About

About

The Arts Research Collective [ARC] is an interdisciplinary program that brings together artists, designers, curators, writers, and other cultural producers. ARC is committed to creating rigorous, ethical education while emphasizing the support and growth of our collective.

The next full session of ARC will take place at A.I.R. Gallery in New York from July 6th – July 31st, 2020. Curriculum is organized around a combination of group critique, theoretical readings and discussions. ARC is committed to Critical Cultural Studies and new developments in Media Theory. The summer program will focus on the history and practice of alternative feminist pedagogies, and will feature faculty and guest-led seminars. In addition, structured group critique, in which practitioners present and discuss each other’s work in an open conversation, is central.

The next full session of ARC will take place in at A.I.R. Gallery in New York from July 6th – July 31st, 2020. To receive further information about this summer’s session, please sign up for our mailing list.

ARC serves an immediate need for practitioners by providing a space for collaborative learning and exchange in an art world that is increasingly market-driven. The Arts Research Collective emphasizes the relationship between labor, theory, and practice, and encourages projects that are socially, historically, and politically grounded. We recognize the role of educational institutions in supporting artists and cultural producers who make work without immediate commercial value. As such, we are invested in supporting a range of non-material, discursive and research-based art and design practices.

Teaching and Practice, Teaching As Practice

The ARC is invested in supporting artists, designers and cultural producers who work in experimental and non-market driven modes of production, including video, digital media, fashion, object design, performance, games, text, installation, sound, and social practice. This designation encompasses a variety of discursive and research-based practices. We are more interested in transmission than collection, and we privilege the flow of information over the singularity of gesture.

Since the 1960s, artists, designers, and cultural producers who work in these modes have relied on teaching to support their practices. Artists in particular have used the stability teaching provides to aid in the production of artworks that are non-material or otherwise difficult to monetize in the commercial gallery system. Critical and theoretical design practices whose work challenges traditional systems of mass production and consumption similarly rely on academic institutions to facilitate the production of experimental work. The difficulty of monetization follows for the scholars, critics, curators, etc. who work with these practitioners and who engage with these works. The academy has sheltered these cultural producers from the immediate demands of capitalism, providing a viable path to make work and do research without direct market application. But beyond questions of economic necessity, the collaborative nature of academic institutions and the space of the classroom itself has a relationship to discursive and media-based practice. To produce in this way is to engage in conversation. Where art had, until the 60s, often been associated with the solitary individual at work in the studio, media-based and conceptual practices like video, design, and performance often depend on collaboration  and cooperation in order to come into being. ARC is invested in an outward-facing practice, and tends toward the dialogic, the didactic and the conversational. While our work sometimes sits uneasily in the museum and the gallery, we are at home on the internet or in the bar. For these reasons, the collective project of learning (the exchange that happens in the classroom, but also after class, or in the library, or the coffee shop across the street) is the lifeblood of our work. Teaching is not what we do to support our “real” work. Without it, all work would cease.

Economic Conditions

The Arts Research Collective is a response to the ongoing crisis in higher education. Increasingly, faculty positions across the United States are dominated by adjuncts and contingent faculty. These just-in-time workers operate without job security or benefits, making a fraction of the salaries of their tenure track co-workers. Recently, the American Sociological Association has stated that, “faculty employment is no longer a stable middle-class career.”[1] Between 1975 and 2011, full-time positions in higher education decreased 25%. By 2011, 51% of faculty in American colleges and universities were part-time.[2]

In the Arts and Humanities, the loss of stable academic jobs is felt more acutely because the work produced in these fields often has no immediate market application. Rapidly changing economic conditions in the fields of art and design have foreclosed on the possibility of an independent, financially viable studio practice. As universities shift evermore toward neoliberal business models, departments are forced to argue their importance in economic terms, often losing tenured positions if they are not profitable to the university’s bottom line. This emphasis on the economic as the only metric for worthwhile academic engagement, and on the product (the book, the article, the exhibition, the salable work) as the only recognized outcome, neglects the most important work the arts can engage in. Arts institutions give us space to develop critical thinking, to expose issues and problematize them, to test the limits of the relationships between theory and practice.

