Verena Faißt
Staging the white elephant that remains overlooked

Naturally artistic PhD projects aim to empower and validate artistic methods as a way of generating significant insights and knowledge in their own right – independent from traditional scientific methods.

But what, even within the art field, is considered valid artistic practice? When, how and by whom is an artistic process and its outcome acknowledged, received and evaluated as such?

Although the art world seems to be an amorphous, shady territory where meaning is unfixed and the rules of expression negotiable, there are surprisingly concrete and in most cases insurmountable limits to this infinity.

I’m not talking about the subject matter – art can break up deadlocked patterns of perception and is able to focus on the blind spots of our society. I am talking about a taboo within the art field itself:

The air is getting thinner already, when we can no longer attribute an artistic process to a nameable and singular genius-artist, but multiple authors. Difficulties multiply if the collaborators are “laypersons”. But game is completely over if these “laypersons” are kids or teenagers and the project takes place in a school.

You might find artists working as teachers, whose work is being recognized as ambitious art education. But certainly it will never be acknowledged as legitimate art within the art field – neither the work of the artist-teacher enabling the creative process of the students nor the products it yields.

I am convinced that this is wrong.

First of all it is an artistic practice in its own right to enable, inspire and accompany collective creative processes. Of course this has nothing to do with clichéd art lessons, where students are merely encouraged to copy somebody else’s artistic product. But to be rooted in the pedagogical sphere is no contradiction to the claim of being artistic practice. And beyond that, these processes can yield (collective) artistic products that need to be received as such.

Discrediting this artistic praxis deprives the arts, discourse and society of exciting and fruitful knowledge.

Thus, within the scope of a PhD in Art, I want to find ways to stage and reflect on the work produced with teenagers and kids as valid artistic products that deserve a place in social, political and artistic discourse as forms of expression by fully-fledged members of our society.

Intertwined with this target, I will further develop and clarify my artistic methods. I will reflect on my role as a professional artist within the pedagogical field and likewise on my positioning within the art field as an artist that is working within the pedagogical context.

Tutor: Barbara Putz-Plecko

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Faißt_Still2Videostills aus MAMIHLAPINATAPAI (2017)