03 February 2009

Art in the Knowledge-based Polis

by Tom Holert

Lately, the concept of “knowledge production” has drawn new attention and prompted strong criticism within art discourse. One reason for the current conflictual status of this concept is the way it can be linked to the ideologies and practices of neoliberal educational policies. In an open letter entitled “To the Knowledge Producers,” a student from the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna has eloquently criticized the way education and knowledge are being “commodified, industrialized, economized and being made subject to free trade.”1

In a similar fashion, critic Simon Sheikh has addressed the issue by stating that “the notion of knowledge production implies a certain placement of thinking, of ideas, within the present knowledge economy, i.e. the dematerialized production of current post-Fordist capitalism”; the repercussions of such a placement within art and art education can be described as an increase in “standardization,” “measurability,” and “the molding of artistic work into the formats of learning and research.”2 Objections of this kind become even more pertinent when one considers the suggestive rhetoric of the major European art educational network ELIA (European League of Institutes of the Arts), which, in a strategy paper published in May 2008, linked “artistic research” to the EU policy of the generation of “’New Knowledge’ in a Creative Europe.”


Thanks to Michelle Gratacós Arill for this reference.