Design Related

This text is born out of frustration.

Anger writing after a failed exam session. And how I think it's not (all) my fault. It never is anyway.

Note to self: this text is born out of frustration. I thought this through because I need some structure to act on. It’s therapeutic to write but remember I am not a writer. I don’t know if this could get me in trouble or not, so I won’t mention names. I’ll be jumping in an out of specifics, because I am mainly writing this to me. I don’t even know if I want to publish this actually…

My educational situation this year means I should generally have more time on my hands to invest in various ambitions and projects. But before moving on to better things, I think my current situation needs some attention.

Originally posted on October 22nd 2012

I am notorious for always finding a way to blame the other guy. And I deserve this. In most situations, I feel like the system set up does not fit the requirements. I wonder why people can’t get rid of tradition and innovate. I am, of course, still talking about education and school. Well, my education and my school.

If you are from Brussels, chances are you’ve heard of my Haute Ecole–yes, uppercase, read on– it seems to carry a certain mysteriousness with its name, a sort of unknown yet solid reputation. But here are some statistics: 90% of the students are foreign, 85% of them from France. There are a fair number of art schools around, but mine has the luxury of being able to hand pick their student body from hundreds of applicants, roughly chosen to fit their ideas, their moulds and their system. And for the most part, Belgium simply does not have a very developed visual culture. Mix these facts together, and you get to the basis of an extremely chaotic situation that nobody really wants to organise, mainly because no one knows where to begin. Here is my take on what is going drastically wrong.

As a starting point, let’s look at the general structure of my school. There are 3 types of courses given at my school: first, classes for your major, or what you apply for and the very the reason you want to get into the school. This is called l'atelier. Second, there are classes given to support your atelier work, like drawing and what i perceive as an over-the-top perception theory. Then there are the actual theory classes, a University-style auditorium business. There are many many problems throughout all three of these areas. As of now I have gone thought only the two first years, but i find myself left with a bitter taste at the end of each one.

The course work - atelier - major

Now I must say before all, I think education in art and art school is a tough subject, and I appreciate how far things have come. Buuuut, saying times are changing is not enough, time always changes, it’s its nature, what is is meant to do, there is no stop or pause, so their shouldn’t be in the development either. We should never stop, never be satisfied and never stop questioning our surroundings –this is something I feel strongly about, and try and apply to all parts of my life.– So: the system at the moment seems to be a kind of a work it out on your own situation, or DIY approach to learning about design. Concept is placed at the center of all, and is the only thing that matters for most of the time spent working.

While I do believe from the very beginning concept should be placed at the center of all design work, these conceptions need something to root on to, some sort of basis to go on from. You can not make something from nothing, all creation is a mix of influence, interest and surroundings, but you can not expect someone to create from nothing, from no possible fall back, from no rooting into one domain. A first year art student can’t be expected to just generate, there should be a time dedicated to techniques and creative processes. The physical I am talking about here, the real seeds of creation come from good know how and good appliance, that then diverge to create nice things. A first year art student can’t be expected to just jump into the vast field of production without any rooting. …but we’re not you see. This is where the hand picked students come in. So ok, why not chose the more experienced ones I guess, why not go for the ones that know what they are talking about, ok, but then consider all aspects. Consider the group you are taking on as an actual group, and give all members a general all around view of possibilities. All paths available for creativity. I mean this as the all around points of view but also the geeky specifics that your field implies. (I think the american schooling model has lots to teach us, lots we should integrate when it comes to this…)

I, as a first year, never – and will never – get proper typographic training. What we know is because of the tools we use, and the way they work, not because of the physical truths or restraints behind these. Espaces, espaces fines, margins, interlingnes, all these things matter and have been studied and developed by predecessors, you can not take this for granted because Adobe lets you make these mistakes. (not that they should correct them either, I’m just saying that we are thought typography through layout programs that have their way of rendering and a certain take on optimising the use for screen and print. This is very nice, but as a student, one shouldn’t have to deal with this as a first encounter of the often My school has a fully equipped typographical press, with more choices than you could want as a student, but I have never layed eyes on any of this. The reasons for this are plentiful, but none of them reasonable. What I’m getting to is that you can not fault a student for bad typography in its layout or choice, without some sort of background in the use of physical use of these shapes that lead to the simple legibility of words. This, I feel, is the reason for a lot of time waisted, and eventually failure. My failure.

The nostalgia behind this art, choices and beliefs is in need of questioning, but I’ll have to develop those ideas somewhere else.

