The colors of today's art student: From coloring to colored

Before announcing the shift in student practices inside art schools, let's first look at what seems to happen with the art practice that is being taught and promoted in such places. I will not limit to painting, graphics or sculpture as we all know the medium of art practice has become explicitly interdisciplinary. While design studies make their way into visual, advertising and architecture industries, graphics moves to corporatist supported illustration, textile art to fashion industry, painting and all the rest of traditional "fine arts" (which becomes such a vague title by the way) have remained the formats of a sentimental approach  to what the "old school" once classified as "artistic manifestation" and "artistic knowledge put into practice." It all sounds like a very "moving" scenario, but let's see where this drive comes from.

From coloring to research ...

Apart from my speculative approach, what is it that makes an art student's daily practice today? Is he working in studios by producing work or is he researching at the library by constructing knowledge? The conclusions stated at "The Future of Art Education" talk organized by ICA London and ArtMonthly in september 2008 made a clear statement on the "turn" that education in art has undertaken. Being pressured by economical imperatives but at the same time being re-conceptualized as a process of research, art has been brought to a kind of re-alignment where teaching in art schools is merely a product and a manifestation of the corporate spirit of making profit out of an investment. Shortly, art education, most seriously in the UK where the fees for attending such academies are considerably high, is based on making more money. A student at Royal College of Art, London coined this idea by saying that "the art school doesn't prepare the student for being an artist, it just trains him for being an art student." So the outcome of the machinery that rules an art school isn't even a "product" ready to serve society, as a programmer would be after graduating an Informatics university, or a doctor after medical school.

... up to the colored book

Despite this macabre view on an eventual uselessness of art schools, which is yet another subject to discuss, back in school, the art student finds himself surrounded by a lot of research material at hand. If quite a while ago a student would be interested in buying and using high quality "drawing" instruments, it is colored books that he now pursues. The "contemporary art book" is what lures him into a world you cannot find in pale, grey, black and white old printed material; a world of big names, expensive artworks, famous museums and galleries which represent the reality to which the student feels like needing to connect to.

Exposed in libraries, bookshops, promoted as a bible for assimilating the doctrines of contemporary art, referred to as an important academic research resource, the colored book gained its high rated place in the values system of art scholars and students. Displaying expensive print, glossy design, hard cover that is not only hard, but heavy, too, funky fonts, content that is more design rather than text, sometimes advertisements also, the colored book is the giant that yells from the shelf: WATCH ME, BROWSE ME,  READ ME, WANT ME, BUY ME!

And yet, this is the new medium for research in contemporary art. Students should not be reticent to such a toolkit for their learning process. It is important not to forget to rationally evaluate the relevance of such tools for the individual development of being student as a researcher. After all, it's all bright and colorful, happy and cheerful! We all know it's a false packaging for promoting the corporate monster that has already eaten contemporary art, but why not "playing" with it? Monsters as such are good pals to learn from.


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