Boris Groys: “Education by Infection”

Here’s some excerpts of a text that some of has have been reading here at Slade. For anyone interested, there will be a chance to discuss it at the “Surplus to requirements?” exhibition-symposium at Woburn Square on wednesday.

The extract is taken from “Education by Infection”, Boris Groys, in “Art school : (propositions for the 21st century)”, edited by Steven Henry Madoff.

“Life understood as a permanent source of infection that endangers the health of students’ nervous systems was articulated early in the twentieth century by Kazimir Malevich in “An Introduction to the Theory of the Additional Element in Painting,” which concerned itself with the problems of art education. Malevich describes a range of art styles—“Cézannism,” Cubism, and Suprematism, among them—as effects of different aesthetic infections metabolized in the artist by bacilli of one aesthetic kind or another. That is to say, they were triggered by new visual forms and impressions produced by modern life…

“Malevich’s model for artists and for the teaching of art follows the trope of biological evolution: Artists need to modify the immune system of their art in order to incorporate new aesthetic bacilli, to survive them and find a new inner balance, a new definition of health…

“If artists try to resist, the effects are obviously disastrous. They fall to the side, prematurely aged; the quality of their works suffers; the works become irrelevant for the world they are living in. Malevich sees the art school as the best defense against this artistic degradation. The closed world of the art school keeps bacilli permanently circulating and students permanently infected and sick. And most important: precisely because the art school is closed and isolated, the individual bacilli can be identified, analyzed, and bred—as is also the case with isolated, sterile medical laboratories. The isolation of the art school can be an attack on the health of students, but it offers the best conditions for breeding the bacilli of art…

“Students now are well informed about critical theory, and they are infected by it just as students were infected by modern technique in Malevich’s time. So the question arises, how should students deal with new infections? Two immediate solutions offer themselves. The first is to overcome them, suppress them, ignore them, especially by turning to teachers who do the same; the second is, by logical extension, to leave art and go out into communities to heal the world. Both solutions betray the initial modernist project to live through one’s infections without sanitizing either oneself or the world. And just as obvious, neither has led to the advancement of artistic practice or of its teaching.”

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About sladeoccupation

THE OCCUPATION OF THE SLADE SCHOOL OF FINE ART We believe that the current proposed cuts to university funding threaten the existence of arts and humanities education in England and Wales. It is for this reason that we have made the decision to occupy the Slade School of Art building. We demand that the government provide the same protection for arts and humanities in universities as is provided for the sciences. We vehemently oppose the transformation of the university system into market based model; education should be a public debate, not a private economy. Therefore we the students of the Slade are offering a space for the assembly of all art colleges in England in order to organise non-violent direct action against what we view as an attack by the government on the arts. This is not a virtual exchange, this is a physical assembly. We are demonstrating the value of physical space for art education through the continuation of our day-to-day activity, as well as by inviting other colleges to participate in open events, lectures and workshops. Our occupation is not designed to be disruptive, nor will it engender any damage to the building. Rather, we want to highlight the value of intellectual and cultural exchange within art courses. This is not a boycott, it is an act of support. As well as fully supporting the demands of the existing UCL occupation of the Jeremy Bentham Room, the staff and students of the Slade School of Fine Art demand the following from UCL: A statement from the UCL provost condemning the cuts to arts and humanities courses and stating the intrinsic value of these courses within higher education. A statement from the UCL provost guaranteeing the protection of the Slade’s courses as they are. This means preserving the current staff to student ratio, protecting facilities and space and continuing funding for visiting lecturers. A statement from the UCL provost guaranteeing the survival and continued funding of all other humanities courses within UCL. Free access in and out of the building 24 hours for all students, peers and speakers for the duration of the occupation. Ensure no victimisation or repercussions for anyone participating in the occupation.
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