About

About

The Arts Research Cooperative [ARC] is an interdisciplinary program that brings together artists, curators, writers and other cultural producers.

The first session will run for six weeks, from July 2nd to August 10, 2018 in Los Angeles. Curriculum will be organized around a combination of group critique, theoretical readings and discussions. The ARC is committed to Critical Cultural Studies and new developments in Media Theory. The summer program will be broken up into two main seminars – one focusing on Media Theory, and one focusing on the history of alternative pedagogical institutions. In addition, structured group critique, in which practitioners present and discuss each other’s work in an open conversation, will be central.

The 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 Cooperative 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 practices.

Teaching and Practice, Teaching As Practice

The ARC is invested in supporting artists and cultural producers who work in dematerialized modes of production, including video, digital media, 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 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. The difficulty of monetizing artworks follows for the scholars, critics, curators, etc. who work with these artists and who engage with these works. The academy has sheltered artists, writers, and 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 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 Cooperative 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. 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 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 or write experimental texts? 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 Cooperative 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 Cooperative is an experiment in rectifying the structural inequities that afflict the neoliberal university.

Administrative Bloat

Ever-rising cost of tuition means the neoliberal university has tremendous amounts of capital at its disposal. Yet, instead of investing this money in faculty in the form of increased pay, or giving the money back to the students by lowering tuition, private universities are spending more on administrative and non-teaching staff positions. Spending on non-teaching staff positions has nearly tripled at private, four-year universities. The ratio of staff to faculty is more than 2:1.[6]

We propose a school without administrators. All administrative duties will be shared among the faculty; faculty members will take turns, alternating between administrative and teaching responsibilities. In this way, there will never be a separate managerial class making decisions (financial or otherwise) without being actively embedded in the reality of the classroom. Since the Arts Research Cooperative is not organized according to a traditional university structure (with separate departments and non-teaching functions like athletics and student affairs) we don’t require interdepartmental workers. At the ARC, all administrative activity will serve pedagogy.

By insisting that faculty must also administrate, we are aware that we are limiting the faculty body to those who are both willing and able to perform administrative labor in addition to teaching. This is intentional. We are not interested in working with faculty who cannot organize a meeting or pay the bills on time (or at least sort of on time. We are still in the arts after all.) We say no to “celebrity” professors who barely teach and can’t be bothered to lend a hand, and by extension, we say no to cult-of-personality-as-pedagogy (with all the abuses that invites.) The work of administration is maintenance work: sending emails, paying bills, answering the phone, raising money, making schedules, and taking out the trash. To share in this labor is a feminist act.

At the ARC, every administrative decision will serve the interest of radical pedagogy. In addition to closing the gap between administration and teaching, this will significantly reduce operating costs. These savings will be passed on to the students in the form of affordable tuition and the faculty in the form of living wages.

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 de-materialized, 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.

Co-Ownership Model

The Arts Research Cooperative is a nonprofit institution that is collectively owned and governed by faculty and students. Drawing on the model of the worker’s cooperative, each faculty member will have an equal financial 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.

[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.