After completing my MA in Fine Art in October 2021 I decided to focus my attention on both a study of the philosophy of education as well as reading some classics of literature. However, I was recently invited to a symposium in Fine Art that was to be held in the same institution where I had completed my MA. I decided that it would be a of good idea to accept the invitation. And so, on Monday 23rd May I had the well-nigh indescribable experience of attending the MA Fine Art symposium in UCA Farnham. (It was part of the MA course requirement for all the MA students who were pursuing the MA in Fine Art.)
It was indescribable because, whilst it successfully rekindled my sense of surprise and pleasure at encountering the strange conventions, performances and manifestations of advanced art, it also evoked for me a complex flow of disparate emotions: these ranged from regret to resentment, from feelings of loss and disappointment to disturbance. (I was also the only male present.) The audience in the room numbered 10 (including me.)
Of the symposium itself, five female students presented; one was English, one was Taiwanese, one was Chinese, one was from Chinese Hong Kong and one was Japanese. Each student had organised their presentation under a heading. They were as follows: ‘Glitch Me: An Exploration of Sexual Escapism, Literature & the Digital Self’; ‘Journey into Nature’; ‘Life Journey’; ‘Feminism and Social Relations’ and, ‘To the Intersection of the Line: An Exploration of Identity and Manazashi’.
I made notes during each presentation even though I could barely make sense of what was being said; none of the presentations was particularly straightforward. There was the de rigeur addition of ‘ideas’, ‘quotes’ and the occasional piece of abstruse theory to the visual entities that were chosen to be shown; as usual, the audience displayed a certain reticence towards saying anything once the presentations were over. I asked some questions but I am not sure that they were either understood or welcomed. The work looked pretty good – but I am used to things looking digitally ‘good’ when they are presented in a cinema and on a large screen. However, some of the questions and issues that the artists were pursuing were really worthwhile. There was, unsurprisingly, a recurring theme to do with gender and identity. (Whilst no one named it – ‘sex’ crackled, like electricity, around the edges …)
Overall, I thought the depth of thinking and the innovative ways of manifesting works of art shown by the five different presenter/artists went someway towards doing justice to an MA in Fine Art.
The gap between words and things remained as vast and unbridgeable as ever – and, in certain respects, contemporary Fine Art remains intrinsically if charmingly obscure; it reflects an adherence to the forms of art defined by the conventions of the contemporary ‘look.’ There is, as one established artist put it, a ‘sami-ness’ to the large amounts of whatever it is that falls into the category ‘Advanced’ Fine Art. (The symposium illustrated why I would have enjoyed my MA course far more and would have derived far more benefit from it if I had experimented more. The constant sense of being assessed, judged and evaluated compromised, for me, the whole, experience.)
In addition to the symposium I also twice – in the last few weeks – visited the dedicated studio spaces in which I began my studies for the MA in Fine Art. But, as I entered the actual campus I felt a strange frisson of anxiety – and a definite sense of the unheimlich. (Older people, like me – and who look like me – don’t really belong. ‘Advanced’ Fine Art culture is exclusionary.) On both occasions the original spaces were deserted. Those parts which appear to be allocated to the current students were almost without content. There is a kind of absence of presence. However, one or two students were making good use of their studio space and, in a way, it was (and is) very revealing to see the ‘back-stage’ of their work.
Since the course, I have been cross with myself for having been far too concerned with the assessments and the evaluations. I enjoyed the recent symposium precisely because a majority of the artists were exploring personally significant ideas, basic or difficult questions and were ‘trying things out’. One of them had made a work in relation to the sentence, ‘When I see me.’ Her art had a clear and consistent emphasis on her (and other’s) gendered identity. I liked this. I responded to her by saying: ‘Well, when I see me, I see deterioration.’ I then invited her to imagine what the opposite male sex might be inclined to say in response to the words, ‘When I see me.’ (I don’t think the audience approved of this – I just had a feeling that they did not.)
Since the MA course I have also been establishing proper foundations for serious thinking about the philosophy of art. I have completed two paintings and I have been featured as a kind of dysfunctional character in an hour-long anthropology and art film. I would like to make some films – perhaps in the mood and style of Kenneth Anger.