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Superconversations Day 9: Carlos Amador responds to Luis Camnitzer, "Thinking About Art Thinking"


DAY 9 /// Responding to Luis Camnitzer - Thinking About Art Thinking, by Carlos Amador

Art-Think, Art-Teach

Photograph: Phoenix Indian School Art Department, June 1900

Camnitzer’s Thinking About Art Thinking is a call to renew the thinking of art as the pedagogy of cognition, or the epistemology of art. The thinking of art is the formation of a teaching practicum for art that envisions the educational matrix of the art school as the site for a political epistemics of art. The art school as cognitive training - art as the political epistemics for other modes of thinking and practices. The order of art school, graduation, exhibition, public, artist, critic is the micropolitics of the reiterative and indefatigable reproduction of surplus value and voyeuristic and self-congratulatory marketing that is art education. Assuming that readers will engage Camnitzer, I’ll start with two of the most substantial declarative points:

If art schools operated under an open system, they would not filter admissions with the intention of investing only in the futures of a few. The few are those students who, in fact, will need the least amount of education to make it. They are motivated and ready for autodidactics. In an open system, schools would instead put their energy towards educating those who need it the most; those who seem to be lacking a future. And museums would not be obsessed with the amount of warm bodies passing through their ever-expanding buildings. They would, instead, pay more attention to how many minds may have been warmed during circulation. (Camnitzer 2)

All this makes me prefer to view art not as means of production but as a form of thinking—art thinking, in fact. It makes me see that a textbook is a monologue that transfers information, and that fiction is dialogical because it demands empathy. It’s a situation similar to “languaging,” inasmuch as it makes art—like language—a particular case: something akin to a slice to be analyzed in computerized tomography. Art thinking is much more than art: it is a meta-discipline that is there to help expand the limits of other forms of thinking. Though it’s something as autonomous as logic might be, and though it can be studied as an enclosed entity, its importance lies in what it does to the rest of the acquisition of knowledge. With a little pomposity I like to say that science is a mere subcategory of art. Science is generally bound by logic, sequencing, and experimentation with repeatable and provable results. (Camnitzer 4)

On the cusp of a fortnight of the Venice Biennale, what is occurring there that might push critics to theorize art beyond the economic logic(s) of its market or the putative exhaustion of its social force for critique? Who or what (in the era of machine art) is the innovator of “art thinking” across the Atlantic, at this moment?

For right now, let’s not respond with who or what in the affirmative, but unpack and respond to the piece itself. Let’s open up the space for dialogue with Luis Camnitzer’s “Thinking About Art Thinking,” by reading it through Alain Badiou’s essay “The (Re)turn of Philosophy Itself.”

The first thesis begins with a description of the ossification by reterritorializations that is the history of philosophy.

Thesis 1. Philosophy today is paralyzed by its relation to its own history. This paralysis results from the fact that philosophically examining the history of philosophy, our contemporaries almost all concur to declare that this history has entered the perhaps interminable epoch of its closure… It seeks to be grafted onto established activities: art, poetry, science, political action, psychoanalysis… Or else, philosophy is now nothing but its own history. It becomes its own museum. (Badiou 113)

It’s not my intention to use the quote from Badiou to return to the well-worked waters of the exhaustion of art or the problematics of its social space, but to remind the readers that the logic of reterritorializing art to other “established activities” is the genetic code of this “interminable epoch of its closure.” Perhaps it’s an exaggeration to suggest that the closure of art is ever really possible, but there is certainly the archive of thinkers whose gospel is the insufficiency of the graftable potential of art and its requirement for a new territorial imperative. One could cite Claire Bishop’s rejection of participatory art and relational aesthetics, or Suhail Malik’s call for art’s exit from its contemporary mode, for instance. Art’s paralysis is like philosophy’s paralysis with regards to its own history, as the weight of its historicity is always ready-to-hand, and invocable to serve the prophets of its depletion.

