Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Sarah Goffman
Kingswood Swamp, 2004
From Alien Invasion,
MOP Projects catalogue, 2005
Courtesy of the artist and MOP Projects

It's no secret, Artswipe gets pathetically nostalgic for art school life all the time. Oh those were the days. I recall the good times, sitting around in circles biting each others' heads off (or giving some good old fashioned art school head) in "crits" while the lecturers swanned around reminding the kids that art is hard so get used to it!

You can probably imagine then, the anguish I have been experiencing in recent weeks with all this bullshit about the National Art School's potential merger with the College of Fine Arts and the closing down of the University of Western Sydney's fine arts and electronic arts programs.

Where will the kids go to make art? Is it a coincidence that
anti-sedition is all the rage with the Howard government at the same time art schools are a dying breed? Sedition laws, which significantly impact artists, were passed less than a year ago, and now art is being threatened again in a way that's linked to the government. The lifeblood of the arts – its government funded university art schools – are under threat. Higher education itself has never been part of Howard's agenda. Adequate funding to keep alive a culture of educated types is just not relevant in a country that, for instance, celebrates Steve Irwin and shuns Germaine Greer. If Greer gets stung by a bee, has a severe reaction and dies, will her funeral be televised? Will people avenge her by killing all the bees?

The brilliant thing about NAS and COFA is they are such dynamically different institutions. I'm not going to play favourites and say one has a better approach to art education because they both excel in their own unique ways. As for UWS, well that place produces art student powder kegs who come from the west or choose the west for their art education. I've fantasised many a time of what it must be like to make art in the west, or at least show at Casula Powerhouse. Casula features in most of my dark fantasies because Ivan Millat once drove through there picking up a hitchiker. In one of my favourite night sweats, I am a conscientious citizen who jots down the number plate, goes home and paints it, acrylic on canvas.

Oh and all the fantasies I could conjure about UWS. All those parklands surrounding the vast campus. Artswipe would never catch a train all the way to Kingswood without being guaranteed some good old fashioned date rape in those dark woods. So basically I'm yet to catch that train. I mean, really, the Kingswood campus even has a fucking swamp! And the swamp's inspired artists like Tracey Moffatt and Sarah Goffman to make art and I'm pretty sure they didn't study art at UWS. Basically a university with a swamp needs an art school attached to it. Mandatory.

Tracey Moffatt
Artist at Work, 1997
(represented in Sydney by Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery)

Swamps bring out the Julia Kristeva in all of us and it's at art school we read that wonderful book, The Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection (1982). My favourite line: "During that course in which 'I' become, I give birth to myself amid the violence of sobs, of vomit" (emphasis added). While Kristeva wasn't talking about an art course per se, she may as well accept the fact that we all read this at art school and it became the mess mantra. Remember that old saying that there's a time for everything under the sun? Well, that includes having your perfunctory grunge period, where you go all abject and degenerate, piss all over the car park, photograph it, photocopy the photograph, post it on the noticeboard (the one which is only read by engineering students) and document it all over again but this time with whatever body fluid is your favourite that week. When I went through my grunge period, dandruff was my medium because I was saving my body fluids in a time capsule. The Powers of Horror was my textbook - I was really getting into subverting boundaries, borders and binaries - and I paid enough in library late fines to have been able to buy at least three copies of it.

Well, art school date rape has taken on new highs because it seems UWS has been raped and pillaged of its esteemed arts programs. Sari Kivinen, who was a shortlisted for the 2006 Helen Lempriere Traveling Art Scholarship and reviewed in an earlier Artswipe post (you might remember Sari drinking her multiple personalities under the table, or at least in the kitchen sink) is spokesperson for the blog Save UWS Arts and internet petition. Organised by UWS students, the blog and petition are gaining much momentum and support, which is great. Stay tuned for protests - if you're lucky they may even take place at the campus bar, which I'm told is called The Swamp Bar.


Skanky Jane said...
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A UWS Art Student said...

Rumours are spreading that the UWS arts school is becoming a "poo-barn of poo". I can not confirm ot deny this allegation, but will add that when that is the best wordsmithery art students can conjure we know their morale is low.

Anonymous said...

The art school at UWS has been thriving despite continual wicked attacks from its administrators past and present. We have to fight hard to see it survive. Blogs are a fantastic way to make these places accountable. Indeed the protest is building momentum - I urge everyone to sign the petition.

mayhem said...

Artswipe - you're a bloody genious

what a beautiful piece of critical writing -defending the rapidly vanishing breed of art shcools and inspiring a love of swampy bits.