What can we do?

Collective of Studio without Master in cooperation with Academy of Fine Arts in Prague invites you to series of lectures and performative outputs on the topic of art education. From a variety of perspectives, artists, theorists and activists will discuss the moment of recognition of inequality and would try to come up with plausible reactions. Our main question is: what exactly can be done?

“Academy of Fine Arts in Prague is a strictly selective educational institution acknowledging its historical heritage and prestige. Its exclusivity is being maintained also through constantly low numbers of candidates accepted. Only those, who show the talent for multidisciplinary artistic practice are offered places on the Academy.” (from the press release to 215th anniversary of AVU)

Talent, which is the main criteria for admission into an artistic academy is presented as a universal, inborn value, which is also inherent to anyone regarding physical, ethnical, social or other limitations they might be facing. However, are we sure that we are members of Academy because of our talent and diligence? To what extent is openness to diversity a real issue in academic environment?

The walls of art schools are covered with pictures and statues of triumph and heroism. However, these seemingly heroical narratives inherently carry also an experience of those, who have lost or were omitted. Who else can be found inside, on the border or outside the narrative? We believe that the notion of artistic work is being depleted through the narrative of success prioritized by the educational institutions.

Acknowledging the problem of structural setting of institutions of artistic education is a vital step towards possible changes. Conference What can we do? organized by the Studio without Master, which is an initiative born within the environment of artistic higher educational institutions, is trying to find possibilities of common action, which would counteract the current situation in educational institutions. The individual talks range from theoretical lecture to sociological analysis or critical investigation into the organizational principles of collectives.

Invited guests:

Nikita Dhawan (AUS), Anna Gromada (PL), Isabela Grosseová (CZE), Tom Holert (GE), Vojtěch Märc (CZE), Josef Mrva (CZE), Tina Sherwell (PAL), Pavel Sterec (CZE)

Apart kolektiv, School of Photography (UMPRUM), Pavel Ondračka school, Studio without Master

01 Nikita Dhawan: The Limits of Solidarity?

On a daily basis we are flooded with images of suffering and pain. While some respond to this with solidarity and empathy, others complain of “compassion fatigue”. In my talk I will address the role of (art) education in pursuing post-imperial global ethics.

*Nikita Dhawan is Professor of Political Science (Political Theory and Gender Studies) and Director of the Research Platform Gender Studies: “Identities – Discourses – Transformations” at the University of Innsbruck, Austria.
Her publications include: Impossible Speech: On the Politics of Silence and Violence (2007); Negotiating Normativity: Postcolonial Appropriations, Contestations and Transformations (co-ed., 2016), Difference that makes no Difference: The Non-Performativity of Intersectionality and Diversity (ed., 2017).
She received the Käthe Leichter Award in 2017 for outstanding achievements in the pursuit of women’s and gender studies and in support of the women’s movement and the achievement of gender equality.

02 Pavel Sterec: For diversity of students

Are art schools a place where otherness and diversity are inherently present and supported? Why strive for the diversity of art school students? A free university education does not automatically meant that schools are open to talented applicants across social classes without discrimination.
Pavel Sterec introduces an inclusive programme he has long been attempting to organise at art schools and which for the second year he will realise on the level of the studio he heads at the Brno Faculty of Arts of the University of Technology.

*Pavel Sterec studied at several studios at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague and completed his doctorate at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague. His work is interdisciplinary in respect of both theme and methodology and is often tied up with other people, be they artists, scientists and activist collectives, in the form of temporary alliances and long-term friendships and aversions. At present Sterec is a lecturer at the Intermedia Studio at the Faculty of Fine Art (FaVU) in Brno. At the conference he will speak of the attempt to implement an inclusive programme at FaVU.

03 Anna Gromada: How to explain Gender Gap Extremes at Art Academies in Poland?

Poland’s visual art academies are extremely feminised as places of study while exceptionally masculinised as places of work. The gender discrepancy between these two career stages – being a student and being a teacher – comparable only to that observed in theological schools, became the main focus of this research. I test 10 literature-driven hypotheses in order to answer the research question: why women constitute 77% of students but only 22% of professors.