So might not the answer to this depletion be to return to Badiou and argue for art to “break, from within, with historicism,” as Badiou suggests? To achieve this, art must become clever and assertive and must work “[t]o forget history—this at first means to make decisions of thinking without returning to a supposed historical sense prescribed by these decisions. It is a question of breaking with historicism to enter, as someone like Descartes or Spinoza did, into an autonomous legitimating of discourse.” (Badiou 115)

So what’s really on the table for Camnitzer, is the capacity for art to be an autonomous, auto-legitimating practice of thought and practice that will form the ground for the political epistemics towards a “socialism of creation,” grounded in the epistemic richness of art thinking:

[Science] presumes that there is something knowable out there that can be instrumentalized and represented. It doesn’t matter if it is in what in science is called Mode 1, being propositional, or Mode 2, being interventionist. art is all of that, plus the opposite. It stays in both modes simultaneously. It creates itself while it allows the play with taxonomies, the making of illegal and subversive connections, the creation of alternative systems of order, the defiance of known systems, and the critical thinking and feeling of everything. More than any other means of speculation it allows us to travel back and forth seamlessly from our subjective reality to consensus and possible but unreachable wholeness. It allows a mix of the megalomaniacal delirium of unbound imagination with the humbleness of individual irrelevance. (Camnitzer 5)

Here art thinking can appear as an historical invariant that allows for the imagining of a new phase for art education as epistemic politics coordinated along the pathways that travel from ‘consensus’ to ‘unreachable wholeness.’ Or to work with Boris Groys’ concept of the “new” as a form of being alive that powers the renovation of the logics of musealisation, the readers can begin to imagine a form of art education that renovates and innovates along the coordinates of life and the decision to accelerate the processes inherent in the institutional frames of the art world. I find it quite logical that Luis Camnitzer - arguably Latin America’s most prolific thinker on conceptual art and art theory - promotes an affirmation of the pedagogical power of art education under the guidance of a political epistemics.

My questions then, are as follows:

  • How do we achieve this politically and epistemically-charged pedagogical power in the era of the neoliberal university?

  • Is the horizon of political epistemics and education already darkened by the slow death of state education?

  • Can Camnitzer’s Art Thinking work with contemporary movements - accelerationism, for instance - to imagine a concrete academic or para-academic intervention?

Works Cited

Badiou, Alain, Manifesto for Philosophy: Followed by Two Essays: “The (re)turn of Philosophy Itself” and “Definition of Philosophy” Albany, NY: State U of New York, 1999. Print.

Carlos M. Amador teaches courses in Latin American Literature and Philosophy at Michigan Technological University.


A quick Reply @carlosamador, first thing we can do is to start using the word I coined a few months ago: epistopolitics, which instead of restating Foucault’s position about knowledge and power, ie knowledge is political is to how how truth or more precisely the production of knowledge can only be emancipatory if the trajectory of its “politicality”, or how it will be utilized to change or maintain the balance of power is also emancipatory. Epistopolitics makes it explicit that truth or knowledge by itself is not emancipatory if not successfully put in emancipatory use.


"…there have been always true thoughts in him…which only need to be awakened into knowledge…his soul must have always possessed this knowledge…’’ Socrates, from the Platonic dialogue Meno

Art may well have become so abstract that it cannot be taught. Traditionally, art was grounded in the acquisition of craft skills. Perhaps the real obstacles to developing a culture that is appreciative of art are meaningless academic pedagogy, the preservation of artifact rather than conservation of culture practiced by our contemporary museum culture, and the failure to develop collaborative craft skills as the essential empirical basis for producing “works of art” in the first place.


Thanks, Mo for that contribution. I definitely see the need to foreground the political and not merely assert the emancipatory dimension of so-called new epistemologies. In a way too, I think that epistemopolitics might open up the space for communication and debate across lines–for instance Nitzan, Bichler and Kliman might reconcile their debate along the coordinates of a politicized way of knowing. New rationalisms might encounter the embodied, border gnosis of Walter Mignolo and Maldonado-Torres and configure a space of mutual rebelllious drive. Foreground the Episteme in epistemopolitics-which contains the greek prepositional root of after in the sense of knowing’s temporality and epistolé (letter or mail) as having received–really pushes this to the fore.
Ideological critiques to accelerationism definitely share this epistemopolitical inclination.

