Summer Session

Summer Session – #Hashtags: The Trouble with the Mission School

Today we’re thinking about what “school” means as a way of codifying an art movement—that is, the politics, aesthetics, and ethos that are implied by attributing work to a particular school. In that vein, we present Anuradha Vikram’s review of SFAI’s 2013 exhibition Energy That Is All Around—Mission School, wherein Vikram analyzes the problematics of the Mission School attribution. This article was originally published on November 18, 2013.

Alicia McCarthy. Untitled, 1996. Oil and latex on panel. 84 x 84 inches. Collection of Jeff Morris, Oakland. Photo by Johnna Arnold/SFAI.

Alicia McCarthy. Untitled, 1996; oil and latex on panel; 84 x 84 in. Collection of Jeff Morris, Oakland. Photo by Johnna Arnold/SFAI.

A panel at the San Francisco Art Institute on October 20 in conjunction with the Walter and McBean Galleries exhibition Energy That Is All Around – Mission School: Chris Johanson, Margaret Kilgallen, Alicia McCarthy, Barry McGee, Ruby Neri, posed the question: “Mission School: Yes or No?” The general consensus, both on the panel and in the wider Bay Area arts community, was a qualified “Yes.” On the panel, Natasha Boas, who curated the SFAI show, described the intense resistance with which her question—“Was there ever really a Mission School?”—was met when she began her research on an essay of the same title that was included in the Berkeley Art Museum’s catalog for its 2012 solo exhibition by Barry McGee. Artists refused to address the concept, objected to the label, and were otherwise evasive, even when (perhaps especially when) they had personally benefited from association with the group.

In parallel discussions within the community and on Facebook, a common response to the question was, “Yes, but who cares?” Most people agree that the critical mass of artistic activity in San Francisco’s Mission District in the 1990s met the social and formal criteria for a “school” of artists: shared influences and connections that congealed into apparent stylistic and material affinities, and that informed later generations. Why, then, does the mention of this widely recognized and influential movement in recent art history provoke a polarized response from both the artists customarily included in the group and those who are not? Understanding the hostility to the Mission School label requires an appreciation of the many ways in which this Bay Area movement prefigured controversial developments in American contemporary art and urban space over the last twenty years.

Read the full article here.

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Summer Session

Summer Session – Internet for Artists Handbook

This Summer Session we’re going Back to School and thinking about learning, pedagogy, and education. Today we’re featuring an excerpt from The Internet for Artists Handbook, an online resource designed to help creatives with professional development. With article categories like “How to Help Yourself,” “Generating Revenue,” and “The Future,” Creative Capital’s informative Wiki is sure to have practical advice for the autodidact. Below is an excerpt from the article “Personal Goal Setting,” with actionable tips for coming up with one’s own professional plans. This article was originally published October 10, 2012. 

via Creative Capital Professional Development Program.

via Creative Capital Professional Development Program.

Personal Goal Setting is an important part of shaping how you use the information contained in this Wiki! Goals are integral to helping you to formulate a plan of action and prioritize.

A strong and clearly-defined goal has these five qualities:

1. Goals are quantifiable, measurable, falsifiable. Goals can be measured and often include specific numbers and timelines. It’s good to also have a specific date in mind too. Keep in mind, once the date or timeline has passed, will you be able to falsify (prove the statement false) your goal as stated?

2. Goals use a declarative sentence. They are not a question or a fragment.

3. Goals are written down. Writing down a goal greatly increases your chance of achieving.

4. Goals don’t include the word “and”. This is not a to-do list or a laundry list. Long lists usually indicate that you have included several goals in one statement or that you have already started to list the steps necessary to achieve your goal.

5. Goals should stretch you. Goals should challenge you. When you conceive of a goal, see if you can state your biggest goal out loud to yourself in the mirror without laughing.

Read the full article here.