On an other note, the actual practice of design and the development of the ideas that make these feasible need to be followed closely. I mean to say that the development of any idea should not be trusted to one student alone, not at first, –particularly without rooting– ignoring a proper structure to follow these through and actual goals to obtain. My atelier works on a basis of trial and error. From the very beggining, the structure is simple, you present ideas and they get accepted or regected. Simple as that. Then if you magically come up with something that may fit requirements, then you’re left free falling to a goal that has barely been defined, actually if anything, you’re asked to redefine it. The model may seem worthy, but such a workflow can only suit someone that has experience in the field, not a newbie.

The theory classes;

Belgium and Europe has agreed to take part in a system designed to make exchanges amongst university students easier. The idea is to award credits to classes to evaluate bigger and smaller chuncks one somthing more arbitrary than the amount of hours/week or /semester. (All this BTW in the interest of Europeanization and the overall build up of a better economy - I actually think we should cherish small countries and tiny systems and not give a shit about the super powers on the other end of the ocean, mais bon) So this actually has come around an bit most schools in the ass, because lazy students play the math game, of how much do I need to pass, and how much should I work. Now, in my school, most of our credits are given to our course work, in such proportions in fact that the theory is utterly and totally weighed out. The problem is though that when tests come around, these tiny classes take up more time than any option work, they take over hours days and weeks. During this time you are fighting to add a couple of credits to you toll, at most, rendering the work to result ration ridiculous. That means that nobody takes these seriously. No body goes to class, and most people pass by studying the test of the previous years. Or cheating. And if you’re able to do that, then why the fuck not spend a couple of hours, lightly reading through answers and adding a few files to your Dropbox app. You’re more lightly to succeed. Now I don’t know if Boulogne is really responsible for this or not, but there are other indications pushing me towards the need to do something about this all. In the actuall theory courses, most teachers will expect your full attention to a presentation that usually lacks, interactivity and dynamism. Whatever about that, there are too many educational theories out there -my oppinion though is to, again, look at the american style of engaging with a subject and challenging students but also, and mainly challenging the teachers- but this point has got to do with archive and with plain old decency. There are little or no course notes / syllabus, available to a student. For classes that cover centuries non chronologically or analysis that jump from continent to continent, there are very few teachers that actually give out a digest of what was happened in their course. While I find this tough, I believe this has got to do with teachers noticing lack of attendance. And from their POV that is only fair. But, well, you know, Bologne and all. Of course we skip classes. Of course we do not have perfect attendance, because there are bigger fish to fry, there are also requirements in other classes ‘that we actually signed up for’ that are worth more, and that need more time and reflection that require our creative minds that we came to train. Then come test times, and you do what you chose to do with them, enough said already, but you are then asked to answer 3 to 5 questions that relate to ultra specific sections of the class, rather than an actual overall comprehension of what was supposedly communicated to you. Usually, a class that was taken up 60 hours of a year, gets evaluated on questions that are answered in 30 to 45 minutes. Why not ask us to actually engage with the course… Some classes ask us to go on with what we have been thought or what we have been made to discover, and develop a point of view on what has been said. This seems to me to be a much better way of getting on whit education, and a much better way of remembering what we have covered. Plus I much prefert to spend my time researching an developing than the same time blatantly studying off by heart a ton of material to only get asked about 5 % of the entire course. I want to make the links between what a professor has said and what I do as an art student, linking to my practice, to my ideas and my points of view. This has happened once in all the classes I have had to sit.

The CASO - meaning Cours Artistique de Soutien a l’option.

These classes target technique. They aim to train us towards a better comprehension and use of basic practice like drawing and digital arts, to nourish our own work. Yet, these seem to only work inside their own little world, and not link, again, in any way or form to what we actually do. And these, also and again, are not weighed out properly, in comparason to the time and investment they actually require. These courses are practical, but they are also outdated. And if any, these practical classes need to be ahead of the game of their fields, and bring to a better understanding of the field, but also a round perspective of what said field has to offer, in general and to my option. These need to stay practical, and need to serve my needs. At the moment, they opperate on a basis of tradition and monotony because the teachers are stuck in rutts they can not get out of. Here, my understanding of the difficutly of teaching art is strongest, really, but what we are being made to do right now, simply is not accurate, nor efficient regarding our individual current practice. My suggestion to make these better is the same as the previous section, make me want to engage with them, on a personal level. Make me want to do the work that interests me. Let students do individual projects relating to their fields and interests and support them with history and knowledge to push them, us, forwards.


(This conclusion was deliberately written way after the text was. A cool head is necessary to have relevance. Also, the experience of writing in evenote as a text editor was not great.)

I have experienced two years of this crazy all over the place organization supposedly acting as a school. I, alone will not be able to do anything about this I feel. There is no short term solution, a major rethink is needed. Meanwhile I think it will have to be a student reaction to what is going on. I don’t yet know how that should happen, or how, but this is a first step.

(text finally finished on Monday 22 October 2012 @ 2.34 AM)

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