I welcome it.


@carlosamador as the originator, i give myself the librrty to disregard the etymological conversions and drop the necessary letters and call it epistopolitics :slight_smile:


Now that is the ontology of the art work! :smile:


We can think within the box, outside the box, behind the box, or refuse to open the box or close it.

I think Dr. Amador brings up up compelling issues that need to be addressed because the neo-liberal university, in fact, and it should be no contest, is a not the most optimal avenue for an art education to be achieved.

All artists working in any medium, are themselves works-in-progress, always-already even before charcoal hits the page or text manifests digitally in MS Word through the typing of words.

I’d like to think of this inability to pinpoint where we are at, in terms of where art is, or what it is, should be called a kind of transdimensional issue. Why? By transdimensional, I simply mean the academy, nor artists themselves have a solid epistemic nor reliably canonical frame of reference on which to stand.yet.

An MFA program, for example, in many respects is supposed “to open doors,” bu there is difference between the art market, connections, networking, and actual “Art Thinking” as described by Luis Camnitzer.

Does it makes sense to send people who know already how create “the best art” or are “the best” at art to school for art? Why should they even go to school then? Should it not be otherwise–that those who do not know how how to make the best should go to school for it ? Think about it. It comes with a price.

One must ask themselves, however, a much more naked question: how are we, as a creature, to be with art? What good is it for us, and also does it bring us closer to what we wish to see or what we wish to not see? To sense of our own confinement? To sense freedoms? Freedom, as Kant explicated positively, is coextensive with the self.

Here, however, we are talking about state education ending and a new era dawns, and freedom in art, in contemplating its meaning in “art thinking” or, if you want, in thinking about art as way of beginning to start to think at all.

Maybe, thought does not even really happen until there is a object to which thought is attached, through which meaning is generated, by which we can levy or allow to rise,heavy or light that meaning, held up on one side of the scales of Final Judgment against the weight of the Feather of Truth.

What if all the academese–that this or another—that we spout is nothing but a horror show compared to what the artist is attempting to convey? I think critics of the neoliberal university, both within it, and outside it, should be listening to artists more, rather than merely staring at them, and/or objectifying them. I am not talking about willfully aligning with the intended purposes of the artist’s vision. What I think should be considered is the re-ability to see after one has not seen, and re-ability to hear after one has not heard, as if for eons one has not seen or heard, as if no one ever knew, as if no one really understood what art is for the mind of the creator of any given work of art.

It is not creativity alone that should mystify us, nor any of its ideological underpinnings, or any matrix or set of unruly coordinates upon which pieces or fragments of what can be known are situated.

Perhaps, art is not the antecedent, condition or consequence of our experience, but a prerequisite for knowledge.

What I see is a cubism of sorts taking place in the arena deciphering what the neoliberal university is really for other than created informed consumers who from a compare/contrast structure can choose between produce A and B and also tell you why, the reasoning behind their decision;, and more specifically, (and believe me, I loathe that I just used the word “cubism” this way,: however, we are living in a time where art functions on many levels both cognitively, spatio-temporally, politically, as well as epistemically it might as well be a hybrid of two ideas stitched to a image colored lilac, yet has an extra branch or arm growing out from underneath it that does have rhyme or reason for being there, and is not so much the tangling up of dimensions, but inability to see the seams or decision not to care why art itself is not exactly an academic exercise, nor a means to arrive at an academic exercise.

Before their essays, teachers picked up sand, wrote on it often to elucidate the idea of change and transience.

The slow death of of state education is actually a transformation from a site of “memorized skill sets and creative technologies” dictated by an occasional expert, into something more ideologically-driven, neoliberal bastion for global agendas, wherein thought is made simple in an effort for it to spread, which has lead many artists to thwart liberal arts or other-non-engineering undergraduate degrees to occupy a free-floating space betwixt theory and practice, between academia and actual creation, between commercialism and alienated inanity (obscurity), and always, always in exile within the society that does so desperately want art to be part of their lives, yet cannot pin-point the reason for why that is the case. Yes, we want to be entertained and marvel of human ingenuity. Yes, we can appreciate things like “craft” and “skill,” etc. Yet “art thinking” is something much more.

