Wednesday, January 04, 2006

1st Degree Merda

1st Degree Merda- a shit qualification

Part of the reason for my intermittent contributions to this blog to date is because I am currently in Mexico. This is only relevant inasmuch as it has given me a slightly different perspective from which to reflect on the social and cultural circumstances that have led to a group of artists voicing their interest in the creation of an OSAS.

In the background

For the sake of discussion we might trace the current thread back to the pre- HECS days of free university education. Since that time we have been steadily moving toward a user pays system that continues to put the squeeze on areas, (such as the visual arts), who’s research interests don’t connect with those of the corporate world. At an academic level this might be seen as a process of weeding out those lecturers whose research refuses the hegemonic pull that would make all knowledge a commodity, while at the student level knowledge already is a commodity. A visual arts graduate in Australia will pay at least $15 000 for their degree, with many likely to be indebted to the government for a considerable period of time. And all that for a degree which is unlikely to secure you work in your chosen field (a shit qualification).

In Mexico

In order to see the specifics of this situation it is worth making a couple of comparisons. Firstly, here in Mexico, it is still possible to receive a free education at the UNAM in Mexico City. While under-equipped in comparison to even the most thread-bare Australian art school, there is a level of intellectual rigor and teacher/student contact at the UNAM which many universities in Australia can no longer muster. Add to this the fact that a degree of any kind (even in visual arts) is very valuable in terms of securing decently paid work in Mexico and you start to see that with a different set of circumstances the imperatives for the creation of this project may be quite different or may not exist at all.

In the States
Half a million dollars for a degree from CALarts.

Back in Aus
So here we are responding to a set of specific circumstances. The units that Ian identifies of Producer-Medium-Content-Audience seem to be useful in responding to these circumstances. From my point of view perhaps the most important contribution that we can make to an OSAS at the moment is at the level of developing the medium. It would seem that a well organised, yet highly flexible structure is one of the keys to an OSAS gaining momentum. The logic I’m following here is that an effective medium will encourage both contributions (content) and audience. Ian’s post maps what seems to be a sensible way of proceeding in the development of the medium.

I would envision that an OSAS would have a section that would be dedicated to the development of the medium (including a space for suggesting improvements and another for effective communication between those working on improvements, in a similar vein to the Ubuntu Linux link posted by Ian). I think David’s point about anonymity is worth adding to. Given the fact that this is a reoccurring question in many blog discussions I think it would definitely be worth organising the various points of view on this question into another section so that people can locate there own position within the overall debate on anonymity and contribute to an informed discussion, while also understanding the implications of a choice to contribute anonymously or otherwise.

I think it is both the great strength and the weakness of an OSAS that any ideas that we suggest at this stage are most likely to be realised (at least in part) by those who are making the suggestions. This connects with what David says in relation to Richard Greyson’s Ideal work. Ideally an OSAS would be as speculative space which would morph with the suggestions and work of the students. Yeah this is idealistic, but it is an idealism that is grounded by its connections to a specific set of very real circumstances. Those circumstances which I outlined above are amongst my motives for contributing to this project and are part of the reason why the idea of an OSAS made so much sense to me when it was suggested.


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