Academically Qualified

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Since the 2006 cancellation of Manifesta 6, a biennial conceived as a temporary school in Cyprus, education has been at the forefront of the art world's attention. At a time when costly enrollment at a top-tier art school seems like the accepted route to a gainful career as a creative practitioner, artists and curators alike have begun assessing the standards of art education and mining critical alternatives, a process that culminated in unitednationsplaza's exhibition-as-school in Mexico City, this past month, as well as in the New Museum's yearlong "Night School," an "artist commission in the form of a temporary school" by Anton Vidokle, UNP member and co-organizer of Manifesta 6. Professing relatively less anti-institutional rhetoric and a bit more grassroots irreverence is The Philadelphia Institute for Advanced Study, an ongoing project by a handful of Philly artists and thinkers, including Brandon Joyce and Ramsey Arnaoot, offering seminars and symposia to members of their local community. Classes range from the pragmatic, including German and Spanish instruction, to the more specialized, in which interested pupils can help use Pure Date (pD) programming language towards constructing an audio-video sampling synthesizer, or contribute to Zusammenstoppeln, a group novel written using the Surrealist technique, "exquisite corpse." What complicates the Institute's seemingly benign agenda is its website, which adopts the mock tone and design of an elitist organization, calls artist residencies "Eric James Johnson Memorial Fellowships," and assigns equally buttoned-up appellations to its academic departments. While whimsy is evidently at the heart of it, the Institute's website makes an insightful point about the expectation for educational branding, in this day and age, and the performance of a certain elitism often accepted as necessary to lend credence to an organization, regardless of what it professes to teach. - Tyler Coburn

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