Art-thinking requires what I would call a cubo-labyrinthine transdimensionalism: an ease of mobility to get through the ideological maze by way of leaping from one dimension or sphere of thought to another in order to elucidate how the whole or system works. In a way, "Art thinking’ helps us understand the features of art, as if we were traveling through a worm-hole, and each worm-hole is just a door within the labyrinth created to serve as an automatic exit to the labyrinth, which can perhaps lead to fresh dimension of thought and/or lead to new (perhaps less obtuse) discourse (present company included).

Here are some “cubo-labyrinthine transdimenisionalist” axioms to consider if one can conceive of a cubist subjectivity within a meritocratic maze, where one’s mobility is contingent on what one thinks, and not on what one owns or has.

a) The game of creative technology is a game of politics; not for one, but for a multitude.

b) 21st century alienation does not come within, it comes through without, as a result of the phantasms associated within conceiving the multitude.

c) Social relations in regards to creative technology are often framed as “cultural events” and delegate bourgeois fads without us knowing why. Some fads are born from critical theory, Frankfurt School, say, or all the way up to Deleuze, even Badiou. This fad looping effect, much like a poetic line “turns” constantly," does not help. It should indicate to us that French theory is greater than its own literature (or rather has become that way), and that the Cartesian cogito is the being qua being, the subject to be understood as the displaced space of low-brow subjective gossip.

How did this happen?

Because “cultural elites” of any stripe, in literature, music, painting, by definition, occupy a a space high on the “totem pole.” Is that the most wisest way to know what art is, to understand art? For some expert high on a totem pole to tell us what it is? (and subsequently, splatter its meaning with kerosene, light a match, burn it away)

What about artists outside academic approval?

d) The proletarian artist is often shunned or ridiculed by his contemporaries, in spite the creative technology found his or her art’s own art, sinks to the bottom of the sea for a reason (an ideological reason). But the end has not yet arrived.

What if MFA programs of the past, were simply a way of throwing the gauntlet down, incensing Beauty to anger? What if at the bottom of the sea, proletarian artists are, in fact, free in a sense: they continue to create flotsam (their art) and jetsam (their own alienated selves), but their artistic vision and self matures enough to produce a real work of art? Is that a contradiction because art is is by definition, “artifice,” (fake), as opposed to the actual. (Plato), three steps away from the idea?

We are told by the great teachers in American creative writing programs: forget yourself and write. Don’t worry just write. Yet, I could easily just write the word “the” over and over again, not only filling up pages, therefore not worrying at all, and just writing. Hence, art as taught creative technology is a fake endeavor about learning how to make things fake (four steps removed from the idea, after mimesis)

But is the material mobile?
Does it move?
Is it disturbing? In some sense or not at all?
Is the work complex?
Is there affectation at some level?
Perhaps. all these things, or none or some.

How are we to “take” or understand participatory art or art that involves the observer or the audience itself, if all our lives we brought up believing in the arm’s length space litmus threshold for intimacy? What is participatory art not doing except challenging that notion? Open a space for interaction? Yet why is there a need for this? Is there a schismatic
fractured self, that wants to be whole again. Are we driving for some self=reflexive, sudden politically charged moment or Utopian moment of mindfulness. The New Age explanations and justifications run ad infinitum (a fad that forces you to enjoy your Utopian moment or else–which creates a disturbance or awkward social space where one’s left wondering what we are supposed to understand because one has not been paying attention)

so now then e) Fully immersed in the the abyss of literary restraint (upon which Franz Kafka proposed an ice-pick to used to release the liquidity of meaning), flotsam and jetsam subsists with the “art thinking’s” help, that is, by allowing art to retain its burning desire to come to the surface, where art and self might launch into the air, having had cracked ice, through the frozen sea, ascended to the surface where “the culture elite” are fishing—not hidden from sight any longer; for they are on vacation; they have tackle-boxes; and bait, that is critical theory books…and there is artist who happens to evoke imagery or text or an experience will bury himself and herself in a critical theory compendium, about that same experience, good, bad, or ugly to extract one single “artistic thought”.

f) There are reason why a book is never finished. Because it’s ready to be re-read. Some of the time, it the writer’s fault that one must re-read, other times to the benefit of both the reader and the writer. The majority of the time, that is the case. Yet when a critic’s library, packed to the brim, with highest caliber or echelon of literary tastes, is not fully read, but is only half-read or quarter-read, then what kind of expert are they. If they have never created, why are they playing zookeeper?

