Young Art Workers
Through our work in UKK, Young Art Workers, it has become clear for us that it is the same issues that causes us to fight for the rights of cultural workers and struggle to eliminate oppression by institutional structures in society as those who make us fight the institutionalisation of knowledge and strive to secure freedom in education. Education is first and foremost about obtaining, sharing and challenging knowledge, and it is a pressing case for UKK to advocate that art and art education are critical spheres that play an important role in the construction of a common society. Therefore, we work not only for quality within our education system, but also to secure the rights of students to pursue their education free from the influence of political or economic agendas.
UKK has engaged in problematics surrounding art and education from the time that the Bologna structures were starting to sift into the Danish educational system. We have recently fought successfully to protect the opportunity that public schools around the country can obtain state funding to work with artists and thereby introduce their students to art un-influenced by their geographical access to museums or socioeconomic backgrounds; factors that still today affects whether one gets introduced to visual art. We have participated in international symposiums, a biennale, email-correspondences, and debates that were all reflecting critically on the development in art education. We wish to take this opportunity to assess where these investigations leave us today.
Generally, UKK believes that art education is a crucial factor in shaping artists and it is, therefore, vital to keep a critical awareness of how this formal knowledge is transmitted: in what environment, for whom, from whom, to whom, by what means and for what purpose. These power structures of knowledge transmission are in play nationally and internationally, but as a local organisation UKK focus its work in and on Denmark, nevertheless being aware of the international situation. We follow the present educational debate within the art world expressed not only top-down in an increasing academicism, but also from below in new models for educational experiments, exhibitions, self organised initiatives, art schools, and an ever expanding volume of conferences and symposiums, lectures etc.
One of the largest structural changes is the increasing academicism of the art world, a change that also takes place on a local level. The University of Copenhagen and the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts have during the past years changed their policies and are now accepting artists as PhD students. Only a few months ago, the first practice-based PhD was completed in Denmark, a practice that has been going on in other Scandinavian countries for decades. However, UKK insist that it is important to question the international trends, where more and more formal education is needed, to the extent where a PhD-degree becomes necessary in order to teach at art academies, and where institutions educate PhDs primarily to obtain funding and recognition for the institution. Artistic and critical practice is for most an ongoing phase of research, regardless of whether one obtains institutional approval or not.
Many art academies internationally have absorbed the neoliberal tendencies in society and their focus is on shaping the artist for a professional career within the gallery system, instead of being a site for conflict and exploration. The misunderstood importance of the market is evident with the current government in Denmark, where we are experiencing that art and culture has to justify itself in terms of its creative use in the private market and as a national branding tool. This focus on the utilitarian purpose of art is extremely dangerous if we want to maintain criticality and a freedom in art education as well as in the production of art, exhibitions, theory etc.
Last year we saw several outbursts of demonstrations and protest throughout Europe due to cuts in staff and increased tuition fees at universities and academies in Hamburg, Vienna and Venice. We support these student manifestations and repeat that within art education there has to be space for visions and practices to shape themselves that are not ruled by the market, whether it being the market of galleries, the market of national branding, the private market or the market of art education itself.
UKK recognize the important potential, but also the challenges in education, and will continue to work for:
-freedom in education
-a higher sense of self-criticality in art history and theory.
-experiments with art education in academies and universities
-an accept of artistic and critical practice as an ongoing research that does not need institutional approval
-instrumentalisation of art education
-a utilitarian approach to art education