and it has a great history as
mackie and wonderful links to some really interesting
emerging artists and artists run initiatives. the
COFA store is excellent and KUDOS gallery is really
great. But I don't see why we can't support both COFA
and NAS in sydney as separate institutions. I'd like
to think they support different needs and have
different roles, and different possibilities. I'm not
anti COFA - and students from both institutions lived,
showed and worked together or nearby back last decade.
I'd like to see that difference continue as a source
of exchange and possiblities just like it does with
students from SCA. I'd be scared that a merger would
end up with the worst of both at both institutions.
NAS would be incroporated as some kind of conservative
drawing /studio skills wing within COFA, which would
detract from the existing history of drawing and
painting practices at COFA - and from the history of
experimental approaches to teaching and studio work
that has continued at NAS.

What I didn't write in the letter above was wathcing how the student populatin of NAS changed over time. when I started there in 1997- there were a lot of studnets in their mid 20's - with oldies and youngies iether side. It's hard to say whether it was just the grunge fashions of the time - but the standard art chool garb was blunnies, flannies and baggy, paint smeared or torn pants. Lot sof people seemed t have a lot of time and energy to put into other stuff like intercapus art shows, or student papers, or mad camps, or sitting around and getting drunk with teachers and blithering sit into the night.......

By the time I was working as a full time model - I felt a really big class difference between myself and a lot of the other students - many of whom were weird easter suburb helmet haired 4WD driving types - living out some pseudo acadmeic version of "the artists way" - or people that could have been their kids; young, middle class and very white. I don't know why or how this occured. NAS was and still is the CHEAPEST tertiary art school in sydney - so why it has attracted so many affluent and conservative seeming students is a mystery to me, but it was sad. the middle age studnets didn't have time to go on long painting excursions or wild parties, and the kids didn't have the skills or initiative or contacts to organise crazy shit.

as stated above, I think it's the stuff that happens around and outside of art shcools that indicate the amount of life within. If art students are organising their own shows,parties,zines or whatever - or if they are involved in the networks of artists/activists that are - that DOES feed into the institution - as well as the community. I'd defend the idea of more art shcools rather than less - just on a basic biodiversity model. I'd prefer to see NAS and COFA exist separately, but I'd prefer NAS to merge wiht COFA rather than Notre Dame. (It might be good for their art history section but that's about all - hell NAS was hotbed of saphhism when I was there - wot would happen to that under Pell inc.?)

I still think that art institutions work best as porous frames - kind of gathering together students into a loose structure - which they can work within, around or against. to cite that great dead man derrida - utlmitately a good structure should be hospitable to its own subversion and even destruction.

Maybe the open source art school blog is a better place to develop discussion on what an art school could or should be thatn here.

1 comment:

lauren said...

oh my god, you did 'bob' at NAS??? i was half of 'thelma', directly inspired by 'bob'!! here's to short-lived student zines!!