Both Camnitzer and Badiou are right in calling for or conjuring a thought paradigm that questions not only arts place in the world, but the philosophy of art, so that there in is, in fact, dialogue and intimacy between creator/the artist and the audience, the laymen, who engages with art or desire, too, to use “Art Thinking” to apprehend aesthetic experiences.

The only obligation that an artists have to prove to themselves is answer the question: did I fully complete, and even fulfill or fully realize that which before was only scraps or shards of “art-thinking”, as a prerequisite for knowledge?

g) As such, then, “creative technology” is not executed by artists, alone, out freedom, but is, in fact, guided by the cultural producers of “intellectual property,” which constantly attempts to revolutionize the modes of production, therefore making art and desire for art worthy of a topic to be studied, which is to be expected, and demanded by the public sector, non-profit sector, if not wholly acceptable by the masses, which are, like something out of Roman Emperor’s Caligula’s political purges, eager to critique art in an effort to belittle it.

h) Because of the death of state education and movement into this fluctuating predicament I have called cubo-labyrinthine transdimensionalism, the engineers of “creative technologies” have choices:

  1. they can continue and do heed the warning of popular philosophers, go on and play out the role of the bourgeois in the context “of craft”, as they have done in the past,

or 2) artists can subvert this broken hermeneutic paradigm’s demand for an aesthetic revolution as a way out where the public’s taste is the selfsame critique for its wanting to be “cultural” in the first place.

Then there is another way to see it, number 3) sell out, write to the market, work for “the Man” out of fear of losing money or being destitute or bankrupt in the future (and perhaps not entering the neoliberal university for an MFA degree and acquiring its perks? Amenities? Favors? Therefore…join the ranks of the enemy of art art even).

The third option happens often.

i) Those who do not know how to make the best art in school, however, can learn skills that could lead to art outside of school.There are many reasons to not embrace “art thinking.” Too many, in fact, and might and most likely will remain within the territory of academic constructions, not an actual school of art, even if such an art is only fledgling.

Consequently, public appeal does not warrant the status of a meaningful art. Whether by image or text or animation or drama or music, it is the public that should be stirred to the utmost core of their meaning; they should be disturbed without knowing they are stirred; puffed up without knowing they are puffed up; taught without knowing what,why, and how they know-----otherwise any artist who remembers what freedom was like, that is, of a pre-911 world, will lose his or her visions, strategic directions, that is, as the idea of an emancipation “struggling artist” by “hitting the jackpot” melts into thin air, alienated as all artists are from without, that is, from knowing rejection and deprivation as much as they do, not on their own, only but inspired by individuals within the the masses who fall for gimmicks and clever tricks or snappy turns of phrase, or worse to enlighten them about nothing.

The mere collecting of books, and worship beauty on the side for its own sake—not because they want to read or so not wish to find beauty, but because the bourgeois invites them, too, hatred, if not total dismissal of an un-investigated art work; however, erudite or naive it is to accept art as a means to an end. Those who balk would rather have a means to re-visit the vacation of an artist’s mind, or fully embrace the commercial value of a work of art for its “beach read” feel, which as a cultural phenomena does not tear down the foundations of our slumber and does not help us see the marginalized voices, the non-bourgeoisie, even unto the Third World, as such through a world a window by which one sees ourselves inwardly, a world whole entire, famished and brittle, lending us to no shock when we do not gasp or turn away. Mirror splattered with blood, as the hyenas’ sunk jaws in the one calves and thighs, shook off a piece of meat and it scurried away as quickly as it could.
The future of art is not as grim as it might appear.

Some still seek life and light in order to illuminate. It comes through the cracks of darkness, the light, its is the reason there is something behind, beyond the darkness. A world of light, perhaps. It’s been that long, you should know better. Light does exist. We just choose to shun it or wish it’d go away.

