Academies and their Contracts
Academy has at its disposal all the benefits an artist could
ever reckon with, and all the means of power suited to intimidating
an artist. It awards state posts, public commissions and titles;
it has a monopoly on art teaching and has the possibility of
monitoring the development of the artist from his first beginnings
to his definitive deployment; it bestows prizes, above all the
Rome Prize, and pensions; it allows or denies participation
in exhibitions or competitions; the views of art which it represents
enjoy particular respect in the eyes of the public and guarantee
preferment from the outset for the artist who keeps to them
Arnold Hauser Sozialgeschichte der Kunst and Literatur,
THE UPGRADING OF THE POSTGRADUATE INSTITUTE
Discussion of contemporary
art education revolved in the last decade of the 20th century
increasingly around the training of specialists at Postgraduate
The reasons for the new
upgrading of the postgraduate institutes are many and various
For many of these institutions, which owe their existence to a
foundation euphoria in the 1960s and 70s, this new attention is
tantamount to a revitalisation; after all, in the 1980s the model
was looking pretty threadbare. The revaluation of these institutions can also be understood
as a symptom of the stagnation of the traditional, “undergraduate“
For unlike the art colleges, which are if anything traditional
in their approach, the postgraduate institute trains its students
not so much to produce works of art as to distribute them.
But above all it aims at the distribution of those who are now
progressing from being producers of art to producers of culture.
The greater weighting given to distribution, however, goes hand-in-hand
with increasing competition, which is also taking place in the
cultural sector. The postgraduate institutes thus frequently operate
with the promises of success such as one associates with smaller
and (semi-)private elite schools.
It will come as no surprise to discover that most postgraduate
institutes have a company-like character. So can we already speak
of corporate academies?
Even if these institutions have not (yet) been “in-corporated“
by supranational companies, it is worth examining the extent to
which the postgraduate academies have internalised the changed
parameters of so-called ‘Turbo’ capitalism in their own organisation
Will these changes redefine the role of art and artists in our
society? In this regard, it is worth examining whether or not
a promise of “internationalism“ does not point to a Western-dominance
tendency, especially when it relates to the so-called periphery,
outside the sphere of Western culture.
In Europe we must look at them against the background of the failure
of 1980s’ art. In the early 1990s the market for an art which primarily
manifested itself in the production of objects was for the time
being saturated. As in other areas of society, so in art too, the
distribution and the provision of a service became more important
than the production of the products to be distributed. The software
became more important than the hardware.
The demand for information to help with the understanding of these
important social and economic changes led, in the area of the visual
arts, to an inceased interest in theory and following on from this,
to its importation and distribution in the art sector. In this phase
of uncertainty and restructuring, the postgraduate institutes promised
orientation, an information advantage, and specialisation. In this
changed situation, this could lead to a critique of the conditions
and also to improved competitiveness.
In the wake of the Anglo-american import theory came the rediscovery
of “Cultural Studies“ and “Gender Studies“ and thus
an interdisciplinary social and political approach to teaching.
However, the operations and the organisation structure of the colleges
were inspired more by the efficiency and rationalisation programmes
of the “New Economy“ such as were circulating in the early
1990s in the (business) community. This re-organisation also brought
other, economistic and culturalistic, models into the equation together
with a new language to accompany them.
In particular the small Postgraduate Institutes are and were receptive
to such influences: after all, they can be changed in a short space
of time. Under the aspect of neoliberal organisational structures
and doctrine, one could speak of an “experimental programmability“
for setting new standards. This makes them interesting objects of
But alongside the voluntary or unconscious adoption of post-Ford
rhetoric, pressure has also been exerted from ministerial quarters.
Increasingly, the award of grants is being linked to the successful
placement of graduates.
In preparation for a homogenisation of education structures, the
period since the 1980s has seen a spate of national administrative
and institute reforms. Sooner or later, a uniform adjustment to the Anglo-American
educational system will have been completed throughout Europe.
Thus in continental Europe, too, a system of education is gaining
ground which began very early in its history to privatise even general
school education, which implies nothing more or less than that the
quality of the education will, more than ever, reflect the financial
possibilities of the student.
THE CORPORATE ACADEMY
There are two circumstances in which one can speak of a Corporate
The first is when the academy iself develops corporate structures
which accord with the new conditions of “lean management“
and “corporate identity“. The extent to which such an academy then
becomes an “entrepreneur“ itself, and/or can be privatised and incorporated,
is of less interest.
The second is when the academy trains artists who occupy a stabilising
role within an increasingly corporate public. To go into this question,
however, one would have to digress and investigate the extent to
which the general cultural situation is already subject to “corporate“
Against this background, however, it would be worth investigating
how affirmatively or critically the ideas of art, culture and society
put across at the academies behave in the face of the new conditions.
