Artist and Blogger Dennis Hollingsworth just visited Claremont Graduate School to talk with students. He was struck by their longing for professional assurances about life after school and questions about theory. The full post is really a two parter: 1) Comment on Grad School 2) A History of Theory (sort of). His message to young students is a timeless one about survival, how there is no magic ticket for success:
"There is a problem with the specter of the trade school model that is
ushered in when an art school, especially a graduate level art school
begins to address the problem of professional survival. There can be no
guarantee for success after art school, and any advice that begins to
be systematically structured towards this end enters the slippery slope
of vocational empty promises. Upper level art education is the epitome
of the ivory tower, a veritable Magister Ludi
where any guarantee of the popular success of the real world
application of such received wisdom is questionable. (It is significant
here that the MFA degree is a terminal degree, a problematic
wrinkle towards a subsequent career within academia proper.) Anyone who
presents a how-to formula for success after art school should be
regarded with extreme suspicion."
I loved grad school, but I agree with Dennis that it is not like getting a professional degree. Success depends on personal persistence, particularly in the art world. The mindset that graduates can walk into a stable lifestyle right after art school is a myth that needs to be cleared.
But the more significant part of Dennis’ post is his musings about Theory, its role over the last two decades, and where we stand now. It is heavy reading, but worth it. I am not even sure how to summarize, but here is the intro wet your appetite:
The high point of Critical Theory
(a Wikipedia link, Zing!) was in the late 80’s, it has been periodized.
It was necessary and indispensible for that time, but that was then and
this is now. However, it’s important for students to immerse themselves
in Critical Theory among other idea systems. It is vital to do so.