Our students face an even more difficult situation. At private universities and art schools, tuition has increased 157% over the past twenty years.[3] Students who graduate from art schools rack up more debt than any other kind of college student, according to Department of Education statistics from 2011. Studio art majors go on to get some of the lowest paying jobs post-graduation.[4] How can we expect our students to become video artists, to make performances, write experimental texts, or design work that critically engages the language and systems of mass production? To do any work that doesn’t reproduce market value as the only metric of success? These extreme economic conditions instrumentalize our relationship to our work and to each other. But the collective project of learning doesn’t belong to anyone; it continues. We have the right to teach and be taught; to ask questions and to struggle over answers. Our students should expect the same.

Alternatives

The members of the Arts Research Collective have taught in many institutions, we have served on committees, developed curriculum and participated in governance. The University is no longer viable; it cannot be changed from within.[5] It is imperative that alternative educational models be developed and explored across the arts. The Arts Research Collective is an experiment in rectifying the structural inequities that afflict the neoliberal university.

Facilities

In addition to rising administrative expenses, private colleges and universities are investing significant amounts of tuition dollars into new building construction, expanding residence halls, building elaborate gyms and sports facilities.[7] Whatever the argument for this kind of investment, these facilities are almost never in the service of the art student. Further, since the ARC specifically seeks to prioritize arts workers with discursive practices, our need for physical space is adaptable. Instead of looking to expand our footprint in the city, we aim to prioritize ways that interior spatial arrangements (the placement of seating, lighting, and acoustics) produce communal relations. We don’t need lecture halls with theater seating and elaborate screens and speakers, grand spaces named for donors where the students shop online and check facebook, where they are both consumers and consumed. Our school will teach the opposite of that. At the ARC, we sit in a circle and look each other in the eye. We will focus our efforts on developing seminar space, shared workspace and studio space as needed.

Education is the relationship between faculty and students. Fancy buildings, student services and deans have little to do with our work. It’s time for faculty and students to join together to create a university centered on learning and collaborative exchange. We have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.

Collective Model

The Arts Research Collective is a nonprofit institution that is collectively owned and governed by faculty and students. Drawing on the long history of political and artist collectives, students and faculty will share  intellectual stake in the institution. Faculty pay will be publicly available, and all wage increases will be shared equally – if the school succeeds, we all succeed. Likewise, tuition will be published alongside expenditures, rendering all financial decisions transparent. Faculty and students will vote on decisions regarding pay, costs and governance.

We believe that education should be free and that workers should be compensated fairly for their labor. The achievement of these goals is our first priority.

To support ARC, please donate through our fiscal sponsor, Fractured Atlas.

[1] Dan Clawson, et. al., “Contingent Faculty Employment in Sociology: American Sociological Association Task Force on Contingent Faculty, interim report” American Sociological Association, 2017, 5. Accessed December 11, 2017. http://www.asanet.org/sites/default/files/asa-task_force-on-contingent-faculty-interim-report.pdf

[2] ibid., 7.

[3] Briana Boyington, “See 20 Years of Tuition Growth at National Universities,” US News and World Report, September 20, 2017. Accessed December 11, 2017. https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/paying-for-college/articles/2017-09-20/see-20-years-of-tuition-growth-at-national-universities.

[4] Anthony P. Carnevale, Ban Chea and Andrew R. Hanson, The Economic Value of College Majors, Georgetown University: McCourt School of Public Policy, Center on Education and the Workforce, 2015, 12. Accessed December 11, 2017. https://cew.georgetown.edu/wp-content/uploads/WIW2-FullReport.pdf.

[5] Although this might seem like an extreme statement, we believe it is justified. Colleges and universities that employ a majority of part-time workers who can be fired at any time are not acting in the interest of longevity or any kind of sustainability. Meanwhile, students are saddled with an insurmountable debt. There is no future for this model. These practices trade long-term health for short-term profit. Well-meaning individuals operating within this system can do little to effect change on a structural level; immediate market pressures win out (usually rationalized under the guise of “staying competitive.”)

[6] Jon Marcus, “New Analysis Shows Problematic Boom in Higher Ed Administrators,” The Huffington Post, February 6, 2014. Accessed December 11, 2017. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/06/higher-ed-administrators-growth_n_4738584.html

[7] Kellie Woodhouse, “Lazy Rivers and Student Debt,” Inside Higher Ed, June 15, 2015. Accessed December 11, 2017. https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2015/06/15/are-lazy-rivers-and-climbing-walls-driving-cost-college.