This is also true of the distribution channels chosen by the individual
Into which situations are the young culture-producers inducted,
and how do they behave when they are there? Do they not become mere
content providers for the context providers? In other words, can
they give expression to their artistic concerns at all without at
the same time serving an image-policy in global competition? For
are many of “our“ new biennales not primarily municipal advertising
designed to upgrade the city in question in the international location
Is it not a training directed at obsequious acceptance of these
conditions, when the desire produced, and the channels of distribution,
are precisely geared to them? Or how else can a contemporary, future-oriented
art education take this “corporate“ situation into account?
Is there such a thing as the Corporate Academy anyway?
Don’t worry! The following depiction of a corporate academy is dramatised
and accordingly fictitious. This academy is constructed from concepts
deriving from the logic of contemporary economics; it is permeated
by actual situations prevailing in existing postgraduate institutes.
Anyone wishing to attend such an academy first enters a conflict-free
space. The institute makes it clear that it is, and must be, there
for every student, because of the great financial and human
investment in every individual student.
“We hardly ever lose a student“ they say with great self-confidence.
“As a result, there is boundless confidence and optimism on the
part of the young generation. And the young artists discover that
they are not forced to struggle against a system that takes no interest
This phenomenon is matched by friendly, non-hierarchical organisations
and teamwork, such as are currently being propagated in other workplaces
too, since they promote identification with the company.
The Academy offers to work out aims and goals interactively. The
Principal stresses this co-operative aspect in his / her welcoming
speech: “…if you give your all and pursue your aims radically,
then we too shall give our all.“
The two partners work out a common goal: the students’ art is a
means to their career, and the careers serve to help the Academy
carve out its own profile. The aim is to build up a successful image.
Success, if it comes, is shared, and the Academy relates it to its
Alongside arrangements such as copyright and profit participation,
a half-yearly balance-sheet lists all the exhibitions, grants or
prizes held or won by students and staff. On the internet can be
found lists of works by all former students and staff, reaching
back to the institution’s beginnings. These lists are constantly
updated, since the institution has employed someone to maintain
contact with the alumni and alumnae.
The institution thus sees itself as a club, which binds its
members together for life. It’s now one big happy family.
In the formulation “and if it is really necessary for you to
go into space, then we shall rent you a place on MIR…“ the Academy
makes clear its dual self-image as “parent“ and partner. The “children“
or “participants“ form a kind of investment potential, so there
is an attempt to give them “everything“.
The Corporate Academy has a major interest in publicity:
to the outside world, the college opens out into an established
contact-and-crony network whose strands lead right into the centre
of the art business. The chances of a felicitous distribution of
students rise with the quality of the overlap between inside and
The academy tries, while preserving its exclusivity, to take a share
in the artistic sphere surrounding it and to gain influence over
it. It further tries to extend its share of influence. This works
above all when it enjoys the protection of successful graduates.
By trying to connect up the branching generations of former students,
it installs itself into other areas and institutions.
The postgraduate academy thus sees its competence not just in the
training of artists: it would like to create schools, generate a
In other words it wants to produce artistic discourses which
are known worldwide and attributed to the Academy. In the world
of business this is known as “branding“, “image-building“ or “corporate
identity“. This construction of an identity begins inside the
Internally, it reflects – albeit in simplified form – the exterior,
in other words the art business with its various functions: already
established artists stand alongside novices, critics extend their
hand to curators, there are grants and small exhibitions, an administration
which has contacts or material resources to allocate. During their
two-year stay, the participants can thus rehearse all the behaviour
necessary for the scene outside.
Nonetheless, attention is paid to efficiency: non-productivity,
absences and criticism of the college organism are seen as poor
investments and draw down sanctions upon them accordingly. Even
at the admission interview, attempts are made to forestall any inadequate
identification: “…do you really intend to be present and ready
to communicate for years ahead...?“
Such demands for unconditional support were made hitherto only by
the professor at the traditional academy of art. The genius represented
a challenge and formed the centre of all communication. But now
the postgraduate academy is taking on this role here too.
This degree of commitment is only required in relation to unconditionality
of communication and identification with the building in which teaching
takes place. Even though the academy actually seeks to avoid this,
in the end it only achieves the same as the professor of a master
class, namely the affirmation of the teaching, its re-production.
This re-production is what constitutes a (corporate) identity and
can be seen in the postgraduate institutions in the sense of school
or style formation. It is also disseminated on an international
scale by an “optimum“ distribution of the artists it produces.
In this way, the Academy multiplies and distributes itself, it intervenes
in the debate about postgraduate academies, it sees itself as a
prototype whose structure is transferable to other places.