Any world in addition to this one, which makes us wonder if we are indeed comprised of DNA alone, or the stardust, give us pause: for to live is to create. There are not lies, only excuses; there are not games, only the scalpel taking you under it----you are of the imagination. Time! There many plenty of examples of examples of aesthetic perfection which are, in retrospect marked by the principles of breaking from theory altogether, and letting art breathe without the the iron lung on wheels in order to guide our every breath.

Let us convince the children of future and the teenagers too that such a thing as art exists, not only for the badgering fools highest in the clouds, but let the younger generations know not to be like them, that is, solely critics who abide solely by the neo-liberalist box, and only see as they are told or wish they could see, as if they are wearing art around the crown of their own skull, and their eyes look outward into the world, completely comprised of seeking eyes for that hunger to enter worlds unknown to them. if they did not listen to what artists are attempting to convey.

Listen: what are artists trying to say? To whom do you think they speak? What is the mode of enunciation? Today, tonight even, or more, even in those feverish times that have yet to come?

I’d like to think everyone gets a chance at art-thinking, even if the bitterness of its medicine does not alleviate the problems of a world that is blind to itself, functioning seemingly along the tenets of the amorality of nature.

What is more powerful? An assertion or a negation?
I think rejecting participatory art is good start.
We encounter art always-already.
The purpose of any good action is best achieved when it’s point is pointless, and its supposed cry ineffable.


Why craft skills though? Is this not an image of art that has anti-technological implications? I can appreciate the point to a point, but to say “meaningless academic pedagogy” seems a bit lacking.


I think to answer the question of whether “the horizon of political epistemics and education [is] already darkened by the slow death of state education?” one has to raise ontopolitical questions about the unparalled education the capitalist state is currently providing now, as at almost no other time in its history, about its own emerging ontology. By committing material institutional suicide, right before our eyes, we are certainly receiving a particularly intense form of state education.


“Let none without geometry enter here…” I have been reading every entry in this little thought experiment carefully, hoping that it would eventually rise above the sophomoric. Pretentious, mis-spelled, polysyllabic rambling does not constitute a valid argument.
Musicians in the academic sphere are required to exhibit proficiency with their chosen instrument, and are often expected to collaborate with other musicians. There’s no faking that sort of skill.
In the visual arts (architecture very much included) the bar is now so much lower, if it exists at all, and the focus has shifted to the predominance of the individual ego.
Look, for instance, at DaVinci’s notebooks, or Cennini, or de Honnecourt (or look at the paintings and sculptures of the Renaissance, or the romanesque and gothic buildings themselves) Until the mid-20th c. artists (architects included) have had to learn craft skills empirically in order to exist as artists. Do we just throw all that away? Really?


That seems to be the case. as far as state education goes—yes, right before our eyes. And yet, incidentally suicide as such is an institution.too, so very much part of the history of all the arts as it was in Soviet Russia certainly.


This is a particular good reframing of the question of the state and para-states providing education through a particular set of ontic productions–I’m hesistant to use the term ontological in order to preserve a certain noumenal content that resists deployment by capital, if only in the imaginary sense. And, yeah, in this sense I’m a Platonist or a weird Kantian; I’ll admit to it and defend it later. :smiley: Those ontic productions being anything from paramilitary violence and biopolitical administrations of water and alimentation to the production and support of art works and biennials in order to “educate” the population on the state.

Here, I think, is where ontopolitical insights and epistemopolitics as a method (later developments in thought can certainly reframes insight and method, and I’m not committed to this framing, per se) can form a possible accelerationist hermeneutic for this “intense form of state education.” We must accelerate the relation between cognition and production. I’ll further develop this point later, but for now, I’d like to suggest that the onto and episteme aren’t too far apart.


@carlosamador accelerationist hermeneutic, if one can claim that such a thing exist, is made up of intervention, construction and redirection much more than than interpretation, understanding and reflection.