Anna Gromada
is sociologist, economist, a researcher at the Polish Academy of Sciences and a co-founder of the Kalecki Foundation think-tank. Anna obtained an MA in International Development from Sciences Po Paris, BA in Sociology and Politics from Cambridge University, BA in International Economics from the Warsaw School of Economics. She has collaborated with, i.a., the Chancellery of the President of Poland, French public administration, the OECD, The Guardian and Thomson Reuters. She co-authored “Little Chance to Advance”: An Inquiry to the Presence of Women at Art Academies in Poland” – the report that identified cultural, environmental and psychological factors that contribute to women’s exodus from the system of higher art education.

04 Isabela Grosseová: The Restoration of Dignity

In my contribution I shall speak on behalf of graduates of the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, an anonymous group of people who form a pyramid at the top of which are a few successful artists. Those who apply their qualifications to activities outside the art world. Precarious workers who are motivated by permanent doubts and a desire to be independent.

Isabela Grosseová studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague (AVU) and the postgraduate institute for visual arts, HISK, in Gent, Belgium. For six years she worked as an architect, firstly at the studio of Ing. Arch. Josef Pleskot in Prague and later at Vito Acconci’s studio in New York. Her art is influenced by the questions modern society is asking itself and how art institutions are responding. This was most apparent in a work named Representation of the Nation undertaken in collaboration with Jesper Alvaer for the National Gallery in Prague and the Brno House of Arts. At present she is studying for a doctorate at AVU.

05 Jozef Mrva: Non-utilitarian education and the autonomy of art schools

In his contribution, Jozef Mrva will introduce the concept of non-utilitarian education that Blahoslav Rozbořil came up with in the 1980s, which aims to educate the ‘unnecessary person’ as the ideal human subject. The contribution will examine the notions of uselessness and purposelessness within the context of an art education and the relationship of these qualities to the conditions of artistic production at art schools. At the same time Mrva will endeavour to update non-utilitarian education for the conditions of art education in the twenty-first century and as a strategy for preparing for ongoing automation.

*Jozef Mrva
is a PhD student at the Faculty of Fine Arts at the Brno University of Technology being supervised by doc. MgA. Filip Cenek. His research and creative work is based on the possible points of intersection of topology and speculation.

06 Vojtěch Märc: Eighty-nine without sixty-eight? The student occupation of the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague in November and December 1989

Märc’s contribution examines the student occupation of the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague in November and December 1989. He placed the occupation within the broader context of student strikes and the Velvet Revolution. He highlighted the artistic focus of the school and its influence on the course and character of the occupation.

*Vojtěch Märc is an art historian. He is completing a doctorate at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague.

07 Tom Holert: Performing Educational Space

What are the spatial requirements for organizing collectively? And what are the spatial conditions encountered by those who organize collectively with and against the existing architecture of a school, a university, an art academy? The talk will give a brief, selective historical account of the occupation of educational premises as a militant practice of physical place-making in the pursuit of a different, at times utopian kind of communality. Taking it from there the question could be addressed to what extent the physical locale of collective organizing is currently being replaced by virtual, online spatialities of togetherness, and what the ensuing consequences are with regard to the possibilities of collective self-representation.

* Tom Holert is an art historian and writer. He recently co-founded the Harun Farocki Institut, Berlin and is currently finishing a book-length study on contemporary art and knowledge politics. An exhibition on writer Carl Einstein and the thresholds of the avant-garde around 1930 is forthcoming at Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, (with Anselm Franke, 2018). His recent research on spaces of knowledge and learning has led to the exhibition Learning Laboratories: Architecture, Instructional Technology, and the Social Production of Pedagogical Space Around 1970, BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht, 2016–2017, and among his books are: Übergriffe: Zustände und Zuständigkeiten der Gegenwartskunst (2014) and Regieren im Bildraum (2008). Holert is a (co-)editor of Marion von Osten: Once We Were Artists (A BAK Critical Reader in Artists’ Practice) (with Maria Hlavajova, 2017) and Troubling Research: Performing Knowledge in the Arts (with Johanna Schaffer et al., 2014). Holert lives and works in Berlin.

