…and s/he never had a lesson

http://www.thenation.com/article/178023/permission-fail   “One artist who was constantly giving himself assignments was Mike Kelley, whose retrospective is currently on view at PS1 MoMA in Queens through February 2 (2014). Long in the planning, the show became a memorial when Kelley, age 57, committed suicide in 2012. And it can be grim: Kelley’s raunchy yet dark, saturnine outlook is always apparent. What he admired about the writing of William Burroughs is true of his own best work: it is “really morose and at the same time howlingly funny.” Much of it is, at least indirectly, about education, which he usually depicts as a form of abuse. But here’s an assignment: remember as many details as possible of all the buildings of all the schools you’ve ever attended; then construct an architectural model combining them into a kind of self-contained miniature city. That’s Kelley’s Educational Complex (1995)—an airless, senseless labyrinth whose only redeeming feature might be its incoherence. This is the emblem of the stultifying education that confirms the student’s inferiority. Some artists, with Jacotot and Rancière, think they see a way out; Kelley makes us feel that we need it.”

Nation articles are so consistently language brilliant! Wordsmithing evidences having spent constant time reading and writing, so becoming so facile and always appealing with the language – turns of phrases that make me breathless – as in ‘huh’?   How’d s/he DO that – get those words together to make me wander over hillanddale to come to the end of the line surprised that it ended up saying what it did.  I keep wanting to underline those – to go back and copy them – But they’re so in-context that it’d be impossible to ‘get it’ just taking the few sentences that climax the startling climb.

But that’s only indirectly what this is about.  This comment IS about what you can expect, reading what I’ve written about school.  ‘morose’, abuse, airless, senseless, labyrinth, incoherence, stultifying, …Ends at the beginning – confirms the students’ inferiority (I’ve changed the singular to the plural.  All the students must deal with being made inferior.  Some climb out better than others.)

As to the other details of the article, I have no need to argue.  Whether those philosophizings’re helpful or not is peripheral to the point of this composition:  School is not the right place for people.

The right place is everywhere.  People belong from their beginning, together; making doing being – working, actually.  Within each site arises education.  Because that’s how we are.  All your concerns – where will the student learn to read, write, calculate – if you take the time to ask yourself the question, you will answer ‘at work’/play/living/being.  Because we’re all teachers and students all our lives.

Specialties need to be learned because of communal necessity; in the for profit system people get to be able to do a kind of work in order to have a job, to get paid. The front page of a business section of the newspaper will regularly tell people – or used to, before this immense lapse in job making, we need teachers, nurses, scientists, … In the coming years there’s a superfluity of any of those. Wages stay low. It’s difficult to get a job in that field a student studied.

This is about not making bridges or ribbons or piano playing for profit, for pay.  It’s about needing wanting those and whatever we do.

Studying how to do it happens on site – at the ribbon making tool, at the piano, at the places to see that a bridge is wanted and to do what’s needed in order to build it.  Since there’s no hurry anymore, no budget to meet, no other reason to worry about timing of a job, people sit down together to design it, to show people how to design for this job, how to calculate for this job, how to read what’s needed in order to work all this out.

People learn by being around, with people who are doing these works. They do some of the job, and later on, do some more of the next job.

Or don’t do any engineering and go on to playing the piano and cooking a meal and preparing a shipment of stuff to a place – and…whatever work needs to be done. This is the new person that arises from the work for us to take over everything, to learn we can create that caring society.

So let’s see how this artist finds ‘education’ abusive. By this time – in reading what I’ve written already – we know he doesn’t mean education; he means school.  He means a teacher placed in ascendancy over students because that’s the structure of school.


Having glanced at the websites – Kelley’s and his ilk’s works – I am not surprised to find that in order to understand that comment – that he considered education abusive, I have to be told that’s what the art means. None of the art is self explanatory to me.  I’ve always looked at art and reacted to it you could say, superficially; that is, I don’t look up explanations of what the artist is attempting to communicate.  The work is enough for me.  I love it – ALL, really.  I feel as though I have a total physical reaction to it, from my eyes, then through my body and head at the same time, a slight ecstasy  – often great, sometimes less.  The meaning can come to me by way of explanation from someone else, some other time.  …or never.

Today, for instance, there’s a show on TV about Van Gogh, a theater-type piece using only the language of the some 900 letters he wrote, most to his brother Theo, many with drawings on them.  I love those drawings – they feel good to me, my body-mind feels good looking at them.

I left to write this after listening to the explanation that he hopped from job to job, thinking he was required to work at some conventional occupation, and never being able to stay in a position.  The show told of his concern for the people among whom he lived – their tortuous poverty, the torturing jobs they were ‘allowed’ to work.

You know the capitalists give us jobs – we were told throughout elementary school.  There’s a recurring elemental undercurrent of that interpretation throughout the years at school; sometimes it’s explicit.  In those advanced institutions, institutions of ‘higher education’, maybe it’s taught – although, teaching out loud that capitalists give us jobs, can lead to students’ awareness that – so we do the work, we workers….  …must be careful what we teach.  Working class consciousness is dangerous…

Informational data about the artists’ motives do not change my everlasting captivation by Van Gogh’s and thousands of other artists’ works – including Beethoven’s ….music composers.

I know they’re people like me, with contents derived similarly from their living – some taught by practitioners of the ‘art’; many not.  Many got caught up doing art because they couldn’t resist it.

But we’re all artists – or, no one is an artist but we all art work. If we don’t – well, you know why people think, then tell people, oh, I can’t sing – or draw – or any next step expression that then is art, of our ideas.

That we don’t all do some art regularly speaks to our alienation at some point in our lives.  We will not have achieved justice until no one is AN artist, and everyone does art – music, dance, song, paints, builds stores and houses and warehouses and bridges.

EVERYONE can sing draw sculpt write design EVERYONE. It feels good to do.

Van Gogh did not engage in formal instruction from anyone in order to draw and paint – except that in his earliest years he did have some class in school where instruction included drawing.   But this was just living, just passing through some experience.

We’re told of many people whose contributions in the world come not from extensive classroom training, but from living and doing – which is how we all need to learn and teach together.  Most importantly, we need to live with our children , and with our old people.  We need to get to be able to love them, instead of have to take care of them, which is too costly to our hours and our money.  We need the different way of living so that those people who need care are not an imposition, but are just positioned so they get cared for as part of how we do all that we do.

A TV show this evening had a person sort of breathlessly telling of his rapturous discovery; he was teaching a math class; the students weren’t ‘getting’ the content, were uncomfortable with it.  He also had to do building on the land where they were living.   The students – young people – that is teens or so – helped build, did the measuring, the calculating, the designing, the math that went with the building.   He didn’t say that some got so caught up in number that they went on to work in math – but that happens, too, as you guess.



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