[ Letter to future art students. ]
Some people have sex for money. In my school they have sex for art. Then they hang some- would-call-pornographic pictures of the scene, around their painted-bright-red, graduate studio walls and have heated discussions about intimacy, love, privacy and ethics in a queer male’s world, with wine in hand. Others squeeze their naked selves into a metal locker to explore, through slow-motion movement, how the feminine body is looked at. Others just sit on a chair for hours inviting the audience in an empty room to “watch the girl doing nothing.” Among the craziness and, sometimes, ridiculousness of the art, art school is without a shred of a doubt, a cultural experience of its own.
In the world were arts education is valued and recognised as serious, core academic subject, the focus shifts from the visual arts, (especially illustration, painting, photography, sculpture and graphic design), to a wider liberal education, promoting academic diversity and creating well-rounded artists and balanced personalities. In art school nobody puts Baby in the corner. Contrasting the contemporary stereotype of the “odd” kids being a small minority in a major university, here, funky, liberal and creative people, understand each other’s passion and are motivated to utilise each other’s skills towards artistic expression. Their networking events are a whole lot of fun and even when a bunch of starving artists are talking art you just don’t get, or whining about necessary day jobs to support their passion, they do it in less misery and more booze.
I’m sure you all know the Pulp song about the girl (from Greece!) who studied sculpture at Saint Martin’s College but wanted to live like common people. Artists are not common people. Provocative thinking and making in a not-so-common setting is essential to the learning process and critical perception of the world around us. Pushing the agenda about access to culture, art school, where there is no right or wrong answer, creates people who are encouraged to imagine, invent, re-invent and ultimately change the world. These people are among as and they find arts education a “chance to wear face-paint and take myself very seriously indeed,” or “going from being a weird kid who drew a lot and played bass, to thinking of art as something that took things as they are and molded them into something better, more perverse, intellectually deviant, less ‘pragmatic.’” Some take it even further.
“I will hook up with you if you let me photograph you nude as my lover,” posts Leonard Suryajaya, a graduate art student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, in an online ad, explaining, “I wanted to fuck. I wanted to photograph.” Inviting the audience in, and making them take a long, hard look of naked, male bodies and souls exposed, he’s hoping to deconstruct the notion of sexuality in the digital era we are living through. At another studio and inside a metal locker lives Michal Samama, performance artist and choreographer, who uses her body as a canvas exploring, through her art, how it works, the space it occupies as well as natural, bodily functions, such as breathing. In “Move like a body,” she is giving sound to her own breath through a whistle in her mouth, and uses a metal locker that barely fits her, giving the audience the opportunity to observe the slow-motion movement of her naked body in it. Using more than one senses, one realizes that looking becomes a different experience while listening to the sound of her breath and like a “harmonized choreography”, as she likes to call it, she is challenging the way the feminine body is looked at.
The art school philosophy lays, in its majority, in the wise words of Walt Whitman, “be curious, not judgmental.” In the name of art anything is possible, and there is meaning and debate in there, too. Promoting and cultivating equality, creative thought and pushing of any kind of boundaries, theory and practice work in tandem with each other, revealing, a colourful intellectual framework waiting to be conquered.
In an arts-inspired atmosphere, where everyone does its own thing, vintage inspired fashions, funky hairstyles, rainbow mohawks and pin-up tattoos, blend with 90s preppy and punk, goofy hats and dark shades of lipstick into a creative fusion that distinguishes the art students of the rest of Chicago’s crowd. Art school does not only satisfy ones natural fascination for different people and different cultures, but also gives a free-pass to the fascinating world of art and the city. The beneficial unlimited possibilities, an art degree offers, the super-diverse surroundings and hip vibe of Chicago, make the art school experience, a highly cultural one. It is after all art and culture that often bring change -what happens after graduation, though, is a horse of a different color.