Veröffentlicht am 21.06.14

A standardized studio? Art and art education under pressure from economization

Presentation at the European Congress of Visual Arts Education
“The Studio as the foundation of Visual Thinking – Thoughts on the European Union Policy towards Higher Education“
Chamber of Fine Arts of Greece, Union of Fine Arts Teachers in Secondary Education 5.-10.9.2005 Athens, Greece

1. Introduction

First of all I would like to thank you very much for the invitation to this conference. It’s an honour and a pleasure to speak to so many colleagues from different countries. The theme of this conference is very important and urgently needs to be discussed. All the more as many of my German colleagues do not realize what is happening to our education system and how its economization poses a threat not only to art education.

Which is, in fact, the theme of my presentation: What does the studio as the foundation of visual thinking have to do with global economy? And what impact does it have on art education?

In order to clarify these questions I will at first point out one aspect of the studio-idea that, in my view, is of special interest in this context. Against this background I will subsequently analyze the process of economization of education that is presently taking place, which was not only initiated by the so called “Bologna-Declaration” but also by several other international organisations. Further, it will become clear how an economized education contradicts the traditional European, humanistic point of view. In conclusion the question of what to do will be posed.

2. The studio as a bridge to the world

Since the renaissance, the idea of the artist’s studio as the foundation of visual thinking always encompassed the notion of creating a new and independent world. Therefore the artist acquired god-like status. This drawing of an unknown Dutch artist from the 16th century shows Saint Luke as painter of the Virgin and Child who are seated before him in the artist’s studio. Here the artist is giving expression to a new reality worthy of adoration itself.

This idea of the divino artista equated with the deus artifex is also reflected in René Magritte’s “Tentative de l’impossible” of 1928: Trying to create man in the studio as god did on the sixth day of creation is like trying the impossible. Yet Magritte’s picture itself seems to verify that in a painting the impossible is nevertheless possible. As such it reflects upon the nature of the picture and the problem of reproducing or creating reality.

The fact that the artist is a creator and that art is open to every form of expression led to our modern conviction that art is and should be free. In most democratic constitutions the freedom of art is granted as a form of freedom of thought and expression. Visual thinking, therefore, is equivalent with free thinking and creating. It is an essential human ability and human right. Based on this, the studio is a place of human freedom and self-realisation.

On the other hand, we cannot deny that modernity has in some respects misunderstood what freedom of art really is: it has become rather arbitrary and disconnected from any demands of the social world. The studio often has become a place in which the artist works in isolation; visual thinking is in danger to evolve into a form of autism. Perhaps the British author and art critic John Berger is right in asking if it isn’t an illusion of modernity and even postmodernism to think of the artist primarily as a creator. According to Berger the artist is more a recipient, and what seems like creation is rather a process of forming the received.1 This implies that the artist in his studio does not only create in mere isolation, but is part of a society, part of a world of people and ideas outside his studio to which he belongs and refers. In this sense visual thinking also means having the world in mind while working in the studio.

This idea of the artist working in his studio while maintaining an inner commitment to the world and its people is manifest in images of the artist’s studio from Courbet onwards.

The complete article as PDF: J. Krautz:_standardized_studio