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Summer Session

Summer Session – How to Prep for Grad School If You’re Poor

Our August Summer Session is all about different forms of education, pedagogy, and the nexus of art and school. Today we direct our readers to a crowdsourced how-to guide on preparing for grad school while poor. Originally started as a public Google Doc by Karra Shimabukuro, PhD, based on her own experiences, the guide became so popular and gained so many contributors that she eventually moved the document to its own Wiki. For many, graduate school can be an enormous financial burden, but it can also be a critically important part of an artistic practice—we here at Daily Serving hope that this guide can help make pursuing an MFA or PhD more accessible.

art school owl

Art School Owl meme, via Tumblr.

From the homepage of the How to Prep for Grad School if You’re Poor Wiki, founder Karra Shimabukuro has this to say about the project:

I have blogged and tweeted a lot during my PhD experience about the ways my (self-identified) socio-economic and cultural status has affected me and my experience in a thousand different ways. From not understanding social norms, to not getting jokes or references, to feeling like I was constantly playing catch-up, these issues have impacted my PhD studies and my professionalization. So one day on Twitter (during #ScholarSunday) I commented about how this affected those of us who were poor, and started a Google Doc/conversation about what would happen if we started a primer for other students like us. What would this primer look like?

In just three days the document exploded (you can see the original document here). It consistently had 100 people in it, crashing Google Docs for most of the third day. It went up to over 62 pages. Despite using bookmarks and headings it was becoming unwieldy. Robbie Fordyce @r4dyc had the idea to transition the information to a wiki. So here we are. My hope is that this space will serve as a more stable and easily navigated resource for students (MAs, MFAs, and PhDs) who are attending grad school and are poor or working class.

Click here to go to the full guide.

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Summer Session

Summer Session – Help Desk: School Daze

Our Summer Session topic this month is Back to School, and today we bring you an excerpt from our Help Desk, Bean Gilsdorf’s arts-advice column that demystifies practices for artists, writers, curators, collectors, patrons, and the general public. In this installment, Gilsdorf answers questions specific to the MFA degree, giving readers practical advice on how to sort through the bullshit and find the best graduate-level arts program for themselves. This article was originally published February 6, 2012.

Bruce High Quality Foundation wants you to skip school and hang out with Chris Burden instead.

Bruce High Quality Foundation wants you to skip school and hang out at LACMA instead.

I am considering getting a MFA in sculpture/new media, but it is very difficult for me to get a complete sense of the different MFA programs both in the U.S. and abroad. Unfortunately my best resources have been asking friends and old teachers. From them I get a mix of old information, rumors, and myth. Can you tell me the top three MFA sculpture programs in the U.S. and the top three abroad? If not, can you tell me about some resources that can help me learn about these schools beyond their, nearly useless, websites?

To begin, let me tell you how glad I am that you’ve already figured out how useless a school’s website can be. From the unnavigable layouts to the endless paragraphs of self-aggrandizing prose, a school’s website can be really ineffective if you’re looking to understand the culture of the institution or the kinds of students who attend. I have firsthand experience with this dilemma myself: When I was applying to grad school, I did a lot of preliminary research online; but when I visited the schools in person, my experience on campus often contradicted my initial impressions. One website made me fall deeply in love, until I interviewed the school’s students and they all were so sad and burned out and disinterested. Another institution seemed very scholarly—important to me because I like art theory—but the second-year students who toured me around talked about how little time they spend reading and writing. You’re right to be suspicious of websites, and also prudent to ask your colleagues and old professors.  But mostly I’m glad you wrote in, because I’m going to share some hard-earned wisdom with you. Come lean a little closer to the screen because I’m going to tell you a secret about the top three art schools:

They don’t exist.

Read the full article here.

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Summer Session

Summer Session – Prescription for a Healthy Art Scene

For this month’s Summer Session were thinking about going Back to School, and whether that means formal training, self-directed learning, or something in between, author and curator Renny Pritikins “Prescription for a Healthy Art Scene” asserts that various kinds of education are necessary for a robust and thriving arts community. His list reminds us that teaching and learning are types of engagement that, rather than codifying knowledge, encourage active participation and the circulation of ideas, and that all forms of education play a role in generating discourse.  

Prescription for a Healthy Art Scene by Renny Pritkin.

Prescription for a Healthy Art Scene by Renny Pritikin, 2009.