08 School of Photography (UMPRUM)

‘A transcript is the work of a stenographer, who converts a dynamic audiovisual recording of events unfolding in time into graphic, i.e. static, form. In its simplest form it is a record of what individuals said to each other during a conversation. (…) The resulting transcript is essentially an interpretation of the original event, since it selects and foregrounds only certain features of that event.’
(Institute of the Czech Language, DIALOG Korpus, a multimedia corpus of spoken Czech)

During the 2016 summer semester, a collective final examination work was created by all the students at the Photography Studio. It was the end of a semestral cycle during which the students had collaborated on an interrogation of the theme of interpersonal communication. Following this, they decided to continue with this working method and present to the examination board artefacts arising from their collective creative endeavours. The very act of defending the work was to become part of the resulting installation and its collective iteration would overturn the conventional process of evaluation. During the defence proceedings, an audio recording was made of the discussions that took place between examination board members and students. This later became an integral part of the work when a recorder plus earphones was incorporated into the context of the other artefacts on show. Visitors to the exhibition could listen to the questions, answers and formulation of ideas by individual participants that took place during the conversation. During the course of the conference What can we do? the students concerned will read aloud several extracts of the transcript taken from the audio recording. In this way they will recall the debate that took place in the hope that this might prompt reflections upon the defence of a student’s work as a method linked with the evaluation of works within the context of institutions of art education.

*The Studio of Photography is part of the fine art department at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague. It was founded in 1995 by Pavel Štech and since 2008 has been led by Aleksandra Vajd and Hynek Alt. At present Aleksanda Vajd is working alongside Martin Kohout, and in previous years has worked with Vjera Borozan. Photography remains the studio’s focal point, though intermedia and conceptual approaches also figure in its activities. The character of the photo is reflected in the studio’s teaching methods, which address the needs and desires of the particular constellation of people in the collective at any one moment in time, or the ‘political’ situation inside the institution or within society. In the 2016 summer semester, the studio’s students created a joint work for their final examination that reflected their collective work and thinking.

09 Studio without Master (ABV)

* Studio without Master (Ateliér bez vedoucího or ABV) is a student initiative that investigates and applies alternative methods of artistic education across universities with an emphasis on interdisciplinary cooperation. The aim is to create a space in which students and graduates of various disciplines and establishments can meet and share their knowledge, and discover and problematise possible methods of its reception and production. ABV represents an alternative to the established model of artistic education (which centralises decision-making and authority in the figure of the studio head), and places an emphasis on consensual decision making and non-hierarchical structures.

10 The Pavel Ondračka Studio: Once upon a time

We are standing in front of a mirror observing the horizon. Our gaze glides wearily over the reflection, which is simply an illusion. The question we might ask is why we are standing here. However, we prefer to ask why we should be standing here.
A few days later we meet up again in the same place. Rather than arriving at the questions we are trying to ask, we want to figure out how to add the values that are missing in the reflected image, the values of openness, decentralisation and synchronicity. Transience and ephemerality are two of the few pitfalls we are aware of. What should we do so as to avoid looking at horizons simply through an illusory reflection? Smash the mirror? Or turn our back on it and become part of the reflection?

* The Pavel Ondračka Studio is a DIY alternative to the official studios at FaVU in Brno. It has been the venue for traditionally conceived meetings, experimental or divergent formats of lectures and presentations, protest hacktivism, and completely improvised get-togethers and events. What was originally a putsch organised over a pint at the Multimedia Studio was gradually transformed into a broader faculty collective, the main principles of which (ODS) are as follows: an openness to people and ideas, the decentralisation of leadership into a peer-to-peer structure, and synchronicity. However, over time the studio has taken on the form of a free structure that balances on the edge of being a pack of solitary wolves and a franchise.

11 Apart: The Possibility of Collectivity

The Apart Collective, in collaboration with Nik Timková, will contribute to the conference by means of performance-based text readings, fiction in the form of a story that tells of a world without work where society is no longer controlled by libidinal aggression, a society based on the collective body whose backbone comprises the historical failures of past generations.
To rejuvenate
To cure
To heal
To improve health
To delay death
To eneter unity
To gain universal language
To leave linear time
To win over the sun

* Collective of artists APART arose in 2012. Since the beginning, its main program content is publication activity going under the name APART LABEL, which is mapping artistic expressions in their local environment. It focuses on selected tendencies of contemporary art forms, observes their and dwells on building an archive of this specific environment. Our ambition is not to map artistic activities in their full spectrum. We focus our attention on such outputs and researches of art forms, which in some cases reflect our own interest in specific themes.
Publishing publications, organizing lectures, projections, curatorial projects are not seen from position of publisher, curator…, but from an artist’s perspective as an undetachable part of our artistic praxis. Today we consider the wide-spectrum of artist’s field as inevitable and last but not least collective cooperation, undergoing and evolving in constant dialogue.