The Naked School
White Cube. Digital Collage / Maryland Institute College of Art. 2020
All MFAs end with a thesis. In Art Schools we usually call a final exhibition of art, design, or illustration projects a Thesis Show. However, this event is not truly a thesis, nor is it entirely an exhibition. To complicate matters, I want to present this essay as a “thesis” insofar as it is a proposition, argued and justified even when it has no proof. The Naked School is thus a proposal, put forth by the architectural metaphor of a divested building, for an imagined learning space that aims to bring education closer to the aesthetic politics of contemporary practice and the public sphere. It is a text whose ideas I began drafting during my time at the Maryland Institute College of Art, which for me was a surprising new experience. I use the word “surprising” because it is a term that entertains both wonder and disappointment. These sentiments have stimulated me to generate a text on art and education that allows me to explore my interest in the synthesis of these two fields, while also probing the relevance of these intersections in the areas of artistic social practices and participatory art. This is the crux of my work, though I don’t pretend to propose this text as a work of art, nor do I intend to inhabit the field of institutional critique.
The works produced during my two years of schooling have been developed outside of the school walls by dialoguing with its students and with other communities and territories outside the institution. Enterrar las banderas en el mar, Here We Are, Trigger, and Monumentos Horizontales are some of these projects realized between 2018 and 2020. They allowed me to bind my concerns with form as education to the premises of the Naked School. This School is the proposal of a building without walls which aims to bring artistic production closer to the social and political contexts that surround them; an approach to reality that is founded on a learning structure capable of stimulating socio-aesthetic practices inside and outside the white cube of exhibition spaces. This text situates itself against the tendency of art schools to replicate the institutional and market-driven norms of the art world. I would argue that while art schools strive to become exhibitionary models for traditional museums and galleries, contemporary museums today seek to become schools themselves by engaging the audience with educational projects that imply a radical engagement with public space and larger audiences. From within this logic, my aim is to explore the contradiction of a self-absorbed educational system and an increasingly expansive “exhibitionary complex.”
These ideas are proposed from my perspective as an MFA student in the US but they are articulated vis-à-vis certain Latin American references on experimental pedagogical projects. These, in turn, are contrasted to my experience as a student and professor at the architecture school of the Central University of Venezuela. Finally, the text ends in the present, pondering on the destiny of schools and museums as the world is consumed by a global pandemic.
Essay available in a DOWNLOADABLE PDF
Miguel Braceli, Class of 2020.