WHAT DOES INTERNATIONAL MEAN?
Almost all postgraduate
institutes are located in large western cities. But they are usually
more international in their composition and orientation than undergraduate
However, the conditions of admission represent a curious
sort of filter. Often, it is not so much the artistic qualifications
of the students as their finances which determines whether or
not they are admitted. At British institutes, for example, students
from “overseas“ often pay more than three times as much as home
students in tuition fees and are often only admitted in order
to beef up the college’s financial position.
So although all the institutes make great play with the international
composition and connexions of their student body, they are nonetheless
all devoted to a Western or European idea of art and culture.
They behave no differently from such unambiguously national cultural
promotion bodies as NIFCA in Scandinavia, the Mondrian Stichting
in the Netherlands or the British Council.
The artists are usually placed or exchanged only in those locations
where a (real) market or publicity programme (cultural representation)
“INTERNATIONAL“ in this context is not a cross-border characteristic
serving to communicate about, or between, differences, but rather
represents the introduction of a new standard: a homogenised distribution
system with the name “international“.
The only ones allowed to take part are those who adapt to the
same market and distribution conditions. Difference is not to
be confused with dissidence, but stands here for a colourful multicultural
variety in the product range.
Precisely because the postgraduate academy, in obedience to the
hegemony of the global market, distributes its (Western) “products“
worldwide, it is reasonable to ask to what extent these have already
become the standard.
The Rijkskademie is currently seeking to establish itself as the
scene of a cultural exchange. It is here that the development
of the RAIN project (Rijksakademie International Network) is being
promoted (cf. the Guide to Studies, Rijksakademie van beeldene
Kunsten, Amsterdam). Should not the Academy make itself the subject
of its own research? Would this not include some historical reflexion,
in order to develop an awareness of the partially shared colonial
It is doubtless not easy to confront the problem of cultural differences.
After all, it looks as though the nomadic curators of the (Western)
art business are travelling the (Third) world as once the ethnologists
of the 19th century did: and suddenly everything lands up in the
And is the hysterical charging up of “postcolonial“ discourses
in the run-up to the symbolic capital formation of Dokumenta XI
more likely to help or harm the cause? And what is the “cause“,
anyway? Is there a concept of art at all, outside the “neo-colonial“
expansion and incorporation models?
Here at the end of my considerations I should like to refer to
the seminar “sounding difference“ by Sarat Maharaj and
Anni Fletcher, which describes dealings with social difference
and the coresponding “cultural translation work“. It was developed
at the Jan van Eyck Akademie in Maastricht (cf. Guide to Studies):
“What re-shaping of “difference“ and “otherness“ is being undertaken
in the name of tolerance? According to the usual notions of tolerance,
the self is spared to too great a degree. In such cases, tolerance
becomes an organ with which to administer and control difference
and otherness. Repressive tolerance expresses itself as the “need
to assimilate“ and follows the logic of sameness. Against this,
there is self-reflexive, critical tolerance.
In this tense debate, the transposed scene of cultural translation
emerges as a place of non-concludable existential and ethical
That sounds all very well. But who is going to go beyond this
and ask about solidarity within difference, against the repressions
of a homogenising economy?
De Ateliers was formed in 1963; the Whitney Study Program in 1979.
In the late 1980s Goldsmiths’ College in London was restructured.
This measure has often been seen as the basis of the Britpop success
story. In 1992 both the Rijksakademie van Beeldene Kunsten in
Amsterdam and the Jan van Eyck Akademie in Maastricht were re-organised.
In 1993 de ateliers (studio 63) moved from Haarlem to the former
Rijksakademie building in Amsterdam. 1997 saw the opening of the
Center for Contemporary Arts (CCA) in Kitakyushu (Japan). For
a postgraduate training oriented to the so-called New Media,
we should mention the Cologne Akademie für Neue Medien and the
ZKM in Karlsruhe.
At the same time, various “artist in residence“ programmes were
established, which, however, we shall not go into any further
here, since they do not include any teaching activities of any
sort: the oldest of these programmes is the Cité Internationale
des Arts founded in 1957 in Paris. The PS1 was opened in New York
in 1976. The Künstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin was occupied by
artists in 1974 and subsequently converted into “artist in residence“
institution, whose studios are let to state governments or foundations.
A comparable institution is Schloss Solitude, founded near
Stuttgart in 1990.