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Summer Session

Summer Session – Interview with David Levi Strauss

This Summer Session we’re going Back to School, and today we bring you an interview with David Levi Strauss by Amelia Rina. Rina had first been interviewed by Strauss in 2013 for admission to the School of Visual Arts MFA Art Writing and Criticism program, and here returns to speak with Strauss about his perspectives on writing, academia, and his role as an educator. Throughout the conversation, Strauss emphasizes the dynamism of discourse and arts need for something outside of itself. This interview was originally published on September 10, 2015. 

John Berger and David Levi Strauss, 2009. Photo: Yves Berger.

John Berger and David Levi Strauss, 2009. Photo: Yves Berger.

Amelia Rina: Can you talk about your relationship with teaching writing and your own education as a writer?

David Levi Strauss: The Art Writing program at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in New York is really modeled after the Poetics program at the New College of California, San Francisco, in the 1980s. It was built around the teachings of the poet Robert Duncan and the other poets that gathered around him, including Diane di Prima, David Meltzer, Michael Palmer, and Duncan McNaughton. It was pointedly not a creative-writing program, but a program in poetics, the study of how things are made. The poets who taught there intended to give us an intellectual base that we could build on for the rest of our lives and to give us sources we could continue to draw on as we built our own network of sources. I think that’s probably even more important today. We now live in the Golden Age of Search, where a vast amount of material is accessible, so the need to develop ways to make distinctions among these disparate sources is crucial.

AR: Something that seems integral to the SVA department’s mission is that it isn’t in the business of “discourse production.” Can you elaborate on what you mean by that? And if it’s not in the business of discourse production, what is it in the business of?

DLS: I don’t know when the term discourse production was first used, but I think it was imported from cognitive neuroscience. To me, it always sounded like a needless bureaucratization of writing and thinking. Our approach is very different from this. We look at writing as a way of thinking—and a way to live, actually—and, at the same time, as a craft.

Read the full interview here.

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Summer Session

Summer Session – Teach 4 Amerika

Our new Summer Session topic is Back to School, and today we bring you an article from our sister publication Art Practical. Here, Patricia Maloney reviews the Bruce High Quality Foundation’s tour Teach 4 Amerika, the collaboratives 2011 performative critique of the art academy. Though BHQF foregrounds its significant arguments against the economic art-school model with a healthy dose of irony, Maloney finds that the most ironic aspect of the tour is its dependency on the very academic structures it critiques. This article was originally published on May 4, 2011.

Teach 4 Amerika, 2011; poster. Courtesy of the Bruce High Quality Foundation and Creative Time, New York.

Teach 4 Amerika, 2011; poster. Courtesy of the Bruce High Quality Foundation and Creative Time, New York.

On April 27, the pranksterish collaborative the Bruce High Quality Foundation (BHQF) arrived at my alma mater, the San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI), in a limousine painted to resemble a yellow school bus for their tenth stop on a five-week, eleven-city tour across the United States. At each destination of Teach 4 Amerika, which is sponsored by the New York–based nonprofit public-art program Creative Time, BHQF has challenged art students to reconsider the terms, methods, and purpose of their educations. They posit that the proliferation of BFA and MFA degree programs in this country—over 900 at last count—has led neither to a corresponding increase in contemporary art’s reception in the broader culture nor to an expanded market in which more artists can sustain themselves by sales of their work. Instead, according to BHQF, it supports a self-perpetuating, peripheral industry around art and contributes to the increasing professionalization of the contemporary art world.

All these conditions—the glut of academic programs, artists’ narrowing access to the art market as their numbers rapidly increase, the progressive isolation of contemporary art within a sphere of similarly educated participants—have been pressing topics of conversation for several years and urgent ones since the 2008 economic collapse. They’ve also been the impetus for the rise of alternative pedagogical models by which artists self-direct their research and curricula. So the precept behind Teach 4 Amerika—that aspiring artists should eschew formalized art education in favor of such alternative models in order to reclaim their artistic agency—has much traction and would have resonated more strongly in the rally if it hadn’t been grounded in the outmoded premise of the artist as an autodidactic bohemian.

Read the full article here.

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