Jotta caught up with Redmond Entwistle to talk about Walk-Through, his recently completed film about California Institute of the Arts. Currently on show at Cubitt, London, Entwistle’s exhibition coincides with PROSPECTUS an experimental exhibition exploring the practices of radical art education and exhibition as an educational technology.
Jotta: How long have you been working on “Walk-Through’?
Redmond Entwistle: I started working on the film about two years ago. I came across an aerial photo of CalArts just after construction in the back of John Baldessari’s Pure Beauty catalogue and the project began to take shape. There were questions I wanted to explore about what it means to construct the social fabric of an institution and history’s value as capital. The work is almost like a prospectus or online teaching tool, an experience of art school without actually being there. But CalArts is also a proxy for talking about education more broadly, and the closest point for me to engage in these questions, having studied there.
What struck me about the film, is that the Cal Arts model has become so pervasive. Cal Arts represents a moment when the idea of art education shifts from creativity to the production of criticality.
Well the film narrates this shift from plastic skills to linguistic skills in art school, how at first this reflected deskilling in fine art practice and the democratic impulse of the period, but then through pressures external and internal to the institution, value and hierarchy were reasserted, through fees, public relations, and language becoming not the material we all have access to, but another skill that can be used to distinguish value.
These seem like pertinent questions to be raising now, a lot of people are asking this question of what an art education may represent now...‘alternate education’ is a hot topic!
But the film is a critique of the compulsion to participate, both in art practices and social media, and their parody of democracy. It takes aim at the extraction of value from social processes, which the institutional obsession with participation, forums and the construction of ‘alternate institutions’ seems representative of.
The late Sixties saw artists having to adopt a more central role in the dissemination of their work, before this period it was the critic who spoke on the artist’s behalf. Yes, you see artists who are critics such as Ad Reinhardt, then artists who begin to write as part of their work like Robert Smithson. At the time it was a way for them to take back some control over the reception of their work, but it also paralleled the new pressures on individuals to be proficient in a whole range of skills. From one side it’s self-determination, but from the other it’s flexible ‘skillsets’.
What’s interesting of course, is that language and de-materiality was originally a way to challenge the market but now conceptual artists are seen as pioneers of Post-Fordist labour.
This is the contradiction that the film explores, how the democratic revolutions in both art making and art education were recuperated by capital. The film tries to pose the problem that the essential qualities that defined a resistance to capital; de-skilling, sharing knowledge, self-determination, non-hierarchy, the network, are now paradigms of capital, and asks these questions at the site of social reproduction.
It’s interesting to think of universities as the production of intellectual copyright, and this is where the real money is...
I came across this interesting article during my research, where it was talking about higher education being split into two tiers. At the top end you have intellectual property and then the lower tier is the teaching of more rudimentary service skills.
You can easily read criticality as innovation...
But I’m not sure which tier critical discourse inhabits now? Everyone wants it to be intellectual property, but it’s often more like the service industry. Certainly through social networking, there has been a huge growth of public spheres where one can participate. Yet the more spaces we have the less value this speech has. I was interested in the connection between embodied speech and democracy. And what we now see through the evacuation of the body in communication is a crisis in how the citizen is valued.
Do you see the occupations as some form of response to this? The body is used to assert public property, whats your take on the occupations?
Yes, but the film tries to address the occupy movement’s limits, to suggest that new forms of social space may also require searching for new conditions of speech and democracy, and not simply reasserting the old assumptions that link democracy, the body and speech.
Alright for the last question, I asked a friend and here is her question-What steps should artist-led spaces take to fill a gap in the education system, and if so, why is this a responsibility? I'm thinking about the rise of free schools that have emerged in different artist led spaces...
If they assume some of this role, these institutions need to be critical about how education can be exploited for different kinds of value. I think that given the chance, and considering the central place of intellectual work in today's economy, education can be one of the focuses of a politics now, but it's not a matter of a responsibility and a service, but of education as a politics.
Join Redmond for a Q&A session arond Walk-Through at Cubitt Gallery on Tuesday 22nd May, from 6:30pm.
Read more about PROSPECTUS here