ART SCHOOL PROJECTS
Coming from a University background I was not in a good position to criticise the projects required of students at different levels of award at Art Schools. Liberal studies involved what Jonathan Miller has called the Suppository Effect, a mandatory essay, giving itself airs as a "Dissertation", the result of keenly argued debates between supervisor and candidate. It was possible for such essays to actually add to the sum of human knowledge. Ben's interview with Anton Furst before the latter's early death, Janet's brilliantly illustrated account of Printing on Tin were exceptions. It was possible for certain students to excell and see their careers unfolding in writing and research rather than the more pallid aspects of Advertising and Corporate identity.
What projects were Vocational Designers required to undertake? Hard ass Graphics for sure, imaginary campaigns for International Brands, decorative cheese boards and occasionally public service posters for the Local Authority. I do remember a poster for Social Services in the Market Town about to be delivered as a hawk eyed reader (me) spotted three appalling spelling errors. Once I proof read a Handbook for a Course finding, for example, Tuscany spelt in three different ways. The Head of Department blamed the messenger and he rarely spoke to me again.
Vocational Designers, it was argued, should be restricted to the more mundane, prosaic aspects of the Design world, shockingly wide of the mark. Neither did they have corresponding greater exposure to the New Technologies. Undergraduate students were allowed a greater latitude with their conceptual responses, but nevertheless, the Final Shows seemed to me to be hardly equivalent to the potential that stuttered and shrank in the absence of well thought through and consistent projects building towards a set of skills and attitudes.
Each project culminated in the "Crit". When everybody outside the sector was advising the benefits of team work, collaboration in the work place, each student was instead required to stand in front of the work to await the considered opinion of the Tutors who often, on these occasions, hunted in packs. To increase their street cred I have seen Fine Art tutors with bottles of whisky swaggering around the task, a small vocabulary of grunts combined with complicit glances at colleagues. The spirit of project rivalry ran amok, followed by a palpable sense of relief. "It was all over and I survived with minumum humiliation."
Or. Are the Pubs open?
The Fine Art projects were at least drawn from student interests, often obsessions. One Fine Artist who fixed our water pipes at home committed himself to a wall of paintings of giant metal cylinders from which the oceans of the world gushed uncontrollably.
Illustration students were the most ill served. The Signs of the Zodiac (yawn) Radio Times covers (unrealistic) and a narrow choice of book jackets for titles of the day , The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat, the Lord of the Rings, any Camus novel and a smattering of Paolo Cuelho. Only rarely had the devisor of the project actually read the book. To promote the burstling forth of an artist's raw creativity, any research was discouraged, even forbidden.
It was a melancholy spectacle to see the queue of Illustrators and Graphickers for the Grant Projector (beneath) where the image to be copied was put within the device and projected onto the paper of your work sheet. The scanner and computer put an end to this mechanical dullard.
It was uncommon for Project sheets from the past to be stored. Often the project would be verbally delivered after inspiration in the shower before leaving for work
Masters' programmes were a different matter when the students negotiated their own projects, and, having sacrificed much to attend even on a Part time basis, grasped the oportunity of intensive research. Each year added to the sum total of the past and deliberations were recorded in written copy at the various stages of development. The website on which you are reading these thoughts began as a repository of course information, now completely out of control.
My sniffy attitude may reflect a sense of not really fitting into the scheme of things as I found them. But I will detail now some non-vocational projects for Vocational students and for Graphics undergraduates.