teaching as art

“The title Art History with Benefits refers to popular culture’s “friends with benefits,” sexual partnerships without emotional attachment. “What happens in the art world, stays in the art world,” another Bruce quote, takes its inspiration from Las Vegas’s normal-rules-don’t-apply-here slogan. BHQF wants to drag the commercial relationships that form the basis of trade in the art world down to size by associating them with the lowest American sexual and cultural practices. It’s a crass but useful technique, and one that often riles observers. In the 2010 Whitney Biennial, for example, the collective’s piece included a video montage with a voice-over that mockingly personifies America, at one point describing “her” as woman who is in a physically abusive relationship. Spousal abuse as joke. It is easy to see why a feminist heckler shouted retorts during one performance of Art History with Benefits. (…)

Art History with Benefits was presented as a part of the Bruce High Quality Foundation University (BHQFU), a conceptual art piece/model university that was founded on September 11, 2009 in Tribeca. This university is intended to be a real place of higher education and research focused on the community aspect of scholarship as well as, in the words of the BHQFU Website, “a fuck-you to the hegemony of critical solemnity and market-mediocre despair.” The ideas behind this space are more successful than the actual school, which doesn’t affect commercial MFA culture in the least. The school functions more successfully at this point as idea-art than it does as an actual learning institution. However, some level of function in the model institution is essential to the idea. (…)

The actual working relationship between art and pedagogy in BHQF’s works, especially the university, resonates so strongly with people because despite the collective’s talk of new forms, the concepts behind their work refer directly to art history. Although little has been written about the history of lecture-performances, the general story of origin, as far as visual art performance that addresses the role of the speaking artist, tends to settle on Joseph Beuys’s How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare (1965). Through the symbolism of that performance, Beuys addressed discourses about art, rejecting institutionalized practices and insisting on a more personal and community-oriented approach. BHQF references How to Explain . . . , along with other works by Beuys, in order to label their lecture-performances and other alternative art practices as Social Sculpture.”

excerpts (including photograph) of the article “TEACHING AS ART: The Contemporary Lecture-Performance“, by Patricia Milder, in PAJ 97 (2011), pp. 13–27

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