 For the artists who took part in Manifesta 2 the interval
between leaving college and this major exhibition was about two
years. On average, they had attended at least two colleges, of
which one was mostly a postgraduate institute. One in nine participants
in this exhibition had graduated from the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam.
cf.: “Manifesta 2“ catalogue, Luxembourg, 1998
 on this, cf.: “Seán Kimber and Simon Periton chat to
Merlin Carpenter and Nils Norman about St. Martins and the changes
that have recently occurred there. Tuesday 13th December 1994.“
p 240-257 in AKADEMIE, Stephan Dillemuth 1995 Permanent Press
St. Martins basically halved the resources and doubled the student
intake at that time. They lost the validation from the Council
for National Academic Awards. Degrees are awarded today based
on a selfvalidated ‘independence’. St. Martins claims to “own“
the work that is produced inside of the school. They take a percentage
from any work sold in degree exhibitions. The staff are paid “performance
related“: number of students placed and number of students retained
on the course and fee paying.
And what is the final operation? The College wants a production
line, eye-catching, selfadvertising. The degree show is a product
and if the student has a good career, that’s good product for
 The self-presentation of the “Royal College Of Art“ reads
in this context as if it had been written to illustrate the point:
“The Royal College has been described as…the best of pre-professional
training, rightly admired all over the world. To verify this statement,
the college has recently competed a major and long overdue statistical
survey covering the last five years which reveals that an average
of 92.5 % of graduates have gone on to work at the right levels
in areas for which the College helped to equip and educate them.
In Computer Related Design, the figure is 100 %, in Vehicle Design
98 %, in fashion 98 %, in Painting and Sculpture 92 %.“ (see www.rca.ac.uk)
In the same vein, the Goldsmiths College Postgraduate Prospectus
Entry 2001, p. 129: “In the most recent Research Assessment Exercise
(1996), we were one of the only two university departments in
the UK to receive the top rating 5* - indicating national and
international excellence - for research in Art and Design.“
 For the “traditional“ Düsseldorf Academy this means that
an albeit limited theoretical course culminating in a diploma
has been tied to the free art course. At the same time, the length
of the course, which used to be at the discretion of the teacher
(15 semesters or more was not unusual), has been formally limited
to 10 semesters. Maybe this is why the free “undergraduate“ art
course has become too short for the “self-discovery processes“.
The formal equivalent in German academies to the “international“
postgraduate status - a “Meisterjahr“ [“master’s year“] or one-year
follow-on course – provides nothing new content-wise; it is merely
a prolongation of the study time.
 See the other contributions to this publication: Davies/Ford,
Andrea Fraser, Creischer/Siekmann
 “Sensation“ catalogue “Von Freeze bis House: 1988-1994“,
p.19, Ostfildern, 1998. It goes on:
“At first we run up against the usual factors: the burden of recent
history and the formative influence of education: social bonds;
the complex interaction between artists in an established art
scene and the attempt either to join this scene or to replace
it with one’s own values and a new system.“ p.19
 This “Club“ is described in the Goldsmiths College Postgraduate
Prospectus, Entry 2001, p.17 as follows: “When you finish your
studies at Goldsmiths, you’ll have something in common with thousands
of our alumni. Our graduates are to be found in the arts, the
media, education, music, politics and business; they’re also making
the news as the ‘Goldsmith School’ of contemporary artists.“
 While the Royal College is most strongly oriented towards
inland participation in its programme, Goldsmiths College has
students in the proportions 50:40:10 (inland:EU:overseas). In
the Netherlands, the corresponding figures for the Jan van Eyck
Akademie are 50:40:10 and for the Rijksakademie 41:35:24 (1999).
The Rijksakademie has been working hand in hand with (gegenüber)
the Ministry (on which it is financially dependent) for years
towards reducing the proportion of inland students. And with success,
for the proportion of inland students in 1996 was still 50%. In
the year 2000 the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs also asked
whether a surplus item in its budget could not be used to develop
a project to establish a cultural North-South axis. The RAIN-project
(Rijksakademie International Network) will be set up next year.
The question arises of who, without support (from UNESCO
for example) can pay the more than 20,000 dollar tuition fees.
But business with overseas students is lucrative, some colleges
are carrying out targeted advertising in Japan (cf.: “Séan Kimber
and Simon Periton chat to Merlin Carpenter and Nils Norman about
St. Martins and the changes that have recently occurred there.
Tuesday 13th December 1994“, see above).
In the case of the Royal College and Goldsmiths, the tuition fees
paid by overseas students are seen on the one hand as a source
of income, while on the other there is an expressed intention
to largely avoid overseas students.
 Thus a number of artists based in Holland have still
managed to “slip“ into Manifesta 2 in Luxembourg, because the
Mondrian Stichting has made its support dependent on a Dutch quota.
 from: “Sounding Difference“. Ein Gespräch zwischen Sarat
Maharaj und Anni Fletcher über den Umgang mit sozialer Differenz
[A conversation between Sarat Maharaj and Anni Fletcher about
dealing with social difference]. Springerin Vol.6 no. 1, p. 21
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