I think that’s precisely the hope of Camnitzer in this article–Art education as art intervention, construction, and redirection. And as we’ve always thought, the core of accelerationism is mobilization and activation of forces, as you suggest. We MUST instrumentalize the infinitive “to accelerate.”


I enjoyed reading your response to Camninzer’s piece Carlos. The thinking about thinking about thinking about art just about brings one back to the art itself, not that this is a goal or final and privileged position, but a link in a process that can qualify perhaps even objectify an epistopolitics outside of its own conflating analysis. One passage in Camnizer’s piece stands out for me:
“Forcing the teaching of content in absence of a theory that helps remove wasteful hesitations during autodidactic learning is a form of perverse censorship. Critique sessions try to address this issue, but how much are critiques examined? What do they address? How deeply do they reach into that area between consciousness and the unconscious? Critiques, unfortunately, are mostly part of the finishing school of the manners type.”
As an educator myself I have often felt the lack of critique of the critique format itself. Mimetic of open inquiry and the hopefully free discourse discovered therein, ( the idealized Greek model) in actual practice the critique is a heavily- encoded epistemological morass that can quash the open inquiry it intends to promote. I have often reflected upon how this functions in my own classes and strategies for avoiding such. Student-led critiques is one way to avoid the question of the teacher universalizing and offering a summarily epistopolitic of the ad-hoc knowledge produced. Another strategy is to focus on making processes ( aka craft) as entry-point into a quotidian phenomenology that might be more self-evident than a theorized and philosophically determined phenomenology. Both of these approaches seem to hearken back to Gropius, but perhaps valorizing the autodidactic more and diminishing the model of the master/journey wo-man. A possible way to avoid simply perpetuating ideologicaly repressive representations of theory and practice in the " era of the neoliberal university" is to directly address the model of a supposedly open-ended enquiry with an underdetermined epistopolitics that privileges the autodidact practice.


I find Luis Camnitzer’s description of art thinking to be very similar to the standard mission statement of art schools on critical thinking. I believe RISD calls it critical making, by way of John Maeda, who’s now in venture capital I think. Camnitzer’s indictment of their failure to achieve that goal is needed. But, his suggested redress is too muddled to be useful, and is of a type with the self-defense of art schools. The question of art pedagogy cuts to the heart of pedagogy in general—how can we teach others to learn by themselves?—and requires referral to the substantive work that’s been already done.

I understand that there’s one idea of craft which is ant-technological (I studied carpentry briefly, and uh… different strokes for different folks, but a-lot of touching sanded surfaces and oohing), but an expanded definition of technics (which is the only sound one, since it would be anti-technological to define tech as having to do with its material components, for example, silicon or data, rather than as procedures and processes) to me seems to obviously include both microprocessors and lathe-turned bowls.

My first prescription is for a turn from art thinking to artfulness. Think of Nicholas of Cusa’s dialogue on the capacity for creation (creativity) with a spoonmaker:

Layperson: For the power of conceiving is called a power because of an aptitude that it has from creation; but it is called a conception because of an imitating, since it imitates matter or form in that it mentally grasps in the material mode or in the formal mode, or both. […]

Philosopher: I am surprised that a conception can be called an understanding.

The spoon-maker is creative insofar as they organize and manipulate their environment (which is not a non-violent process, since it involves cutting and shaping) into functions that didn’t exist before: the spoon as a physical object with a conceptual load. Nicholas ultimately grounds the possibility of creation in the apprehension of divine images, so that’s not feasible for us: the challenge (which I’m not up to) is to find the possibility for construction without a guarantee by a higher-up or greater power, like God or Inspiration. I forget where I picked this up (was it William Wimsatt in Re-engineering Philosophy?) but engineering is a most thorough form of anti-foundationalism. Take any form of bridge-building, for example: if there aren’t foundations, you have to build the foundations; and if you have to build foundations, there aren’t foundations (at least in the sense of a permanent naturalized “ground”.

My second prescription, beyond a turn toward artfulness, is for one towards populism. Besides para-academic institutions like the New Centre, the most important work for the efficacy of art is obviously going to take place in state schools, community colleges, and continuing education programs (i.e. not in the Ivies, even if they’re connected). I disagree with Bishop’s critique of participatory art; the problem isn’t with participatory art, it’s with all the participatory artwork that’s been made, which is basically false participation.

