SOME THOUGHTS REGARDING THE aki THINKTANK.
1. Speech is silver, Silence is golden:
First, I have to admit that my first reaction echoes that of Drs.
Hoogeveen. Talking about the AKI brings one in a serious dilemma:
Either one opens ones mouth and gets shot, or one is silent and is
therefore also responsible for the shooting down of others.
So let's try a little pragmatic logic: If I do not speak then I can
not blame others if they do things I disagree with. If I am shot down
then the shooters will have to survive without my assistance. Is it
possible that even the shooters are beginning to realize this? Funny
how in Holland its always the person I trap with their hand in my
pocket, or in bed with my wife, who claims that bygones should be
bygones and the past forgotten! How can the prisons ever be full in a
land with such nice and innocent people?
Nevertheless, it is an exiting scenario for book or film. Against the
background of the sinking ship a few bodies reach the life boat. A
motley crew; pirates, mutineers, card sharps, pickpockets and rogues
plus a handful of terrified innocent passengers. Until the sinking
it had been dog eat dog on board, a merciless rat race for individual
survival. Suddenly the situation is radically changed. Nobody even
knows if there is enough food and water on board, because nobody is
really certain in which direction the nearest safe harbour lies, the
direction of prevailing currents and winds, or even the weather
forecast for the next few days (or should it be weeks or months?).
There is no motor or sail and no instruments for navigation. People
begin to suspect the only way to survive is to combine resources and
skills. However, this is a gambol because there is no guarantee that
everybody can survive the trip and until now cooperative discussion and
decision making skills have been rejected in favour of individual
power politics. Levels of trust are not very high, and yet honour among
thieves should (must) be possible if some are to survive (but who, and
under what conditions). In the meantime, the plots begin to hatch, the
sharks begin to gather and in the distance enemy submarines are
searching, probably with the intention of destroying survivors. Who is
the enemy and who will survive?
2. A Future for the AKI?
Perhaps we should not ask HOW to preserve the AKI until we have
answered WHY we should preserve the AKI. The WHY will then probably
suggest the HOW.
Is the AKI to be preserved to provide employment for its staff, or
does it have some valuable role to fulfill?
Without a philosophical basis, all discussion degenerates to personal
infighting to preserve the personal position. Without a philosophical
basis the AKI cannot survive and without a philosophical basis the
AKI has no right to survive.
3. Too Many Artists?
First I would have to know what does one mean by an "Artist".
From my own experience (based on my own definitions) I would say there
are too few artists in the Netherlands. I have met many people who have
complained that their income and their social status was too low. Many
people have claimed that ART is of great social significance and yet
few can tell what this significance is. Many are full of their own
importance and yet few can impress with the depth and diligence of
their artistic research. Many claim to have learned to express
themselves and yet few express selves which would seem worth
If artists are small business people selling whimsical decorations
for street corners and living room walls then there probably are too
many for the market to bear. If this is what we are training students
for then perhaps the AKI cannot be small enough!
If artists have something to do with the intelligent processing of
information through material and sensory systems then perhaps they are
socially relevant. If this is what we are helping students towards
then perhaps the AKI cannot be too big!
If teachers are not capable of defining themselves and their working
relationship with others then they should not be teaching. If the
art school cannot create itself then it cannot expect to teach others
to create anything.
4. The Emperor's New Cloths or A Survival System against Global Warming?
I read in the first thinktank report that the famous AKI-philosophy
never existed. Should we be pleased with this information?
Does this mean that a period of Stalinistic terror based on the defence
of a non-existent ideology has just ended? Are we now allowed to think
and express ourselves freely, to formulate and explore new aims,
theories and methodologies?
Or does this mean that the age of idealism, of thought, philosophy and
inspired creative research are now definitely behind us? That we must
forget these meaningless ghosts and learn to accept the grey pragmatism
of our brave new world, united in our conformity and our acceptance of
Big Brother's infinite love.
5. A Thematic Questionnaire as navigational Aid:
a. Sense and Sensibility -The Aesthetics of Dialectics
Are aesthetics still relevant in Art and Design?
Are aesthetics relevant in Social and Political Practice?
Theory and Practice -Support or Conflict?
-The lie and the truth?
-What is thought without action or action
-Is it better to think without seeing or
to see without thinking?
-Can one learn by doing without thinking?
Idealism and Realism -Defining the potential or the existing?
-Exploring that which is flexible and
that which is fixed
-Is an artist an idealist or a realist?
-Is a designer a realist or an idealist?
Is anything ever completely true?
-If no, how false is true and how true is
-If yes, what do we do with that which is
false or that which we do not agree with?
-In an ugly world is beauty not false?
-In a beautiful world is not ugliness the
mirror of beauty, proving its truth?
-can men then truly claim that beauty and
ugliness, or truth and falsity, are
symmetric and therefore equal?
Can conflicts be resolved satisfactorily without aesthetics?
Can there be aesthetics without dialectics?
Can there be dialectics without identities or values?
b. Borders, Values, Rules and Consequences -Mixed Media and Media Art:
What is the value and meaning of disciplines (specialization)?
What does it mean to preserve borders and what does it mean to
How can one investigate the different possibilities if there
are no differences?
How can we express ourselves if we all use the same language
and how can we communicate if we all use different languages?
How can we communicate if we hide behind our borders but what is
there to communicate if we do not preserve them?
How can differences be used to enhance each other instead of
destroying each other?
c. Art and Design -Similarities and Differences:
Are there fundamental differences between art and design?
-How autonomous is design and how
applied is art?
How much do the basic educational needs of artists conflict or
support those of designers, and vice versa?
What is the position of the Artisan/Craftsman in relationship to the
Artist and the Designer?
d. The Aims of Art and/or Design Education:
What kind of people is the education or training aiming to
Which basic skills are required and how can they be developed?
Which specialized skills are required and how can they be developed?
What happens to students who fail to achieve the required
standards and have they been helped towards developing skills
potentially useful in other fields?
What happens to students who achieve the required standards but
fail to be economically independent? Have they been helped towards
developing skills potentially useful for survival?
How can one improve standards of quality if one does not specify
what the aims and standards are?
e. The Position of Art and/or Design Education:
How much is an art college an institute for education, training,
entertainment, (social, philosophical or psychological) therapy,
recreation, or employment opportunities for artists?
How much is being an Artist/Designer a profession, a calling
or an infectious mental illness?
Is visual art more related to visual design than it is to other
non-visual art forms?
Is design more related to art than it is to technology?
Should Art and/or Design Education (together or apart) be part
of a University (theoretical) education system, a HBO (practical)
education system or an independent and separate system?
Do we want a single location? With whom are we to share? Where
do we build the walls and where should the windows, the doors,
the corridors and the lifts be put?
How important are the canteen, the cafe, the pub, the massage
parlor, the city plaza, the baths, the pump, the village green
or the garden of contemplation?
6. A Government Health Warning!
Enclosed is an article from the "Volkskrant" dated 10 May 1996 which
if I understand it correctly says:
a). The Ministry has for years had everybody running around
like crazy, apparently reorganizing the education system,
while in fact (for the pupils) it has been a waste of time
b). Nobody knows why some schools are better than others but
two main factors in bad schools are inefficient use of
resources (time) and lack of pedagogical philosophy.
c). The quality of Management is most important. Good management
implies filtering (i.e. ignoring) the flow of garbage from
the government and molding it into intelligent practice.
In other words: define yourself by molding your environment so that
you both fit into each other. Perhaps, developing and transmitting
skills that enable students to do this is a reasonable basis for
art eduction. An art college which cannot do this for itself probably
does not deserve to survive!
Amsterdam, May 1996