Andre Wallace

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Ebacc to the 1880s - 3

The decline in arts education provision continues with the UK news that A level History of Art has gone down the pan and is now to be abandoned. It's easy to overlook that these decisions are in the hands of people whose choices leave a lot to be desired.
Having done A Level and Scholarship level History of Art in the 1960's, now having to cope with sadness at the destruction of art education for purely ideological reasons. The art schools provided a pathway for all sorts of misfits and eccentrics to achieve something in their life, even to out and out create the pop music industry, so they now have to go! Dumping art education on Universities and closing the rest destroyed their creativity and autonomy with the result that the UK now has little serious higher art education worthy of a future.
Waldemar Januszczak in the Sunday Times writes passionately in support of art hstory; "  What's really happening is that the collapse of educational values is happening on our watch. And during this collapse of values, the understanding of our history through art - the best and truest understanding that there is viewed as a distraction. It doesn't lead to a job." - " Art history is the most revealing window we can open onto the human condition."
The academic teaching of the history of Art has a long and distinguished tradition in UK schools where it was taught as an addition and adjunct to history precisely because it deals with the real world as it was, with real visual evidence about real people. It teaches you how very similar to yourself they were despite their mean and short lives, as Waldemar points out - how do we now visualise Henry VIII except through Holbein's depiction of him.
The past is now seen by this technology based, childish, immature culture we inhabit as something to be dismissed as totally irrelevant, despite it's urgent real life application and relevance. The truth is that the past was in many ways a far better place than we have now, and the study of art history is a measure of the civilisation that we are throwing away in pursuit of web based ignorance. Education is both innovation and conservation, things have to be conserved for their intrinsic value or we descend into rapidly into the State that the middle east is in.
It's very easy to destroy the thin veneer of behaviour that is a civilisation, art history can at least teach us that, you only need to look at Picasso's Guernica or Goya's war images. Again and again we stand back and fail to speak out when these really stupid decisions are made.  Ignorance is very, very cheap, it costs nothing to pursue - except a future life worth living.

As Izzy Renton wrote in the Guardian ;" Undermining visual analysis in a world where young people are attacked by visual propaganda every day is short sighted. If anything the tools of visual criticism should be offered sooner to all."
Perhaps that puts the finger on the real motivation of the government, more effective propaganda is required. 

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