Art of Behavior: a pedagogical art project. Part One.|
"the broad concept of art is not a theory,
but a form of undertaking that says that the interior eye is much more decisive than the external images that subsequently come forth"
On the merits of the project*
In 2002 the artist Tania Bruguera issued an invitation for students to enroll in the "Art of Behavior Course", a program of performance and time-based art studies incorporated into the Instituto Superior de Arte de La Habana (Havana Institute of Higher Education in Art); the first workshop started in 2003.
So far 4 enrollments and 3 graduations have taken place, but the most interesting aspect of this experience is the way it has evolved from a pedagogical project to a space(1) for art that is currently the most active and experimental in Cuba.
Was that its initial aim, or just the coverage of an attitude towards art rooted in the tradition of bringing art closer to life in keeping with the historical avant-garde, but tackling that intention from another perspective? It would be pertinent to discuss certain details of the project before going into the value judgments and issues to which its results have given rise.
As the program states, the course lasts two years and is divided into 4 semesters with a total of 680 hours of classes. The invitation to enroll is issued in October, and the entrance exam takes place in December. Students are chosen by an International Election Committee made up of Cuban and foreign artists, critics and art historians. The procedure consists of an aptitude test divided into: presentation of a work portfolio that can consist of photos, videos, sketches, etc., a sample of an actual artwork, an exam on theory and general culture, and an interview. Altogether the process takes about one hour.
The invitation is open to all, regardless of age. Graduates or students of the Higher Education Art Institute are accepted from any of its departments; History of Art graduates and students and indeed of any department of the Art and Literature Programs are also welcome, as is anyone who shows an aptitude for art. On completing the two-year study course, university graduates are awarded a postgraduate diploma in Behavioral Art, and non-graduates are awarded a diploma for a university outreach course in Behavioral Art.
The teaching side of the course is made up of 5 areas: 1. - The program of studies. 2. - An invitation for recognized national and international artists to show their work and share their experiences with students. 3. - Academic exchanges with international art schools. 4. - Exhibitions that serve as a summary of teaching activities. 5. - The creation of a specialized archive.
Bringing together each of those areas in teaching a group of students from such dissimilar academic backgrounds has been a decisive factor in achieving the kind of communication and empathy required by this type of academic instruction. Particularly if you bear in mind that the focus in selection is not so much on prior studies in art or a college education, but on the imaginative quality of the project submitted as part of the exam. What is desired is the possibility of its departing from the traditional framework of art by delving into other spheres of culture and contemporary living with a sensitivity and reflective attitude that will enable students to tackle the speed and flexibility that characterize the coursework and the multidisciplinary frame of reference of the program.
For those of use who have been lucky enough to be involved in the project, the factors that have helped to compensate for the dissimilar education and experience of its students have been their interest, commitment and perseverance, since most are artists pursuing other university studies. The real challenge is to make students aware of the changing scene in art and contemporary culture, in searching for functions that are not given priority by art but are the focus of attention of their creative work: among them the documentary and utilitarian functions.
It is well known that art currently goes beyond the references of its evolution, that lost evidence that Adorno refers to has made it increasingly difficult to discern its borders and parameters in a - society of entertainment and knowledge - that transgresses "cultural differences". However, the current challenges facing visual creation take a different direction when coming from peripheral societies on the fringes of the international art scene, even though that scene holds sway over the sites of production and creation within a wide-ranging cultural world.
Perhaps for that reason, Tania Bruguera refers to the project as a space that is interested in another form of creative practice. One that goes beyond the customary meanings with which art is identified, thus converting discourse into a cultural procedure. Understanding how that aim is being fulfilled is the main focus of this text, since the idea is not just to reach a given level of instruction, but also to have a bearing on the spiritual sphere of each participant, their concerns and interests, through an in-depth study of the strategies that give them the role of social instigators. They are thus creators who base their work on cultural processes through the actions that make them social provocateurs.