Part of the turn towards populism is a totally thorough debunking of meritocracy. There is no philosophical justification for meritocracy that holds water. People’s capabilities do not entitle them to anything. This is the horrific perspective which implies that black men with university degrees should be exempted from police brutality, when the degree is obviously irrelevant. I only use that example to stress that it often shows up in supposedly progressive contexts. I am committed to people deserving compensation for their labor, but I don’t know if I would say they do so metaphysically, perhaps only contractually. This is part of a question about the Labor Theory of Value that I’m unequipped to handle @PERCEPTICON, especially in light of alternate power-based theories of value @DADABASE

It is imperative that we stop calling artworks or practices or artists “good” or “bad” in the abstract sense of quality. We can make moral judgments, but those require functional understandings: “good/bad for ____” That is, we should reorient the classic questions, “What, How and for Whom?” (as in the important Croatian curatorial collective’s name, WHW) from critique to construction, towards “For What?” That what may happen to be legitimizing existing interests, it may be forming new hegemonic subjectivities, or it may be organizing around single-issue politics, etc.

It’s well known that MoMA’s best department is Education.

Tom makes some good suggestions about best practices, and there are more to be learned of from the legacies of George Lakey and Septima Poinsette Clark in the context of popular education as a form of resistance in a state committed to popular ignorance like the USA. We could also look to I.A. Kairov’s work on formalizing the Soviet system, or Yang Xianjiang’s early essays, for theories of how mass literacy could take place with more infrastructural support. The project of simplification of Chinese and the stabilization of pinyin by Zhou Youguang, for example, is one of the great conceptual labors of the 20th century.

On a related note, @bostonisland, I think that you are failing to recognize that art schools do produce extremely sophisticated, skilled workers. However the main skill they have is manipulating rhetoric and discourse, skills more related to marketing or communications, than to say, moving oil paint. I would say that those are skills, or even crafts in the most nostalgic sense. I think they are important skills. I think that more stress should be laid on a complex, layered understanding of ethics, and that people should be forced to be cognizant of exactly what skills they’re acquiring and exercising, and, as a synthesis of both, they should have a more clear social understanding of exactly who they want to be accountable to and why those people.

Also, there has been some shade thrown about finishing schools. I want to stress that insofar as finishing schools produce ethical norms and forms of social behavior, they’re powerful and important institutions. I’m not advocating for classism, but I am advocating for civics, and it’s stupid to think that manners are somehow only the preserve of one group, even if they are often invoked (and this is the key, invoked in a rude way) to police those boundaries. And in terms of desirable social norms, I do believe that includes napkin-folding, or more generally, for example, hospitality.


My reply is directed to the original article. Mr. Camnitzer, You might find some of the things that you are missing in the art world and in art education precisely there where you want not to look. Reading “Thinking about art thinking” (as a craftsperson, specifically in contemporary jewerly art) was hard when encountering an oversimplified use of the term “craft”. It is sobering to still find within the visual arts an outdated perception of craft practice as something that can be demeaned and degraded to a place of undesirability. “Teaching craft is easy”, I beg to differ, it took a medieval goldsmith an average of 12-17 years to be eligible to a master´s status. Most importantly, I find this stance represents a great loss for the art world. Qualities such as an “open system focused on improving communal creativity and communication” and " an environment of shared and non-competitive creativity" are essential elements of both craft´s traditional past, as described by Richard Sennet in his book The Craftsman, as well as of the atmosphere of current revitalized craft practices —specifically the development of contemporary craft arts since the second half of the twentieth century and their further achievements during this twenty-first century— and their educational proposals in many schools throughout Europe, Asia, Australia, South America… Additionally, brace yourselves, craft practices in the 21st century are oriented towards reflective and critical thinking, who would have thought that! There might be “bad art” and “bad craft” or “lazy art” and “lazy craft” (might), but bad art is not craft, not even “bad craft”. There is much to be gained from giving the divide between art and craft a much needed rest, and focusing on new approaches and meeting points to both of these universes.