9 de nov. de 2014

The Art School and the Culture Shed.

       This week I’ve had the pleasure to discover the research by John Beck and Matthew Cornford, turned into the book The Art School and the Culture Shed.
       The professors started to document the buildings of more than one hundred art schools that existed in England during the 20th century. According to then, these places were very active during the decades that followed the WWII, but during the last 30 years, they started to close and art learning has migrated to universities.
       The small book is simple and full of well-printed images of these buildings that are no longer art schools. Some of then have been transformed into flats, others are abandoned and some have even been destroyed.
       This documentation of an era thru the edifices of art schools would already have a great interest, but the research does a second move. The professors stroll around each art school, normally not in the centre of the towns, and try to discover where art could be found in the neighbourhood. This second move is revelatory.
       Not far from where there was an art school, and now the original buildings try to resist, impressive and ultra-expensive new buildings were made. Designed by international awarded architects they receive art exhibitions, its cafes and bookshops. But no art is made there.
       The researchers act like a filmmaker; doing the shot and the countershot. On doing that, they explicit how art participate on the transformation of the cities, frequently loosing all its strength on interrogating the actual world, to become an important commodity for gentrifications and similar transformations of the urban space.
       The final story they told during a seminar at Westminster University, witch is not in the book, is about The Saint Martin's School of Art, in the central part of London. The school was active from 1854 to 1989. Internationally recognized, it was a place where artists like Gilbert and George, Richard Long and Eduardo Paolozzi went. As many other schools the building was transformed into flats; very expensive ones. But, the striking part of the story is that on the website where the apartments are presented, pictures from the time the school was there can be found, as well as the name of all the important artists that went to Saint Martin's. At the same time that art disappears from the place, the successful signatures are incorporated by real state to improve value. By the way, the new name of the building is: The Saint Martins Lofts. (http://www.saintmartinslofts.com/gallery/thelofts/)

       Doing these two movements, the research turns to be highly political with a montage effect. Art is back, at least here.
The Art School and the Culture Shed.
by John Beck and Matthew Cornford

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